Earlier this month, one city department accidentally cited another department for “blight” on an empty lot at the corner of South Van Ness Ave. and 16th Street. The lot was bought for $18.5 million last year so that the city could build affordable housing there, but it has sat empty since. It may not begin construction for a year or more.

Neighbors complain about empty lots, saying they gather trash and present safety issues. Housing activists also complain, saying the city is too slow to build housing on sites it already owns, like the site at the corner of South Van Ness Ave. and 16th Street, and another site at the corner of Shotwell and 26th streets that has sat vacant for years.

We asked our candidates for District 9 supervisor this week what they would do to speed up construction of affordable housing and prevent blight on empty lots in the Mission District.

What would speed up the construction of affordable housing on sites owned by the city? As supervisor, what would you do on empty lots to prevent blight and activate them while they await housing construction?

Respuestas en español aquí.

Hillary Ronen, Chief of Staff for Supervisor David Campos

I’ve made a pledge to build 5,000 units of affordable housing in 10 years, and we have no time to waste.

  • I support and will fight to increase funding for the newly formed Housing Accelerator Fund that allows for quick and flexible capital for affordable housing developers to acquire land and build homes.
  • I supported recent legislation that will remove the conditional use process for 100% affordable projects and will look for additional ways to speed up our complicated entitlement process for affordable projects.
  • I will negotiate with city officials and developers — as part of community benefits plans — to temporarily activate unused sites for much needed navigation centers, pop-up parks, community markets and other creative uses.

Melissa San Miguel, Education Advocate

We need greater transparency in our system, and real leadership with a vision for where our city is going. There is a larger question of who is getting these land deals for construction and do they have the expertise necessary to actually build effectively in a timely manner. Unfortunately, our city lacks the leadership and vision at this time, which has led to this crisis. That said, we can avoid this blight and embrace this opportunity with empty lots to engage our community. Instead of garbage and weeds, we can paint murals and temporary art installations. It’s time for real leadership in San Francisco!

Josh Arce, Community Liaison for Laborers Local 261

This is clear example of City Hall failing our neighborhoods. Our leaders need to prioritize and expedite affordable housing on all feasible sites the city owns. There should be a streamlined and coordinated process to secure the permits affordable housing developers need from city departments. As the only candidate who has experience building affordable housing in my role on the board of the Mission Housing Development Corporation, I have the ability to make a real difference on this issue, if elected.

To eliminate waste and inefficiency accumulating on all vacant sites, we need to create active, interim uses for these sites from the time of purchase to the start of construction. The Navigation Center is a perfect example of this –providing shelter to our homeless residents while the site awaits construction of a permanent affordable housing project. In fact, I propose the same use for these sites and am working with a private partner to make it a reality. I am also open to turning these sites into temporary playgrounds, parks, or spaces for community gatherings, depending on the needs of the specific site and surrounding neighborhood.

Iswari España, Training Officer with the San Francisco Human Services Agency

The bottom line is that the process needs to be streamlined. The core of problem can be found at Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) and it’s a staffing issue. As a supervisor, I will advocate for funding for staff to expedite the process. We need people power to support the work. You can talk about easing regulations, much like proposal from the Governor which I do not agree with, but the bottom line is that any development must wait for a formal Request for Proposals, studies and permits to be issued by the city.

In the last 4 years, the construction of affordable housing has only been possible because of community activists pushing at the Planning Commission and the MOHCD level for results. Our supervisor never held the city accountable for their actions. I will change that ASAP. In addition, I suggest that while we await for housing construction, all lots should be lease for public parking. We should have the proceeds pay for parking maintenance and upkeep these areas.

43 Questions is a weekly series — started 43 weeks before Election Day — to question the candidates running for District 9 supervisor. Send us questions to info@missionlocal.com and let us know in comments or in an email if you think candidates have answered as asked.

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  1. Set the fucking rules and if the developer meets those rules, rubber stamp the project and let them build. Quit changing the rules after the fact. Stop all community opposition. SF supervisors are supposed to govern by setting the laws. We elect these folks to lead and make rules. Community opposition should be in the form of voting out supervisors that set bad law. It’s there job to set rules and make corporations follow those rules.

    The problem is that developers follow every rule set in place and then are told they need to abide by other rules that don’t exist because a bunch of crybabies complain. As long as SF elects liberals and not moderates, housing will continue to skyrocket and there will be a bigger divide between the haves and have-nots. Which is what the folks in charge have wanted all along.