September 26, 2016 Corey Smith

Jane Kim Answers Our Housing Questions

Jane KimThis November, Supervisor Jane Kim is running to represent San Francisco and part of San Mateo County in the California State Senate. Since housing is a top-of-mind issue for many residents, the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition (SFHAC) asked the Supervisor a number of questions. As a 501(c)3, SFHAC does not endorse candidates and these answers have not been modified in any way. You can read Supervisor Scott Wiener’s answers here.

What do you and your opponent have in common regarding housing and land use policy? How do you differ?
Housing affordability is the key issue facing San Francisco and the Bay Area today. The rising cost of housing is displacing many longtime San Francisco residents and impacting the racial, age, labor, and family diversity of the City. 60% of our residents qualify for affordable housing, yet San Francisco has not kept pace in meeting our housing production for low and middle income residents. We must do more to make sure new housing construction is affordable to that 60% percent of residents. San Francisco has increasingly become unaffordable for our teachers, nurses, disaster preparedness employees, hotel workers, construction workers, and other working and middle class residents.

I have been the strongest proponent for acquiring and building affordable housing on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and am proud of to have fought for and built the most affordable and middle income housing on this Board. I challenged San Francisco to make the City more affordable by setting the goal that a minimum of 33% of all new housing that is built should be affordable for low-­ and middle-­income households and 50% should be affordable to moderate income households­­ — this measure Proposition K passed with the overwhelming support of San Francisco voters. I also introduced Proposition C this past June to increase private developer obligation to build affordable and middle income housing from 12% on-­site and 20% off­-site to 25% on-­site and 33% off-­site. Every time we have gone to the voters to support more affordable housing, voters overwhelmingly agree that more needs to be done to address our housing crisis. The voters also committed an unprecedented $350 million in public funds to create additional affordable housing.

I negotiate with all market rate developers and have won unprecedented levels of affordable and middle income housing. I formed a negotiation team comprised of housing advocates, neighborhood residents and labor and successfully won 40% affordable and middle income housing in the Giants’ Mission Rock development, a large development project on public land which could build up to 1,000 units of housing. I also ensured that we negotiated a broad range of units priced to serve families and households of four who make between $55,000­-$150,000 per year. I subsequently negotiated 40% affordable and middle income housing in two other major development projects in my district.

54% of all of San Francisco’s affordable housing is being built in the district that I represent. Furthermore, I have stood up for tenant’s rights, passing the boldest tenant protections ordinance in the country to counter frivolous and profit­incentivized evictions.

Not a single market rate residential development in my opponent’s district has built even one additional unit of affordable or middle income housing above what is required by law during his time in office. While my opponent had touted legislation he has written to encourage production of affordable and middle income housing, San Francisco has seen little new housing built under these new ordinances.

Housing and transportation are inextricably linked. How would you advocate for smart growth in the senate?
Housing, transportation and our environment are inextricably linked. Climate change has been linked to human activity and our daily activities needs to be assessed and reassessed, to become more environmentally friendly. That means developing communities and cities that are more self­-sustainable. This is why­­ — as Supervisor­­ — I have worked extremely hard, to deliver on laws that create higher density housing projects AND protect against the displacement of tenants in order to allow low and middle income families to stay in San Francisco.

Without a balanced approach to housing and transportation, we risk pushing more people out into sprawling communities in the East Bay or Central Valley, which not only increases the rate at which we pave over fertile ground, but also increases the vehicle traffic congestion and emissions as they travel back to San Francisco for work every day. A study by Transform and California Housing Partnership makes clear that affordable housing near transit is a “powerful and durable GHG reduction strategy.” Short sighted urban planning and development policy usually comes with even greater carbon footprint on the back end.

We need to ensure that investments and improvements in transportation infrastructure are closely aligned with development so that growth is smart and sustainable. Simply promoting development without a plan or resources for the infrastructure is not responsible policy.

As senator, I plan to continue my work on urban density and housing affordability that builds on smart growth planning policies such as SB 375. I plan to work with impacted communities in the region to develop policies that balance smart growth with equity and affordable housing. What we don’t want is to  increase the supply of unaffordable housing forcing lower income communities farther out to find housing they can afford.

I am a strong proponent of our California Environmental Quality Act fought for and won robust neighborhood notification with clear timelines. I am proud to have earned the endorsement of the Sierra Club and California Equality Justice Alliance (CEJA).

