Saturday, July 23, 2016

Most Wanted: San Francisco flyers name and shame Airbnb hosts

Most Wanted: San Francisco flyers name and shame Airbnb hosts

Posters in the city’s Chinatown claim Airbnb landlords are ‘destroying affordable housing for immigrant, minority and low income families’
Flyers in San Francisco’s Chinatown feature the names and photographs of individuals accused of ‘Airbnb’ing our community’. Photograph: Courtesy of Patrick Connors

Julia Carrie Wong in San Francisco


Friday 22 July 2016 06.00 EDTLast modified on Friday 22 July 201613.29 EDT

San Francisco’s gentrification wars have long fostered a certain element willing to make the debate over affordable housing extremely personal.

During the first dot-com boom, members of the “Mission Yuppie Eradication Project” posted flyers encouraging residents of the once working-class Latino neighborhood to “vandalize yuppie cars”. During the current tech boom, asevictions soared, activists began using stencils to paint the sidewalks in front of certain buildings with an image of a suitcase and a message: “Tenants here forced out.”

‘Tech tax’: San Francisco mulls plan for taxing the rich to house the poor

But throughout all the turmoil, San Francisco’s Chinatown – 24 crowded blocks that have endured as a point of entry for generations of low-income Chinese immigrants – has remained largely insulated from the rancor.

Until now.

In recent weeks, “Wanted” flyers have been posted around the neighborhood featuring the names and photographs of 12 individuals. The crime in question? “Airbnb’ing our community” and “destroying affordable housing for immigrant, minority, & low income families.”

Unlike a flyer posted recently in the Mission District that featured the heads of various tech CEOs, including Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, impaled on spikes, the Chinatown flyer names and shames individual Airbnb hosts.
FacebookTwitterPinterest A poster in the Mission district of San Francisco takes aim at big tech CEOs. Photograph: Julia Carrie Wong for the Guardian

“It expresses a growing sentiment and a reality that the community is being exploited by speculators and unscrupulous players in the housing market,” said city supervisor Aaron Peskin, who represents the district that includes Chinatown.

“There’s no question that there are an increasing amount of illegal short-term rentals throughout the city and in Chinatown.”

Indeed, Peskin said that just two weeks ago, he observed three French people leaving a Chinatown apartment building at 10am, rolling suitcases in tow.
‘Like a village’

The fact that a group of tourists staying in a residential building in the city that is home to Airbnb seemed remarkable is indicative of how insulated Chinatown has been from the market forces rocking the rest of the city.

“Chinatown has generally been preserved and defended against gentrification,” said Joyce Lam of the Chinese Progressive Association, a group that organizes workers and tenants in the neighborhood.
FacebookTwitterPinterest The Chinatown ‘Wanted’ poster. Photograph: Courtesy of Patrick Connors

Strict zoning laws enacted during the 1980s have protected the stock of single-room occupancy (SRO) hotels, which serve as low cost housing for newly arrived immigrants, as well as many elderly Chinese Americans. With their shared kitchens and bathrooms, Lam said the SROs can feel “like a village” to the multi-generation families crowded into single rooms.

But units that once changed hands solely through word of mouth or Chinese language flyers posted on the street are now popping up on Craigslist, Airbnb, and other short-term rental sites, as landlords have realized that they can earn more money renting to college graduates, single adults and white people, Lam said.

“It’s changed the fabric of the SROs,” Lam said, especially since the new residents often cannot communicate with Cantonese-speaking tenants. “It’s a different kind of feeling.”

The average rent of SRO rooms has increased as well, from $610 in 2013, to $970 in 2015, according to a survey conducted by the Chinatown Community Development Center. Those figures are enticingly low in a city where theaverage rent was $3,907 as of June, but increasingly unaffordable for many low-income immigrant families.

“Contrary to the posters, we don’t see the problem as being individual players,” Lam said, adding that her organization supports citywide reform legislation aimed at strengthening short-term rental regulation.

“We are more interested in having a meaningful discussion about San Francisco’s longstanding housing issues than responding to anonymous attacks on individual San Franciscans,” a spokesperson for Airbnb said in a statement.

The people on the poster

The appeal of Chinatown to non-traditional residents is described on Airbnb’s website, where a number of Chinatown listings feature photographs of the neighborhood’s famous Dragon Gate and paper lanterns.

“Cramped. Crowded. Dingy. Delightful,” reads the caption on Airbnb’s neighborhood description of Chinatown.

One Airbnb host who lists four rentals in Chinatown defended his preference for tourists over tenants.

