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

Nick Josefowitz

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.

To buy the median price home in San Francisco, you now need to be able to afford an $8760 monthly mortgage payment. This housing crisis is fundamentally driven by a supply demand imbalance, at the city and regional level. As Supervisor, I would be the strongest advocate on the Board for increasing housing production – with a focus on housing that is affordable to working families and low income San Franciscans. This new housing should be located along commercial corridors and transit routes, and would not only help alleviate the housing affordability crisis but would also provide the customers that local merchants and cultural institutions need to continue to thrive.

As Supervisor, I would ensure that our inclusionary housing rates incentivize the greatest production of affordable housing, not just the greatest percentage of affordable housing. I would work to dramatically reduce construction costs and timelines, by fully implementing Mayor Ed Lee’s Executive Directive regarding housing permitting deadlines, with strong enforcement provisions; by staffing up and redesigning the entitlement, infrastructure and building inspection departments in order to dramatically cut unnecessary wait times; by creating better, more effective construction training programs to reduce the shortages in San Francisco’s skilled construction workforce; and by embracing modular construction – with strong labor agreements – and new construction technologies. I would also work to continue the reforms of our ADU laws, to dramatically increase the production of these natural affordable units.

As Supervisor, I would also support the legislative efforts by our state representatives to build the housing that is affordable to working families across the state.

My record at BART and MTC on housing affordability is in stark contrast to the current Supervisor, who strongly opposed SB827. As an elected BART Director, I created policy to deliver 20,000+ new homes — over 35% of which will be affordable — in the immediate vicinity of BART stations. I also wrote state legislation, with Asm David Chiu, to significantly increase the speed and number of units that will be built around BART stations with the hoped-for-passage of AB2923 later this year. As Supervisor, I am committed to working with Senators Wiener and Skinner, as well as Assemblymembers Chiu and Ting (all of whom have given me their sole endorsement), on state level reforms. Our response to the housing affordability crisis is so deeply flawed that the time for half measures is long past.

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?

Between 2008 and 2017, there were 45 new units of affordable housing built in District 2. Meanwhile, 310 rent control units were either demolished or otherwise lost their protected status. As Supervisor, I would work to make up for the failings of the previous Supervisors and would be a strong supporter of building, in District 2, both more housing affordable for working San Franciscans and more affordable housing. As Supervisor, I would work to identify regional and local funding for affordable housing production, including housing for middle income families, and would add Affordable Housing bonds to the regular Capital Committee Bond Cycle. I would continue the work that I have done at MTC to build regional consensus for a large regional-scale affordable housing measure. I support the statewide affordable housing bond on the November ballot. And many of the positions outlined in the previous question, would reduce the cost and timing of building affordable housing and ultimately be able to deliver a lot more affordable housing for the same level of public investment.

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 support legalizing multifamily buildings on the westside, especially along transit corridors. In District 2, I would push for building more housing on corridors like Van Ness, Masonic and Geary. I also enthusiastically support ADUs, and the policies that allow for more than one ADU per lot. At the same time, we need to continue to upgrade our transit links along our existing transit corridors to help ensure that the new housing is traffic-light and minimizes congestion and other impacts.

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?

I took a position of support in concept. I believe jurisdictions like Brisbane, Cupertino, Castro Valley, and others that benefit from billions of dollars of regional transportation funding have totally failed to deliver their fair share of housing to meet our regional need. As a result, working families are finding it harder and harder to live near their jobs and their schools. This bill boldly addressed a real and pressing regional (and statewide) problem.

I am a big supporter of transit-oriented development in San Francisco, and would work hard to clear the way for more homes — especially affordable housing — to be built in a much more expedited manner near high-capacity transit stations including through a transit-oriented upzoning.

As a BART Director, I passed a policy to bring 20,000 new units to the immediate vicinity of train stations, and 35% of those units will be affordable. I am currently leading efforts to significantly increase the speed and number of units that will be built around BART stations with AB2923. This legislation, if passed, will set new standards around inclusionary zoning, mandating 35% affordable housing across the entire BART system. Its strong anti-displacement provisions would also break new ground in California law. The bill would also require BART to develop a strategy to prioritize units on BART land for essential workers.

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

Between 2008 and 2017, there were 45 new units of affordable housing built in District 2. That’s woefully inadequate to support the local need, let alone for District 2 to do its fair share at the city level. As Supervisor, I would support or author legislation that speeds up and streamlines the process by which we can build affordable housing, in every district, at a pace that will actually make a difference in people’s lives now. I would ensure that our inclusionary housing rates incentivize the greatest production of affordable housing, not just the greatest percentage of affordable housing. I would work to raise the money we need to build the affordable housing through bonds and other revenue measures, and work with the community and the City to identify sites in District 2 that would be appropriate for affordable housing projects.

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.

Yes. I think we need to be much more proactive about developing and updating neighborhood plans, be clear about the standards that we expect from new buildings, and then significantly expand the opportunities for home construction to avail itself of expedited by-right approvals. I would also relentlessly focus on following through and deepening Mayor Lee’s directive to reduce the time it takes to process entitlements and permits.

