Last month the Potrero Hill Democratic Club (PHDC) hosted discussions on upcoming local ballot propositions, as well a mayoral debate, though without the incumbent. The conversations often pivoted off of the theme of affordable housing and the need to address unfulfilled demand for homes.

Edwin Lindo, for the Committee to Save the Mission, spoke on behalf of Proposition I, which would suspend market rate development in the Mission. “We have a housing crisis,” said Lindo. “Eight thousand Latinos have been displaced in the Mission. Fifteen hundred families that make less than $75,000 a year have been displaced. We have produced roughly 35 affordable housing units within the last five to seven years.”   

In other jurisdictions allowing the market to stabilize itself would be feasible, but that doesn’t work in the City, said Lindo. “The San Francisco Budget Analyst Office said that we need to build 100,000 market rate housing units in order to stabilize the market. We haven’t built 50,000 units in the last 25 years,” he explained.

According to Jay Cheng, of San Franciscans for Real Housing Solutions, which opposes Proposition I, “It costs $800,000 to build one unit in the Mission. It’s too expensive [to go above 25 percent affordability].”

“We need to look at who’s funding the campaign against Prop I,” countered Lindo. “The Realtors Association of San Francisco. Maximus, a large real estate developer in the Mission, devoted $180,000 against Prop I. And Jay even works for the Realtors Association.”

Another measure on the ballot, Proposition F, would limit short-term rentals in the City. Dale Carlson, of Share Better San Francisco, supports F.  He believes current legislature is fundamentally flawed, with a critical need for the San Francisco Planning Department to adopt new policies. “They need regular reports on the number of nights a place was rented,” said Carlson. “They need to have a way to sanction Airbnb and the 60 other websites that offer rentals to tourists in San Francisco. And they need the ability to put a cap on rentals that wasn’t tied to whether or not the host was present.  We shouldn’t allow Airbnb to list unregistered units. We wouldn’t let Uber drivers on the road without a license, or without registered cars.”

George Marshall, of San Francisco for Everyone, claimed that Proposition F would increase restrictions on homeowners, make it easier for neighbors to sue neighbors over perceived violations, and wouldn’t strengthen enforcement.

Carlson retorted that suing was possible within existing law. PHDC endorsed Proposition F.

PHDC also voted “yes” on Proposition A, a $310 million general obligation bond that would finance the creation of affordable housing. “The breakdown of the bond is in three categories: first there is a $50 million portion that is specifically for purchasing property in the Mission,” said Jack Gallagher, from Mayor Edwin Lee’s campaign office. “The second category includes housing for middle-income people, seniors, veterans, and disabled people. The other bracket is essentially to clean up infrastructure and properties that have fallen by the wayside.”

The law isn’t expected to raise property taxes.  It’d take a “catastrophic meltdown” of San Francisco’s housing market for the proposition to trigger a tax hike, according to Gallagher.

PHDC didn’t take a position on Proposition D, the proposed Mission Rock development located near Pier 48 that’s sponsored by the San Francisco Giants, despite support from former mayor and Potrero Hill resident Art Agnos. “I’m here to support the most important project in the history of this City,” said Agnos. “That’s not hyperbole. For the last hour, we’ve listened to ways to get more housing for this City. This project does it. Without displacing one single person.”

The 28-acre, City-owned, site would replace Parking Lot A with eight acres of green space, 10 acres of housing, and 10 acres of office and retail space. “What is proposed here is 1,500 to 2,000 units, with 40 percent being set aside for affordable housing. With the range starting from 30 percent of the area median income, which is around $30,000 a year,” said Agnos.

“What’s missing are the merits of the project. What you don’t see is what they’re actually proposing,” retorted Jon Gollinger, a waterfront advocate. “Remember 8 Washington? This is the exact pitch we got in the mailboxes, on the television with Gavin Newsom and Ed Lee, ‘parks are better than parking lots.’ They didn’t show us the buildings or the height limits; that’s what this is all about. The only reason Prop D is on the ballot is because it raises height limits from one story to 240 feet for 11 towers, five of which are taller than 8 Washington.”

“There is a transit stop already there at Mission Rock,” said Jack Bair, senior vice president at the Giants, in response to a question about increased traffic congestion from the development. “The central subway project is being built to service this project directly. We currently have surface parking that will essentially be replaced and collapsed into a parking structure.”

Fernando Marti, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, endorses Proposition K because “we believe if there are any buildings that the City is no longer using, those properties should not be sold on the open market. We believe that those properties are a public resource, and should remain so in perpetuity.”