“We rather leave rooms and apartment empty rather than renting because of rent control,” the host wrote to the Guardian. “Once tenants move in they own the property ... they have more rights than property owners.”

That host was not featured on the “Wanted” poster. None of the people on the “Wanted” poster who currently have Chinatown units listed on Airbnb responded to queries.

Justin Hobbs, who is on the poster, said: “I’ve seen this flyer and have reported it to AirBnB and will be filing a police report. If I’m able to find the creator of the flyer, there will also be a lawsuit filed for slander as this is completely untrue.”

Hobbs said that he lives in Nob Hill, not Chinatown, and he does not rent out his apartment, which is his only residence.

Another one of the people on the poster, who asked not to be identified, was also frustrated by it. The individual said that he no longer lives in San Francisco, but had used Airbnb once, several years ago, and has long since deactivated his account.

“I don’t see that what I did was criminal,” he said. “The reason why I left San Francisco is because it was way over gentrified and it was impossible to live as an artist, and now to get blamed as a gentrifier is just funny.”

Jeff Chen, who was also featured on the poster, was more sanguine about being singled out. Chen, who moved to a different part of the city in May, said that he rented his apartment a few times on Airbnb last summer, when he was traveling for work.

“I don’t really feel good about it [the poster], but I can see why members of the community are concerned about the housing situation,” Chen said. “I see stories about people who do [Airbnb] as a business, and I can see how that would drive up housing costs … I actually do identify with those concerns.”

Unfair “Fair Housing”

In this episode of the 10 Blocks podcast, City Journal editor Brian Anderson and Howard Husock discuss the Obama administration’s efforts to locate affordable-housing units in Westchester County, NY and changes to HUD’s mission nationwide.

