A bit of Breed budget trickery, and the side of the housing story that the press missed

A bit of Breed budget trickery, and the side of the housing story that the press missed

The Budget and Finance Committee continues holding hearings this week as the supes and the mayor wrangle over the details of the final budget—but already, there’s some trickery out of Room 200.

The deal that Budget and Appropriations Committee and the mayor seemed to agree on is an end to “supplemental appropriations.” Those are items that either the mayor or the supes consider so important that they can’t wait for the regular budget process.

Sup. Dean Preston caught Breed trying to finesse the budget for more drug prosecutors

Mayor London Breed used that process to get extra money for the cops. When Sup. Shamann Walton tried to use the same system to get some money to fund a reparations division in the Human Rights Commission, he lost. And when Breed asked for a supplemental to fund three new prosecutors to take on drug cases, the supes demurred: That ought to be part of the regular process.

But the operations of the city must go on while the two branches of government wrangle over a final budget, so the board was asked to approve an “interim” budget June 13 that would keep the lights on until the final deal is done.

That’s not unusual.

Here’s what is unusual: In the “interim” budget, Breed included funding for the three new drug prosecutors—which means District Attorney Brooke Jenkins could start hiring right away, before the final budget is passed.

Sup. Dean Preston caught this trick, and brought it up at the June 13 meeting. Sup. Shamann Walton moved to delete that line item from the interim budget.

That motion lost, 7-4, with only Sups. Hillary Ronen and Aaron Peskin joining Walton and Preston in support.

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The interim budget comes up for a final vote Tuesday/27.

Breed’s Office announced Friday/23 a critical new housing program: The city is going to buy five sites that can be used for affordable housing.

From her announcement:

“Delivering affordable housing funding to projects across our entire city is a key part of our strategy to create more housing in San Francisco,” said Mayor London Breed. “We have a lot more work to do to remove barriers to getting housing built faster and advancing more affordable housing, but this is a great step and I want to thank the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development for their work to advance projects like these.” 

The announcement got a lot of positive press.

Which is all well and good. This is a big step, moving the city forward into the practice of buying up land for housing.

It’s also happening because of progressive organizing and a ballot measure the mayor opposed.

Breed’s Office has been delaying these purchases, refusing to spend voter-approved money on buying land—and is now trying to defund $20 million more dollars the supes want to spend buying more sites.

This spending decision is happening only because the progressive supes control the Budget and Appropriations Committee and are demanding some changes in the mayor’s spending priorities.

None of the news media that covered the announcement noted any of this.

I suspect the Budget and Appropriations Committee will hear from housing advocates Monday/26.

The Planning Commission will consider Thursday/29 the mayor’s proposal to change the rules to eliminate what she and Governor Gavin Newsom call “constraints” to new housing. Among other things, the proposal would allow wholesale demolition of existing housing on the West Side of town without any meaningful opportunity for public input.

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The plan is part of the overall neoliberal Yimby approach, which suggests that the reason we have no affordable housing is that it’s too hard for developers to get through the “red tape.”

The real reason, these lovers of capitalism seem to ignore, is that developers aren’t going to build housing for anyone but the rich, because the return on investment isn’t high enough.

That hearing starts at 1pm.

  • June 25, 2023