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Why New York's Progressive Mayor Would Be Considered a Rightist in San Francisco

Scott Lucas | February 21, 2014 | Story Politics

If you listen to the housing affordability debate here in San Francisco, you'd be pardoned for thinking that there were only two mutually exclusive options: To build higher and more densely or to protect affordable housing and low-income tenants. Somehow we've collectively decided that moderates can't be in favor of low income set asides and that progressives can't be in favor of increased compactness.

Leave it to New York City to tell us that we're crazy. Manhattanization—long the bugaboo of San Francisco progressive worried about site lines and shadows—isn't even a concern to Manhattan's most powerful progressive anymore. Mayor Bill de Blasio said this yesterday said about solving New York City's housing affordability crisis: "It's going to take a willingness to use height and density to the maximum feasible extent [...] I don't have a hang-up about it. I think it's necessary to do what I'm here to do." According to Capital, the mayor told the executive committee of the Real Estate Board of New York, a lobbying group, that his goal was to build and preserve more affordable housing than the Bloomberg administration had. To do that, he said, would require an embrace of new construction, especially projects that find ways to maximally leverage New York's limited physical space.

Could a similar position ever be embraced by progressives here in San Francisco? Unlikely. We appear to be headed in the opposite direction with the progressive-backed ballot measure that would require waterfront construction that exceeds current height limits to be voted on at the ballot box.

As Matthew Yglesias noted in Slate this morning, "What will be really interesting to see will be whether de Blasio is able to leverage his ties and credibility with folks who aren't real-estate developers to get some of this done. A populist with a left-wing persona may be the right person to build the political coalition around more development."

Any progressives here in town want to take him up on that?

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