From The NIMBYS and the Housing Crisis, by Tim Redmond:
“The analysis of the gentleman from Venice profoundly misinterprets the roots of the neighborhood downzoning movement in San Francisco, which go back to the ugly era of redevelopment, in the 1960s and 1970s, when bulldozers tore up entire communities, when the forces of economic growth at any cost (not all that different from the same forces today) decided that San Francisco would be the West Coast Manhattan – and if there were people in the way, they would just have to go.
Justin Herman, the head of the Redevelopment Agency, looked at the low-cost housing in Soma that was in the path of hotels and a convention center and said, famously, “this land is too valuable for poor people to park on it.”
Developers were driving people out of the city at an unprecedented rate. It’s hard to blame the ones who remained – in the Mission, the Haight, the Richmond, the Sunset, West of Twin Peaks, the Excelsior, North Beach, Chinatown, and in plenty of other neighborhoods – for saying: Not me. Not here.
It wasn’t about property values. It was about the ability of people who lived here to be able to stay.”
“Imagine, for a moment, that the Big One hits – a really Big One, 9.0 or more, and the city of San Francisco is a disaster area. There is no electricity, no transit, water pipes damaged and taps unsafe – and a big supermarket opens up and charges $50 for a quart of drinking water and $20 for a cup of rice. Starving, thirsty children are turned away by armed guards. Parents beg for just a bit of humanity, but no: You got cash, you survive. You don’t, you can die on the streets.
A huge storm hits, with cold hail and rain. A big landlord has plenty of space in a building where people can sleep warm and dry – but it’s $500 a person a night for a cot. The sick, the elderly, people with infants … they are locked out if they can’t afford the tab. Let ‘em die.
Would we, as a city, vilify those people? Would every politician in town call them out? Would the newspapers publish their names in a Hall of Shame? Would the district attorney and the city attorney look for ways to prosecute them? Would the state and local governing bodies instantly pass laws against disaster-profiteering (as, by the way, we did during WWII, when “excess profits” from the war were not only heavily taxes but roundly criticized?) Would every decent human being refuse to have anything to do with them?
I would hope so.
But the people and corporations taking the same sort of advantage of the housing crisis? The speculators, the bad landlords, the evictors? The ones who are making a fortune off the misery of people who have done nothing but try to remain in a city under pressure they did not create, people whose only crime is to be less wealthy than the new arrivals? The political players who represent the interests of these vultures? They are treated, for the most part, as business people just doing what business people do.
And they are allowed to defeat laws that would reign in the profits they destroying other people’s lives, while the political class that runs this city and takes their money says it’s just fine.”
Read the rest here: