The price of growth

Development is booming in the eastern neighborhoods, but the money isn't there to cover the infrastructure needed to serve it


San Francisco is booming, but will its infrastructure be able to keep up with its population growth?

The problem is acutely illustrated in the southeast part of San Francisco, where long-stalled development plans were finally greenlit by the adoption of the Eastern Neighborhoods Community Plan a few years ago.

The Mission, Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, and Mission Bay districts have attracted more attention from developers than any other sector of San Francisco, according to the Planning Department. Bayview and Hunters Point are also now attracting lots of investment and building by developers.

But when development projects don't pay the full cost of the infrastructure needed to serve those new residents — which is often the case in San Francisco and throughout California, with its Prop. 13 cap on property tax increases — then that burden gets passed on the rest of us.

Mayor Ed Lee's recent call to build 30,000 new housing units by 2020 and the dollar sign lures of waterfront development have pressed the gas pedal on construction, while giving short shrift to corresponding questions about how the serve that growth.


Infrastructure needs — such as roads, public transit, parks, and the water and sewer systems — aren't as sexy as other issues. But infrastructure is vital to creating a functional city.

That kind of planning (or lack thereof) impacts traffic congestion, public safety, and the overall livability of the city. And right now, the eastern neighborhoods alone face a funding gap as high as $274 million, according to city estimates highlighted by area Sup. Malia Cohen.

That's why Cohen went looking for help, though that's not exactly what she found.



Cohen has asked Mayor Lee about the lack of adequate investment in critical infrastructure again and again. She asked his staffers, she asked his aides. At the Feb. 11 Board of Supervisors meeting, during the mayor's question time, she was determined to ask one more time.

Cohen asked the mayor about how to fund infrastructure needs in the eastern neighborhoods and whether the city should use a new, rarely used fundraising option called an Infrastructure Financing District, or IFD.

"When the city adopted the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, we were aware of a significant funding gap that existed for infrastructure improvement," she said to the mayor. She asked if he would slow down development while the city caught up with infrastructure improvements, or commit more funding.

Cohen asked pointedly, "Would you support an IFD for the eastern neighborhoods?"

The mayor's answer was in the foreign language known as bureaucratese, offering a firm "only if we have to."

"Strategically planning for growth means making long-term investments in infrastructure," he said. "And the most important thing that we can do right now is to work together to place and pass two new revenue generating bonds measures on the November 2014 ballot."

But his proposed $500 million general obligation bond and $1 billion local vehicle license fee increase would just go to citywide transportation projects, where the city faces $6 billion in capital needs over the next 15 years, according to a task force formed by the mayor.

That's small comfort for the people of the eastern neighborhoods, who are already ill-served by Muni and will have other needs as well. It's a situation likely to get worse as the population there increases, unless the city finds a way to make serious new investments.



For instance, much of the new build homes we're seeing right now is on Market St. or other major transit routes. Moreover much of it is a walk from downtown. This means that the transit load - the most common impact cited - is somewhere between low and zero.

OTOH, build 10,000 units on hills on the west-side and you're looking at some major costs.,

IOW we are building the least impactful homes possible on the east-side, and many of us are comfortable with this expansion. We need homes more than we need rationalizations about why we should not build them.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 6:28 pm

I thought that the promise of all this new development was that it was going to throw money into the general fund to cover the high cost of city services. It turns out that the Eastern Neighborhoods plan had no intention of covering its infrastructure freight and now the demand is to sequester the increment in tax dollars to pay for the infrastructure that highly profitable market rate housing development demands.

It is not like water supply and waste water and sewage, streets, parks and transit are in prime shape now. If we add in a hundred thousand or so new residents, these systems will be strained to the breaking point.

The problem is that the polls confirm that San Franciscans are wary of municipal corruption and are not going to the billions we need in transit investment at this MTA because they know that it will not go to provide rapid and reliable transit. So until the corruption is rooted out of key agencies, no more market rate housing, no more money for these kleptocrats. And no more of these same "progressive" "leaders" in the poverty nonprofits leading their communities off of cliffs by cutting crap deals with developers who are roasting our neighborhoods alive.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 7:53 pm

How much equity do you have in your Mission district condo?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 7:33 am

The first rule of Leftism is that only Leftists are allowed to exorbitantly profit from real estate investments.

Everyone else is a greedy speculator.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 7:56 am

stated objective to try and make development so expensive that it never happens.

SF's finances are in good health right now because of the economic expansion which includes garnering the fruits of new development which translates directly into additional revenues that greatly exceeds any impact costs

That is why all cities crave new development and new jobs.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 7:58 am

Hey - blocking all development in San Francisco increases the value of Marcos' dingy condo.

Simple economic self-interest.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 8:56 am

"San Francisco is booming..."

Oh yeah? Well that depends. Homelessness is booming. Gentrification is booming. The gadget-addiction is booming. Housing foreclosures are up.

I guess if one tells oneself enough times that something is booming, one finally believes it.

Businesses in my area of the city are not booming. Most have no customers when I walk by. More building is taking place for the wealthy. Tech is taking over the city, and I'm just waiting for the bubble to burst:

Tech Boom Is Looking More And More Like A Bubble
Jan. 20, 2014

Posted by Miguel on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 7:38 pm

booming. but will there always be some losers who are too clueless to benefit? Sure. Ask me if I care.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 7:54 pm

Wall Street halved the unemployment rate by throwing economic crack around Silicon Valley.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 8:05 pm

I thought you loved government workers and public entities.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 9:55 am

Is there not also a pretty sizable "economic crack" rock sitting at 32 Adair?
Are the local build nothing anywhere near anything people not supplying you with said rock? Why is your crack better?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 4:34 pm

because they can afford it and because they took away affordable housing options for colored people of color

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 4:48 pm

under Prop 13. Again - market churn INCREASES the tax base under Prop 13. Those "new residents" are the single highest source of new property taxes in the city and county of San Francisco.

Joe - you are a fucking idiot and the most extreme propagandist since Trotsky. Get fucked you asshole.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 5:04 pm

When the low-IQ trolls are reduced to spouting out names like socialist or communist, it's a concession they can't make any valid arguments to your post. Good job.

And FYI Guest, you're wrong about how property taxes work. Almost 50% of every property tax dollar goes to the state school system. A good chunk of the rest goes to Sacramento, although some finds its way back to the cities and counties. That's one reason cities like SF prefer sales tax instead since they collect the 1.25% city and county tax portion from the basic 7.50% state tax rate on every taxable sale, plus any add-ons approved such as local transportation subsidies like Bart.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 7:04 pm

taxation - a sales tax. Thanks for explaining the evils of public support for the school system too. What are you - some kind of fucking Republican?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 7:50 pm

the people, rather than by the state government.

I'm fine with a sales tax because it can easily be avoided.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 12:44 pm

for people of color- a person not buying or saving as one clings to rent controlled units in not the fault of new buyers- many of whom are LGBT priced out of Castro/NoeHaight/ another group are native SFers and 411 there are new condo buyers who are people of color...

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 5:59 pm

People switch off when you do that.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 6:15 pm

Is it not possible to create a Mello-Roos district for The Shipyard, Candlestick, or other new communities being developed?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 3:57 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 4:11 pm

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.