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$34 Million from Rincon Hill's New Residential Towers for SoMa Community Stabilization Fund

The SoMa Community Stabilization Fund was discussed in an article in today’s San Francisco Examiner.

About $34 million will be collected from developers of the new high-rise residential towers in our Rincon Hill neighborhood between 2006 and 2012, according to the Examiner article. The money comes from a square footage “community impact fee” that Supervisor Chris Daly pushed to get as part of the Rincon Hill Plan in 2005 (see Ordinance 217-05).

What strikes me as odd about these “community impact” fees being collected is that the new developments in Rincon Hill won’t materially impact existing residents of Rincon Hill in a manner that hurts their abilities to remain in the neighborhood. The 94105 zip code, which is basically the Rincon Hill neighborhood, had one of the highest median household incomes ($88,976) in the City in the year 2000 before the new 50-story towers sprung up. Rents are going up in San Francisco in general, so that’s not a valid argument in my opinion. If you look at the 2000 census data for zip code 94105, you see that 67.4% of the 94105 residents had a Bachelor’s degree or better. Compare that one datapoint to that of the neighborhood containing the non-profits most likely to receive the $34 million (zip code 94103), and you see that only 29.3% of that neighborhood’s population had a Bachelor’s degree in the year 2000. For the 70.7% of folks who lived in zip code 94103 and who did not earn a Bachelor’s Degree, of course their abilities to get good-paying jobs in and around San Francisco are limited because most new jobs (outside of tourism-related work) require a higher educated workforce. Can we say that new development in zip code 94105 is negatively impacting zip code 94103 any more than other variables that influence the costs of living? Sounds sketchy at best to my sensibilities.

Beyond demographic differences between Rincon Hill and the rest of SoMa, there’s also the tiny fact that nobody lived in the Rincon Hill neighborhood for most of the past 100 years; companies bought up the properties around Rincon Hill after the 1906 earthquake’s fires burnt down the grand homes and used the area for warehousing of goods moving by boat and other business purposes (not to mention highway overpasses and such that came down after the 1989 earthquake). Who is being gentrified in Rincon Hill? Wouldn’t a community impact fee be based on the impact of the neighborhood in which the development happens? I’m not sure I understand how practically zero displacement of existing residents in the Rincon Hill neighborhood itself requires collecting $34 million to spend in an entirely different neighborhood, but the folks who showed up at the City meetings and played their political cards well won the game in 2005. It’s history now, and I didn’t live in this neighborhood to bark about it at the time.

We do have an opportunity to be loud and assertive about how the funds are used going forward. If you’re curious to keep track of which non-profit agencies will receive pieces of the $34 million in funds or maybe hope to influence where the funds go (or don’t go), you can attend the advisory committee’s meetings. I’d suggest favoring non-profits that benefit the broader San Francisco community – an organization like the San Francisco Food Bank, if they qualify (probably not, but I haven’t read Ordinance 217-05 to check). The next meeting is this Thursday, May 15th at 5:30pm. All meetings are located at One South Van Ness Avenue, Fifth Floor, San Francisco. I’ll add the 2008 meetings to the Rincon Hill Google calendar.

SoMa Community Stabilization Plan – SFGov.org web site

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