Photo courtesy of Deborah Schneider

As officials confront the affordable housing crisis in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, policymakers are also looking at ways to strengthen public transportation. If low and middle-income workers can’t live in the city, they at least need a reliable way to get there, they argued Tuesday night at a forum hosted by San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim at Mission High School.

The talk about the city’s complicated intersection of housing and transportation gave Kim, who is running for the state Senate against Supervisor Scott Wiener — known as a policy wonk – an opportunity to demonstrate her own policy chops.

Kim stuck to discussing housing measures, pushing for taxing the sale of luxury homes – a tax, she says, that could fund free community college in the city. She also criticized the practice of renting out Airbnb units year-round and called on developers to invest in affordable housing.

“Close to 80 percent of all residential and commercial development is happening in my district,” Kim said of District 6 — which encompasses the Tenderloin, South of Market, Civic Center, South Beach, Mission Bay, Rincon Hill and Treasure Island — to the crowd of a thousand or so that packed the high school auditorium. “It represents the city’s poorest and wealthiest residents.”

“Who is the city being built for?,” she asked, later adding that the average market-rate condo in San Francisco is considered affordable only to families that make at least $270,000 a year.

Kim was joined by former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Lateefah Simon, California State University trustee and District 7 BART board director candidate. David Talbot, founder and former editor-in-chief of Salon magazine, moderated the talk.

Simon served as a voice for the Bay’s growing number of commuters. She grew up in the Fillmore District, and her grandfather opened some of the city’s first jazz clubs. She moved out of San Francisco when she was in her early 30s.

“This is my city, and I can’t afford to live here,” Simon said to applause.

She called for more affordable BART rides and rehabbing what she said is a “ broken, dilapidated and dangerous” transportation system, and significantly underfunded. Simon said the BART board needs more progressive leaders with a greater interest in the public good.

“BART has become the spine of the economic ecosystem,” Simon said, adding that this is especially true as former San Francisco residents get pushed further and further out. But people should still be able to “touch and hold and feel San Francisco,” she went on, stressing the need for more affordable transit. Simon stopped short of recommending potential fixes to BART.

Villaraigosa, who has stoked speculation but has not confirmed that he may run for California governor in 2018, offered big-picture recommendations for San Francisco and the state, mostly based on his experiences as mayor of Los Angeles from 2005 to 2013. He said that the housing crisis is a state issue.

“This is in all of our self interests,” he said of creating affordable housing. “We don’t do well when only some of us can eat the cake and the frosting.”

At the event, Kim promoted her platform’s anchor – boosting the number of low-income and middle-income units in the city.

To that end, Kim sponsored Proposition C – the ballot measure passed in June that requires developers to set aside 15 percent of new units for low-income families and another 10 percent for middle-income families, for a total of 25 percent below market rate housing.

The measure has come under some dispute after the city controller’s office conducted a feasibility study this summer on Prop. C. The draft recommendations conclude that the 25-percent requirement will block new housing and that the ordinance should cap out at 18 percent.

The full report will be released in September, but Kim and Supervisor Aaron Peskin had earlier vowed to tweak Prop. C based on the controller’s findings. Kim noted that she’s helped strike three deals with developers in which they agreed to include a 40-percent affordable housing rate in their building projects. Villaraigosa commended those efforts repeatedly.

The controller’s study wasn’t mentioned at the forum. But Prop C.’s potential shortfalls were a topic of conversation outside of it. Before the forum, raucous protesters wielded signs in front of the high school, expressing support for Wiener’s candidacy and lambasting Kim’s housing efforts in San Francisco.

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1 Comment

  1. I wonder if an entire new neighborhood could be constructed south of Mission Bay to drive down rents elsewhere in The City, perhaps with landfill out over the ocean as was done with the Marina?

    Building 200-unit monstrosities in existing neighborhoods would do the same thing but would degrade the famed and great quality of life here.

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