San Francisco voters will decide in November whether to boost The City's minimum wage to $15, but they won't have the chance to decide whether at least 30 percent of all new development should offer below-market-rate housing.
Two ongoing debates taking aim at San Francisco's affordability came to a head Tuesday, with an effort focused on wages winning support from city leaders and another addressing housing balance falling short.
In a move to boost take-home pay for low-wage earners, the Board of Supervisors, with the backing of Mayor Ed Lee, unanimously voted to place on the November ballot a measure that would raise the minimum wage gradually to $15 by July 1, 2018. Wages would be adjusted by the consumer price index in subsequent years. Under existing law, The City's minimum wage would be about $11 on Jan. 1.
"San Francisco is an expensive place for working families, and we know a few more dollars an hour can make a big difference in the pockets of our lowest paid workers," the mayor said in a statement. "That is why I believe the time has come to bring an increase in the minimum wage to voters this November."
But board members were not as convinced when the debate centered on the housing issue. The Housing Balance measure that Supervisor Jane Kim had initially proposed for the November ballot would have mandated special approval for developments if construction of units dipped below a 30 percent below-market-rate unit threshold. Critics, including Lee, warned it could slow development and impact a flow of revenue that could help The City's efforts to rehabilitate and fund below-market-rate projects.
Kim dropped the proposal in what she called a compromise with the mayor, but while that decision was met with some criticism from her more progressive colleagues, they ultimately supported it. Lee and Kim instead agreed to put a housing-policy statement on the ballot, which lays out some core principles for below-market-rate housing. They include a goal of providing 33 percent below-market-rate units in certain areas and annually reporting on the cumulative ratio between below-market-rate housing and market-rate housing.
Supervisor David Campos was critical of the change, saying that Kim's initial proposal had "one of the most effective tools that we could have had to address this crisis."
"I don't know that this does anything other than to make a statement," he said. "We need to do more than make statements when faced with this affordability crisis."
However, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu had nothing but praise for the policy-statement measure, saying that it avoids a "very expensive, divisive and I believe ultimately unproductive fight" at the ballot.
In a statement, the mayor reiterated his stated goal of building 30,000 housing units by 2020 and noted that the agreed-upon policy measure "will help ensure nothing slows our progress toward meeting or exceeding our goals."