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

Rafael Mandelman

Candidate - San Francisco District 8 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.

For nearly two decades prior to being elected Supervisor, I worked as a lawyer for local governments and affordable housing developers working to revitalize neighborhoods and increase the supply of affordable housing. Over the last decade the Bay Area has experienced incredible economic growth, but housing production at all levels (other than housing for the very very wealthy) has plainly failed to keep pace. The reasons for this are complicated, but if we want to solve our housing crisis, we need to build more housing at all levels across the region. In San Francisco, that means continuing to look for parts of the City that can accommodate more development and figuring out how to fund the infrastructure (transit, parks, schools) to support that growth. Regionally, it means pushing our neighbors to step up and help shoulder a greater share of the housing production burden. And at the State level, I believe it means adapting our laws to meaningfully reward jurisdictions that do meet their production burden and holding accountable those jurisdictions that do not.

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?

District 8 has been ground zero for evictions over the last ten years, and yet we have produced distressingly little affordable housing during that time. When a senior in a rent-controlled unit is evicted from his or her home in the Castro or Noe Valley, the odds of that senior being able to remain in San Francisco are small. As stated above, I’ve worked for decades with local governments and affordable housing developers to make affordable housing, and it’s a top priority as Supervisor. It requires identifying sites currently in public ownership or sites the City could acquire. It requires public resources, which is why I have campaigned for every affordable housing funding measure over the last decade and will continue to work tirelessly to identify new potential sources of revenue for affordable housing production and preservation. And it requires an unwavering commitment to finding those additional resources and using them effectively to house the growing numbers of individuals and families who simply cannot afford the market rents and sales prices in San Francisco. Yes, I support bonds and increased taxes to support affordable housing in amounts as great as the voters will pass.

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.

I supported Supervisor Tang’s HOME SF program that functionally upzoned and increased opportunities for affordable housing in neighborhoods across the city, including the westside. I support increased density along transit corridors, and I think that there are a number of sites in District 8 where we can and should build higher density housing including the Safeway site on Church and Market and several other sites in Upper Market/Castro.

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?

Although I share Senator Wiener’s view that transit-rich corridors present a significant and sensible opportunity for us to increase our stock of affordable housing and support his interest in tightening the screws on jurisdictions that fail to meet their fair share obligations and meaningfully rewarding jurisdictions that do, I did not support SB 827. SB 827 would have taken away local land use control from those jurisdictions doing the most to solve our State’s shortage of public transit and affordable housing, without regard to the particular local circumstances that might make greater density more appropriate in one place than another. Sacramento should not be in the business of directly re-zoning large swaths of urban California.

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

I do believe every neighborhood should have multifamily subsidized affordable housing. I supported Supervisor Ronen’s recent affordable housing streamlining measure, and I will continue to champion efforts to build multifamily subsidized affordable housing throughout San Francisco. To actually accomplish that goal, we will need to significantly increase the amount of funding we are allocating to affordable housing production and preservation. For that reason, I am supporting the Our City Our Home ballot measure, and I will always be on the lookout for additional local, state and federal sources of funding for our affordable housing efforts.

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.

San Francisco is a dense city comprised of largely built-out neighborhoods. I generally support discretionary review, because I believe that it is reasonable for neighbors to have a say in the type of new development that comes to their neighborhoods. However, I also believe that our lack of housing affordable to low and moderate income households is a crisis, and for that reason I support by-right development of affordable housing.

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

Local permitting is too difficult, too costly and too time-consuming in San Francisco. I regularly hear awful stories from would-be entrepreneurs looking to fill a vacant storefront or folks trying to develop housing projects with no neighborhood opposition that nonetheless get trapped in our byzantine local permit approval process. As Supervisor, I will push our planning department, building inspection department and fire marshal to find ways to make their processes more efficient and user-friendly.

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 as one element of a larger strategy to increase production of affordable housing.

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?

