Housing Is A Human Right has released a special report about the forces including Sen. Scott Wiener who push a troubling “trickle-down” housing agenda that fuels gentrification. That includes SB 50 — California’s controversial, land-use deregulation bill. As the SB 50 battle unfolds, this revealing investigation connects the dots between Big Tech, California YIMBY, and Scott Wiener. Here is the top section of the report. Please read the rest at Housing is A Human Right’s site at the link at the bottom of this post.
By Patrick Range McDonald
On the steps outside San Francisco City Hall, on a sunny, blue-sky Tuesday in April of 2018, a worried group of residents and grassroots activists — many of whom were people of color — held a press conference to denounce a statewide, land-use deregulation bill, SB 827. California State Sen. Scott Wiener, who had long been financed by the real estate industry, introduced the controversial legislation. More than 125 tech executives and a fledgling organization called California YIMBY enthusiastically backed it. The residents and activists, however, believed SB 827 would be catastrophic, adding jet fuel to a gentrification crisis that was already devastating San Francisco’s working-class communities, especially those of color.
“We’ll keep fighting,” Charles Dupigny, the African American co-director of Affordable Divis, told the crowd. “We’ll keep moving forward. We plan to keep fighting this bill, like many times in the past in San Francisco.”
But as Dupigny talked, a young, mostly white group of self-identified “YIMBYs” brashly inserted themselves into the press conference, refusing to listen. In fact, they were trying to silence Dupigny, yelling at him, “Read the bill! Read the bill! Read the bill!” It was a rude, somewhat shocking move, but not entirely surprising.
In California, the so-called YIMBY movement (YIMBY stands for “Yes In My Back Yard,” a wily twist on NIMBY or “Not In My Back Yard”) have made headlines by forcefully advocating for widespread land-use deregulation that, in their eyes, would solve the state’s devastating housing affordability crisis.
The YIMBY scenario plays out this way: deregulate as much as possible, an apartment construction boom will follow, and sky-high rents will stabilize and take a downturn since more units have come onto the market. It’s the old, possibly outdated, supply-and-demand argument.
Housing justice activists rightly counter that developers build almost exclusively luxury housing, which not only triggers gentrification in middle- and working-class neighborhoods, but also does nothing to directly address California’s housing affordability crisis.
Zillow, the real estate site, found, in 2016, that in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other major cities, “very high demand at the low end of the market is being met with more supply at the high end, an imbalance that will only contribute to growing affordability concerns for all renters.”
Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell added: “Apartment construction at the low end needs to start ramping up, and soon, in order to see real improvement.”
YIMBYs, on the whole, don’t want to hear that. In fact, YIMBYs routinely show a visceral dislike for anyone who challenges their hard-core belief system — whether it’s using Twitter to pile on critics or immediately shouting them down in public. Now, on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, that hostility was on frightful display.
After Dupigny spoke, the YIMBYs continued their belligerence, carrying out a menacing counter-protest. Things got so out of hand that one resident, a 77-year-old Asian woman, fainted — and was shuttled to a hospital. Sonja Trauss, a contentious, outspoken leader among the YIMBYs, was so fierce that sheriff’s deputies moved her away from the crowd.
“Our members were intimidated by YIMBY,” Wing Hoo Leung, president of the Chinatown-based Community Tenants Association, told the San Francisco Examiner. “They felt threatened.”
Lueng added, “I think the YIMBY have no heart.”
The showdown at San Francisco City Hall was not an aberration, but another glaring example of YIMBYs’ disrespectful militancy.
“It’s been absolutely ugly,” Bay Area activist Shanti Singh told Shelterforce in 2019, describing her interactions with YIMBYs. “A really nasty three years.”
Maria Zamudio, another Bay Area activist, told In These Times, “They’re like, ‘Just build housing, you stupid brown people! I moved here last week, and I need a place to live!’”
Fernando Marti, co-director of the San Francisco-based Council of Community Housing Organizations, wrote in a Shelterforce column: “But according to the YIMBY leaders, now we equity advocates are the problem too, little different from the NIMBYs, rabid progressives who are too naïve or ideological to understand how the market really works. In this story line, in the name of fighting evictions and displacement, we progressives, we communities of color, we poor people and immigrants, we working-class queers stupidly don’t realize that luxury development now will eventually become the affordable housing of the future!”