I was an early supporter of Governor Brown’s By-Right legislation, as well as Senator Wiener’s SB35 and Senator Skinner’s SB167 Housing Accountability Act. I was also an early supporter of the proposed YIMBY ballot measure in San Francisco.

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

I would work to add capacity in city departments to process applications and perform the necessary inspections to speed up the permitting process for affordable units. I would work to reform and speed up the ineffective public outreach process, to ensure that all voices in a community are being heard not just those who have the time to show up at planning commission meetings. I would require each city department that touches a housing project to set strict timeline goals, for both pre- and post-entitlement work, and hold these departments systematically accountable for meeting those timelines.

I think we need to be much more proactive about developing and updating neighborhood plans, be clear about the standards that we expect from new buildings, and then significantly expand the opportunities for home construction to avail itself of expedited by-right approvals. I would also relentlessly focus on following through and deepening Mayor Lee’s directive to reduce the time it takes to process entitlements and permits.

Ultimately, housing permitting will be most efficient when we set clear and reachable standards for new housing development, and then enforce those rules when compliant projects seek approval. There is no excuse for new housing developments that are consistent with the city’s vision to be delayed for years – or even months – because city leaders move the goalposts for new development.

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?

SF should optimize inclusionary housing percentages to maximize the quantity, not the percentage, of subsidized affordable housing that gets built. If you increase the inclusionary percentage too high, fewer subsidized affordable housing units will get built. I would make decisions on inclusionary requirements based on technical and feasibility studies, not what number sounds good. And ultimately people live in homes, not in percentages.

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?

Yes, the more the economy grows the more homes should be built to accompany that growth. This housing should be close to high-quality transit so as to reduce the need for cars and car commuting. There is no more transit-accessible place than Central SoMa. I would support a Central SoMa Phase II, that included more housing to come closer to meeting the number of new jobs that are being created.

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?

I would work to advance the production of housing that is affordable to working families and low income San Franciscans regardless of what District it’s located in or who is the Supervisor.

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.

As an MTC Commissioner, I have worked closely with Mayor Schaaf and Mayor Liccardo to lead regional efforts to incentivize cities to expand the basic tenant protections that are available to tenants in San Francisco to tenants across the region. As Supervisor, I will continue this pursuit. I strongly believe in rent control and protecting those who have it now and keeping them in their homes. I supported the Right to Civil Counsel, as no one should be excluded from due process rights.

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?

Yes, I support a vacancy tax for undeveloped parcels. SF cannot afford to allow parcels to lie vacant when we have both housing and homelessness crises of the scale we have.

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.

Prop 13 is massively overdue for reform. It’s wrong that large commercial property owners, those who can afford a heavier tax burden, are enjoying the same benefits as the small homeowners. But as society changes and social needs become more pronounced, the inequity of Prop 13 becomes more glaring. I would support a split roll system, and sit on the advisory board of Evolve CA that has been leading that effort. I also support the repeal of Prop 13 more generally, and replacing it with a more equitable way to keep low and middle income Californians in their homes as they age.

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.

As Supervisor, one of my top priorities will be to deliver 3,000 new shelter beds with comprehensive services for addiction and mental health, job placement, and benefits, et al., while helping people transition into permanent housing. SF has actually lost shelter beds since 2004. This would massively improve the lives of those who have fallen into homelessness, and who now have nowhere to go but the street where they are far more likely to be victims of crime, develop physical and mental health issues, and succumb to substance abuse.

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?

SF is a transit-first city and it’s time we embrace that to the fullest extent. I will be the strongest advocate on the Board for investing in transit, especially transit that serves our most vulnerable communities throughout the City. I have a strong track record on delivering transit upgrades for the region and will build on my previous successes and ability to bring together regional stakeholders around transformative transit projects. I will lead efforts to extend the Central Subway to the base of Russian Hill near Fisherman’s Wharf, and accelerate the project delivery timeline (SFMTA currently projects 6 years just for environmental review and a decision on where the line will go, even though the tunnel to North Beach is already in place). I will also push forward an already approved and environmentally vetted extension of the E/F streetcar line into Fort Mason, which is one of the most visited areas of SF and has poor transit connectivity. I will be a champion for bicycle infrastructure like the Ft Mason peopleway, and would be a citywide leader in ensuring our city achieves Vision Zero. I would embrace new modes of active and sustainable urban mobility – bringing docked bike share to D2, lifting the city-wide cap on Jump bikes, and championing the regulated use of shared e-scooters.

As Supervisor, I would work to continue my work to deliver a second Transbay tube – I have secured the first $200m for that project – and get an upgraded Caltrain to Transbay.

As BART Director, I focused my efforts on bringing the system into a state of good repair and led the efforts to raise the $3.5bn BART Bond. As MTC Commissioner, I have worked closely with equity advocates in the Six Wins coalition to build a community transportation planning program, where vulnerable communities are empowered to make decisions about how to best serve their transportation needs. As Supervisor, I will work to raise the funds necessary to keep our systems in a state of good repair and empower local communities to develop their own sustainable and equitable transportation future.

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

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