Bay Area mayors emphasize housing affordability at SF summit

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said the “affordability crisis” is about to “kill the Bay Area” during a discussion Wednesday with two other Bay Area mayors hosted by a technology company in the Mid-Market area.

Speaking at a summit with San Francisco Mayor London Breed and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo hosted by social networking firm Nextdoor, Schaaf emphasized the need for affordable housing.

“Let’s just be very clear: the affordability crisis, which starts with housing, although it’s a little more expansive than that, is literally about to kill the Bay Area,” Schaaf said. “Everything that we value and love about this incredible region is literally at stake because of this runaway affordability crisis.”

She blamed the imbalance between job creation and housing production. “Our region has added eight jobs for one unit of housing and we have been doing this every year for more than 20 years so that is how we got into this mess,” Schaaf said.

Liccardo said that big cities are stepping up and doing their part but “the reality is that we can’t house everybody in three cities.” He called for the state legislature to pass financial incentives “for an awful lot of those towns that are saying no to encourage them to get to yes.”

“Using a combination of transportation dollars as incentives, as well as probably some fees for those cities that are expanding their job base without expanding housing, I think would go a long way,” Liccardo said.

Breed called for “significant reforms on the state level” to CEQA, or the California Environmental Quality Act, which she said was abused and “oftentimes used as extortion for the purposes of people who are trying to stop projects and they want to avoid losing their views or they don’t want something to happen in their neighborhood.”

Carla Marinucci, Editor of POLITICO’s California Playbook, who moderated the discussion, asked the mayors what their favorite city was other than the ones they represent.

“I love that you can get around New York City without a car,” Schaaf said.

Similarly, Breed said, “I love New York. I love the ability to get on a subway at 2 a.m. in the morning after leaving the nightclub. I love the fact that it’s walkable.” She also said that New York has “done a great job” with providing shelter for the homeless and would like to see San Francisco have a more “vibrant nightlife.”

The three mayors also emphasized their support of sanctuary city policies hours after a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that the Trump administration could not withhold federal funds from cities like San Francisco with policies limiting local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration officials.

“I just want to be very clear that sanctuary cities are safer cities,” Schaaf said.

When asked if any of the mayors had presidential aspirations, Breed said, “I just feel like if Trump can be president, I can be president too.”

Joshua Sabatini
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Joshua Sabatini

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