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Five vying to represent a Mission ‘in crisis’ on Board of Supervisors

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San Francisco District 9 candidates, from left to right, Melissa San Miguel, Hillary Ronen, Edwin Lindo, Josh Arce and Iswari España ask for endorsements at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center hosted by the Bernal Heights Democratic Club on Thursday. (Emma Chiang/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

The Mission district is widely considered ground zero for the forces of change with which San Francisco has notoriously struggled in recent years: soaring housing costs, evictions, the influx of technology workers, the infamous “Google buses” and the displacement of long-standing residents, many of whom are Latino.

Amid such unforgiving turmoil, five candidates are vying for the seat on the Board of Supervisors to lead that community — described by one candidate as being at a crossroads, another in a state of emergency — for at least the next four years.

“We’re in crisis, and I am angry,” said candidate Hillary Ronen, 40, during a recent interview with the San Francisco Examiner.

The District 9 election is eight months away, but with the direction of San Francisco’s politics hanging in the balance, the money is already pouring in, influential endorsements have been declared and candidates are wasting no time in lobbing attacks.

Many consider the race a slugfest between progressive standard bearer Ronen, who works as a legislative aide to the district’s current Supervisor David Campos, and building trades-backed Joshua Arce, also 40, a community liaison with construction trade union Local 261.

The other candidates vying for the post include Edwin Lindo, a board member of the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center and education consultant; Melissa San Miguel, a former policy manager for the National Center for Youth Law; and Iswari España, a training officer for the Human Services Agency.

Retaining Progressive Majority

Ronen says she is part of a larger movement to preserve the progressive majority bloc on the Board of Supervisors, running for one of the three open seats this November with termed out progressive supervisors.

She has secured the sole endorsements of the traditional progressive candidate backers like Service Employees International Union 1021 — the government employee’s largest labor union — and the California Nurses Associations, Unite Here Local 2 and former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano.

Ronen blames the Mission’s crisis on Mayor Ed Lee and his allies for “short-sighted thinking and shutting out community voices and only listening to corporate voices — and their horrible negotiations.”

For the past six years, Ronen has served as an aide to Campos. Before that she was an attorney with La Raza Centro Legal, a group which advocates for low-wage and immigrant workers.

After the candidates faced off for the first time Thursday night at the Bernal Heights Democratic Club, Ronen secured the group’s sole endorsement with 80 percent of the 58 votes cast by members.

Campaign Slugfest

Ronen calls Arce the “one conservative candidate in the race” and that “it is very clear” he is the mayor’s favored candidate. She says he is aligned with real estate interests, noting how the Realtors’ lobbyist Mary Jung appointed him to the
Democratic County Central Committee.

But Arce took every opportunity during a recent interview to label himself as progressive. “If you look at my track record of progressive policy wins, it far surpasses anybody’s in this race in terms of delivering progressive policy victories for
communities and for The City,” Arce said.

He points to fighting to shutter polluting power plants in the Bayview and championing a local hiring mandate for construction projects as examples of his progressive agenda. He vows to extend local hiring mandates to the tech and biotech sectors his first day in office.

Ronen lists as her accomplishments Campos’ legislative victories, like regulating tenant buyouts, redress for tenants harassed by their landlords and free Muni rides for youths.

Ronen says Arce is exploiting a campaign finance loophole by running for election to the DCCC this June, which could benefit his run for supervisor. There are no contribution limits for DCCC candidates, whereas for supervisor candidates the maximum is $500. Arce has raised $78,000 for his DCCC race, with $25,000 alone from Local 261, which Ronen suggests means he will bow to the group’s interests.

Other candidates, however, have run for both in the past. Money raised for each campaign must be kept separate.

Arce makes no apologies for the dual campaigns. “It just might be that I work harder than other candidates. I’m running for two elections this year. I have to fundraise for District 9, too,” Arce said.

He refutes the charge he would be unduly influenced by big donors. “Part of my base is working families, part of my base is tenants,” Arce said.

To illustrate his independence, he said he voted for a measure last November that would have imposed a moratorium on market-rate development in the Mission. The measure, Proposition I, was opposed by real estate interests and developers, and lost at the ballot.

Arce condemned Ronen as part of a failed status quo unresponsive to district needs. “It’s not progressive to talk about meeting the needs of our community, but not returning phone calls or emails,” he said.

“People look at the Mission as being at a crossroads,” Arce said. The path forward, he added, is “working with communities and not only that but bringing people together.”

Arce frequently used the pronoun “we” during the interview. He prides himself on a political style he describes as forging unconventional coalitions to achieve policy wins.

Assemblymember David Chiu, Supervisor Scott Wiener and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom are among those endorsing Arce.

