Petty Little Tyrants

Do you know who amuses me? People who complain about government control only when it’s not working for their interests. In other words, almost everybody. Case in point, one of my socialist friends (believe it or not, I have those) posted this article that complains about the San Francisco Planning Commission’s plot to bulldoze a bunch of existing property in order to replace it with more expensive property:

For the good of the City, your old apartment building could be torn down! You’ll be figuring out the next few years living elsewhere, while some developer builds a new “affordable” unit for you. You will have to wait a few years to move back, if the new building even gets built.

Don’t worry, though. This isn’t just about you. It’s your neighbor’s place too. And your whole neighborhood. In fact, the San Francisco Planning Department has placed a developer “incentive” bullseye on nearly 31,000 parcels in every corner of the City. Colored blue on their maps, these vast areas also include your neighborhood corner store, produce market, pub, and restaurant. These homes and businesses are standing selfishly in the way of progress according to the proposed Affordable Housing Density Bonus Program.

I agree that this is pretty shitty. And the article correctly points out that a bait and switch similar to this proposal has been done in the city before:

Remember that Redevelopment of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s promised “one for one” replacement. People who were displaced from their Victorian style homes in the Fillmore were told they could return after the Redevelopment Agency built new co-op and other BMR housing. The new housing was promised to be modern and price controlled– an upgrade from the aging Victorians considered by the Agency to be blight. However, in reality, this was the demise of the thriving African-American communities in San Francisco.

This is exactly the same rationale being applied in 2015. At the latest presentation to the Planning Commission on December 3, Planning staff told them that displaced tenants would be given priority to return, and that the new housing would be more affordable than the rent controlled units they currently live in.

Obviously the Planning Commission can’t be trusted and should be disbanded, right? Not so much. Although the author correctly points out that this proposal is little more than a land grab he concludes that the problem isn’t the existence of the Planning Committee, but that they aren’t using their powers the way he wants them to:

What can we do instead? […] There are surface parking lots, large and small, that could be developed as affordable housing. The parking would not be lost because it could be incorporated into the new building.

The City should be using its Housing Bond and Housing Trust Fund dollars to buy as many of these sites as it possibly can– or purchase the air rights like what Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center and Bridge Housing did to create affordable senior housing over existing retail with parking. The only way to achieve the Housing Balance is to stop the loss of rent controlled units and to build 100% new affordable housing. This is true development without displacement which is what San Francisco desperately needs!

He’s such a petty little tyrant that somehow knows what everybody in San Francisco needs. This guy is a prime example of somebody just smart enough to identify a symptom of a problem but too stupid to identify the problem itself. The problem isn’t the proposal itself, it’s the existence of a body that can make and enforce such a proposal. Theft shouldn’t be legal just because some government body approves it.

What needs to be done? Abolish the San Francisco government, including the Planning Committee. People need to get over their petty desires for power and work together. If you don’t like how your neighbor is utilizing their property then try to work out a deal with them. Propose another idea and see if they’ll take you up on it. If all else fails make them an offer for their property. I know, that’s not as easy as siccing a government agency on them to force them to do what you want. But government agencies are funny things. One moment they’re doing what you want and the next moment they’re doing what you don’t want. Unless you want guns pointed at your head in the future you should abandon your petty tyrannical ways and try to work with your neighbors instead of against them.