Audio Transcript

Brian Anderson: Affordable housing policies become a divisive issue in New York's Westchester County, just as it has in other municipalities across the country.  The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has pushed Westchester to finance hundreds of subsidized housing units and market them to poor minorities.  While the goal of deconcentrating poverty has merit, is the way the Feds are going about it going to do more harm than good?  Joining me to discuss what's going on in Westchester and how it could affect other communities is Howard Husock, Vice President for Research and Publications at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal.  His article from City Journal Spring issue is entitled "Unfair 'Fair Housing.'"  Howard, thank you for joining.
Howard Husock: Good to be with you, Brian.
Brian Anderson: Your piece opens up in Chappaqua, the wealthy Westchester town where Bill and Hillary Clinton have a home.  Describe for listeners exactly what's happening there with regard to this affordable housing policy battle.
Howard Husock: Chappaqua is a village in the County of Westchester, which is a relatively affluent, but not uniformly affluent, county in New York State, just north of New York City.  And the Department of Housing and Urban Development is pushing, as you put it, Westchester, because of a lawsuit, to locate subsidized housing, low-income housing, in affluent parts of the county.  And you don't get a lot more affluent than Chappaqua.  It's leafy, it's tony, its semi-rural.  And the idea that HUD has is that these sorts of places would be good homes for poorer people who would benefit from the good schools and good public facilities in a place like Chappaqua.  And Chappaqua is just one front, a front line of this happening all over Westchester County, and the idea is to build a complex near the train station there that would include some low-income housing.  HUD's idea is this ought to be a norm across the country.  As HUD would put it, that no child should have his fate decided by virtue of the zip code in which he lives, so it's a small example of a larger philosophical movement, if you will.
Brian Anderson: And behind that philosophical movement is this idea of deconcentrating poverty.  What's your view of that and perhaps you could explain a little bit what that means.
Howard Husock: Deconcentrating poverty, I think, is an idea that has sprung up from the failure of public housing, and the idea that public housing failed because it was a concentration of poverty where all sorts of bad things happened and couldn't be controlled.  And so if the poor were dispersed among better off people who would be role models and would allow the poor to benefit from better schools and public accommodations, parks, recreation programs, that this deconcentration would benefit both the wealthy and the poor, I guess you would say.  It's an extraordinary change, however, from the original mission—and one has to wonder whether the officials at HUD in Washington even take this on board—it's an extraordinary change from the original mission of HUD, which was to improve urban neighborhoods.  In effect HUD is now giving up on the idea that poor neighborhoods can be good neighborhoods and we have to spread out the poor, and by this they certainly largely mean the minority poor, because that's to whom there's going to be a special outreach, at least in Westchester County, rather than taking the steps necessary to make sure that poor neighborhoods can be okay places to live.  So this deconcentration movement is a big change and should be appreciated as such.
Brian Anderson: How much of this, though, is also about the fact that places like Chappaqua don't have large minority populations?  In other words, is part of the policy aimed at making these tony suburbs more diverse?
Howard Husock: I think there's no doubt that there's a sense that there's something unjust about what you might call the American de facto system of housing, that there are poor neighborhoods, rich neighborhoods, and neighborhoods in between, but there are certainly enclaves of the quite wealthy where there are very low numbers of minorities, although in Westchester County the numbers of minorities in some of the most famous, wealthy places there—Chappaqua, Scarsdale—are in proportion to the number of very well-off minorities, there just aren't that many well-off minorities.  In other words, there's not really evidence that if a black potential homebuyer wants to buy in Chappaqua that he or she could expect to be turned away on the basis of race.  In fact there's no expectation of that.  But, there is something about that picture that rubs HUD, I think, and the Obama administration, the wrong way.
Brian Anderson: How have the black residents of towns in Westchester, like Chappaqua, the ones already living there, reacted to the idea that there will be these subsidized units being constructed?
Howard Husock: Well, I think, Brian, we have to put that in the content of how one becomes upwardly mobile in America.  And I like to think of housing as a kind of a ladder of neighborhoods and one goes from poorer, to better off, to slightly even better off, and maybe beyond that by making a series of good life decisions.  That could include being employed, it could include being married, it could include saving one's money and deferring certain gratifications.  And anybody, black or white, who makes the effort and takes the steps necessary to buy a home, to save the money and make the life decisions necessary to buy that home, is quite protective of what one has achieved, and proud of it.  And so when this Westchester decision was originally reported on by The New York Times, there was a flood of postings by African-American, self-identified African-American residents in the county, I should say, from—not from Chappaqua itself, but from some other places, who said, well, wait a minute.  I did what I had to do to get here and now others are going to be, in effect, given the same thing that I had to work very hard to achieve for myself.  And so what they are saying is their achievement is, in effect, being devalued by the government.  And I think they are quite concerned, especially minority residents, that there will be a potential for tension amongst residents because classically, in the sociological literature, Americans get along on the basis of their economic and educational commonalities.  If you have minority residents who share educational backgrounds and socioeconomic status with their neighbors, the chances of everybody getting along well are quite high.  If you introduce much poorer residents, there's the chance for tension, and I think that's what those minority residents are quite concerned about.
Brian Anderson: You say in the piece that you'd like to see policymakers encourage upward mobility rather than trying to deconcentrate poverty by forcing people to live in certain neighborhoods.  What do you mean by that and how should policymakers go about improving chances for mobility?
Howard Husock: Well, I think we have to circle back to at least the goal, perhaps not some of the means that were chosen historically that HUD originally had and, repeating myself, to make poor neighborhoods good neighborhoods.  But what do I meant by that?  That means that, first of all, you need public safety in poor neighborhoods, so that those who work hard, play by the rules, save money, don't have to worry about robbery and home invasions and the other things that in addition to terrorizing people deplete their wealth, makes it harder for them to get ahead.  We are also saying that there are ways to improve public education which has to be at the bedrock of marking poor neighborhoods good neighborhoods and encouraging upward mobility.  And we're seeing charter schools and poor neighborhoods can work very well.  It's a sort of divisiveness in policy circles right now, which is quite unfortunate.  It doesn't have to be only charter schools.  We need schools that work well and we need good—public good, as the economists say.  That means the parks have to be good, the streets have to be clean.  Just because you have a low-income neighborhood doesn't mean it has to be a bad neighborhood.  It can be the launching point for upward mobility.  And let me just speak for a moment about what's practical.  Right now we spend about $19 billion dollars on housing vouchers that allow low-income residents, like those who would be moving into these subsidized units in Westchester, in all likelihood, 2.4 million, roughly, households get these vouchers.  Well, there's about 45 million Americans living in poverty.  We can't, as a practical matter, conceive of giving all those people housing vouchers.  In fact there's a new book calledEviction, which urges that as a policy.  It seems impractical in our current fiscal climate in Washington, and I think ill advised as well, for some of the reasons that I've been mentioning.  But therefore, if our goal is to help as many of the poor advance as possible, we have to return to the idea of giving people the ways, means, incentives to advance on their own.
Brian Anderson: The final question.  Here we are at the end of the Obama years, and this is related to what you just said, I think.  What is the current state of public housing and the public housing debate in America?
Howard Husock: Well, public housing—people think of public housing as physical public housing projects.  They've not been growing.  In fact their ranks have been diminished by being torn down.  And housing vouchers have been increasing in number.
Brian Anderson: And the housing vouchers are now a great portion of public housing?  Or...
Howard Husock: Yes.  There are more receiving housing vouchers.  In fact we spend more on housing vouchers than we spend on traditional cash public assistance.  It's become a really large safety net program, if you will.  The public housing, itself—physical public housing continues to be in declining physical condition.  So, for instance, here in New York there are 178,000 public housing units and an estimated $18 billion dollars in capital repairs that need to be done.  In fact, the U.S. Attorney's office is on the verge of suing the city because of the poor conditions of public housing.  These are tremendous ironies, just tremendous ironies.  Public housing was meant to replace slums, and it's become our most persistent slum.  That said, in terms of your question, I think there's very little focus on this.  And we see long-term poverty among single parents and their children concentrated in public housing.  Median stay in New York public housing is almost 17 years.  Median housing voucher stay is almost nine years.  So we see long-term poverty being supported, in effect, by the Public Housing and Housing Subsidy Program.  And you know, frankly, if you're on a housing subsidy, it doesn't even pay you to earn more.  You pay 30% of your income in rent and the more your income goes up the more rent you pay.  So we've got a dependency trap going, and I wish there were more attention being paid to it.
Brian Anderson: If you enjoyed today's discussion, check out Howard Husock's latest essay, "Unfair 'Fair Housing.'"  It's on our website,, and it's in our latest issue.  Additionally, we'd love to hear your thoughts on today's episode.  Tweet your comments and questions to @CityJournal with the hashtag #10Blocks.  You can also make suggestions for other City Journal editors and other topics you'd like to hear from in future podcasts.  Thanks for listening and thanks, Howard, for joining us.
Howard Husock: Thank you, Brian.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Donald Trump's Family Fortune was built with Affordable Housing Profits

