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by BAR staff

Letters to the editor

Disagrees with SB 50
You have to hand it to state Senator Scott Wiener — he never gives up flogging for the housing industry ["We need more homes now," Guest Opinion, May 23]. Last year, Senate Bill 827, this year, in slightly modified form, SB 50. Wiener's bill has stalled in the Senate, but his mantra and methods haven't changed much. Cite a manifest problem, in this case homelessness and a lack of affordable housing, relentlessly posit the same, and only, solution over and over — just build more housing — and the problem will be solved. Repeat.

But why should he change? The California Building Industry Association has picked Wiener as Legislator of the Year, and the bulk of his campaign contributions come from builders. (,

But there are reasons why the bills have so many skeptics, including the very groups and people that might seemingly benefit. More market rate housing is not going to get housing for people sleeping on the streets or in cars, nor assist the working poor (those with "low-mod" income levels in the Bay Area would be considered wealthy in many parts of the country) who could really benefit from affordable housing. According to the June 2018 Fortune, households of four people in San Francisco, San Mateo, or Marin counties earning $117,000 per year are considered "low income," according to Housing and Urban Development guidelines.

Here are some solutions.

For starters, cities need to stop subsidizing tech industries. Yes, Twitter comes to mind. Subsidies, if there are any, should go to creating truly affordable housing, not just a few of the least desirable units with sunset provisions in otherwise market rate projects.

Spread the tech blessings. Why obliterate the unique character of our cities, why we moved or stayed here in the first place, to accommodate more tech with high wage workers, when there are so many less expensive areas of the country with affordable housing and workers with skills that would welcome the opportunities?

A new Homestead Act, providing incentives for people to own a house in underpopulated parts of the country. As Elizabeth Warren has pointed out, families owning their own home has been the classic American strategy of getting a financial foothold — the house just doesn't have to be in Hillsborough.

Wiener himself is an unlikely spokesman for truly changing the status quo, and his sympathy for the needy seems faux. He opposed San Francisco's Proposition C to address homelessness.

In this dark period, with so much being lost or threatened under the warped presidency of Donald Trump, Wiener's relentless cheerleading and promotion of more market rate housing as a magic bullet to fix the manifest problem of the yawning divide between rich and poor is disheartening, and cruel to those who want to believe. The accompanying chorus of YIMBY chants of "more housing, any housing, everywhere" is acrid theater.

There is a crisis, but Wiener's a Pied Piper.

For more information, check out for an analysis of SB 50 and its impacts.

Robert Brokl
Oakland, California

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