In a debate on Wednesday night, four candidates for District 9 supervisor traded jabs and critiqued the current administration, saying the Mission District had been abandoned during the height of the housing crisis.
Often, the attacks were aimed at Supervisor David Campos and his chief of staff and current candidate, Hillary Ronen, for the dearth of affordable housing built in the neighborhood.
“I won’t sit here like Ms. Ronen and make false promises about how many units I’m going to build in a certain amount of time,” said Melissa San Miguel, an education advocate, about Ronen’s pledge to build 5,000 units of affordable housing.
“She as chief of staff to our supervisor had the opportunity to build these units, but she did not,” San Miguel said.
Joshua Arce, a civil rights attorney and former community liaison for construction union Local 261, frequently cited the “failed housing policies” of Campos and criticized Ronen for receiving money from developer interests.
“The developers of all the major high-end projects in the Mission, through their lobbyists, have been donating to Hillary Ronen’s campaign,” he said.
Ronen, for her part, said that lobbyist contributions make up just a small portion of her total campaign filings, $5,400 to date of the $272,000 she had raised as of August.
She also fought all night against the perception that she would continue the Campos legacy.
“I am my own person,” she said in her first response. “I am a woman with a 14-year track record of working and fighting in this community, and I would ask that tonight my record is focused on, and not my male boss.”
Arce and Ronen traded potshots throughout the debate, which drew more than 100 people to the Brava Theater, including a sizable contingent of pro-Arce laborers who often dominated the audience with anti-Ronen boos.
Ronen went on the offensive against Arce’s own financial backing, saying he had received tens of thousands of dollars from the Police Officers Association, the controversial police union that has opposed efforts to reform the Police Department.
That assertion drew loud boos from his union supporters.
“If you don’t believe me, it’s public record,” she countered. Look it up.”
While Arce has not directly received money from the Police Officer’s Association, the union has funneled tens of thousands into two independent expenditure committees that have spent at least $62,000 on his behalf.
Still, Arce said Ronen was incorrect to associate him with the poisonous police union.
“The politics of untruth is alive and well in District 9,” Arce said, as Ronen shook her head.
The two are . Ronen has raised $272,000 and Arce $156,000 as of August. Those figures do not include spending by independent expenditure committees. Melissa San Miguel and Iswari España, the other two candidates, raised $15,000 and $2,600, respectively.
España, for his part, pointed out the funding imbalance.
“I’m fighting half a million dollars from my competitors,” he said.
Both España and San Miguel blamed Campos for neighborhood issues. When asked about the recently-installed red bus-only lanes on Mission Street, for instance, San Miguel was unequivocal in her opposition.
“This plan has been a disaster,” said San Miguel, an education advocate with former state-level experience at the non-profit National Center for Youth Law.
“People who were policy advisors and aides at City Hall did not think about us and include us because they do not know our community,” she said.
“I believe that a lot of these issues could be solved by just having an open ear when you call a supervisor,” said España when asked about permitting for small businesses.
España, a training officer with the Human Services Agency, said Campos and his office simply route calls to different city agencies and that he would personally pick up the phone to help constituents.
“Answer the phone call,” he said. “You have stopped doing it.”
On most questions, differences were rare. All candidates said they supported increased funding for community organizations, local hire laws, San Francisco’s sanctuary city status, and a recently-proposed memorial for police shooting victim Alex Nieto on Bernal Hill.
Housing revealed some departures. Asked whether they would support a proposal to “reduce the size and type” of market-rate developments coming into the Mission District until “new policies are in place” to mitigate their impact, candidates were evenly split.
“Yes, I would support this proposal,” said San Miguel, joining España in his support. San Miguel said more units had been built in the neighborhood than the city planned for, and that private developers should include more affordable units in their projects and pay higher impact fees.
Ronen said that while she once supported the Mission moratorium — the failed proposal that would have paused market-rate housing in the neighborhood — she now thought stopping development was not a sound strategy.
“I think at this point we need a different approach,” she said. Ronen said she would instead coordinate dialogue between community groups and developers to ensure that “thousands of units” of affordable housing are built — in both fully affordable projects and market-rate ones.
Another debate will take place at the Mission Neighborhood Center on Friday, September 30, from 6-8:30 p.m. Mission Local will also host a debate at the Mission Cultural Center on Thursday, October 13 at 7 p.m.