Golden Gate Heights Neighborhood Association hosted a District 7 Candidates’ Forum, and I went to see and make notes. Of the 9 candidates running for Board of Supervisors for District 7, 6 showed up. (Lynn Gavin, Julian Lagos, and Bob Squeri weren’t there.)
I’ll try to be impartial, but I’ll state my bias up front: I love trees and habitat for wildlife and those are my issues. Each candidate made their brief statement, and then the audience asked questions. The questions related to:
- Parking: Sunday parking meters, extended parking meter hours. SF MTA (which is independent of the Board of Supervisors) has been talking about adding meters, extending hours, and adding Sunday meters. This will add costs for everyone, and push cars into the neighborhoods as they try to avoid meters.
- The difficulty of getting downtown with so many road improvement projects going on simultaneously, and the need for interdistrict co-ordination
- Lake Merced, which is currently managed (or not) by the SF Public Utilities Commission (because of the lake) and SF Rec & Park (for boating and fishing). Who should manage it? The gun club occupies – and has polluted with lead shot – 14 acres of land. Remediation may cost $5-10 million. Who pays?
- Tree felling and pesticide use in the Natural Areas via the Natural Areas Program (NAP) – part of San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department. What are your views about the thousands of trees to be felled, especially the 1600 trees to be felled on Mount Davidson? (I asked this question.)
- The need for affordable housing vs preserving neighborhood character. How to balance the two?
So in alphabetical order, here they are. (The pictures weren’t taken at the forum. I forgot. They’re from a bunch of other sources, so if any candidate wants the picture replaced – email me at fk94131 at yahoo.com.)
1. ANDREW BLEY
He introduced himself as a professional geographer and cartographer who’s done work for the City, a smart small business owner, father, and husband. (His daughter is 5th generation San Franciscan.) Sean Elsbernd appointed him to the Pedestrian Safety Committee. He’s also volunteered with Project Homeless Connect with the homeless, and with Project Open Hand, and plays guitar for children’s programs. He stands against the use of public funds in elections, and believes the money could be better spend on other things. Key issues: Homelessness, panhandling – and preserving trees.
Andrew had to leave early (clashing appointment) and could only answer the first question, on parking. He opposes Sunday meters and extended hours, and sees a need for training the enforcement workers. People get tickets even when they’re legitimately parked, which becomes harrassment.
2. FX CROWLEY
FX spoke about his deep roots in District 7 where he’s lived most of his life and raised his family – a neighbor. He was a stagehand and served on the Board of the SF PUC, and also on the Ports Commission. He spoke of a deeply personal reason to run; his brother John, ill of terminal pancreatic cancer, charged him with doing something to benefit the future generation. So he decided to run for Supervisor. His vision for San Francisco includes jobs, infrastructure, neighborhood character, reforming non-profit organizations, preserving green spaces.
- Parking. He thinks people should tell their supervisors about problems, and different places have different issues. For example, making parking difficult in West Portal will push people to Stonestown and Daly City malls.
- Getting downtown. Since it’s an issue involving a number of districts, he’d bring everyone to the table to work out the problems.
- Lake Merced. Dual responsibility is best, with both SF PUC and SF RPD on it. They are dealing with it now, it’s getting better.
- Trees and NAP. He’d approve removing the dead and dying trees, working with the rest.
- Affordable housing. The Mayor’s housing trust fund may help. He favors increased density on transit corridors, and more development in places like the 3rd street corridor, Treasure Island, and Park Merced.
Joel ran through his background – raised by a single mom, went to University of Michigan on a scholarship and became a journalist – a watchdog. He worked for the ACLU, on protecting everyone’s constitutional rights. Then he got a mid-career scholarship to Harvard, where he got a Masters in Public Administration because he wants to focus on working for people in the government. Hence his run for Supervisor. He stressed that as a candidate who had qualified for public funding, he was truly independent and not beholden to any special interests; he would be an advocate for the people of his district. People were concerned about ideological decisions in the government, and he stood for common sense: Focus on the basics before trying to raise more money. He supported viable small businesses in San Francisco; the city shouldn’t be a theme park with all the real work going on in Silicon Valley. As an example of common sense: there’s room for trees, and there’s room for native plant gardens, but spending tax money to cut down thousands of trees for the sake of native plants doesn’t make sense.
- Parking. Raising parking rates is unsustainable. It discourages people from going places by car, and hurts small businesses, who have to compete with places easier to get to. He also opposes parklets, which are difficult to maintain, and take away 3-4 parking spaces. He suggests SF MTA look for more revenue by cracking down on ticketless travel on Muni.
- Getting downtown. The Westside needs an advocate. The City’s “transit first” policy sounds good, but becomes counter-productive for many westside areas – an example of ideological thinking that lacks common sense.
- Lake Merced. It should have only one manager, the SF PUC. Too many cooks spoil the broth. The gun club should have been required to carry insurance; since it doesn’t, it’ll have to be the SF PUC.
- Trees and NAP. We should leave them alone. San Francisco has no native trees! He’s not against native plants, but he doesn’t think the ideology should determine the use of tax dollars for cutting down trees.
