With robust San Francisco economy, officials look to address affordability concerns 

As San Francisco’s local economy rebounds thanks in large part to the flourishing technology industry, there persists an inescapable tension between people who are benefiting and those who are struggling. With evictions and rents on the rise, political debates and meetings are filled with concerns over economic pressures and social disparities.

But there are bright spots. For instance, Mayor Ed Lee praised the recovering local economy in announcing Friday that the unemployment rate in San Francisco is the lowest since 2008. San Francisco’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.3 percent in September and October from 5.7 percent in August, based on preliminary numbers from the California Employment Development Department. That’s the lowest since 2008, right before the Great Recession struck.

The unemployment numbers are a significant victory for Lee, who was elected in 2011 promising economic recovery and job creation. “San Francisco’s steady recovery is gaining momentum from our unrelenting focus on building economic infrastructure, job creation, housing, and educating and training the workforce for the new demands of the 21st century economy,” Lee said in a statement.

Lee spokeswoman Christine Falvey noted that, “18,300 less people are out of work today than in January 2011 in San Francisco.”

She added that, “An unemployment rate of nearly 10 percent that has been cut to 5.3 percent is very meaningful to the people in San Francisco who can now find employment because nearly every job sector in San Francisco is outpacing every other city in the country.”

But on Tuesday, the mayor is expected to face questions from the Board of Supervisors about challenges associated with evictions and escalating rents.

Amid The City’s promising economic forecast, Supervisor Eric Mar plans to ask the mayor Tuesday for help in addressing the impacts of evictions in the Richmond district, which Mar represents. He wants Lee to create a “multiservice center” for tenants.

“Unfortunately, the Richmond District and the entire west side of the City lacks the tenant focused services that are concentrated on the east side of town,” Mar wrote in his question, which notes that his district experienced 79 Ellis Act evictions and 202 no-fault evictions between 2009 and 2013.

Board President David Chiu plans to ask Lee for an update of affordable-housing construction and ways to speed up development of such units as it relates to Lee’s 2012 voter-approved $1.3 billion Housing Trust Fund.

Chiu is expected to ask: “What creative approaches can we take now to build these affordable units as quickly as possible? What else can we do to encourage developers to build affordable units on site as they construct market rate housing?”

Also Tuesday, the board is scheduled to vote on legislation introduced by Chiu that would give residents evicted under the Ellis Act priority for city-subsidized housing. The Ellis Act allows landlords to evict tenants in order to get out of the rental market.

Lee’s spokeswoman said the mayor supports Chiu’s Ellis Act legislation that is before the board Tuesday.

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