According to Marti, Proposition K would implement four policies:  it adds transparency to the Surplus Lands Ordinance of 2002 by requiring an annual public hearing with the Board of Supervisors; it gives the Mayor’s Office of Housing first choice of surplus property, and a 120 day period to examine a project’s feasibility; it establishes housing priorities, focusing on homeless individuals, low-income, moderate, 50/50 market rate and affordable. If the mayor’s office doesn’t find a project feasible, it can sell the property at market rate as long as the acquirers’ development is at least one-third affordable housing.

In addition to the propositions, PHDC heard from write-in candidate for mayor Dan Kappler, as well as Francisco Herrera and Amy Farah Weiss. Weiss and Herrera are running on the “Vote 1-2-3 to replace Ed Lee” platform, alongside Stuart Schuffman. PHDC held the debate to demonstrate that Lee isn’t running unopposed.   

Herrera began the debate by briefly mentioning his platform for better public health, affordable housing, and clean energy. He believes that good health care doesn’t mean a simple doctors visit, but also should address anxieties prompted from eviction fears. “What City do we want for our children, grandchildren?” Herrera asked.

Weiss, who has a master’s in organizational development from San Francisco State University, said that when she attended graduate school she found no way to connect students with nonprofit organizations. That prompted her to initiate, fund, and develop a new community-based organization, Support Project, which is still offered by SFSU’s Public Administration Department three years later.   

Kappler made no attempt to differentiate his candidacy. “Nothing sets me apart from my opponents,” he said.

“I met Mayor Lee for the first time over a month ago,” said Weiss. “I asked him if he supports the Eviction Protection Act. His response was, ‘did someone finish writing it yet?’ At that point the act had been turned into the Land Use Committee a week and a half prior by Jane Kim. The mayor is just dodging the issue. I met him again last week, and asked him again about his stance on eviction protection. His response was, ‘we’re waiting to see if we can get sued.’ That got me thinking about different ways to handle this situation.” She believes that the City should strengthen eviction mediation, to enable tenants and landlords to resolve issues before removal is necessary.

“I think that there’s a homelessness crisis,” said Weiss. “Instead of Ed Lee’s Super Bowl pushout, I have a plan that would use the estimated $5 million for a more permanent solution.” Weiss would utilize “transitional eco-villages” to house the homeless. “Seventy percent of the homeless people in San Francisco lived in San Francisco when they became homeless,” Weiss concluded.

“The same old Babylon B.S. will continue to go on,” Kappler said. When moderator J.R. Eppler asked for a further response from Kappler, he stated, “Yea. Me. I love these guys.”

“I’m a little confused that you’re on the stage with us here, because you’re a write-in candidate,” snapped Weiss. “We have been campaigning hard on this for the better part of a year. You started off running for the CCSF Board, and then you jumped in as write-in candidate. I think that there’s a difference between our campaigns at this point. I find it a bit challenging to be a part of this conversation with you at the table… I believe that a better use of your time would be to join one of our campaigns to defeat Ed Lee, and work together.”   

“That’s what I want to do. I want to help with the campaign, that’s why I’m here,” replied Kappler, who also maintained that he’s running for mayor.

When asked to cite another issue that’d be significant in the next four years. Herrera identified immigration reform, and said that his community, comprised of many different backgrounds, has recently been “assaulted by Donald Trump’s language. His racist language is like what Hitler did in the ‘30s. People said ‘oh he’s crazy’ but ten years later nine million people were dead.”

According to Herrera, Lee’s Sanctuary City offers no sanctuary. “…INS or ICE, whatever they’re called now, can deport anybody with no problem,” he said. “Sanctuary is not about an accidental misfire of a gun; sanctuary is about protecting people’s lives.”

Weiss believes that the shooting of Kate Steinle at Pier 14 wasn’t handled well by the Mayor, but that Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi “upheld the spirit and letter of the law. The problem with immigration is part of a larger issue involving our drug policies, and NAFTA. We need to ask ourselves what the larger issue really is,” she said.

Weiss pointed to the BlackLivesMatter movement as important. “In San Francisco, African-Americans make up five percent of the population, yet comprise 50 percent of all arrests,” she claimed. Weiss is opposed to proposals to deploy hundreds of additional police officers. “It sounds like it will solve our safety issues, but it won’t; it will just fill up a prison faster,” she said.

PHDC also endorsed Propositions A, B, C, F, H, I, J, and K. The club encouraged no votes on Proposition E and G, and took no stance on D. It endorsed Weiss for Mayor, Dennis Herrera for City Attorney, and José Cisneros for Treasurer.

Originally Published October 2015: Potrero View 

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