The choice is obvious in the District 3 Supervisors race. Aaron Peskin has been an advocate for working people for decades, and now more than ever, working- and middle-class San Franciscans need a voice on the Board of Supervisors.
This is a tumultuous era for San Francisco. Driven in part by the tech industry, the Bay Area economy has grown rapidly over the past few years, sending commercial and residential rents into the stratosphere. While many people at the top of the economic food chain have benefited from the boom, tens of thousands of San Francisco residents are struggling to keep up with the soaring cost of living.
So many people are finding it harder and harder to get by in The City we all love. Entire paychecks go straight to landlords. Landlords are evicting lower-income residents or paying them to move out so they can double the monthly rent. No-fault evictions (aka Ellis Act evictions) jumped 170 percent between 2010 and 2013. More than 2,000 tenants were evicted last year.
All over The City, long-time residents are getting priced out, pushed out and bought out.
How do you put food on the table when half your pay or more goes to rent? When employers keep shifting more and more health care costs onto workers? When wages for working people stagnate while profits and CEO salaries are through the roof?
Peskin sees this crisis clearly. He understands The City is more than streets and buildings, it’s the people who live in it, who give life to it. He knows it’s the people who define The City, and that they are rapidly getting displaced.
Peskin’s priorities are clear: We need to preserve and expand our stock of affordable housing, not let it dissipate over time. We need to require more affordable housing units for every development project that gets approved. We need to set limits on short-term rentals. We need to put a stop to no-fault and low-fault evictions. And we need to create and preserve affordable space for nonprofits, artists, legacy businesses and other cultural uses to ensure that The City retains its unique character.
The gentrification of San Francisco is proceeding at a feverish pace, with people of color evicted from their homes at alarming rates. As a healthcare worker, I see it all around me. I work for Kaiser, the state’s largest HMO, where women and people of color account for a large percentage of the workforce. Health care workers are not motivated by money; we chose this work because we want to care for people. But in this economy, many health care workers are not just failing to get ahead, they’re falling behind. On one side, landlords are demanding higher rents and driving people out of The City. On the other side, employers are trying to freeze wages and cut health and retirement benefits.
Peskin’s approach to policy starts here, with the plight of working people. He has spent his entire career fighting for affordable housing and better schools, and curtailing the worst impulses of the profit-driven business interests that try to reshape our landscape to benefit the wealthiest among us.
We need to demand that the tremendous wealth generated within our city benefit all of us. We need to invest in our schools and our libraries, and we need to invest in our city by making it easier for working people to settle here, buy homes here, raise families here. Aaron Peskin has proven he’s up to the challenge.
Alan Wolf is a licensed clinical social worker at Kaiser Permanente and a member of the National Union of Healthcare Workers.