Amy Farah WeissYIMBY Action Questionnaire
1. Do you support YIMBY Action's ballot measure to streamline zoning-compliant affordable and teacher housing in San Francisco?
Yes! I signed the petition and am in support of streamlining zoning-compliant affordable and teacher housing, as well as creating new financing mechanisms and programs to build more affordable housing for our workforce and families.
2. Do you support State Senator Scott Wiener's new transit-oriented housing bill, SB 827? Be specific about any amendments you think it needs.
It is time to be truly transformative in our approach to developing affordable housing along with a transit-first framework. I have committed myself to creating strategic solutions to San Francisco’s housing and displacement crisis since 2012 when I founded Neighbors Developing Divisadero to say “Yes In My Back Yard” to inclusive, culturally-enriching, and sustainable development.
I support increased density and up-zoning near transit hubs, but I am the only candidate who is adamant that we must develop complimentary financing mechanisms and subsidies at the state/local levels to include 50% affordable in up-zoned development (stratified at 15%-120% AMI) to also meet our ABAG/RHNA goals for low-to-moderate income housing construction. This visionary goal is pragmatic given our current economic climate and upcoming Governor’s race, so please hear me out and get excited about asking for a comprehensive plan that supports the housing needs of ALL of our workers and families. I do not expect developers to foot the bill for the 50% on-site affordable development requirement. I will only propose solutions that enable a reasonable ROI for developers and bring enough perks (such as streamlined permitting) to make it worth their while.
There are quite a few ways forward for us to capture revenue for affordable housing development to finance and subsidize the 50% affordable requirement, including California’s multi-billion dollar budget surplus, the drastic decrease in federal corporate tax rates from 35% to 21%, and the upcoming state ballot initiative for Prop 13 reform. We should also be ensuring that every candidate for Governor is on board with investing considerable state resources into affordable housing development (as well as following in the footsteps of North Dakota and creating a State Bank that allows us to invest in our values statewide). My preference would be to create a program similar to San Francisco’s MOHCD Small Sites Program at the State level that provides zero-to-low interest loans to ensure that developers are able to pencil out a reasonable ROI. I also recently spoke with a tax credit and affordable housing expert at a SPUR event about the potential to create State Tax Credits that allow financing for stratified affordable (i.e. ranges of affordability from 15%-120% so that the project is financially feasible, rather than restrictions from Federal Tax Credits that only allow support for projects that are 60% AMI or less).
At the local level we can: 1) Work with pension funds – including SFERS that has hundreds of millions of dollars that they are poised to divest from fossil fuels, 2) Promote a public bank, and 3) Pass legislation to capture revenue from commercial properties for affordable housing development. On this note, unfortunately the legislation on the June ballot pits affordable housing funding against childcare subsidies; We need both, and hopefully YIMBY Action members will also take up advocacy for affordable access to childcare and increased wages for childcare workers.
3. How many units of housing do you believe San Francisco should add over the next 10 years? Do you plan to continue Mayor Ed Lee's commitment to add 5,000 units per year?
In order to address our housing crisis, we must have a comprehensive plan for developing new units and activating the tens of thousands of units that are currently being kept off of the market. Unfortunately Ed Lee’s administration and members of the Board of Supervisors turned their heads when Airbnb illegally took thousands of units off of the market and failed to pursue new tools to work with property owners to activate empty units (such as a vacancy tax/impact fees and tenant screening/management support programming).
Since the City has over 20,000 units already entitled by Planning – not including the tens of thousands of units in the pipeline via Park Merced, Bayview-Hunters Point, and Treasure Island which brings the total to nearly 50,000 – 5,000 units a year for ten years is a very reasonable commitment to make. In order to move towards that goal we must create the interdepartmental project management support to ensure that permitting is streamlined. As Mayor I will work with Department Heads/staff, and developers to assess and optimize our current entitlement system. I will also create a new program to support the financing, construction, and tenant screening and selection for hundreds to thousands of additional dwelling units (ADUs) aimed to rent at 30% of income for workers and families.