More than Arce vs. Ronen

Edwin Lindo, 29, works as a consultant for the San Francisco Unified School District to close the achievement gap among minority students. Lindo, who grew up in the Mission, calls Arce and Ronen the “establishment” candidates.

In contrast to Arce and Ronen, Lindo told the Examiner he supports only creating specific hubs for commuter shuttles, rather than allowing the shuttles to use Muni stops. Ronen and Arce, however, said they were open to eliminating commuter shuttles from using Muni stops. The controversial shuttles are often blamed for contributing to the Mission’s gentrification, and a recent Board of Supervisors vote approved them for another year.

Lindo is also exploring a “traveling employment tax” to generate revenue for housing and transit “from all the people that are commuting down south.”

Ronen has vowed to create 5,000 below-market-rate units within a decade, but Lindo suggests that’s unrealistic, “How come it hasn’t been done already?” He instead is calling for 2,500 units.

Between 2001 and 2013, there were 1,464 homes built in the Mission, of which 97 were below-market-rate included with market-rate development, and 646 were built in 100 percent below-market-rate housing projects.

Ronen said she plans to secure money for more of such homes through housing bonds and a to-be-determined corporate tax, among other efforts.

Arce declined to set a numeric goal for more below-market-rate homes, but said housing is the No. 1 issue in the district.

Lindo said he spoke to Ronen last week about coordinating a ranked choice voting strategy, in which they would seek dual endorsements from progressive supporters, but he said she declined.

Ranked-choice voting is used for local races in San Francisco. Under ranked choice voting, voters rank three candidates. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the first votes, then the second and possibly third votes are tallied.

“They’re making it as though it’s a two-person race. But I guarantee you no one is going to win the first round in November,” Lindo said.

Melissa San Miguel, 29, is an education consultant formerly employed with the National Center for Youth Law, where she helped improve education for foster youth statewide. She is also a native of the Mission, and is the daughter of Peruvian immigrants. Her father worked the swing-shift in the boiler room of the Fairmont Hotel as a member of Stationary Engineers, Local 39.

“Members of the San Francisco political class have a history of ignoring the communities they purport to represent,” said San Miguel. “The perception that this race is between Arce and Ronen, neither of whom grew up in this community, highlights this troubling dynamic. My whole family lives here.”

She said families like hers “deserve a voice at City Hall and someone who understands their struggles.”

Iswari España, 42, works for the Human Services Agency as a training officer. “It’s going to be an uphill battle,” España said of his chances for winning. He worries that the race is dominated by talk that “Hillary is the progressive and Josh is the mayor’s guy” but “the issues aren’t being looked at strategically.”

He said he is running because residents’ needs are going unmet. “Can they make things happen?” España wondered of Arce and Ronen. Noting their endorsements and “connections,” España said, “I don’t have to answer to anybody — only the community.”

Election Day is Nov. 8.

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  • MsOakilland

    So only progressives can run for SF supervisor?

    That’s the problem!

  • Quick Chop

    More progressives. Expect more urine and feces on the streets of SF.

  • Zippster

    Melissa San Miguel gets my vote…..yum!

  • Bill Harkins

    I can’t see how anyone could vote for Ronen, the only thing Campos has done is waste tax dollars with his failed legislation and Ronen has been right there with him spreading hate and BS. Please do not vote for this women. SF deserves better.

  • turk55

    …yeah we need more troglodyte candidates..

  • zendoggie

    “No, I pander the most!”
    “No, I’m the best panderer!”
    “I pander to much, they call me the Panda!”
    “We must declare a crisis, so we can pander!”

  • Malena Data Ernani

    Hillary’s work as chief of staff for David Campos clearly demonstrates her commitment to advocating on behalf of district 9 constituents whether it is demanding a real commitment from city hall for more affordable housing, confronting the issues surrounding homelessness, or maintaining the cultural and human dignity and integrity of the Mission. Where is that level of diverse engagement in Arce’s record???? Think we need more than just support for construction projects to really get to the core of whats needed in the city….

    Also, Arce is “working harder” because he’s raising money for district 9,”too”?? how considerate of an afterthought!!

    lets focus on the woman who has been there since day one, on the ground, with district 9 constituents. Not some wannabe progressive who thinks himself too important to fully commit himself to district 9

  • hailfromsf

    How does that work, exactly?

  • Liam Edward McLaughlin

    Says the real estate broker with interests in high rental pricing in D9

  • Emma Kuang

    and this coming from a real estate specular who probably has a hand in gentrifying our neighborhoods in D9

  • Mission LOL

    Haha I pointed out long ago that Ronen is a carpetbagger plain and simple, a wealthy landlord who moved from the westside to the Portola a couple months ago – Ronen/Campos are to blame for the huge mess that the Mission and district 9 have become over the past several years. Malena is right, Ronen HAS been there from the beginning, screwing everything up for everyone else!!!

