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Debate Between San Francisco Neighbors Illustrates City's Housing Crisis

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – While everyone agrees there's a housing crisis in the Bay Area, not everyone wants to deal with having more neighbors.

A perfect example can be found at the corner of Divisadero and Oak Streets in San Francisco.

Meet Jon L. Jacobi and Phillip Kobernick; two neighbors who really do agree on the city's housing problem, but not on one of the proposed solutions.

In the case, it is 400 Divisadero, a new development which would make maximum use of the street's new zoning limits with a 177-unit building standing six stories tall.

"It starts at the corner, goes straight across this way," said 400 Divisadero opponent Jacobi.

"Building housing in San Francisco? This is the best place to be doing it; on top of a gas station," explained Kobernick, who supports the project.

Two neighbors readily admit San Francisco has a major housing problem:

"For years San Francisco has been adding jobs," said Kobernick.

"And you do need places to put those people," agreed Jacobi.

But Jacobi is taking a stand against 400 Divisadero.

"It's the scale of it. Pretty much everybody I talk to says, 'That's a little large,'" said Jacobi.

So he launched an online petition against the new builiding.

But don't worry; if you support the full-scale project, Kobernick started a petition of his own.

"We're a group of Haight-Ashbury neighbors who want to see more homes in our back yards," said Kobernick/

When asked if his opposition to the building made him a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), Jacobi admitted it did.

"I suppose it does. I don't mind being a NIMBY," said Jacobi.

And from there, it's the debate unfolding across the city: arguments about neighborhood character:

"I'd like to know how long they've been here and whether they've taken the time to appreciate what they have," said Jacobi.

"I love its character, I love the way it looks. I get that," said Kobernick.

And then there's the discussion of supply, demand and affordability.

"I think when people want to see something downsized, it hurts people in a housing shortage," argued Kobernick.

"I might have a different opinion if this was going to be low-income housing," allowed Jacobi.

It is just one building, and yet it embodies the entirety of our housing conversation. Do more units translate into greater affordability?

And if so, how many do we need to build? What should they look like? Where do we build them?

Those are things people really disagree on. And if you live in San Francisco, there is probably a very similar debate surrounding a piece of property in your neighborhood.

"So this is a small piece of a much bigger picture, right?" said Kobernick.

"I guess it's an argument about where you take the city," said Jacobi.

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