Angela AliotoYIMBY Action Questionnaire
1. Do you support YIMBY Action's ballot measure to streamline zoning-compliant affordable and teacher housing in San Francisco?
Absolutely. We need to remove the bureaucratic red-tape that’s stopping us from making progress on this issue and so many others. I am so in awe of how your organization, in such a short time, has brought together activists from across the city to put this on the ballot. It reminds me of the spirit of San Francisco – the same passion that fought for LGBT equality, that fought the AIDS crisis, and that has allowed our city to be on the forefront of every fight for social justice in our nation’s history! Anything I can do to help, I will.
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.
I applaud Senator Wiener’s ambition and courage in creating this bill. For too long, our leaders have publicly stated their will to do more to fix our housing crisis but privately have done nothing to help communities overcome the obstacles that prevent greater density. So yes, I support it. But I do believe it should be amended in a couple different ways:
First, I would change it to be more specific about the definition of transit hubs, as I believe the broader definition used right now is causing misinterpretation and fear mongering of the bill in certain communities. Transit corridors should be defined specifically as within a half mile to a BART, BRT or Light Rail station. But that would mean half of San Francisco would be unaffected by this bill. To address this, we must absolutely invest in better transportation infrastructure along streets like Geary St that have the volume of traffic if not the right systems in place to qualify under this amendment.
Second, I would like to see stronger protections built into the bill to prevent displacement, particularly around affordability requirements and demolition controls. As the bill is currently written, I could see an incentive to tear down buildings near transit hubs, displacing all of the residents, and rebuild them outweighing the penalties for doing so. As I understand it, Sen. Wiener is in the process of amending SB827 and I look forward to reviewing any amendments put forth by the Senator.
However, as I understand it, the bill is still being debated and I expect it will be further modified through the legislative process before it’s a final product.
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?
5,000 for me is the starting line. I will absolutely continue his commitment to at least 5,000 but our city needs more. I’m going to be as aggressive as this issue as I possibly can because it is so important to me that everyone who chooses to move to San Francisco has the opportunity to live and raise a family here.
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 mayor I would work closely with the controller’s office to ensure inclusionary housing percentages are calculated by experts who are outside of the political arena. The current situation is untenable because the issue of inclusionary housing percentages is too often weaponized to score political points. By taking the issue out of the political arena we will be able to lower the cost of construction and thereby produce more housing units throughout the city. The benefit of doing so is obvious, if costs to home builders are lowered then they will be able to build more developments and spread the number of inclusionary units of housing across all neighborhoods in the city. Every inclusionary housing percentage is a negotiation between the needs of the city and developers of homes in San Francisco The numbers have to make sense for developers to be incentivized to build, and inclusionary requirements cannot be so high that they kill projects. I want to be a partner with home builders because we need to make it as easy as possible for them to build. As I see it, though, my responsibility is equally as an advocate for all the neighborhoods and residents of San Francisco and that means pushing for as high of a percentage of BMR housing for both low-income and middle-income earners as long as doing so does not halt or delay the construction of badly need housing.
When thinking about the price of new construction, it’s important to consider development fees as well. Development fees help our city match new housing with critical infrastructure: not just transit, but cutting edge schools, fantastic parks and all the amenities that can create a strong quality of life here in San Francisco. Like the issue of inclusionary housing percentages, we must find a balance between building a lot of housing while also keeping development fees at a level which does not halt the building of homes..
I recognize that this isn’t an easy calculation to make, and more often than not our current elected officials over-correct in one direction or the other. I have a strong record of building coalitions and consensus and strongly feel we can get stakeholders to become partners in order to build homes and produce revenue to build and maintain infrastructure that serves San Franciscans.
5. Do you support market-rate home construction in your district? What do you think the construction of market-rate housing accomplishes?
Yes! There are many areas in District 2 that could support more housing, due to already existent bus routes, infrastructure and zoning requirements. Upper Fillmore and the area South of Union St are perfect examples of neighborhoods in D2 in which dense housing should be built.
But why stop with new construction? We should also add to our density without the burden of construction that always brings local complaints. There are dozens of large residences that were built when San Francisco had a much smaller population which could support ADUs and in-law units. I will fight to make the process of adding those types of unit streamlined.
Market-rate housing is important for two big reasons. First, we need to heed to common sense. Over the last few decades, we’ve completely dropped the ball in providing housing for all of the new workers who have come to work in San Francisco based businesses. And, as such we’re facing a serious supply and demand crisis where in recent history, for every 8 jobs that have been created in San Francisco, we’ve only built one unit of housing. That’s what’s really driving the housing prices in the city. Adding to our supply will help stabilize prices, as we’re already seeing in Seattle and New York City. I was thrilled to see San Francisco prices drop, modestly, this past year. It’s a sign that the pro-growth policies our previous Mayor put into place were starting to work.
