WITH JORDANNA THIGPEN
The Near East: Closer than you think
By Jordanna Thigpen
June 16, 2006
This Thursday afternoon and evening the Planning Commission,
sitting in special sessions, heard an unusual
Now typically, the Commission would never review a document in
Draft format. The document at issue, San Francisco's Eastern
Neighborhood Rezoning Socioeconomic Impacts, was released
to the public - as of Wednesday, less than twenty-four hours before
consideration by the Commission.
Why does the document exist? Because there is a serious concern
over the loss of PDR (Production, Distribution, & repair)
businesses. PDR land is disappearing to housing. Really, the question
is how to address San Francisco's affordable housing crisis while
maintaining small business, which provides employment and tax
revenue (which subsidizes affordable housing - sorry, I digress.)
There have been - and will continue to be - significant changes
to the portions of Districts 6, 9, and 10 which comprise the Eastern
Neighborhood of the study. This document is supposed to provide
a current and comprehensive socioeconomic analysis of the Eastern
Neighborhoods, and provide a framework for future public policy.
By way of explanation for local savants, the word 'Mission' is
generically used although obviously Inner and Outer Mission have
One more thing - Western SOMA is not included in the study -
particular individuals in that area of the district requested
unique consideration, in their typical spirit of cooperation.
This will ultimately prove to be a serious problem in the consideration
of this and other policies.
This document was prepared by Hausrath Economics, an experienced
consultant. And by most preliminary accounts, they did a fine
job. Planning Department Staff has not yet reviewed it and prepared
their own comments. To paraphrase the words of one of the authors
of the document, it is like a baby that has not even been born.
Well, maybe it's time to pretend it's 100 years hence and we already
control genetic outcomes.
The first problem with the analysis is that it seems to be based
entirely on 2000 Census data with "estimations" (pornography
for economists) of current circumstances. It's now six years later
and the years 1999-2001 were a complete anomaly as far as any
economy is concerned, let alone our ground zero for dot bomb.
Next, Planning Department Staff indicated they would not be considering
the results of the Mayor's Economic Strategy Plan or the recent
Arts Task Force report in preparing their analysis. According
to staff, that is a "matter for electeds." This is academic
planning rhetoric at its finest. I feel a Flat
Earth Society membership in our collective future. Planning
does not exist in a vacuum: start communicating with other departments!
There is no analysis in the report of how much PDR is needed
to sustain the City. Such an analysis should be conducted in partnership
with the Mayor's Office of Economic Development and the Small
Business Commission and occur in multiple public hearings. What
businesses currently depend on PDR zoning? How many would leave?
Where would they go, if other PDR land in the North, South, and
East Bay is being rezoned, and CV farmlands are being paved, plumbed,
wired, and EIR'd for "affordable" housing projects?
The worst part of the report was the "Business Activity
and Employment" section, followed by a "Business and
Employment Mitigation" section. These sections were obviously
written with no practical understanding of the business community,
the needs of the City with regards to tax revenue, or input from
anyone with any real business experience. One solution offered
to the inevitable loss of businesses to housing was "Retain
PDR land and building supply in Western SOMA." Sure - Western
SOMA will agree to bear the industrial burden without complaint.
The questions are endless and Planning is not the Department
to answer them alone.
District 6 resident Jordanna Thigpen is an attorney, small
business owner and President of the San Francisco Small Business
Commission. You can usually find her at work and she doesn't get
to Ocean Beach often enough. Email Jordanna at email@example.com.