For last month’s column, I briefly touched on what was in store for my office in 2017. One of the biggest changes for the year ahead is that after four years as chair of our Budget and Finance Committee, I will now be serving as chair of our city’s Land Use and Transportation Committee.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO SWITCH FROM THE BUDGET COMMITTEE?
When I first ran for the Board of Supervisors, my goal inside of City Hall was to chair our Budget and Finance Committee. At the time, San Francisco was beginning to recover from the depths of the Great Recession, and no member of the Board of Supervisors had any private sector financial experience. I wanted to bring my private sector financial experience to City Hall, because I believe it was critical background to guide our city toward budget solvency and strength.
After four years, I had officially become the longest-serving budget chair in city history, and I was ready for a new challenge. Chairing our Land Use and Transportation Committee is a great opportunity to continue working on San Francisco’s most pressing issues — namely housing and development.
As I look back on my years as budget chair, I am proud that we more than doubled our reserves, placed funding priorities on core issues such as public safety and homelessness, authored and passed Proposition A — which will wipe out our $4.4 billion retiree health-care liability in 30 years — and I feel very secure in saying that San Francisco is in a much better place financially than four years ago.
As chair of the Land Use and Transportation Committee, I look forward to taking a leadership role in helping working families afford to stay in San Francisco. This includes not only affordable housing, but also less congestion, better transportation options, safer streets, and diverse neighborhoods. As a San Francisco native who returned to raise my family here, I know the challenges working families face. My family is fortunate to have secure housing, and I want to ensure that our city’s housing and land use policies can provide that for all our residents. I’ll be working with my team, including my Legislative Aide Kanishka Karunaratne, who has extensive land use expertise and experience, to shape sensible land use policies that accommodate positive growth.
WHAT ARE SOME UPCOMING CHALLENGES AT THE LAND USE AND TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE?
The most immediate challenge will be the upcoming update to our city’s inclusionary housing ordinance, which is our citywide policy that sets affordable housing rates and targets in new housing development projects. Our inclusionary ordinance is one of our most important city policies, and it’s crucial that we get it right. If we set the rates too high, then we risk stifling housing development, which in turn leads to higher housing prices for our residents. When voters passed Proposition C in June, we committed to setting our inclusionary policy based on fiscal feasibility and economic studies, not political ideology, and I intend to see that commitment through.
In addition to the inclusionary discussion, we have major development and transportation projects that will be coming in front of the committee. I look forward to working with Supervisors Peskin and Tang to address San Francisco’s most pressing housing, land use, development, and transportation policies and projects.
WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES AS LAND USE CHAIR?
My priorities as land use chair are to make sure that our committee uses data, reason, and San Francisco values in every important decision we make. Addressing our city’s housing shortage and crisis through smart policies and good projects must also be top priorities. As a city, we must focus on ways that can streamline our development process, so we do not see needless delay after needless delay on good projects that deserve support. I firmly believe San Francisco is for all and will work to accommodate growth in a balanced and reasonable manner.
My requested economic impact report on our city’s zoning and land-use regulations should be ready to release to the public in mid-February. I plan on using that report as a base for a number of new policy proposals and to make a strong data-based case to the public about why addressing our housing shortage will affect housing affordability, the cost of living, our local economy, and economic mobility and opportunity for our residents. Existing data already shows that while the market has naturally built housing for higher-income groups and public subsidy has built housing for lower-income groups, the middle class has been struggling to find affordable housing. I will prioritize finding ways to incentivize middle-income housing so working families can stay in San Francisco.
I also look forward to a process that includes the voices of all of our city’s diverse communities in these important land use and transportation issues. The success of these projects and policies depends strongly upon public input and inclusion. As land use chair, I want everyone to know my commitment to hearing from our communities on each and every issue.