Sunday, September 07, 2008

Street Sheet Questionnaire: Homelessness in SF

STREET SHEET Questionnaire for 2008 Supervisorial Candidates

Feel free to write on this form, or to submit your responses separately.

What do you believe to be the appropriate role of local government in approaching homelessness?
Homelessness has to be handled on the local level, since that's where it inevitably manifests itself. Some liberals and progressives---including former Mayor Willie Brown---thought San Francisco could just punt the problem back to the Federal Government, arguing that homelessness is after all a national problem. Brown got away with essentially ignoring the problem when he was Mayor, but the squalor on our streets and in our parks only got worse, which prompted Gavin Newsom, the only city leader who understood that city voters wanted something done about it, to make homelessness the centerpiece issue of his campaign for mayor.

As supervisor, what, if anything, would you attempt to do to address homelessness in San Francisco?
Fortunately, Mayor Newsom has been doing a good job on homelessness, the only issue on which he can claim some genuine success. But Newsom's success on homelessness couldn't have happened if city progressives hadn't botched the issue in the first place. During Mayor Brown's administration, while homelessness and squalor grew on our streets, what did city progressives advocate? They cheered on Food Not Bombs and the Biotic Baking Brigade, the pie-throwers! Finally, then-Supervisor Gavin Newsom got Care Not Cash on the ballot in 2002, and grateful city voters passed the measure and elected him mayor the next year in a campaign dominated by the homeless issue.

How would you handle San Francisco’s affordable housing shortage?
I don't know, but I know what I wouldn't do: Unlike Supervisor Mirkarimi, I wouldn't endorse projects like the thousands of luxury highrise condos on Rincon Hill. Unlike Supervisor Mikarimi, I wouldn't take the lead in pushing the Market/Octavia Plan, which will rezone more than 4000 properties in the middle of the city to encourage population density, including four 40-story highrises at Market and Van Ness.

Unlike Supervisor Mirkarimi, I wouldn't take the lead in pushing the UC/Evans project on lower Haight Street to shoehorn 450 housing units into a six-acre parcel. UC lied about why it discontinued offering college courses for working people at the Haight Street site, claiming that it was too poor to maintain the property! In fact UC is now paying more than $2 million to lease property downtown for the same operation. Why not put that money into the site on Haight Street? Because, education "mission" or not, UC is just another mega-institution whose real mission, like a cancerous growth, is to expand, using real estate transactions inside its host organism, the City of San Francisco.

The city gave UC the Haight Street property tax-free for 50 years solely because of its education mission.
With Supervisor Mirkarimi's crucial assistance, UC is now cashing in, which means property that has been zoned for "public use" for 150 years will be turned into a massive housing development---much too big for that neighborhood---to fatten a predatory UC's bottom line.
Like the Grand Jury and the Controller, I think Care Not Cash has been a success. Mayor Newsom followed Care Not Cash with other sensible, effective programs, like Homeward Bound, Project Homeless Connect, and an emphasis on supportive housing for the homeless.

Link for the Grand Jury report on Care Not Cash:

Link for the Controller's report on Care Not Cash:

For past posts on homelessness in San Francisco, click on "Homelessness" at the bottom of this post.

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