A YIMBY Action Endorsement Questionnaire. View all November 2018 Questionnaires.

Jessica Ho

Candidate - San Francisco District 4 Supervisor

How would you increase overall housing production? Give us a few policy ideas you think would be most impactful, making sure they are genuinely relevant to the position you hope to be elected to.

I want to address the housing crisis by looking at our existing housing units that are currently not made available on the rental market. It is estimated that there are over 3,000 in-laws that are not legalized and thousands more vacancies that have been taken off the market. As Supervisor, I would like to work with homeowners to bring these units back online in order to provide more affordable options for renters. Another issue that has been raised repeatedly is the need to reform our city’s permitting system. Whether a homeowner is seeking to do a home remodel, replace a window, or to legalize an in-law unit, they can get bogged down in months or even years’ worth of process often involving multiple city agencies. I would like to continue Supervisor Katy Tang’s work on streamlining the permitting process to legalize an ADU and/or any other housing development in order to find opportunities to increase housing in our City. I also support projects in District 4 such as the affordable teacher housing unit on the Francis Scott Key Annex unit as well as other projects that are being developed in my neighborhood, and I would like to explore other opportunities – especially along our transit corridors – where we can build projects that increase housing. While I would like to emphasize middle-income housing and family housing, I know it is only realistic to also include market-rate housing.

How would you increase Affordable Housing production? Would you support bonds (such as the $4 billion dollar bond on the CA November Ballot) or increased taxes, and in what amounts?

One way to increase affordable housing production is to streamline the permitting process to help more development, but another way is to support individuals who want to add an in-law or another room to their home to create housing even if there is a very loud minority that opposes a project. Even though many people may come in opposition of a project, the reality is that we are in a housing crisis. I think it is crucial that leaders such as Supervisors push forward projects that make sense for the district and the city even if there is opposition. In terms of new structures that provide affordable housing, it would be great to build 100% affordable housing in the Sunset District, I would be willing to compromise to have a mix of affordable and market unit housing as long as the affordable units also include middle-income and family-sized units. While I am generally in favor or bonds for affordable housing, I would have to weigh the pros and cons of each tax and bond before determining which one I would support.

Do you support legalizing multifamily buildings or “upzoning” single family home only neighborhoods, such as the west side of San Francisco or ? What do you think is appropriate for currently zoned low-density neighborhoods, those with parcels limited to one or two units? Please be specific and use examples relevant to your area.

Multi-family buildings are already legal in certain parts of our district,, but we have not fully utilized that space, density, or height. We need to ensure that we’re fully utilizing the zoning that is already permitted – especially along our transit corridors. Most of the height limits in the Sunset district are four stories, but most of the buildings that are in our district are only two stories. Along Irving and Taraval, the height limits vary between five stories to 10 stories, and I would like to look at opportunities to build up to the existing height limits.

Did you or would you support Senator Scott Wiener’s bill SB 827 to eliminate density restrictions and upzone residential areas near transit, in its latest drafted iteration or with minor amendments? The bill would have allowed four to five story multifamily buildings within a half-mile of transit stops, and a right to return for displaced tenants. Would you pursue implementing a local version of a transit-oriented upzoning in your city or town?

No, I did not support Senator Scott Wiener’s bill SB 827 as written because I think it should be up to the local jurisdictions to determine zoning and city planning. I would be open to exploring a local version of a transit-oriented upzoning in our City, but I would have to engage the community in order to make an informed decision. For instance, in order for the Affordable Teacher Housing complex that is being proposed to be built upon the current Francis Scott Key Annex, we would have to first upzone that area to make it work. The Supervisor of each district has the responsibility of engaging with his or her community to figure out what zoning controls work for each district.

Do you think every neighborhood should build multifamily subsidized Affordable Housing, and if so how do you plan on accomplishing that?

I think that every neighborhood should have a chance to engage in the conversation about building subsidized Affordable Housing, and I think each district should have an opportunity on what that would look like in our district before going forward with a project. However, I do think that each district should propose at least one development that includes multifamily subsidized Affordable Housing – especially one that fits the needs of the district. For instance, I would like to see the opportunity to build housing that suits the needs of our constituents, especially aging adults that would like a place to live and be close to a community and services that suit their needs. The affordable teacher housing project on Playland is another project that makes sense for the City and would be something I would like to pursue.