    Re diverse engagement: as we saw at the candidate debate, Arce’s supporters are more numerous and much more diverse, although Ronen clearly has the homogenous 58 members of the Bernal Heights Democratic Club as the article says. At the debate everyone heard firsthand that Arce’s work with the 261 union is just the tip of the iceberg of what he’s done, he’s led on the environment and solar power, defended tenants rights, created and delivered jobs, built lots of affordable housing, helped out families, and most importantly he brings people together instead of yelling and screaming at everyone like Ronen.
    No on Ronen #nomoreyears!

  • Bill Harkins

    I would actually make more money if the price’s dropped and people moved around like folks do in virtually every other city on earth but that’s not my point. Campos is a failed hatemonger and Ronen has been right by his side. These two losers created the housing situation we have today including high prices by scaring landlords out of business in record numbers and rolled out a red carpet for criminals to take over the sidewalks. Drive down Folsom street and if you like what you see and want more vote for Ronen. SF deserves better.

  • Emma Kuang

    Every time I’ve called the Campos/D9 office, someone always has answered and my emails have always been returned so I don’t know what Arce is even talking about when he says no one responds. Arce likes to appear as a progressive but it’s clear that he’s moderate AF. I’ve lived in D9 for many years and this is the first time I’ve ever heard of Arce.

  • Emma Kuang

    The real people who created this housing mess is the Mayor and his stupid tax breaks for the tech companies combined with lack of new housing built in SF as well as greedy ass landlords and speculators who raise the rent to push middle class and low income people out. People like me who are born and raised in SF don’t move around “like folks in virtually every other city on earth”– this is what I call home, it’s the greedy real estate speculators that need to GTFO.

  • Bill Harkins

    I think you mean speculator, which is 100% not my business. I suggest you educate yourself a little and bet you will find Campos and Ronen responsible for the loss of 1000’s of rent control units. I think you are just repeating propaganda words like “speculator” and “gentrify” without understanding what they even mean. Ignorance is not going to help D9 any more then a vote for Ronen will. Please do not vote for Ronen, SF deserves better.

  • Emma Kuang

    Arce building lots of affordable housing? Name some developments, being on the board to approve a housing development doesn’t count.

  • Bill Harkins

    SF is a lot of people’s home, your ‘people like me” remark is racist and discriminatory. If you want to be a hater go ahead and hate but even haters deserve better then Hillary Ronen,

  • Liam Edward McLaughlin

    I think we can all agree that San Francisco’s housing situation is quite complex, and that it cannot be explained by one progressive supervisor’s policies that attempt to ensure that people who have lived in D9 for a long time are not ruthlessly evicted. At the end of the day, Ronen v Arce is about what the tenants of D9 want out of their supervisor: someone with close real estate ties who will continue to push for luxury housing units that end up driving out middle and lower class families (Arce), or someone who will fight tooth and nail for those middle and lower class families as well as the homeless (Ronen). There are folks who want more luxury apartments, and there are folks who want to keep living where they have lived for a long time and not get priced out. I find the latter more compelling, but it’s up to the people of D9 to decide.

  • Christopher Champion

    If I lived in District 9 I would vote for Hillary Ronen

  • Malena Data Ernani

    Yeah, and HIllary earned the endorsement of SEIU — the largest employee union in the city with over 6,000 members citywide.

    If Arce was so concerned about District 9 and really committing himself to district 9 constituents, he wouldnt run a dual campaign. His priorities are elsewhere, not with the people.

  • Mia

    Arce falsely ridicules Ronen as part of a failed status-quo while self-proclaiming as a progressive, despite the clear implications as Arce as the mayor’s guy. Arce’s camaraderie with Mayor Ed Lee, whose notorious negligent policy actions towards housing and gentrification, is not a dishonest assessment of the insights to Arce’s commitment to community-centered policies. It’s also not a secret that Arce has the shady backings of many labor unions, such as the construction union Local 26 that serves as one of his largest contributors. Often these same unions collaborate with market-rate developers like lobbyist Mary Jung which non-coincidentally appointed him. These are all notions of a bought and payed for conservative-democratic shielding behind a veil of attractive rhetoric, when the facts of the matter speaks for itself. The displacement of low-income residents, predominantly Latino, amidst rising disproportional property value has created a watershed within San Francisco. Yet despite Arce conceding the No. 1 issue in the district is housing – he has no apprehensible goal that he has stated to be set on achieving for the working families and tenants that he vows are, “part of my base.” Ronen at least has a numerical aim to pursue. Ronen’s service for the past 6 years as Campos’s legislative chief-of-staff provides her with the procedural knowledge on how to effectively combat the affordability crisis that has engaged the majority of the city’s residents affected by income-inequality.

