Last October, I spent many evenings and weekends knocking on doors, handing out literature and talking about housing — the most important issue in San Francisco. I spent much of that time in the Mission District, a neighborhood I know well. Having lived or worked in the Mission for most of my life, I know many of the families there; I know where they go to church, the names of the kids and where they go to school. But last year was different.
At door after door, instead of families at home, I found lockboxes. Typically used by Realtors, these devices now allow for depersonalized access to homes by a short-term renter. These were the homes of former voters –—mostly Democrats, still on the voter rolls, still on my precinct list — now replaced by a tourist who can pay more to occupy that space but who won’t vote, won’t send their kids to a local school or belong to the community.
My family immigrated to the United States and San Francisco in the 1980s, fleeing the civil war in El Salvador. We started out our new life in the U.S. in a small studio apartment off Mission Street for which we paid $250 a month. We struggled, as many immigrants do, but we also found a community that nurtured us and helped us succeed.
I decided to run for a spot on the Democratic County Central Committee along with other like-minded folks because I want my local party to reflect the Democratic San Francisco values of inclusion, diversity and opportunity for all — values the current local Democratic Party’s leadership majority no longer reflects. This is the core point at issue in this election.
The current committee majority believes the free market alone will solve our housing crisis and they have consistently voted on that belief. They believe that if we just get rid of all impediments to building more and faster, our housing crisis will disappear through the interplay of supply and demand. But so much money has flooded into our fair city in recent years that the demand for housing of the super-rich is drowning out everyone else. The reality of the market is that those with vast quantities of cash will always win over those without it in the competition for housing. The only way to preserve a place in The City for everyone else is do two things and do them at the same time: Increase housing for those who can afford sky-high prices and increase or preserve affordable housing for those who don’t have the extra cash.
At stake is more than just the ability of non-wealthy families to remain in San Francisco; the broader point is whether we want to live in a community that is open to all and in which all can participate.
The fundamental question in this DCCC election is whether local government has a meaningful role to play in reigning in the excesses of the market. My answer is a resounding yes. On June 7, San Francisco’s democratic voters can decide if it is appropriate for rigid believers in free-market trickle-down economics to continue running the Democratic Party.
I — and those running with me, calling ourselves the Reform slate — want a change. We are already ruffling feathers.
Last week, a hit piece, paid for mostly by Airbnb, was mailed to Democratic voters across The City. The candidates targeted for this smear were all women with a solid history of working to solve the affordable housing crisis in San Francisco and two men who have serious affordable housing credentials as well. I would like to thank Airbnb for clarifying what the issues and the sides are in this election. In one corner are mostly women who have spent years fighting for housing in their communities. In the opposing corner are new high-tech barons who believe in the single-minded pursuit of profit. I am happy and honored to be with the neighborhood women.
Myrna Melgar is a candidate for the DCCC for the 19th district. She is the executive director of the Jamestown Community Center, vice president of the Building Inspection Commission, and served as the director of homeownership programs for the Mayor’s Office of Housing under Mayor Gavin Newsom’s administration.