By-right development grants automatic approval to zoning- and building code-compliant housing projects (both Affordable and market-rate), removing review of those projects by local commissions like the Planning Commission. It does not apply to any projects seeking variances from existing city law. Yes or no, do you support by-right development? Please be specific.

While I believe that by-right development would make multifamily housing both more affordable and built most quickly, I think that by-right development does prevent individuals who truly have a reason to oppose a project have a voice in the process. I believe that ultimately for these decisions is it up to the Appeals Board, or in the case of City and County of San Francisco, to listen to the needs of the community and take ownership of the housing crisis and make a decision. However, I believe that even if we wanted to build a multi-family project that is zoning and building code compliant, I think it would be remiss to not allow the community to provide input on how the project would be created.

How would you streamline the housing permitting process in your city or county? Describe some pre- and post-entitlement changes you would make.

Homeowners that want to create an ADU need to receive applications from Planning, DBI, Fire, SFPUC, and sometimes even SFPW. These various jurisdictions and departmental process can be onerous, time consuming, and expensive. One way that we can streamline the housing permitting process is to continue looking at the layers of permitting that slow down the process and maybe look at combining applications and making it easier for homeowners and developers to build in the city. I think we should also take another look at CEQA and environmental impacts that a project would have and see if these impacts are warranted to hold up the development of more housing.

What is your philosophy on inclusionary zoning, which mandates that market-rate housing pay for a certain percentage of lower-income units? Do you believe there is an inclusionary percentage that will create less overall housing and less low-income housing, ie that we can kill the golden goose with rates like 50% inclusionary?

I support inclusionary zoning because I think that developers play an important role in the City’s fabric and need to contribute their fair share to the City’s well-being, but I think we must conduct an economic analysis to determine the appropriate inclusionary zoning percentage. I believe that too high of an inclusionary percentage will force developers to cease building in the City, and in the end, San Francisco will be losing out. That’s why we need to do an economic analysis and bring all groups, including developers and homeowners, to the table and see what inclusionary rates would be most fair and progressive for our City so that we can continue to build.

What do you think about the idea of a jobs-housing balance? For example, San Francisco’s Central SoMa Plan? The area plan adds 40,000 jobs and 7,000 housing units, and is likely to be passed by the the Board of Supervisors without accompanying housing. Do you think San Francisco should have an “act two” for this plan and zone for more housing, and if so where? Generally, do you think we should build housing to accommodate a growing economy?

I support a jobs-housing balance as public policy, which is why I support Supervisor Jane Kim’s proposal to add more housing to the SoMa plan. However, I think that each proposed project would have to include the community in a discussion so that we can determine what the right mix is for each neighborhood. While we need to continue building housing to accommodate a growing workforce, the population growth must be in line with supportive infrastructure such as public transportation, roads, and utilities that can match the increase in population. And as much as I believe we need to build to accommodate the growth in San Francisco, we must be sensitive to the needs of the residents that have lived here for years or for generations and include them in the conversation.

Currently, many governing boards will follow the wishes of a district official on housing in their district, even if other officials disagree. Would you follow this tradition? For instance, would you adhere to the informal custom at the Board of Supervisors to give “supervisorial prerogative” to district supervisors when deciding on housing projects in their districts? Do you think officials should be able reject housing in their districts?

While I respect each Supervisor’s opinion on projects that are happening in their own district, I do not believe in Supervisorial Prerogative. I have to look at each case individually and weigh the pros and cons of each situation and vote in the way that I think makes the most sense for that particular community. I think that officials should be able to reject housing in their districts, and I think it is the responsibility of each Supervisor to weigh the reasons for and against each project and come to their own conclusion.

How would you strengthen tenant protections? Give us a few policy ideas you think would be most impactful. Feel free to explore issues such as Right to Civil Counsel, your position on Costa Hawkins, etc.

