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San Francisco Mayor's Race: 3 Questions With Candidate London Breed

Mayoral candidate London Breed has served as a San Francisco supervisor since 2012 and was elected president of the board in 2015. Prior to becoming District 5 supervisor, Breed served as executive director of the African American Art & Culture Complex in the Western Addition for over a decade. She also served as a San Francisco Redevelopment Agency commissioner for five years and was appointed San Francisco Fire commissioner in 2010.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed

Bisnow: What do you see as the biggest challenge to building new development in San Francisco?

Breed: It’s a two-pronged challenge: we need to find space upon which to build and reform San Francisco’s archaic approval process for code-compliant new housing.

As mayor, I plan to launch a citywide study that will pinpoint underutilized sites around San Francisco where we can build. Recently, I spent more than a year negotiating with the property owner to acquire the McDonald’s location on Haight and Stanyan streets to build 100% affordable housing. Without this acquisition, there were very few other opportunities to build affordable housing in the Haight Ashbury community.

Finally, by streamlining the application process, with automatic approval for code-compliant, 100% affordable projects, we can get more housing built and more housing built faster.

Bisnow: How do you plan to fix San Francisco's biggest development challenges?

Breed: The housing crisis is   the result of decades of bad housing policy in San Francisco and the Bay Area. From 2010 to 2015, San Francisco created eight jobs for every one home we built.

We need to create an affordable city for all of us. That means building more housing at all income levels, more housing near transit and protecting and expanding our affordable and rent-controlled housing stock. I have a housing platform which details my comprehensive approach to tackling San Francisco's housing challenges.

This plan includes building at least 5,000 units per year, expanding and protecting our rent-controlled housing stock, increasing funding for new housing, building on underutilized sites like we are doing at the McDonald's site on Haight and Stanyan streets and reforming our archaic ... process to streamline approvals for code compliant and 100% affordable housing projects. I’m also proposing a $50M bond to build hundreds of modular homes for homeless individuals that won’t raise taxes, using local labor.

Bisnow: What will be your approach to address affordable housing issues in San Francisco?

Breed: I grew up in Plaza East public housing in the Western Addition.  Housing insecurity is not just an abstract point of policy for me. I’ve lived it. When I was in college, we were told our home was being torn down. It was up to me and my grandmother, the woman who cared for me all my life and now needed to be cared for, to find a new place to live. I’ve seen generations of my family, friends and classmates leave San Francisco. Today I live in a rent-controlled apartment in the Lower Haight and, until recently, had a roommate.

As supervisor I introduced legislation creating a right to civil counsel for tenants facing eviction. I also passed groundbreaking Neighborhood Preference legislation that prioritizes neighborhood residents for the affordable units built in their communities. As a result, we are seeing an increase in local residents moving into new affordable housing units.

And when the federal government tried to stop our legislation, I took a red-eye flight to Washington and changed their minds. When I was told we had empty public housing units and homeless families waiting months for a shelter bed, I secured $2M to rehabilitate those public housing units for 179 formerly homeless families who now have a safe place to call home.

We are not producing enough affordable housing to meet the needs of all of our residents. People who earn middle-class incomes — teachers, nurses, nonprofit workers, police officers  — make too much to qualify for affordable housing, but not enough to afford market prices without a second job. The new project in the Outer Sunset to build 150 homes for teachers needs a strong commitment from our next mayor ,  and I will provide it. I will also expand down payment assistance programs, rent subsidies and support for our Small Sites Acquisition program, which helps acquire and preserve rent-controlled housing units.

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 to the election. The responses are offered for information. Bisnow does not endorse political candidates, measures, laws or ordinances.