Realty News

Yelp CEO calls on Google, Facebook to help housing crisis

Google and Facebook have started to engage locally, Stoppelman said, and he’s surprised that “more tech leaders weren’t paying attention to this problem as it was developing.”

Stoppelman spoke alongside the bill’s author, state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and other backers in an event at Yelp headquarters Wednesday.

Asked how his San Francisco local-reviews company is helping employees find housing, Stoppelman replied, “You end up paying (them) more. That’s the most straightforward solution.”

Stoppelman gave $100,000 to California YIMBY, a grassroots pro-housing group that sponsored Wiener’s bill, SB827. The measure would have stopped cities from using planning, zoning and other barriers to block certain high-density housing projects up to five stories near public-transit stops.

Contrary to what critics contended, the bill would not have “wiped away all local control,” Wiener said. Cities could still impose their own approval process, design standards, affordable-housing requirements and demolition controls.

Many business, real estate and housing groups supported the bill. But it faced stiff opposition from cities that didn’t want to give up any local control, neighborhood groups afraid of overcrowding and some affordable-housing advocates who thought it would displace low-income residents.

Wiener modified his bill to address those concerns, but in its first hearing Tuesday, the Senate Housing and Transportation committee voted 5-4 to stop it from moving forward.

Wiener vowed to bring it back next year. He wouldn’t say in what form, except that “I don’t believe the bill should be further scaled back in terms of density and geography.”

The event was sponsored by Yelp and the Center for California Real Estate, an institute of the California Association of Realtors, to discuss potential solutions to the state’s housing shortage.

Sonja Trauss — founder of the SF Bay Area Renters’ Federation and a candidate for District Six Supervisor — said she has learned from campaigning that people “genuinely want housing. At the same time, they can become distressed if the proposal is for housing in their neighborhood.” Unlike other issues where people have absolute opinions, such as abortion and the death penalty, “every single individual is both for and against housing,” she said.

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