Maelig Morvan has lived on San Francisco’s west side with his family for six years. As a young father, he has emerged as a local leader fighting for our City’s future. As a self-identified YIMBY, we asked him about his background and what he would like to see in the future.
What’s your background and what brought you to San Francisco?
I am a millennial dad of two young kids, a 6-year old son and a 2-year old daughter. I was born and raised in France, and moved to San Francisco in 2010 to do medical research at UCSF. While I never thought I would leave my hometown of Nantes, I fell in love with San Francisco because it is such a beautiful and diverse city and most people welcomed us with open arms. This tolerant and vibrant environment is where I would love my kids to grow up. During my limited free time, I try to watch some soccer, spend time with my kids, and I volunteer on the board of a non-profit bilingual (Chinese-English) preschool. Because I’m a scientist, working here is also a tremendous opportunity, as there is such a huge concentration of talent and bright minds. San Francisco and the Bay Area are where the future of our world is being shaped and changed.
As a father, how do you view the future of San Francisco and what role do you want to play?
Despite what people might think, I don’t want to change too many things about San Francisco; I actually want more of it! It needs to be more affordable and accessible to all so that everyone who wants and chooses to live here can actually live here. What makes a neighborhood great isn’t its cute little homes or its buildings, but its people. My vision for San Francisco is also centered on protecting the environment and the urgency of climate change. In my neighborhood, the Sunset, the streets and sidewalks look like a giant parking lot! We need better transit and safer biking options, and I believe a key way to obtain these is to have abundant housing for all income levels, so that investing in the infrastructure is justified. It is important to me to play an active role because the decision process for the future of my generation, and above all, of my kids’ generation, has been confiscated by the older generation, who basically got theirs and don’t want us to even get a taste of it.
I recently attended the YIMBY conference in Boulder, Colorado and that was awesome! I haven’t considered myself as a YIMBY for very long, so this was a very enriching and eye-opening experience. It was great to attend this meeting – so many other people are dedicating their lives to this cause – because we have felt very isolated in the Sunset. This conference gave me almost all the tools I need to create our own YIMBY organization, which would focus on the west side (best side!) of the City. We’re really a silent majority and need to make our voices heard, and soon, because I don’t want my kids and the next generation to spend 60% of their income on housing like we do, or to live in racially and economically segregated neighborhoods, which is unfortunately a trend right now.
What does the city need to reverse that trend?
I see this crisis being solved by optimizing the huge amount of urban space that is currently being wasted. For example, in the Sunset, we have many vacant lots and gas stations that have been underutilized or completely empty for decades: let’s build as many homes as we can on them! We especially need to focus on transit corridors such as Judah, Noriega or Taraval. We also need to give density bonuses to homebuilders so that they can painlessly add as much below-market rate homes as possible. I am so proud that our district supervisor, Katy Tang, has played an instrumental part in carrying the Affordable Housing Bonus Program forward. Having abundant housing will increase options for middle-class workers such as my kids’ teachers to let them stay in the city, but it will also help transit-deprived neighborhoods like the Sunset to reach the necessary critical mass.
Finally, we need to start thinking 25, 50, or 100 years ahead and build the city of the future, so that this kind of crisis doesn’t happen again. It is illusory to hope that San Francisco will be preserved in amber: change will happen. We can either suffer from it, or we can help shape it and make it fair.
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