  • Dylan Mason

    Lies , and more lies. Both Josh Arce and Hillary Ronen are establishment politicians. Arce buys people and Ronen instills fears of an Arce take over to manipulate interest groups. Both Local 261 and SEUI 1021 sold out to these two. Hellllo…. The unions fearing one another endorsed these two only. Campos slow response to issues is shamefull, and Ronen helped him side by side. Arce’s desires for the district are purely motivated by special interests. No substance from both.
    Give those two other guys, Espana and Lindo a fair chance, they are far more qualified to create solutions than these two clowns. I predict that there will be another candidate soon, backed by Ed Lee to further divert the attention in addition to San Miguel. They want to to split the votes.

  • Quick Chop

    Priorities get zero attention. You know how it works.

  • Kraus

    Actually, the “real people” that created this housing crisis is ourselves, i.e., the citizens/electorate, elected officials and bureaucrats of the City of San Francisco.

    For about 40 years going the City, via its policies, has made it increasingly difficult, time-consuming and expensive to produce adequate amounts of housing.

    Decade in and decade out since the 70’s, we have consistently underproduced the necessary amounts of housing to reasonably keep up with demand.
    Accordingly, housing has becoming more and more expensive — leading directly to the crisis we face today.

    “Tech” is merely the latest convenient scapegoat taking the blame and directing attention/effort from the hard reality that we are “reaping the benefits” of our own short-sighted /failed policies. The only solution is to build more housing — of all kinds, i.e., unsubsidized (aka market rate) and subsidized (aka “affordable”/below-market rate). Unsubsidized housing developed pays for subsidized housing.

    Note: Anyone, suggesting that only subsidized housing be allowed must have a credible plan to finance the creation of this kind of housing — they must demonstrate how they are to come up with the billions of $ necessary to this task.

    (For instance, if Ms. Ronen wants to build 5000 units of subsidized housing means that she will need to obtain about $4.5 Billion in funds to do so — about half the City’s annual budget.)

    Anyone or any candidate or other individual that says they are against displacement and for more affordable housing, but then rails against the development of housing (e.g. by supporting “moratoriums” etc.) is either being disingenuous, ignorant, ideological or hypocritical — or perhaps some combination of all 4 — and will only make matters much, much worse.

    Especially any renter and anyone aspiring to find reasonably-priced housing and then votes for any policies that inhibit the creation of ANY housing, e.g. the “Mission Moratorium”, or against any policies that encourage the more efficient use of land and the creation of more housing, e.g. the “Affordable Housing Bonus Program (AHBP)”, is sorely misguided and actually working against their own self-interest and is only exacerbating the housing crisis.

  • hailfromsf

    That’s just cynical hyperbole.

    Our priorities are being attended to, you can see it all around us: our streets are being made safer, Muni is continually improved, bike lanes are being added everywhere, homeless shelters are being constructed, that tent city was cleared out, there’s more housing under construction than every before… the list goes on. What more do you want?

  • Quick Chop

    I want a city without druggies panhandling, not having to step on HUMAN feces when i walk the city or have to smell stale urine wherever i go. Potholes are still a huge problem, MUNI still sucks and is even more dangerous now than when i was a kid. The tent city WILL RETURN, just in another location. I want a city that doesn’t celebrate the shooting death of a knife-wielding thug shot by police.

  • hailfromsf

    Yes, all that shit happens, and yet I always see the city clean it up or fix it. I just don’t see how it would be possible to prevent those things, whoever is in charge.

  • Bill Harkins

    Thank you, 100% agree.

  • Shotwellian

    We’re doomed. Damn.

  • Kraus

    How exactly does creating new housing cause current residents to be “ruthlessly evicted” from existing housing?

    How does it result in current residents getting “priced out?”

    It doesn’t.

    If fact, by increasing the supply of housing overall, there is less competition for existing housing — thus easing housing pressure on existing housing stock.

    If you don’t build more housing, then people will compete for the existing housing more vigorously — and then you’ll find existing residents who cannot afford as much as new arrivals being displaced.

    Building more housing, e.g. “luxury”– which would be more accurately described as “market-rate” as it’s only more costly because of the excessive constraints placed upon its development — will help ease the pressure on the housing market and help protect current residents.

