“San Francisco’s YIMBY Action is facing a difficult choice, one that may define the group for years to come.
Will the champions of “build, build, build” endorse Proposition 10, the state ballot prop that would repeal rent control advocate’s most pernicious roadblock, Costa Hawkins?
The 1995 Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act is the white whale of California tenants organizations, and essentially prevents cities from establishing their own rent control policies, exempts single family homes from rent control and allows landlords to hike the rent once a tenant moves out. If successful this November, Prop. 10 could allow the expansion of rent control policies across the state.
“This would be huge, this would be a game changer,” Deepa Varma, executive director of the San Francisco Tenants Union, told me.
Game changer it may be, but for the Yes In My Back Yard group, it’s also an existential decision that its nearly 2,000 members will begin voting on at the end of this week.
SF YIMBY is the local arm of the national YIMBY movement, pro-housing development agitators who agitate for our city officials to build more housing, faster, to alleviate our rental crisis. While folks will expect the Usual Suspects to support or oppose this measure, as a group whose principles straddle both a “yes” or “no” endorsement on Costa Hawkins repeal, SF YIMBY’s voice would be uniquely persuasive. Their voice matters, for all of us.
But it matters for YIMBY, too. Their collective choice may also once and for all signal if tenants groups can begin to mend relationships from years of bad blood, those groups told me, or, well … not.
“This is the, capital T, The, litmus test,” Dennis Richards, a planning commissioner, said.
“People are suspicious of their motives,” he noted. Tenants groups, frequently in public opposition with YIMBY, point to the group’s tech funding, and the way its advocacy for the construction of more luxury housing dovetails with the interests of developers, as signs that YIMBYs are in the pockets of anti-tenant interests.
Fred Sherbun-Zimmer, executive director of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco and a proponent of Prop. 10, noted the YIMBY folks still often try to reach out in ally-ship.
“We’re waiting for them to do more than lip service,” Sherbun-Zimmer said. If YIMBY endorsed Prop. 10, “it would be a really important start to beginning to have a conversation.”
In YIMBY’s ranks, however, a conversation is already raging. At a Tuesday night endorsement meeting of a few dozen of its members, the housing activists found themselves effectively split on backing the issue.”