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A YIMBY Action Endorsement Questionnaire. View all November 2018 Questionnaires.

Catherine Stefani

Candidate - San Francisco District 2 Supervisor

How would you increase overall housing production? Give us a few policy ideas you think would be most impactful, making sure they are genuinely relevant to the position you hope to be elected to.

We are in the midst of a housing crisis. We are behind on creating housing for people at all income levels, especially those with low, middle, and moderate incomes. To increase overall housing production, I will continue to push toward Mayor Ed Lee’s goal of creating 5,000 units of housing per year, and work with neighborhood and labor leaders to ensure that development projects advance as smoothly as possible.

Additionally, we need to change a few things about the development process. I supported HOME-SF, which effectively upzoned much of the west side of San Francisco, and I believe the City should continue to focus development along transit corridors, identifying underutilized sites where affordable housing can be created, such as the Lucky Penny site along Geary in District 2. I also support fast-tracking the development process by allowing administrative approval of 100 percent affordable projects within the Planning Department, because we all know that the review process for new projects takes too long and contributes to the housing deficit we see today.

How would you increase Affordable Housing production? Would you support bonds (such as the $4 billion dollar bond on the CA November Ballot) or increased taxes, and in what amounts?

In general, I support market solutions to the housing crisis. One of the primary ways we’re able to address this, for example, is through our inclusionary zoning percentages, which should be calculated in order to create the maximum amount of units of subsidized affordable housing possible. In terms of additional taxes, I would have to be convinced that their revenue would be put toward programs or services that the market would not fund by itself.

Do you support legalizing multifamily buildings or “upzoning” single family home only neighborhoods, such as the west side of San Francisco or ? What do you think is appropriate for currently zoned low-density neighborhoods, those with parcels limited to one or two units? Please be specific and use examples relevant to your area.

I believe broad solutions such as HOME-SF are the way we’ll solve this problem over the long term. However, opportunity sites still exist, and I absolutely believe that every Supervisor should be looking for and identifying them within their neighborhoods and encourage rezoning with a higher density – such as the Lucky Penny site along Geary in my District. At this site, we created a special use district to increase the project from 21 units to 95 units, creating an additional 19 subsidized affordable units. All across the City, and especially in low-density neighborhoods, we have sites like these, and we need to do a better job of identifying them and creating housing in their place. I believe that we should be working toward broader upzoning measures, while pursuing opportunities to increase density in the meantime.

Did you or would you support Senator Scott Wiener’s bill SB 827 to eliminate density restrictions and upzone residential areas near transit, in its latest drafted iteration or with minor amendments? The bill would have allowed four to five story multifamily buildings within a half-mile of transit stops, and a right to return for displaced tenants. Would you pursue implementing a local version of a transit-oriented upzoning in your city or town?

We need to be creating more homes in San Francisco, and I definitely agree with Senator Wiener’s argument that we should increase density along transit corridors. My concern with SB 827 was that the bill would have removed any possible input from the City on development projects, but I would absolutely be open to a local version of transit-oriented upzoning, which would by definition preserve local control while increasing density and creating much needed homes along transit corridors.

Do you think every neighborhood should build multifamily subsidized Affordable Housing, and if so how do you plan on accomplishing that?

Yes, definitely. We need to take a close look at our inclusionary zoning policy to ensure that it maximizes the number of subsidized affordable units we’re creating. Inclusionary percentages should be based on sound data. It’s critical that our inclusionary housing percentages are calculated to create the maximum number of affordable units without killing development, and this is the first step in making sure that every neighborhood builds multifamily subsidized affordable housing.

By-right development grants automatic approval to zoning- and building code-compliant housing projects (both Affordable and market-rate), removing review of those projects by local commissions like the Planning Commission. It does not apply to any projects seeking variances from existing city law. Yes or no, do you support by-right development? Please be specific.

I support by-right development for 100 percent affordable projects.

How would you streamline the housing permitting process in your city or county? Describe some pre- and post-entitlement changes you would make.

The review process on new projects takes too long and is a contributor to the deficit in housing we face today. I support streamlined review within the Planning Department and parallel review between the Planning Department and other departments to help expedite the process. I also think there are opportunities to streamline code-compliant projects such as large downtown housing projects that have already undergone stages of review, as well as projects with relatively small scopes. The Process Improvement legislation from earlier this year provides a foundation for permitting reform, and I look forward to further discussing this with my community so that we can fine-tune the legislation.

What is your philosophy on inclusionary zoning, which mandates that market-rate housing pay for a certain percentage of lower-income units? Do you believe there is an inclusionary percentage that will create less overall housing and less low-income housing, ie that we can kill the golden goose with rates like 50% inclusionary?

The most important aspect of our inclusionary zoning policy – and the reason it exists in the first place – is that it should create the maximum possible amount of subsidized affordable housing. Inclusionary rates should be based on studies that produce sound data, and I supported the technical advisory committee’s recommendation for a percentage that took into account projects’ financial feasibility. If we implement something like a 50 percent inclusionary policy, but it kills all development, including that of subsidized subsidized affordable units, we will have defeated the purpose of our inclusionary policy.

