Candidates running this November to represent the Tenderloin and South of Market on the Board of Supervisors beat up City Hall more than each other during a Tuesday night debate for failing to adequately address homelessness, feces and needles on the streets and affordable housing.
While the District 6 candidates traded an occasional jab with each other, City Hall took the brunt of their barbs as they sought to convince voters they could bring change.
“The conditions on our streets are absolutely shameful,” said candidate Matt Haney, a member of the San Francisco Unified School District board and Tenderloin resident. “You walk down the street there is poop, there are needles, there is trash. It’s critical for the next District 6 supervisor to actually stand up and say enough is enough.”
Haney even criticized The City’s increased investment in street cleaning. “Recently The City hired 44 new street cleaners. Instead of actually putting 44 where they are needed, in our district, they are putting four in each district. That’s not equity.” He also called for doubling the number of public restrooms.
Sonja Trauss, another District 6 candidate who lives in Western SoMa and is a founder of the YIMBY movement, took a swipe at Haney. She said she was “honestly amazed” that Haney “is not saying that we should attack the real problem.”
“The dirtiness in our streets is because people are living on our streets,” Trauss said. “Let’s build enough shelter and housing that everyone can sleep inside. It is possible.” She pointed to other cities where most of the homeless are in fact sheltered such as in New York or Boston.
Earlier she had said, “We need somebody at the board that’s not going to be afraid to tell the other districts that they need to build shelter and housing also.” Trauss also said she supported the Homeless Coalition’s “Our City, Our Home” November ballot measure to tax the City’s largest companies like Salesforce to fund housing and services for the homeless.
District 6 candidate Christine Johnson, a former Planning Commissioner with a career in finance and a resident of Mission Bay, said she supported the push by city and state officials to expand The City’s conservatorship powers to place more of the chronically homeless under court ordered care. To make that work, she said that The City needs to build more supportive housing. “We need to make sure that it gets built. We might even have some opportunities in the Central SoMa project,” Johnson said, referring to the pending SoMa development plan.
The three candidates all supported Proposition 10, a repeal of the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act, which would allow The City to expand rent control to newly constructed units. Johnson also said she would like to see a vacancy tax implemented in San Francisco.
Trauss played up her pro-housing efforts and sought credit for the recent commitment by The City to build 5,000 units annually, while Johnson noted, “I was pro-housing before there was a YIMBY party.”
Transit is a pressing issue for District 6, where the streets are often congested.
“City Hall has completely failed us in actually planning for the situation that we have now,” Haney said, calling for better enforcement and regulation of Uber and Lyft drivers.
“My vision for this district is to make it more appealing to get out of our cars,” Trauss said.
Johnson said, “We need to have congestion pricing for our city.”
Drug use and dealing are challenges that have long faced the district. Trauss pointed to safe injection sites as one solution to help drug users, noting that there are “unsafe injection” sites on city blocks, and said The City should reach out to drug dealers on the streets to see if they could steer them into career paths. “Is there some other job that they would rather be doing?”
Haney played up his endorsements from a wide political spectrum, from former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, a candidate for governor, to Supervisor Aaron Peskin, as evidence he is able to build broad coalitions. In an apparent swipe at Trauss, Haney said, “The reality is that shouting people down and getting into ideological fights or trolling people on Twitter is not going to get housing built.”
Trauss said she was endorsed by state Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblymember David Chiu.
Johnson criticized Haney for the failure of the school board to realize the promise of building a new public school in the Mission Bay to serve the new community there and suggested he “stay on till the end of your term and make sure that gets done.”
The approximately hour-long debate was sponsored by the United Democratic Club, the Tenderloin Housing Clinic and the Eastern Neighborhoods Democratic Club and moderated by former San Francisco Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius.
Election day is Nov. 6. The current District 6 supervisor, Jane Kim, is termed out of office in January.