Plan Bay Area 2017 has suggested three different models to accommodate proposed future growth: Disperse growth throughout the Bay Area; concentrate growth along regional transit lines; or concentrate it in SF, SJ, and Oakland. Which do you support?
While cities like San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland, can accommodate more dense development because of their proximity to transit lines, we also need to ensure housing and affordable housing is built throughout the region. The MTC’s proposed growth scenario for Plan Bay Area allocates 43% of all development over the next 25 years within the three cities of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. Not only does this create unrealistic expectations but will lead to a certainty of “failure” no matter how proactive and responsible those cities perform in facilitating housing production.

In addition to “the big three,” more of the vast region’s 101 cities should be expected to do their fair share of development to meet our overall housing need. San Francisco has been a model in this region–­­producing more affordable housing than any other city, and more than any city in the state except Los Angeles. Our role should be to continue to be one of the key centers for the region’s growth but not shoulder the region’s growth for other cities.

Following the demise of the Governor’s by-­right housing proposal, what role should market­-rate housing play in addressing California’s housing crisis?
We certainly need to increase the overall supply of housing and we need to increase the supply of affordable housing as I have stated above.

Following on (4) above, what would a successful deal look like that included both more state funding for affordable housing as well as by-­right housing?
I did not support the proposal for state-­imposed “by right development” that would have stripped away discretion for land use decisions from local planners and elected officials as well as circumvented environmental review. The by­right proposal was opposed by the State Building Trades, California Labor Federation, California League of Conservation Voters, Planning and Conservation League, Sierra Club and several other environmental organizations, and more than fifty affordable housing, tenants rights and social equity organizations statewide. In the end that was the position that the state legislature took, including our own current state senator.

A compromise is needed to increase the supply of housing, especially in areas of the region and the State that are not performing relative to their Regional Housing Needs Allocation goals. According to the latest Residential Pipeline report, San Francisco has managed to produce over 157% in the market rate or above moderate housing category­­ — even with the region’s highest affordable housing requirements. The latest iteration of the by right housing legislation would have the unintended consequence of taking away San Francisco’s ability to assess and review major projects with very little affordable housing required. Distressingly, this by right proposal was tied to $400 million in much needed state affordable housing funding. Funding for affordable housing should not be held hostage to a proposal for “by right” development of market rate housing in the state’s most rapidly gentrifying communities.

By contrast, in San Francisco last year, our voters passed a $350 million housing bond. We should continue to work on other more sensible approaches to expediting the development of housing. Community, labor and environmental stakeholders should be at the table in developing these policies along with the developer industry. The state also needs to invest in additional housing and explore mechanisms to capture the value generated by new housing development to replace the affordable housing revenue lost with the dissolution of redevelopment.

Given that some of California’s communities are much more accepting of growth than others, what would you do in the senate to promote statewide density equity? What is SF’s role in this debate?
As stated earlier, San Francisco has been a model in this region–­­producing more affordable housing by far and more than any city in the state except Los Angeles. We owe this production to the policies and resources that our city has focused on affordable housing over many years developed by strong grassroots advocacy and community leaders who were at the table. But the state has unfortunately weakened or stripped away some of these tools in recent years, making it that much harder for cities to step up and follow our lead, as well as making it harder for San Francisco to further scale up its affordable housing. In Sacramento we need to fight back against the realtor and development lobby that continues to block bills that would restore local inclusionary housing, we need to fight harder in Sacramento for sensible reforms to the Ellis Act that would keep families and seniors from being unjustly evicted, and anti­-discrimination reforms that would protect section 8 voucher holders. We need to fight back against the realtors who have blocked bills to create a permanent source of state funding for affordable housing. These tools will support local jurisdictions follow San Francisco’s lead as one of the highest housing production cities and affordable housing production.

I would also incentivize and mitigate the effects of density to ensure we are adding value to neighborhoods and community­­–parks, open space, transit, school funding all support growth in our neighborhoods.  In San Francisco, our impact fee program is an example program which addresses the impact of new development by dedicating fees to affordable housing, open space and transit. We need to find more ways to tie important community benefits to density and growth throughout the state.

Would you support full implementation of the state density bonus in San Francisco or is it too drastic a remedy? What should we expect from you on this topic?
The State Density Bonus program while a well intended measure to increase the supply of housing evolved into a developer give away with AB 2501. Our state representatives Ting and Leno voted against the bill, knowing that the underlying state density bonus law may negatively affect San Francisco by undermining our local inclusionary housing program. We need to account for that conferred development value in calibrating our local inclusionary requirements. I would prefer that our city set our own local density bonus and affordable housing standards. Once we see the full impact of the one­size­fit­all state policy in San Francisco, we should reconsider a more appropriate local density bonus program in San Francisco that significantly increases inclusionary housing for the majority of San Franciscans not just the few who can afford market rate development where the average home price is $1.6 million dollars and average rent is $3800 a month.

Corey Smith

Corey Smith is HAC's Executive Director and can be reached at

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