What do you think about the idea of a jobs-housing balance? For example, San Francisco’s Central SoMa Plan? The area plan adds 40,000 jobs and 7,000 housing units, and is likely to be passed by the the Board of Supervisors without accompanying housing. Do you think San Francisco should have an “act two” for this plan and zone for more housing, and if so where? Generally, do you think we should build housing to accommodate a growing economy?

I’d prefer that we have a more equal jobs-housing balance in new Planning projects, such as the Central SoMa Plan, but I agree with the premise that it makes sense to add jobs along regional transit lines. At the same time, while it’s important to create housing in transit-rich areas of the City, it’s also critical that we create housing in less dense neighborhoods throughout the City.

Currently, many governing boards will follow the wishes of a district official on housing in their district, even if other officials disagree. Would you follow this tradition? For instance, would you adhere to the informal custom at the Board of Supervisors to give “supervisorial prerogative” to district supervisors when deciding on housing projects in their districts? Do you think officials should be able reject housing in their districts?

Every Supervisor should be engaged in creating solutions to our housing crisis. While officials should of course be able to vote however they believe is appropriate, their vote should not dictate the votes of the rest of the Board of Supervisors. In the cases where I would vote with the neighborhood Supervisor, I would do so after reaching my own conclusion, not just out of deference.

How would you strengthen tenant protections? Give us a few policy ideas you think would be most impactful. Feel free to explore issues such as Right to Civil Counsel, your position on Costa Hawkins, etc.

Two of the most important things we can do to protect renters are to increase housing for people at all income levels and to preserve our current model of rent control. Creating more homes helps the housing supply catch up to the ever growing demand for housing, and will help rents to stabilize. The combination of our current rent control system and inclusionary housing policy is a foundation for ensuring there’s rental housing available for people at all income levels, and we need to continue to create homes for every income level. I support the Right to Civil Counsel, and I applaud Mayor Breed for her work funding the recently passed Proposition F.

Do you support a vacancy tax for empty units and/or undeveloped parcels? Cities like Paris and Vancouver collect vacancy taxes on homes that are not the primary residences of their owners in an attempt to encourage use of those units. Other municipalities are exploring taxes on vacant parcels to encourage development. What are your thoughts?

I am supportive of the concept of a vacancy tax, but I haven’t seen a proposal that meets necessary legal standards. In general, though, I am absolutely of the belief that housing should be homes for people, not just a place to park one’s money.

Do you support the repeal or reform of Proposition 13? Prop. 13 is a state law that caps property taxes at 1% of their assessed value at purchase. The law allows only property tax reassessment increases up to 2% per year or allows reassessment if the property changes ownership by being sold (but not inherited). The law also requires state and local tax increases to be approved by a two-thirds majority. Please speak about your position on both commercial and residential Prop 13.

Lost revenue from Prop 13 negatively affects our schools and other public services, so I believe Prop 13 should be reformed to protect renters and homeowners while making sure that commercial property owners pay their fare share in property taxes. I do, however, think we should preserve the two-thirds majority for increasing state and local taxes otherwise, since a lower threshold would not likely lend itself to fiscally responsible tax policy.

What is your opinion on street tent encampments and people living in vehicles? Do you support enforcement action against unhoused people living in tents, RVs and cars? Give us some alternative policies you think would be most impactful in addressing homelessness.

While I do not believe we should be in the business of criminalizing homelessness, it’s not compassionate to let people die on the streets, and it’s essential that we have the tools necessary to keep our public spaces safe and clean. When we have shelters, navigation centers, and supportive housing available, sleeping on the sidewalk, in tent encampments, or in RVs should never be an option. As we know, the homeless crisis overlaps greatly with our mental health crisis, and the population we have left on our streets are the truly difficult to reach individuals that have been chronically homeless, often suffering from addiction, mental illness, or both. We need stronger conservatorship laws and must continue to invest in supportive housing and wrap-around services to get people off the streets and into housing and care.

What local and regional transit or other multimodal initiatives would you propose? Give us ideas of new transit lines, fare integration, bike lanes, infrastructure upgrades, etc. How can we expedite these policies and move away from car dependency?

San Francisco cannot shoulder the housing crisis on our own. Our regional elected leaders should be doing more to make sure that we’re creating housing throughout the Bay Area, and part of this means making sure that we integrate fares and create homes around BART and Caltrain stations. San Francisco has elected and appointed representatives on regional bodies, such as the MTC and ABAG, who have a responsibility to push other cities, such as Brisbane and Lafayette and Lafayette, to do their part as well.

Is there anything else you would like the membership to know about you or your positions?

I believe that we are in the middle of a housing crisis in San Francisco, and at the very least we need to be building housing at all income levels and committed to Mayor Ed Lee’s goal of creating 5,000 units of housing each year. I look forward to working with YIMBY Action to solve what I see as one of the most pressing issues San Francisco and California are facing.

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