San Francisco Mayor's Race: 3 Questions With Candidate Ellen Zhou
Mayoral candidate Ellen Zhou has been a resident of San Francisco for over 32 years and a social worker for over 20 years. She is a public social worker, a union representative for public employees and investigates employee complaints. She also is a Sunday school teacher.
Bisnow: What do you see as the biggest challenge to building new development in San Francisco?
Zhou: As a public worker, I see a lack of government accountabilities or maybe a better word is corruption! Some of the department heads or management staff do many things that are unethical, such as delaying the permit process, not cooperating with necessary department rules or city and county regulations, not putting themselves in developers’ shoes. … Compared to other cities, our city’s building permit process takes forever and it is not good for developers who want to help our residents with housing.
Bisnow: How do you plan to fix San Francisco's biggest development challenges?
Zhou: I was a civil grand jury member for 2014-2015 and 2016-2017. Civil grand jury is a watchdog to monitor government functions. I am also a volunteer in the community, helping [with] many tenants' and property owners’ complaints. My experience gave me a firsthand and closer look at our city’s problems. We can fix the challenge by enforcing government rules and regulations, retrain all people who are in charge, hold each staff accountable for what they do, give surveys to the public on public servants and evaluate department heads for their job performance.
If people in charge are not capable of doing their job, tell them to do something else; it is about time for people’s power to take back our city. We want to allow those who have a heart to rebuild a better San Francisco to take part [in] the new mayor’s administration. We should support developers who are in business to give back to the society. I am in support with all developers who can build affordable housing for all people, not just for people who have money.
Bisnow: What will be your approach to address affordable housing issues in San Francisco?
Zhou: I used to be a property manager for Section 8 low-income housing. Affordable to me means 30% of any family’s net income. I feel sad to see ... many teachers, workers and families unable to afford a place to sleep in San Francisco. Our homeless population grows so fast due to lack of affordable housing. Yet, we are a world-class city.
Our current state with [the] housing crisis was created by unfair housing policies for landlords and especially the small property owners. … Many of these professional politicians in office for themselves abused their political power, created many of the unfair housing rules and scared most of the property owners.
We have about 40,000 to 50,000 empty apartments landlords refused to rent out to tenants because of lawsuits. … Small property owners are now scared of being sued; so many of them would rather keep their units empty. How sad! If we have fair and better housing policies for small property owners and landlords, we will immediately have housing available for teachers, workers and local families.
If I am elected as mayor, I will create fair housing policies for both good tenants and landlords, [and] hold both tenants and landlords accountable. I will support free legal services to both tenants and small property owners. Almost all the big companies have their own legal representatives, but not small property owners. People work hard to put [down a ] down payment to buy a house. We have to be fair to protect both good landlords and tenants.
I will give back 50% of my salary to create [a] local voice ... from residents who care about San Francisco. I will appoint all of the other seven mayoral candidates to share their expertise. I believe in teamwork. I believe it takes effort from many resources ... to protect and improve our quality of life.
Editor's note: This limited series highlights San Francisco mayoral candidates’ views on development and affordable housing based on the same three questions. Bisnow contacted all eight mayoral candidates and will run the answers from each of those who responded prior the election. The responses are offered for information. Bisnow does not endorse political candidates, measures, laws or ordinances.