Keep in mind that San Francisco’s entitlement and production levels for ABAG/RHNA goals are far from hitting the mark for low-to-moderate income housing (40% of the low-income/under 80% AMI target goals of 10,870 units, and 21% of the middle-income/80%-120%AMI target goals of 5,460 units), while we are at 217% of ABAG/RHNA goals for over 120% AMI (see graphic below).
4. How do you think inclusionary housing percentages should be calculated in San Francisco? Be specific about how you think about the costs and benefits of this policy.
As I explained in detail above, we need better financing and subsidy tools available to us at the state and local level in order to support stratified affordable development within new housing development. Developers should be able to make a reasonable ROI on their projects while ensuring that housing is satisfying our needs for affordable housing at all income levels, include for those who make upwards of 120% AMI. Currently the percentage of on-site inclusionary in San Francisco is nearing 20%, and I know that we can increase the percentage if we follow my plan at the state and local level for financing and streamlining.
5. Do you support market-rate home construction in your district? What do you think the construction of market-rate housing accomplishes?
I support market-rate development with on-site inclusionary and community-serving retail/services. I will prioritize the development of financing tools to increase inclusionary percentages in a way that supports developers with reasonable profit margins, as well as providing permit streamlining for projects with higher-percentage inclusionary.
6. If market-rate projects are opposed in your district, how will you interact with developers and project opponents to reach a deal?
I am a skilled bridge builder with a proven track record of bridging divides between polarized Progressive and pro-development factions in support of critical thinking and aligning where possible for the greater good.
7. Do you support upzoning in San Francisco, particularly on the westside and in single-family-home-only neighborhoods? Where would you push for upzoning, and how?
I have been one of San Francisco’s biggest advocates for ADU development, second only to Scott Wiener perhaps, and was thrilled when legislation passed last summer to allow ADU’s city-wide. I have championed a program for over three years that will finance and build thousands of ADU’s for SF’s workforce and families at no more than 30% of income while simultaneously supporting small property owners and the building trades.
I understand that many neighborhoods want to keep single-family home neighborhoods in San Francisco, but this is an urban center and we have a responsibility to grow along with other Bay Area cities in a way that is sustainable and inclusive. Upzoning along transit corridors is a great start if we are mindful of hitting our targets for low-to-moderate income housing along with market rate development.
8. How would you interact with supervisors who do not want housing in their district?
I would listen to the issues presented to me by the Supervisor about their reservations and position and do my best to mitigate the issues presented using critical thinking and dialogue
9. Do you support a by-right process for zoning-compliant housing developments in San Francisco, including market-rate housing? If not, be specific about how you would expedite housing construction in the city.
I support a by-right process for housing construction with sufficient levels of on-site inclusionary, and I have provided details above about how I will work to develop the financing mechanism to make that an economically feasible initiative.
One of my goals as Mayor will be to work with each District to create a vision for multi-use development that is truly exciting and community-integrated. For instance, what if each District could build a housing center that also included a vertical hydroponic urban ag component that could be used to grow vegetables and herbs for local businesses (or even medicinal CBD-rich cannabis for nursing homes, harm reduction programs, and equitable access programs)? It’s time for San Francisco neighborhoods to get excited about developing for the future and growing sustainably.
10. How do you think San Francisco can work with the rest of the Bay Area to address regional housing needs?
I have been a proponent of modular housing construction for many years and discussed the importance of developing multiple modular housing warehouses throughout the Bay Area in the 2015 Mayor’s race. I recently met with a local architectural firm that is completing a 200 multi-family modular unit project near a transit hub in Union City and learned that they had to ship their units from Boise, Idaho. The modular housing manufacturing warehouse that is underway in Vallejo should be just the beginning; As Mayor I will work with Bay Area municipalities with ample land to support additional manufacturing warehouses to enable a local modular building boom.
It is long overdue for municipalities in Silicon Valley to start building their fair share of housing to address our current crisis, especially since job growth down the peninsula is contributing to a housing imbalance. Fortunately Mountain View has recently approved nearly 10,000 homes by Google’s North Bayshore project, but we need to push Cupertino to use available land at the former Vallco mall shopping center to add housing near the new Apple HQ.