State Senator Scott Wiener was joined on Monday by San Francisco African American community leaders and HIV advocates to condemn what they claim is a false and offensive ad campaign sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), which attacks his housing bill. SB 50 would legalize more housing near public transportation and jobs, while protecting existing residents from displacement.
The bill moved to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. If it passes there, it will later go to the Senate floor for a full vote.
The ads have been described by San Francisco NAACP President Amos Brown, as “racist.”
The recent television and mail ads by AHF and its CEO Michael Weinstein prominently feature photographs of Civil Rights icons Dorothy Counts and James Baldwin, with a quote from Baldwin attempting to link 1960s urban renewal and “Negro removal” to Wiener’s SB 50. The mail pieces were mailed across San Francisco last week, while the television ads have been seen in Sacramento and San Francisco so far.
“While I can say that I am disgusted by AHF’s continued slanderous attacks, I cannot say I am surprised,” said Senator Wiener. “AIDS Healthcare Foundation and its CEO Michael Weinstein have a long history of using funds meant for HIV healthcare to engage in politics, often dirty politics.
“AHF and Weinstein are now becoming California’s NIMBY-In-Chief, with their funding of anti-housing efforts. SB 50 is a meaningful strategy to address California’s housing crisis, to close our 3.5 million home deficit, and move California away from being 49th out of 50 states in homes per capita. Our housing shortage is doing real damage to our state’s economy, environment, diversity, and quality of life. We need reform, and SB 50 will help. These lies about SB 50 must be condemned.”
“The lived experience of African Americans during San Francisco’s redevelopment era is not a political tool for AHF to exploit,” said Andrea Shorter, immediate past President of the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. “Our history belongs to us. It is shameful for an organization that’s intended to provide HIV healthcare to instead use these funds to settle political scores and use the African American experience in the process. We all call on AHF to stick to providing HIV healthcare and stop with the attacks.”
AHF presents itself as a community-based nonprofit with “AIDS” and “Foundation” in its name, but in reality, it is a chain pharmacy and insurance company that is registered as a “nonprofit” but with a budget in excess of $1 billion. AHF and Michael Weinstein have continuously used HIV healthcare funds to engage in politics, settle political scores, and increasingly, oppose new housing in California and fund anti-housing NIMBY organizations. They have been denounced by every credible HIV organization for their various anti-science stances, including attacking PrEP.
Now, AHF and Michael Weinstein are also using HIV healthcare funds to stop housing in California. AHF and Weinstein spent millions of dollars campaigning for a widely condemned Los Angeles ballot measure, Measure S, to stop housing production.
A broad coalition of labor, affordable housing, and business groups opposed Measure S, and it failed. AHF and Weinstein have also sued to stop the construction of housing that would have blocked Weinstein’s office view. By now attacking SB 50, they hope to stop the construction of more affordable housing throughout the entire state.
Low density zoning – typically banning all housing except single-family homes – was invented 100 years ago in order to keep people of color out of white neighborhoods. It was invented the year after the Supreme Court struck down racial zoning as unconstitutional.
Today, in many communities, single-family home zoning – which bans apartment buildings and affordable housing – makes racial and income segregation worse. SB 50 will help address this problem by forcing wealthier communities to allow higher density apartment buildings and affordable housing. That’s why a long list of fair housing experts have endorsed the effort.
SB 50 will help people stay in San Francisco by legalizing apartments and affordable housing in the 70% of San Francisco where it’s currently illegal to build anything other than single-family homes or 2-unit buildings.
According to the San Francisco Planning Department, SB 50, “is likely to result in significantly greater housing production across all density controlled districts, and thus would also produce more affordable housing through the on-site inclusionary requirement.” SB 50 will also help to create more affordable housing in segregated neighborhoods that have historically had little or no affordable housing.
SB 50 is supported by a large and diverse coalition including San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, the Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California, the California Labor Federation, the State Building and Construction Trades Council, the California League of Conservation Voters, AARP California, Habitat for Humanity, the UC Student Association, the Natural Resources Defense Council, CALPIRG, Environment California, the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund (CaRLA), and a host of other renter, business, and labor organizations.