- Affordable housing. The city needs growth, it needs housing, but it also needs to preserve single-family homes. He favors development in certain areas, for instance Park Merced, and along transport corridors, where he’d be okay with ownership condos.
4. MIKE GARCIA
Mike has an MBA from Loyola in New Orleans, and ran a couple of small businesses. He moved to San Francisco when he became an options trader after he bought a seat on the Pacific Stock Exchange. He’s on the board of St Stephen’s and of the YMCA and volunteers in various areas. Former Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed him to the Ethics Commission and later to the Board of Appeals. He has 40 years of business experience, and 10 years of government experience. He noted a Chamber of Commerce survey found people were most concerned with the economy, pensions (or pension reform), and quality of life issues, i.e. homelessness. He thinks pension reform is essential going forward, with a cap on retirement benefits for new hires.
- Parking. Mixed feelings. Some West Portal merchants want Sunday meters because otherwise people park their cars and go elsewhere. But in other places – like the Zoo – it becomes a de facto tax on the poor and on small businesses.
- Getting downtown. The problem is the cumulative impact of multiple projects all over the city. When such projects are planned, SF’s planning department tries to stagger them to avoid impacting residents too much. SF MTA could easily do the same with some planning.
- Lake Merced. SF PUC has the deep pockets, they should manage it. No use going after the gun club for remediation, they have no insurance and can’t pay.
- Trees and NAP. It’s ironic that the city forces people to adopt the street trees in front of their property, whether they want to or not; but then it turns round and chops down trees. SF RPD hasn’t engaged the neighbors in the process of planning. Though he’s a friend of Phil Ginsburg (head of SF RPD), he’s against NAP in its current form. (He used his summation speech to push the Parks Bond 2012 to say that even if it funds NAP, you should vote for it because it will be used to refurbish playgrounds.)
- Affordable housing. It’s important to do it sensibly with infill, not overbuild. He definitely wants to preserve the character of D7 – where people have lawns.
5. GLENN ROGERS
This is the first time I’ve seen Glenn Rogers. His platform is listed on his website, and that’s pretty much what he ran through in his statement: Creating a Department of Public Safety; standardizing fire hydrants so all firehoses can access all hydrants; tax Recology (the garbage company); Parks Bonds should include maintenance costs (at present, they’re restricted to capital expenditures); plant road medians with native plants; install solar windows in downtown buildings (like solar panels, only they’re windows, and they generate electricity), and those buildings should have green roofs.
On the questions:
- Parking. Glenn said SF MTA hired new parking enforcement people each costing ~$50, 000 annually and thus needed to write a lot of tickets to cover the costs, but didn’t think they could. He facetiously suggested they break all the meters so they could ticket everyone.
- Getting downtown. He suggested more research. Adding bus lanes, for instance, wouldn’t help because cars encroach all the time.
- Lake Merced. He supported dual responsibility, and also closing the gun club. He didn’t think they would shift to steel ammo, because lead is cheaper – so as long as they stay, they’ll pollute.
- Trees and NAP. Eucalyptus poisons the soil through allelopathy, so eucalyptus forests are deserts where nothing grows and there are no birds or animals. [This is factually incorrect. See photos HERE for pictures of the lush understory on Mt Sutro, and HERE for a partial bird-list for the forest.] On Mount Davidson, the city should cut down enough trees to show the cross, however many trees that is.
- Affordable housing. Park Merced shouldn’t be built up, it’s is not transit-friendly. A shuttle to the BART doesn’t count. It will increase traffic congestion. But affordable housing is important. We want our police, firefighters, and educators to be able to afford the city.
6. NORMAN YEE
Norman said he was a 3rd generation San Franciscan, and his focus was improving the lives of families and children. Though he initially trained as an engineer, his true interest was education, and so he went back for an MA in education. He was President of the School Board for 8 years. He believes his strength is getting people together to discuss and work out problems. He mentioned some successes of the School Board – reducing truancy, raising test scores, reversing declining enrollment, and saving the Sunset Childcare Center that ran out of funds mid-year leaving working parents stranded.
- Parking. He’s against Sunday meters, and he’s personally observed mistaken enforcement. When he pointed it out to the Parking worker, she didn’t reverse her actions, she just went off, leaving an bunch of erroneous tickets. Norman thinks that downtown parking rates should be raised instead, since it will impact outsiders more.
- Getting downtown. Norman said he’d fight for the interests of our district.
- Trees and NAP. The plan for Mount Davidson is a bad plan. We should manage dead and dying trees, and replant trees. We should preserve recreational access and usage.
- Affordable housing. Norman’s facing this problem right now: His adult daughter would like to stay in the city, but is not sure if she can afford it. He thinks multi-unit developments are possible, but need to allow ample time for stakeholder inputs – and make the effort to do it right.
It was an interesting evening, and kudos to Golden Gate Heights for setting it up. I’m hoping to attend more forums, and get their views on a broad range of issues. Meanwhile, I welcome any comments.