Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Civil Grand Jury Report Blasts Parkmerced Proposal -- Inadequate Tenant Protections

The Civil Grand Jury of San Francisco has just released a report, entitled Government-By-Developer, criticizing the proposal at Parkmerced to demolish over 1500 rent controlled homes. The report concludes that "the proposed Development Agreement does not give adequate rent control protection to the residents of the Parkmerced property."

Tenant advocates have warned of the significant risks that the developer or a future owner would use state law to invalidate commitments to relocate existing tenants into new rent-controlled housing. The concerns are based on recent court cases that have allowed developers to avoid obligations to provide affordable rental units in newly constructed units, despite clear written agreements and local city laws. After extensive criticism from tenant advocates, city staff finally acknowledged that there was some risk that the rent control promises on new construction might not be enforceable, though Michael Yarne of the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development, who has taken the lead on the project, claims that the risk is minimal.

Validating the tenants' concerns, the Civil Grand Jury specifically found that "By not explaining how it will override/resolve potentially conflicting provisions of state law, the Development Agreement does not protect tenants against rent increases as it claims."

The findings stand in stark contrast the developer's recent doorhanger, distributed throughout Parkmerced, characterizing replacement rent control units as guaranteed.

The report also criticized the lack of a project alternative that does not involve mass demolition.
The Development Agreement presumes demolition is necessary, and presents no alternative, or combination of alternatives, that might satisfy the programmatic goals of redevelopment without the demolition of 1583 occupied units.
The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote whether to approve the project on May 24, 2011.

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