"SF Mayoral Hopefuls, Minus Breed, Hold Heated Housing Debate"
One candidate in the San Francisco mayor’s race wants to shake out the pockets of real estate developers. Another wants to sue speculators who he said are putting people out on the street. A third called for a rigorous analysis of the city’s housing stock.
Those were among dozens of proposals floated at a housing-focused mayoral town hall Saturday afternoon in the Tenderloin, where four contenders for the office — Supervisor Jane Kim, veteran Democrat Mark Leno, civil rights attorney Angela Alioto and community organizer Amy Farah Weiss — held court for an hour and a half.
Responding to questions submitted on index cards or yelled from the crowd, the candidates spit-balled ideas on eviction laws, taxes for developers and how to beef up the city’s affordable housing supply.
Supervisor London Breed, who has built her campaign around housing issues, did not show up to the forum. In her absence, the event was dominated by progressive policy ideas that played well with the audience, but would probably hit resistance from a broad swath of the city.
Among them: Kim’s proposal for a $1 billion general obligation bond to fund affordable housing and homeless shelters, and for stiffer fees on big developers. Leno promised to sue speculators, saying that housing “used to be a place where people lived, not a commodity sold” on international markets.
Alioto was light on specifics but pressed for a citywide housing analysis. She livened the audience by railing about homeless encampments and a shelter system that she said only temporarily stanches the problem.
“Affordable housing isn’t even what we need,” Alioto said. “We need below affordable.”
Farah Weiss’ ideas were often hard to follow, but she had a compelling story about being displaced from two homes in San Francisco.
“I felt like the city was trying to spit me out,” she said.
The forum — co-sponsored by the Council of Community Housing Organizations, the University of San Francisco Master of Arts in Urban and Public Affairs program, and the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California — drew what appeared to be a mostly older, liberal crowd to the Kelly Cullen Community affordable housing development on Golden Gate Avenue. KQED reporter Erika Aguilar hosted the lively and at times chaotic event, which ultimately devolved into shouting.
Even so, it provided a space for the candidates to air their views on key issues like state Sen. Scott Wiener’s bill to build dense housing near transit corridors.
Though SB827 is widely popular among a younger generation of urban policy wonks who say it will promote mass transit and help solve the regional housing crisis, it met jeers and hisses at the Saturday town hall. All four candidates attacked it.
“We can’t have one-size-fits-all planning,” said Leno, echoing the criticisms of some residents on the city’s west side, who say tall, dense buildings would spoil the aesthetic character of their neighborhoods.
San Francisco mayoral candidate and former state Sen. Mark Leno speaks during a housing town hall at the Kelly Cullen Community in San Francisco.Photo: Stephen Lam / Stephen Lam / Special to The Chronicle
Leno stopped short of outright opposing the bill — Wiener endorsed him in the race. Kim, a longtime rival of Wiener, said she’s against the bill but supports the concept of housing near transit.
The candidates also attacked a proposed 330-unit development next to the 16th and Mission Street BART Station — dubbed the Monster in the Missionby opponents who say it would speed up gentrification in an area once dominated by working-class immigrants.
The dramatic high point came when an audience member asked a question that seemed targeted at Breed, who wasn’t even there: How would each candidate help African Americans who have been priced out of the city?
The audience member specifically cited the Western Addition, a neighborhood that was bulldozed by redevelopment in the 1960s. Breed, who is African American, grew up in a housing project there and now represents the area as a district supervisor.
It was an awkward moment for Leno, who has framed his campaign around the idea of political change — a notion that Breed’s supporters have slammed, arguing that Leno is a 66-year-old white man who spent decades in City Hall and the state Capitol.