    Additionally, building market-rate housing is the primary means via fees and Costa Hawkins agreement to include subsidized, a.k.a. below-market-rate units in developments is the primary means we have to create more subsidized units.

    Limiting the production of market-rate housing negatively impacts the product of new subsidized housing.

    The residents of D9 would be wise to elect a Supervisor that promotes the production of market-rate housing as well as all-subsidized housing (if they can develop a realistic plan to finance it).

    Rosen is definitely not the individual that is capable of doing this — she’s already had 8 years under Campos to attempt it and has failed.

    Arce may be capable of doing so, but since he succumbed to the “fact-free emotionally-driven” pressure of the “mob” and supported the nonsensical “Mission Moratorium”, so far it is non encouraging.

  • BTinSF

    The only “crisis” is one special interest (poorer people who have lived in the Mission for a while) is losing out to another special interest (richer relatively more recent residents). This is the way cities evolve. It always has been. It is not a “crisis”.

  • Quick Chop

    How does NYC and Chicago do it? Much cleaner cities and even more populated.

  • hailfromsf

    Really? You prefer the trash tornadoes of NYC?

  • Quick Chop

    Sounds better than stepping on human feces or on used syringes on a public street.

  • Alex

    Campos has done nothing to resolve what is going on, seeing his acolytes pledging to make an impact at this point is beyond hilarious. The Mission is doomed because of amateur-hour politicians like these.

  • Liam Edward McLaughlin

    I agree that more housing is needed. And you are absolutely right that in order to create more subsidized housing, we need more market-rate housing. The question is, how can we both build more housing AND not push out the people who have made the Mission and Portola the cultural haven that it is?

    Why do people want to move to District 9? Why is it so valuable? Most of the charm of the District (the murals, the great food, the vibrant street events and arts centers, the beautiful architecture) comes from the people who have lived there for decades. I would argue that there is a social value that long-time residents provide to a neighborhood. Market demands on housing in District 9 have forced out a lot of these people who provide such value. While unfettered market-rate housing clearly brings lots of value in real dollars to a neighborhood, it can sometimes decrease the overall value of the neighborhood when taking cultural/social factors into consideration.

    The trick, then, is how to both build more housing to ease demand pressures AND retain the social value provided by long-term residents. This task requires a careful balance of free-market solutions and good government policy.

    My fear is that Arce will go too far in the free-market direction. It is often easy to ignore the social value aspect of a neighborhood, because that’s a difficult problem to tackle. It’s much easier to just let real estate developers who are hungry for profit take care of housing supply issues for you. Arce is backed by those real estate developers, and I worry that such forces will continue to decrease District 9’s rich cultural and social value.

    Ronen sees this social value and wants to build housing that will account for it. We need someone who recognizes the intricate factors of what makes a neighborhood valuable, rather than just throwing real estate developers at the problem.

  • Kraus

    “Ronen SEES this social value and WANTS to build housing that will account for it.”

    “Seeing” and “Wanting” are no substitution for “Understanding” and “Ability”.

    Ronen has neither an understanding of the true nature of the problem nor the ability to solve it.

    Her promises are merely platitudes.

    The essential underlying problem is a massive undersupply of housing.

    An undersupply of housing will always lead to higher housing costs and as people compete for the limited supply, it will also lead to displacement. All credible economists and all credible studies of this issue confirm it.

    SF’s undersupply of housing i.e., the “housing crisis” is the result of 40+ years of poor policy (i.e., anti-housing development — an unholy alliance between existing homeowners, NIMBY’s and ill-informed “activists”) that Ms. Ronen seeks to perpetuate.

    Social, cultural and economic diversity is best nurtured and maintained by vigorously and continuously adding to the housing supply. This is an historical fact. However, due to SF’s poor development policies since the late 1970’s, it’s average production of housing units per decade has been about 19,500.

    In comparison from end of WWII until the late 70’s –prior to the ever- increasing exclusionary zoning practices we put in place over the past 40 years — SF produced about 32,000 units per decade!

    So our productivity in housing has dropped drastically — and we are experiencing the full bloom / tragic effects of this self-induced shortsighted approach to housing development.

    Ms. Ronen, like her boss Mr. Campos, represents a continuation of a failed “tradition” of “non-solutions” as she advocates for further counterproductive restrictions on the creation of adequate amounts of housing.

  • sebra leaves

    Who will protect the current residents and small businesses in the Mission? Who will stop the privatization of our city streets and the policies that are killing our businesses? Who will demand accountability from the SFMTA? Who will question their
    priority policies that demand the biggest slice of the city’s financial
    pie and return the worst service to the community? That is who we will support.

  • Michael Andrade

    Your racist profile is a problem.

  • MsOakilland

    Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh :(