Dean Preston’s Housing Graveyard

Actions speak louder than words...

Dean Preston's housing record by the numbers

Homes approved in Preston's
district since he took
office
Analysis of SF Housing Pipeline
data
from Q4 2019 to Q4 2020
(latest available).
87
Affordable homes approved
in Preston's district since
he took office
Analysis of SF Housing Pipeline
data
from Q4 2019 to Q4 2020
(latest available).
0
People's homes Preston
blocked
(Preston denied over 12 people housing
per day since he took office!)
8,587
People's affordable homes
Preston blocked
1,906
People's homes
Preston opposed
28,708
People's affordable
homes Preston opposed
8,478

Who is Dean Preston?

  • Dean Preston

    District 5 Supervisor

    Dean Preston represents San Francisco’s District 5 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (i.e., City Council). District 5 includes some of the wealthiest parts of San Francisco, yet these neighborhoods build much less housing than the rest of the City.

What is Dean Preston's record on new housing?

Preston told us to look at his record on housing. We did.

  • New homes: We found that Preston has blocked or opposed almost all new housing in his district's wealthy neighborhoods.

    • Preston has said he opposes new housing because of how it "looks" and in order to "preserve the character" of his "intimate, historic neighborhood" from "plain ugly...buildings."
    • Preston's opposition has not prevented anyone from being displaced. The housing he has opposed would be built where no housing currently exists.
    • Preston makes transparent excuses for blocking housing. For example, after NIMBYs got him to block new homes, he said he was concerned about the homes' fire safety—but did not ask the SF Fire Department for its opinion.
    • Preston's opposition hurts renters and the environment. The housing he has blocked would reduce rents, displacement, and carbon emissions.

    Affordable homes:* Contrary to what he says, Preston often blocks and opposes new affordable homes.

    • Preston opposed laws that built affordable homes for 4,037 San Franciscans.
    • Preston is known nationwide for exploiting progressive values to justify blocking affordable housing. For example, Preston often asks for requirements for new housing that would make it impossible to build at all—including affordable housing. Even when a housing project will build mostly or all new affordable homes or would house homeless people, Preston consistently finds other reasons to oppose it.
    • Preston blocked plans to allow building affordable homes for over a thousand people after a local landlord asked him to.

    * In San Francisco, some homes are only allowed to be bought by people below a certain income, and these homes cost less. These are called affordable homes.


Preston says he's not a NIMBY. Read more and judge for yourself...

Picture of housing

Blocking "The Hub" rezoning

HOUSING BLOCKED
# People's homes
Preston blocked
8,449
# People's affordable
Preston homes blocked
1,775
# displacements Preston's
opposition prevented
0

After a years-long process with substantial community input, the SF Planning Commission proposed to rezone the area around Market and Van Ness for thousands of additional homes. The Planning Commission passed the proposal. But a local landlord who was trying to rent out an apartment nearby asked Preston to block the housing, which Preston then did--publicly thanking this local landlord for advising him to do so.

Citations: At 2:15:00 of this meeting, the Planning Commission states that there are no existing homes on the proposed sites, so building housing there would cause no displacement. Preston made the motion to block on July 20, 2020 at that same Land Use and Transportation Committee meeting. According to the SF Planning Department, the parts Preston blocked would have allowed for 4,355 homes, 915 of which would have been affordable, had it passed. The Planning Department estimates that each home on average would have housed approximately 1.94 people, given the typical mix of studio, 1 bedroom, and 2 bedroom homes and the number of occupants per home type. The Planning Department also noted that SF city law requires a minimum of 21% of homes in projects over 25 homes be affordable, meaning that of the 1,775 homes, 915 would have been affordable (that is, with a below market price and restricted by deed so that only people below a certain income were eligible to buy them). No housing is expected to be built on this land unless the rezoning passes. These public records show that a local landlord, Tes Welborn, was the ringleader in efforts to lobby Preston to block the rezoning. At the hearing where Preston blocked the housing, Preston then thanked Welborn for her advice in his comments about blocking the housing here. Welborn owns rental property through Loebelia Properties, including at nearby 124 Laguna Street (search block 0856 lot 013 at the SF Assessor-Recorder's site), which is just a few blocks from where Preston blocked the housing. While the Hub project was being debated, Welborn's company was trying to rent out this nearby apartment at a price of $4,300 per month. Welborn's company was also sued for illegal eviction here.

💡 Did you know? Preston said in July 2020 that he would “allow for no more than 6 months of delay” of these homes. Over a year has gone by.

Picture of housing

1846 Grove Street

HOUSING BLOCKED
# People's homes
Preston blocked
8
# displacements Preston's
opposition prevented
0

Four homes were proposed on an empty lot at 1846 Grove Street. Local NIMBYs asked Preston to block the homes from being built. Preston did so, saying he was concerned about fire safety. But he said he wasn’t interested in hearing from the SF Fire Department about whether they thought the homes were fire safe.

Citations: See 3:45:45 of this meeting for Preston’s rationale and lack of interest in hearing from the SF Fire Department. You can read more at this Medium post. Based on the Planning Commission’s assumption of 1.94 people per the typical home, we calculate these 4 homes as 8 people’s homes blocked. Preston later dishonestly said that his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors "unanimously" agreed with his decision to block the homes due to fire safety, but in fact during the Board meeting, other colleagues pushed back on Preston's justification; it is customary for San Francisco Supervisors to defer to each other on land use decisions in their districts, so the fact that these Supervisors later voted as Preston asked them to is not a strong indication that they agreed with his judgment of the project's fire safety, as he dishonestly implied it was.

💡 Did you know? Preston has not graduated from the SF Fire Academy.

Picture of housing

650 Divisadero

HOUSING OPPOSED
# People's homes
Preston opposed
128
# People's affordable
Preston homes opposed
25
# displacements housing
would cause
0

Homes for 128 people are being built at 650 Divisadero. Preston came out against the homes in an op-ed, saying that he didn't like the "look" of the new homes, and that such "plain ugly...huge modern...buildings" endanger the "fabric and character" of his "intimate, historic neighborhood." He also said he was "alarmed" that the building has "a big glass wall." Preston also campaigned for requirements to be added that the City found would make all the homes impossible to build at all.

Citations: Preston's op ed is here, and his comments expressing "alarm" about the building's look are here. New home numbers are from the building permit, which can be found at this SF City webpage. Under city law, 20% of the homes must be affordable, which equals 13 homes. In addition to opposing the project on aesthetic grounds, Preston circulated a petition that demanded the building be 50% affordable housing. The City performed an independent analysis that found that requiring more than 20% of the homes to be deed-restricted affordable housing would make the project economically infeasible. Preston continued pushing for a requirement higher than this threshold even after the City's study came out. This means that if Preston had his way and the 50% proposed requirement had come into place, there would be no homes built at this site at all. Even if Preston's proposal for a 16 home building with 50% affordable housing had somehow been built, it would have fewer affordable homes than the building that Preston opposed, and that is being built. If Preston had succeeded, the number of new affordable homes on the site would therefore be much less, and there would likely be none at all.

Picture of housing

Opposing SB 35, The Streamlined Affordable Housing Act

HOUSING OPPOSED
# People's homes
Preston opposed
3,841
# People's affordable
homes Preston opposed
3,591
# displacements housing
would cause
0

SB 35 made it harder for San Francisco to say no to proposed housing that is at least 50% affordable. Since the bill’s passage, it has led San Francisco to build homes for 3,841 people, over 93% of which were affordable homes of the kind Preston says he supports. Preston opposed the bill, calling it a "developer giveaway."

Citations: Preston stated his opposition here and here, where he called it a "developer giveaway." The Planning Commission calculated that SB 35 projects have produced 1,980 homes in SF, of which 1,851 are affordable (see here). We use the default home-to-people conversion metrics from Planning as above given limited information about bedroom numbers on these projects. More background information on SB 35 is available here.

💡 Did you know? One of the buildings being built under the bill Preston opposed is an all-affordable development intended for youth transitioning from foster care, which will be in Preston’s district at 78 Haight Street. Had Preston got his way and SB 35 had failed, this site would likely remain a vacant lot.

Picture of housing

400 Divisadero

HOUSING OPPOSED
# People's homes
Preston opposed
321
# People's affordable
homes Preston opposed
62
# displacements housing
would cause
0

New housing at 400 Divisadero will replace a gas station with homes for 321 people. Preston opposed the housing, and asked that requirements be added that the City found would make all the homes impossible to build at all.

Citations: Preston’s opposition is documented in many places, including this article. The article also notes that Preston supported alternative legislation which would have raised the percent of the homes that needed to be BMRs (affordable homes). The City performed an independent analysis that found that any project over approximately 20% affordable housing would not be economically feasible. This means that if Preston had his way, there would be no homes built at this site at all. The building as approved will have 186 new homes, 36 of which will be affordable. This building has fewer new residents per home because it has many studios.

Picture of housing

Opposing HOME-SF, SF's Affordable Housing Density Program

HOUSING OPPOSED
# People's homes
Preston opposed
524
# People's affordable
homes Preston opposed
446
# displacements housing
would cause
0

HOME-SF is a City program that allows for additional housing to be built if this additional housing contains additional affordable homes. So far, this law has allowed for 270 additional homes to be built, including 230 BMR homes. Preston not only opposed the law, he organized to stop it based on concerns about its impact on "neighborhood character."

Citations: More information on HOME-SF is available here. Table 11 in this City report indicates that buildings taking advantage of HOME-SF had 650 homes before bonus and 920 after bonus. These additional 270 homes include 230 affordable homes, per Table 11. At the time it was first proposed, this program was called the Affordable Housing Bonus Program (there is now a different program with that name). Preston’s opposition to the Affordable Housing Bonus Program, as HOME-SF was then known, is documented in a number of locations, including here. Immediately before he ran for Supervisor, Preston also founded and co-led a group called Affordable Divisadero. Preston's Affordable Divisadero mobilized residents to write to the Board of Supervisors to express their objections to an early version of HOME-SF, citing its negative impact on "neighborhood character." Elsewhere, Preston claimed his organizing and opposition were really about affordability concerns--despite that 85% of the homes the proposal created are BMR homes. (Moreover, none of the projects have demolished rent controlled buildings; such demolitions are rare in SF because a Conditional Use Authorization is required to do so.)

💡 Did you know? Featured at right is a picture of an empty lot near Preston's district that, according to the City, is being replaced with a new building that will have 18 affordable homes thanks to HOME-SF. If Preston had his way, most of these affordable homes would not be built.

Picture of housing

UCSF Hospital Expansion

HOUSING OPPOSED
# People's homes
Preston opposed
2,450
# People's affordable
Preston homes opposed
1,956
# displacements housing
would cause
0

After seeking community input for two years, UCSF proposed building over a thousand new homes as part of its hospital expansion. Preston led the opposition to this plan.

Citations: UCSF’s proposal detailing the number of homes they proposed to build is here. Preston’s opposition is detailed here.

💡 Did you know? Preston identifies as a socialist but opposed the expansion of a public hospital during a pandemic.

Picture of housing

730 Stanyan

HOUSING OPPOSED
# People's homes
Preston opposed
78
# People's affordable
homes Preston opposed
78
# displacements housing
would cause
0

When a local NIMBY group asked the City to limit how much affordable housing was built at 730 Stanyan, Preston told them that he would defer to them about what should be built there. He also failed to express support for the proposal for new affordable housing there for over two years after it had been proposed. Once it was decided there would be 6 stories of affordable housing there, only then did Preston call for it to be made 8 stories. Mayor Breed then released more funding to make it 8 stories—but then Preston changed his mind and demanded further community meetings before moving ahead with the 8 story plan he had previously said he supported.

Citations: Preston explicitly failing to express support and deferring to the community early on is noted here. His comments are worse in context, as he made them to a group that specifically opposed building a multi-story affordable housing building on the site (as noted here and here). Preston’s (much) later call for the housing to be 8 stories is here. This occurred in September 2020, but the proposal to build affordable housing on the site dates back at least to 2017, as recorded on the SF Planning website. After 8 stories was announced, Preston’s call for having more community meetings before moving forward with the 8 story project is available here and here. The developer has stated that adding two stories would add 40 new homes, enough to house about 78 people. We therefore count Preston as opposing only these two additional stories of homes, but he neglected all 160 of the homes that will be built there.

💡 Did you know? The affordable housing at 730 Stanyan was only feasible because the City used SB 35, a law Preston opposed.

Picture of housing

Opposing SB 50

HOUSING OPPOSED
# People's homes
Preston opposed
(in District 5)
19,885
# People's affordable
homes Preston opposed
(in District 5)
1,963
# displacements housing
would cause
0

SB 50 would have allowed new dense housing near transit. It did not allow rental housing to be demolished and its provisions did not apply in low-income communities. It would have produced housing for 19,885 more people in Preston’s district, including producing new affordable homes for 1,963 people. This new housing would be primarily in the ultra-wealthy Upper Haight and Lower Pac Heights areas of Preston's district. Preston opposed it.