Second, market-rate housing is critically necessary if we want to meet our obligations as a city in terms of BMR and middle-income housing as well, which we must do if we want to keep San Francisco a city of opportunity and vibrancy. There are two ways to build BMR and middle-income housing: public funds and incentivizing developers through inclusionary policy. Unfortunately, public funds are being drained dry because of decisions at a federal level, which is trickling all the way down to us. We can’t do anything about that beyond voting in November and later in 2020, which I encourage you all to do. But we can’t wait for the federal government to figure this out. That means we have to work with our private partners here to solve this problem. And the answer is by encouraging them to build more and finding win-win solutions.
6. If market-rate projects are opposed in your district, how will you interact with developers and project opponents to reach a deal?
Every situation is different, and I want to make it clear, as Mayor, that my door will always be open to *all* the people of San Francisco. But after personally having gone through an extensive fight trying to create a beautiful piazza in North Beach, completing study after study that showed zero traffic impact or impediment to emergency response vehicles, only to see it stalled because of backroom politics and emotional arguments in front of the MTA, I know all too well that some objections are more legitimate than others. This is where I see my experience in building coalitions as so valuable.
When I led the Ten Year Plan on Homelessness under Gavin Newsom, I brought together people as ideologically opposed as the Coalition on Homelessness and the Hotel Council into the same room and we hammered out a plan that took over 4,800 people off the streets and into permanent supportive housing. I did the same thing when we enacted the ban on smoking in restaurants.
I know how to get people who vociferously disagree with each other to lower the temperature, talk and find common ground. That’s what’s missing in city hall – someone who doesn’t play to one side or the other, but brings people together and finds solutions that work for us all.
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?
Absolutely. We cannot expect a few districts within our city to take on all the growth we require to be a city prepared for the 21rst Century. It’s unfair and inequitable, because any growth in housing equally requires an investment in infrastructure or it will be plagued by all the issues we’re seeing in SOMA and the Tenderloin now – excessive traffic, homelessness and improperly maintained streets. That puts excessive stress on all of our city Departments as they try to manage vastly disparate situations.
I want more housing, but I want it to make sense. Being too aggressive and ignoring specific dynamics provokes local resistance and hurts the overall cause of a more inclusive San Francisco. For example, I would like to see height and density limits relaxed particularly along high transit corridors like Geary St in the Richmond, 19th Ave in the Sunset, West Portal Ave and others. I’d like to see us take advantage of infill opportunities whenever they present themselves. And I also think we need to embrace creative solutions: we are facing a blight of empty storefronts along our merchant corridors. If we could adjust zoning requirements in a smart and sensible manner, those storefronts are prime real estate that developers can convert into additional housing units.
8. How would you interact with supervisors who do not want housing in their district?
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.
It goes without saying that discretionary review and local control are significantly adding to the cost of housing. And as I mentioned above, some arguments are undeniably more legitimate than others. But when it comes to removing regulation, I think we need to remember why it was put there in the first place – to give local communities a voice in the evolution of their environment. In San Francisco, we’ve seen communities left out of the conversation face devastating effects: for example, in the Fillmore, the Harlem of the West Coast, when urban redevelopment led to the displacement of African American residents and businesses. So I understand and believe in the original intent of discretionary review.
That’s why I’m hesitant to say I outright support by-right, because I think there is a place for legitimate concerns to be voiced in the process – be they environmental or social impact. At the same time I am well aware that CEQA is often used as a weapon by some who want to block the construction of homes. We need to reign in their abusive actions.
What I’d like to see is more of a process on vetting these concerns, adopting a more evidence and data based approach rather than the power of oratorical argument being made at planning meetings during regular working hours, meaning the only people able to participate are those with the privilege of leaving their workplace or are of a certain age range.
10. How do you think San Francisco can work with the rest of the Bay Area to address regional housing needs?
While I’ve advocated a number of solutions we can implement here in the answers above, the reality is this is a regional problem that requires a regional solution.
San Francisco needs to join with the other cities in the Bay Area to devise a regional plan – a mutually agreed upon cumulative goal for housing added in the next two years, distributed across all municipalities. There must be milestones to measure progress and punitive measures for any city that is not meeting their obligation. For too long, we’ve been seeing our neighbors more than willing to add more jobs and more tax revenue, while expecting us in San Francisco to house all those new workers. That’s the same issue as the one identified above in the question concerning upzoning West-side Districts, only at a larger scale. All elected officials need to stop saying they will not meet their responsibilities in their own jurisdictions. The time is now to say, let’s do this here and now, in my backyard.