Donald Trump's father built his 400 million dollar estate with Affordable Housing.

Most people think of Donald Trump as the brash developer of Casinos, Golf Courses and Luxury properties.  Not too many people know that his family fortune was built by on the foundation that his father Fred Trump (1905-1999) built with affordable housing in the New York area

[Fred]Trump embarked on a career as an entrepreneur through real estate development, building, and operating affordable rental housing via large apartment complexes in New York City, including more than 27,000 low-income multifamily apartments and row houses in the neighborhoods of Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Sheepshead Bay, Flatbush, and Brighton Beach in Brooklyn and Flushing and Jamaica Estates in Queens.[2]

The next time you hear about "non-profit developers" remember that there is huge money in public sector housing development.  A business must be organized as a non profit corporation to qualify for HUD financing.

The business plan may be different than market rate housing but it is very profitable just the same.  The average low income apartment costs $250,000 to $500,000 per unit  making it far more expensive per square foot than market rate real estate.

Remember that "low income" only refers to the resident.  Everyone else makes a very healthy living.  That is why developers love One Bay Area Plan and the mandate for low income housing.  

Low income housing provides greater certainty for profits at lower risk.

Just ask Donald Trump!

PD Editorial: Ready for regional government?

PD Editorial: Ready for regional government?


Housing, its availability and affordability, is at or the near the top of the public agenda throughout the nine-county Bay Area.

So, too, are roads and transit.

Despite the region’s robust economic growth since the Great Recession, or perhaps because of that growth, the increasingly high cost and tight supply of housing is making it difficult for many families to make ends meet or even to live near their places of employment. And frustration with commute-hour congestion is often accompanied by the fury that is producing threats of a property tax strike in rural Sonoma County unless deteriorating roads are repaired.

Is surrendering local control the solution?

That might be the easiest answer, but we aren’t convinced it’s the best one, or even that it’s equitable, much less politically viable.

Indeed, regional government has been considered and rejected before. However, it may get a new look after being put forward again in “A Roadmap for Economic Resilience,” a report prepared by the Bay Area Council, an influential organization representing some of the region’s most prestigious employers, a list including Apple, Intel, Kaiser and Oracle.

“For all its strengths, the Bay Area lacks any cohesive and comprehensive regional economic strategy for sustaining economic growth, weathering business cycles and supporting shared prosperity across the region,” the report says. “Given the regional nature of the economy, its labor pool, housing sheds, job centers and commute flows, viable solutions must reflect a regional perspective.”

That, the Bay Area Council report said, could include punishing cities that fail to meet housing targets set by regional planners. The report also suggests a cap on development impact fees (which, in theory, are supposed to offset costs of schools, parks and other infrastructure to serve new development), waiving environmental reviews for housing projects and taking away local discretion over plans that are consistent with local zoning and building codes.