Citations: The impact of SB 50 in District 5 is calculated based on an analysis conducted by MapCraft that examines which parcels would be eligible for SB 50 and would be likely to actually be developed. Preston’s opposition is documented here. An overall summary of SB 50 is available here.

Picture of housing

2670 Geary Street

HOUSING OPPOSED
# People's homes
Preston opposed
196
# People's affordable
homes Preston opposed
45
# displacements housing
would cause
0

There are 101 new homes being built where the Lucky Penny restaurant formerly was. The developer will pay $4.5 million to allow affordable housing to be built offsite, equivalent to the homes for 45 people that would usually be required on site. Preston was the only city Supervisor to oppose the homes.

Citations: The number of homes and Preston’s sole opposition are detailed in this article. If Preston's proposal had passed, the building would be economically infeasible and no housing would be built on the site.

💡 Did you know? Politicians typically focus on approving or blocking housing in their own districts, but Preston went out of his way to oppose this development in a different district, Supervisor Stefani’s.

Picture of housing

Blocking homeless housing in Japantown

HOUSING BLOCKED
# People's homes
Preston blocked
131
# People's affordable
homes Preston blocked
131
# displacements housing
would cause
0

Preston successfully blocked the City's plans to purchase a hotel in Japantown for permanent homeless housing after local NIMBYs opposed it. Preston justified his actions by comparing the City's plan to purchase housing for the homeless to the government's forced internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Citations: SFist quotes the number of units in the hotel as 131 here. Preston drew parallels between the City buying affordable housing in Japantown and Japanese internment here. As detailed here, the hotel will now no longer be converted to homeless housing.

450 O'Farrell Street

HOUSING OPPOSED
# People's homes
Preston opposed
411
# People's affordable
homes Preston opposed
56
# displacements housing
would cause
0

A developer proposed building 316 studio "micro-units" at 450 O'Farrell Street. Preston initially criticized local housing activists for failing to support the housing strongly enough. But then local NIMBYs opposed the housing, and Preston did what these NIMBYs asked for and voted against it.

Citations: Preston's opposition and the number of units (316) are included here. We use SF Planning's default assumption that each studio would house an average of 1.3 people to calculate 411 people's homes opposed. Preston's criticism of local housing activists for failing to support the housing is here.

Picture of housing

Replacing a parking lot with housing at 469 Stevenson

HOUSING OPPOSED
# People's homes
Preston opposed
875
# People's affordable
homes Preston opposed
256
# displacements housing
would cause
0

Nordstrom uses a parking lot at 469 Stevenson Street in downtown San Francisco for its valet parking. Preston voted against a plan to replace this valet parking lot with new homes for approximately 875 people, including affordable homes for approximately 256 people. Unusually, he voted to block the homes despite support for them from the City Supervisor who represents the area, Matt Haney. Preston justified his opposition to the housing by saying he was concerned the building would displace residents from nearby City-leased housing, even though Preston had recently opposed the City's acquisition of such housing. Moreover, research finds that building new housing such as this reduces nearby displacement by approximately 17%.

Citations: Information about the proposed homes is available here. Detail about Preston's opposition is available here. Haney's support is detailed here. The 17% statistic comes from here.

Frequently asked questions

What is this? Why did you make this?

Politicians don’t advertise how much housing they block and oppose, and it's hard for citizens to find out. That's why it is so easy for them to block housing -- no one finds out when they do it!

We’ve launched NIMBY Report to solve this problem. It's not an easy problem to solve, because this information is hard to find -- we had to dive into obscure City reports, watch long meetings, and find knowledgeable City staff to find the answers. And politicians want this information to be hard to find. But we’re making it easy for you, so that politicians know they can't hide how much housing they block any more.

The first politician we've tracked is Dean Preston. We've added up just how much housing he's blocked and how little he has built. We are working on other San Francisco politicians next. If you want to help, please email nimby.report@gmail.com.

Who wrote this site?

Four current and former District 5 residents who are personally affected by our housing crisis, and who have no connection to developers or the real estate industry: Amandine Lee, Alex Taylor, David Broockman, and Vitor Baccetti.

I found an error.

Please contact us with any corrections. We want this website to be as accurate as possible. Please send any corrections to nimby.report@gmail.com.

NIMBYism makes me angry! How can I get involved to help build more housing?

If you want to help build a NIMBY Report for another politician, email us at nimby.report@gmail.com. To simply stay updated about housing in San Francisco and hear about future volunteer opportunities, you might want to join the SF YIMBY mailing list or join the Grow SF mailing list.