Generally, I do believe San Francisco should build more housing to accommodate a growing economy, and we are doing that and planning for more of it. However, it is also critical that we build the infrastructure to support a growing population. That said, I am frankly not as worried about the jobs-housing imbalance in the Central SOMA Plan as I am concerned that the Plan does not seriously address the challenges of moving people around in what will be one of the densest urban environments in the world.

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?

Collegial courtesy justifies significant deference on land use matters to the Supervisor in whose district a project is proposed. There are in my view, however, some matters of significant enough importance, some citywide needs so great, that they outweigh so-called “supervisorial prerogative.” The siting of an affordable housing development is one obvious example. The location of a homeless shelter, a daytime drop-in center, or a safe-injection site might be another. Recently, I voted against a blanket ban on the location of new cannabis businesses in Chinatown that was being championed by the District 3 Supervisor for similar reasons.

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.

I supported the Right to Civil Counsel ballot measure and I support the repeal of Costa Hawkins, but I am even more passionate about the repeal or reform of the Ellis Act. District 8 has been and continues to be ravaged by speculative evictions, and I am outraged that special interests have effectively thwarted any significant effort to address the problem at the State or local level. I nonetheless remain committed to pursuing any feasible policy options to reduce the number of these evictions and to build and preserve permanent affordable housing to ensure that when a long-term tenant is evicted, he or she has some hope of finding an affordable unit in San Francisco.

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?

I am interested in exploring the City’s options around enacting a vacancy tax for empty units. Certainly, we want to discourage the use of our City’s precious and limited housing stock as a place to park capital and encourage its use as homes for actual San Franciscans. I also am interested in exploring feasible incentives to induce small property owners have removed their units from the rental market to get back into the housing business.

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.

I do support the reform of Proposition 13. I believe that its protections should apply only to primary residences.

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.

Passing the Our City Our Home ballot measure this fall is the most important immediate step San Franciscans can take to solve our housing crisis. Every day I and my office push the City’s various departments to respond to neighbor complaints regarding encampments, dirty streets and the behavior of mentally ill and drug-addicted people in our public spaces. But breaking up an encampment, moving a group of transients along, or taking an individual in psychosis to SF General for a three-day hold does not address the larger homeless crisis facing San Francisco and every urban area on the West Coast. We need more psychiatric beds at San Francisco General and longer term sub-acute placements, on-demand treatment for individuals struggling with addiction, expanded use of conservatorships for people unable to care for themselves, but most of all we need places for homeless people to live that are not a sidewalk, a plaza or a park.

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?

As I have stated in answers above, I believe we have an urgent need to dramatically expand our public transportation infrastructure to better move the increasing number of people who live and work in this city. While I don’t agree with Senator Wiener on everything, I think that his declaration that San Francisco should always have a subway under construction is a righteous, though very difficult to achieve, goal. Unfortunately, recent large-scale transit projects like the Central Subway have suffered long delays and significant cost-overruns while also making short sighted decisions like not extending all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf and building stations that can only accommodate 2 car trains. I believe strongly that we need to make significant investments in our transportation system, likely by passing high dollar bonds, but that the city needs to show voters that it can use the resources that they approve much more wisely and efficiently than we are currently doing.

In addition to building a better public transportation system we need to continue to make biking and walking significantly safer to get people out of their cars. Investing in safer streets is what leads to more people choosing to affordable and sustainable transportation options like cycling. Adding bike lanes where appropriate, improving bike lane visibility on our roads, and implementing buffer zones between bikes and car traffic–these are sensible steps that we should invest in to improve our City’s trans.

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

Over the last year and a half as a candidate and now a Supervisor, I have emphasized my belief that San Franciscans do not disagree about as much as we think we do, that there are opportunities to find common ground and make progress. I look forward to working with Yimby to make progress on the many areas where I believe we agree and my door will always be open to discuss the areas where we may not.

Want to vote on our future endorsements?