To upgrade the transportation network, the report recommends allowing a regional agency to impose bridge tolls, sales taxes, fuel taxes and/or a vehicle registration fee.

The Bay Area already has two large regional government agencies — the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments — though neither has the kind of teeth that the report envisions.

And while major regional efforts, such as Plan Bay Area, usually respect local priorities, larger cities and counties tend to have greater influence on the governing boards. That’s a reason for concern in North Bay counties should there be a serious effort to give these agencies greater authority.

In its report, the Bay Area Council points at regional governing schemes in Portland, Ore., where commissioners are elected, and the Twin Cities, where they are appointed by Minnesota’s governor. However, it isn’t clear that residents of Sonoma and other smaller counties would have any more influence under either of these approaches.

It is undeniably true that housing and transportation are regional concerns and that solutions have proven elusive, but it won’t be easy to persuade people that their interests would be better served by a board of super-supervisors further removed from its constituents

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Marin approves workplan to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing

Marin County Supervisors approve of a work plan to implement HUD  "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) in Marin County.  The plan aims to create "racial and economic  equity" in all areas of Marin.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

HUD's "Affirmative Further Fair Housing" Rule in Five Minutes.

Clarification: Westchester V Hud was settled in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appesls in NY. The Final Decision quoted Chief Justice John Roberts. This short video describes the effects on local communities if they accept HUD money for fair housing or urban development under their new rule, Affirmatively Furthering fair Housing. AFFH, as a term has existed for many years, the ruling went into efect July, 2015.

The Ritter Center and the Crime Heat Map

Here is a quick video of the crime heat maps in Downtown San Rafael and the proposed location for the Ritter Center in North San Rafael. The crime statistics tell the story.

See the maps at

Marinwood CSD Board refuses leadership on Ritter Center relocation.

The county of Marin and San Rafael is considering moving Ritter Center homeless services to 67 Mark Drive in North San Rafael that borders residential areas.  The Marinwood CSD provides emergency services to this area WITHOUT COMPENSATION and will be the primary responder.   We also own thousands of acres of open space where we have had problems with homeless encampments and fires.   

Clearly the move will have huge impact yet NO ONE on the CSD board wants to act to protect the Marinwood CSD's interest.  Leah Kleinman Green even admits that she SUPPORTS the move but she has not heard from her neighbors.  Naylor, Kai and Shea seem concerned but will do nothing to make San Rafael and the County of the aware of the financial impacts it will have on the Marinwood CSD.   

Where are our leaders?!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Steve Kinsey "solves" the Homeless Problem in Marin

West Marin Supervisor, Steve Kinsey "solves" the homeless problem of Marin by moving the homeless services from downtown San Rafael to North San Rafael.  This area is surrounded by hundreds of homes and businesses.  Apparently Steve Kinsey's "compassion" is the greatest when other people pay the price.  

Why not locate a homeless shelter in YOUR neighborhood Mr. Kinsey?

Socialism Makes People Selfish

Monday, July 18, 2016

Spy Cam at the Marinwood CSD

While videotape recording of public meetings is allowed by the Brown Act, SECRET videotaping with hidden cameras without consent violates California law, most especially when it is used to record private conversations.

The July 12, 2016 Marinwood CSD meeting

California Recording Law

Note: This page covers information specific to California. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearingssection of this guide.

California Wiretapping Law

California's wiretapping law is a "two-party consent" law. California makes it a crime to record or eavesdrop on any confidential communication, including a private conversation or telephone call, without the consent of all parties to the conversation. See Cal. Penal Code § 632. The statuteapplies to "confidential communications" -- i.e., conversations in which one of the parties has an objectively reasonable expectation that no one is listening in or overhearing the conversation. See Flanagan v. Flanagan, 41 P.3d 575, 576-77, 578-82 (Cal. 2002).  A California appellate court has ruled that this statute applies to the use of hidden video cameras to record conversations as well. See California v. Gibbons, 215 Cal. App. 3d 1204 (Cal Ct. App. 1989).

At the June 8, 2106 Marinwood CSD meeting,  a citizen requests accurate meeting notes instead of political spin documents now provided to the public.  He is denied the request by Justin Kai who says it is not required under Rosenbergs rules.  Kai admits that the district has been discussing the implementation of video in private.  

Why not discuss video recording in an open session??

For the record, the Marinwood CSD is denying that it had anything to do with surveillance video on July 12, 2016.