Issue:  Vol. 44 / No. 42 / 16 October 2014
 

SF planning commission backs LGBT housing rule

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 1.43.40 PMSan Francisco’s planning commission is backing a proposed rule that would require national developers wishing to build residential projects with 10 or more units in the city to disclose if they prohibit LGBT discrimination.

The commission voted 5-0 at its meeting this afternoon (Thursday, July 10) to support the proposal, known as the LGBTQ Equal Housing Ordinance. It was introduced earlier this year by gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos at the suggestion of LGBT housing rights activists.

“It is a no brainer,” said commissioner Gwyneth Borden. “As a former board member of Equality California I can’t more enthusiastically support this measure.”

As the Bay Area Reporter first reported in March, the new rule was crafted with an eye toward providing nationwide protections for LGBT tenants. Currently 21 states in the U.S. prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 16 states also ban gender identity based housing discrimination.

“This gives us an opportunity again to share San Francisco’s commitment to end LGBT discrimination across the nation,” testified Tom Temprano, co-president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, at today’s hearing. “I encourage you all to take this opportunity to let San Francisco continue to take its national stand on LGBT issues.”

AIDS Housing Alliance founder Brian Basinger, who worked with Campos’ office in writing the ordinance, implied its passage would help LGBT advocates push for anti-discrimination measures at the federal level.

“We will get all these companies, from places in the country like my home state of Texas, out in front saying protecting LGBT people from discrimination is the right thing to do. Then we can go to Congress and say to all these congressmen look, these companies in your jurisdictions are already with us.”

Thus, suggested Basinger, “it will give them cover to get behind” national laws banning discrimination in housing based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Yet commissioner Hisashi Sugaya pointed out that if a developer says it does not ban LGBT-based discrimination they would still be allowed to seek permits for their proposed projects in San Francisco.

“Just so people don’t get the wrong idea” about the proposal’s impact, said Sugaya, who voted to support the ordinance.

If adopted by the city as expected, the policy would only require the planning department to inquire, as part of its routine application process, whether developers of larger projects have a national policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the sale, lease or financing of any dwelling unit.

The planning department would be prohibited from using that information as part of its evaluation of a project. Although it would be able to tell developers their application is not complete until the LGBT housing protection questions are answered.

Advocates, on the other hand, could use an applicant’s answer to the question to rally opposition to a project if the company doesn’t protect LGBT tenants. They could also use the information as leverage in extracting concessions from developers, such as seeking more affordable units be set aside than required by the city’s rules.

As the B.A.R.‘s Political Notebook noted in a story in today’s issue, the planning department had urged the commission to approve the proposal. The city’s Human Rights Commission also is backing it and could use the information from developers to compile yearly reports for the Board of Supervisors to review.

The supervisors will now take up the proposal and are expected to approve it at their July 15 meeting. The legislation is co-sponsored by Supervisors Scott Wiener, Jane Kim, Mark Farrell, John Avalos, and Eric Mar.

— Matthew S. Bajko, July 10, 2014 @ 2:11 pm PST
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