As a renter, I am a strong believer in tenant protections and I support rent control in the sense that is protects renters, but I think that the Ellis Act needs to be reformed, and I believe that repealing Costa Hawkins through Prop 10 will not serve renters or homeowners. I think that repealing Costa Hawkins will actually de-incentivize homeowners to rent units out and will stop developers from building units in San Francisco and potentially California at-large. While I believe that anyone who is being wrongfully evicted deserve a right to Civil Counsel, I also believe that homeowners – especially small property owners – also deserve access to legal services such as understanding the current rules and regulations so they are completely aware of the contracts they enter into and are given legal advice on how to deal with situations that are unfair or unrealistic. I support policies that are fair for both renters and homeowners.

Do you support a vacancy tax for empty units and/or undeveloped parcels? Cities like Paris and Vancouver collect vacancy taxes on homes that are not the primary residences of their owners in an attempt to encourage use of those units. Other municipalities are exploring taxes on vacant parcels to encourage development. What are your thoughts?

Before we look at taxing empty units and/or undeveloped parcels, I would like to look at ways to incentivize homeowners to put units back on the market first. I think that taxing homeowners would actually force them to sell their units and leave San Francisco all together, which is especially unfortunate for small property owners who are just trying to earn enough equity to live a fulfilling and happy life for them and their family. I think one way to address this it to look at ways to incentivize homeowners to rent out their units and then later look at ways to tax homeowners that are not good players and are truly not compassionate to the needs of renters and are only looking to make money off the backs of renters.

Do you support the repeal or reform of Proposition 13? Prop. 13 is a state law that caps property taxes at 1% of their assessed value at purchase. The law allows only property tax reassessment increases up to 2% per year or allows reassessment if the property changes ownership by being sold (but not inherited). The law also requires state and local tax increases to be approved by a two-thirds majority. Please speak about your position on both commercial and residential Prop 13.

Yes, I support the split-roll reform of Prop 13 because commercial and industrial properties that are worth more than $2 million and companies with 50 or more full-time employees should be assessed by their market value because I believe that they have not been paying their fair share into crucial local government services or for schools and local community colleges. However, if the measure passes, I want to make sure that Proposition 13 funds that go into our general funds get used for crucial services for public services.

What is your opinion on street tent encampments and people living in vehicles? Do you support enforcement action against unhoused people living in tents, RVs and cars? Give us some alternative policies you think would be most impactful in addressing homelessness.

I am not interested in allowing anyone to sleep on the cold streets of San Francisco, night after night, whether if it’s in a tent or in a vehicle. However, I understand the vehicular homelessness is different than someone without a vehicle, and I think that rather than pursue enforcement action for those live in their vehicles, we should first engage them with services and give them an opportunity to voluntarily seek services and funding to help them get off their feet before enforcing them to go somewhere they do not want to go. However, if they do not respond to services and are declining in their health or mental health in such a state where they are no longer to take care of themselves, I think that the City should have the tools to be able to step in and get them into services so that they can get back on their feet. That’s why I support Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 1045 which would expand the definition of conservatorship so that the City will have a tool that can truly make a dent on our homeless issue.

What local and regional transit or other multimodal initiatives would you propose? Give us ideas of new transit lines, fare integration, bike lanes, infrastructure upgrades, etc. How can we expedite these policies and move away from car dependency?

Instead of new transit lines, I think we need better existing transit lines. Not only do we need more buses and trains, we need to them to run more often and more efficiently in our streets. I believe that we have a really robust transit system if it were to run reliably and timely. I understand that SFTMA needs to replace tracks and other infrastructure in order to make these changes possible, but I also would like to see SFMTA work more closely with the residents and small businesses that these projects are impacting to make sure that their concerns are addressed before we move forward with these projects. While District 4 strives to be transit first, we are not transit only as we have a high population of children, seniors, and families that need cars to get to and from where they need to go, and these impacts need to be taken into consideration before construction begins. However, i absolutely support more bike-lanes and making the bike lanes more demarcated to help improve safety of bikers and pedestrians in our district.

Is there anything else you would like the membership to know about you or your positions?

While I understand the severity of our housing crisis, the Sunset District is a unique district in which many neighbors fear that the Sunset District will change into a place where they no longer recognize as home. As Supervisor, I must be cognizant of their concerns. However, I also know the need to find creative solutions to increase housing in the Sunset, and I hope to work with my neighbors as well as the YIMBYs to achieve a balance that makes sense for the Sunset and for the City.

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