SB 50- Article One in a Four-Part Series: The Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics, and Capitalism of the California Housing Crisis

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As a low-income African-American living in the Bay Area, I have been through all the trials and tribulations the Brothas and Sistas have been through in America, and if I haven’t one of my friends or family members have suffered through it. This is the journey that we call America. A nation founded upon the tenets of patriarchy, white supremacy and hyper- capitalism. Yeah, folks, these are undisputed facts.

We are over policed and under resourced.  In this Housing Crisis, we often go under housed and unhoused, and receive less funding for our families education. On January 8, 2020, at a press conference in front of Oakland City Hall Mayor Libby called a press conference in support of Senate Bill 50 (SB 50), a bill a sponsored by San Francisco Senator Scott Weiner.  This bill would mandate Housing Developers be allowed to circumvent local zoning building code requirements and approval if they set aside a certain percentage for low income housing. A developer can set aside as little as 6 percent or as much as 25 percent for this depending on the size of their project. And they would receive that exclusive privilege of building market rate and luxury housing  

Moms 4 Housings and cadres of about 60 of their spirited, rambunctious allies came out against SB 50. We let our voices be heard and shut down the press conference by shouting chants and slogans over the speaker’s attempts to speak in favor of SB 50. Yeah, we shut’em down and I was super proud to be a resident of Da Town. We let them know, don’t get it twisted, we know who you are and your history, and your fake solution.

So why would low-income people and their allies be outspoken enemies of the alleged legislative solution of SB 50? We understand the numbers game that SB 50 plays as it pertains to gentrification and affordable housing.  We understand who the players are. This game is often played when politicians and real estate developers concoct and implement market rate solutions to emergencies. These “solutions” affect people like me, and are lies.

SB 50 can provide as little as 8 percent for extremely low-income housing and as much 25 percent others, while allowing extra floors to be added to the height limits for residential units built within ½ of mile of certain types of transit lines and transit center. This a numbers game which will benefit the rich. In a market based economy, a market based solution during a crisis of storage will primarily benefit the rich. California Senator Nancy Skinner, Democrat of Berkeley, at the  SB 50 Press Conference, Skinner declared this in a market solution. One of the members of Yes In My Back Yard (YIMBY) a pro-development group based in San Francisco, told me he believed in market based solution to solve the California Housing Crisis. 

SB 50 can potentially make between as much as 92 percent and as little as 75 percent of newly built housing be luxury units. These market forces will accelerate and worsen gentrification in Oakland forever.  Once large scale luxury housing is built, it is unlikely to be unbuilt. Therefore, it can change the character of Oakland for generations because of the scarcity of the finite resource of land. SB 50 would act as a Trojan Horse by allowing developers to provide a small percentage of low-income housing while flooding working class neighborhoods with luxury housing.  The supporters of SB 50 overstate the effect this legislation will have in providing affordable housing to California’s low-income residents with passage of SB 50, and understates the potential for gentrification of low income neighborhoods.

It was once told to me that the best predictor of the future is the past. Or as my elders told me as a kid, “If a dog doesn’t bite as puppy, it ain’t going to bite as a dog.” In the press conference of the politicians who rolled out their support for SB 50, the bill’s author Scott Weiner and hostess of the conference Libby Schaaf both have histories of taking position that harm unhoused and underhoused people. While he was a San Francisco Supervisor, Scott Wiener once said that “it’s a failure for the city to make clear to those who refuse help that tents on our sidewalks and in our public spaces are unacceptable.” Schaaf has forcibly evicted unhoused people from sidewalks and thrown their belongings in the trash, which is patently unlawful.

Schaaf’s  and Wiener’s  policeis have been so anti-unhoused and underhoused people that one can easily see that they lack empathy, and a lack of empathy is a trait of psychopathic behavior.  

Both Wiener and Schaaf had the sheer nerve and gall to come to Oakland with all it’s history, struggles and gentrification and stand up, like they care about us. We stood up and gave that Town Bidness, and let them know, we know who you are, what you are doing, and your history.  And Wiener and Schaaf are the enemy of the poor, unhoused and underhoused. Why would any rational thinker trust a bill sponsored by Wiener and supported by Schaaf that is supposed to assist people like me? This is like having Supreme Justice Clarence Thomas run your affirmative action program. This is Trickle Down Economics for luxury housing developers that will let the market forces gentrify low income neighborhoods. The complex formula that will allow developers to find loopholes and exemptions.   

Governor Gavin Newsom admitted the lack of affordable housing is a societal issue and stated that “homelessness is the crisis of Californians’ lifetime.”  California has one-eighth of the United States, yet we have one fourth of all the unhoused people in the United States. Yes, California, we have a great problem. But we understand that market solutions like SB 50 will not solve it, and will not provide affordable housing.