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

Michelle Parker

Candidate - SFUSD Board of Education

SFUSD owns a good deal of land in San Francisco. A distressing amount of this land is surface parking lots. Do you think this is a good use of this land? Would building housing on these lots be a better use? How important is this issue to you?

SFUSD should be using its property for pressing needs of the school district, first, prioritizing educational use, and looking towards future needs/enrollment. Beyond that, we should be flexible and adaptable on those uses to meet need, and I absolutely believe that should include housing – specifically educator housing – including on some of our surface lots.

SFUSD has property capacity for 90,000 students; we currently have ~57,000 students. The most recent projected enrollment puts us at a possible 64,000-73,000 students by 2030. BAE and Mercy Housing did a study almost 10 years ago that said the then-identified surplus property had the potential to accommodate 520-709 units of new housing.

Many of the properties on the original 10-year-old SFUSD surplus property list are now either being used for educational purposes or are being rented out through a long-term lease. The surplus properties that are good candidates for development of educator housing include the vacant lot at 7th and Lawton and 200 Middlepoint Rd. We can also get creative with 170 Fell Street and the parking lot connected to 555 Franklin, where we could expand the already-existing garage, and use the existing surface lot for additional office space or housing (we could consolidate existing office space from another SFUSD site that could then be used entirely for housing). Additionally, after Ruth Asawa School of the Arts moves downtown, we will have another piece of property to consider using.

More and more students attending our public schools suffer from homelessness. What do you believe the school district should do to address this problem?

I think it is in SFUSD’s best interest to take responsibility to work with city and community partners to address housing for youth and families. Partnerships like the one SFUSD has with Hamilton Families (Heading Home Campaign to house 800 homeless families by 2020), and the coordinated community plan to end youth homelessness, are both appropriate and important. If we don’t work together to address these issues, we can’t possibly expect our students to be able to be in school ready to learn. As a school board member to regularly ask for updates on these projects, initiate new projects if necessary, and allocate funding to support them. And, importantly, to listen to our students and families who are experiencing homelessness to be able to help meet their needs.

SFUSD and the City recently approved a project to turn Buena Vista Horace Mann into a temporary family shelter in the evenings for the 10% of families who attend the school who are housing insecure or homeless, when the school isn’t being used for instruction (starting in November). This is a creative way to use the facilities we have available, and I support it. And, I think it’s really important to include our communities in big decisions like this to make sure that any concerns about facilities, services, etc. are addressed early, and that the process feels collaborative and inclusive, and is guided by a leader who can both hear concerns and move a group towards support for the project.

More and more teachers struggle with the cost of housing. What do you believe the school district should do to address this problem?

SFUSD needs to be aggressive and creative in addressing affordable housing with multiple solutions, recognizing the different needs and situations of different educators.

With the passage of Leno’s SB1413 in 2016, districts can now develop teacher housing on district-owned property. Now that we have one project going in the Sunset, we need to begin others before waiting for this one to be complete. I’m also supportive of the legislation passed last year that disallows teachers to be evicted by the Ellis Act during the school year, and think we need to continue to address that law to reduce displacement.

While some teachers are single and don’t need a large living space, we need to be prepared to also house teachers who have families, including through middle-income housing (since teachers make too much to qualify for low-income housing but not nearly enough to afford market rate) and home buyer assistance programs like that out of MOH and organizations specializing in this service. We should explore options like group housing and encourage more Accessory Dwelling Units because they tend to be affordable by design. We should also explore state legislation that would allow us to deed-restrict affordable units in market-rate housing for paras, educators, and other district staff. And of course, if we pay teachers more, it will also be easier for them to afford housing in San Francisco.

Getting children to and from public schools is a problem for many parents. A major finding from the SF CTA Child Transportation Study was that “most parents drive their children to school and afterschool programs.” Do you see this as a problem? What solutions do you think the school district could pursue to address this? Please feel free to discuss school busses, shuttles, protected bike lanes, etc.

The large number of parents driving their children around the city to and from school and afterschool causes problems for traffic congestion and environmental impact. It is also the only way that many families are able to get around in a mildly efficient way – especially if they have more than one child and work somewhere else in the city. School buses are expensive and aren’t particularly efficient given the student enrollment system we currently have. There are a few pieces to the solution, in my opinion:
1) Move towards a more neighborhood-oriented assignment system so families don’t have to travel far to schools.
2) Make sure all schools adhere to the Afterschool for All policy I helped create for SFUSD, so that every family can access onsite afterschool programming.
3) Work with the City to ensure adequate staffing of crossing guards and safe pedestrian crossings, as well as more protected bike lanes across the city.
4) Ensure families know about Free MUNI for Youth, so that more middle and high school students can ride transit to school without added expense to families experiencing low income. Also, consider instituting “guardian” ride passes that allow parents and guardians to ride transit for free before and after school, so that elementary students can also safely take advantage of the Free MUNI for Youth program.
5) Get creative with private/public partnerships to provide cost-neutral or low-cost school transit options.
6) Fix MUNI.

YIMBYs care deeply about integration and healing the wounds of redlining and exclusionary zoning. These policies deliberately result in segregated schools. SFUSD has a lottery assignment system designed to fix this segregation problem in our housing, but it has not resulted in vastly more integrated schools. What do you see as solutions to this complex problem?

As you state, it is complex. San Francisco’s neighborhoods are, for the most part, becoming more diverse. In fact, many of our schools are more racially segregated than the neighborhoods where they are located. For instance, Bayview/Hunters Point is 39% Latino, 19% Not Known, 18% African American, 15% Chinese, and 9% Other. School enrollment in the same neighborhoods is 40% African American, 26% Latino, 0% Chinese, and 34% Others. Moving towards a neighborhood system could actually diversify the schools. On the Western side of the city, neighborhood schools would have a neutral impact, and in the South Central part of the city and the Mission, neighborhood schools would have a mixed impact on diversity, but leaning overall towards more diversity.

We also know that making programmatic changes can increase enrollment and diversity in schools that need it. For instance, when SFUSD put a Mandarin Immersion program in Starr King (near public housing on Potrero Hill), enrollment increased and diversified. We should consider what new programming to place in historically under-enrolled schools. SFUSD has also been experimenting with giving middle and high school preference to students who attend Bayview schools, and I’m interested to see how this helps. Importantly, diversity is not the only pathway toward equitable access and opportunity for students. This can also be achieved by instructional intervention, family engagement strategies, staff training, and more, and I will actively push for and monitor SFUSD’s progress on this front as a board member.

There are serious geographic equity issues with our schools. Additionally, as some districts are growing their housing supply, adding more and more children, the lack of quality schools everywhere is becoming an increasingly urgent issue. How do you plan on addressing the issue of access to quality schools in every district and opening more schools?

We have to look at current and projected enrollment now, particularly in areas that are seeing and will see additional growth in housing, such as Mission Bay, Candlestick Point, Hunters Point Shipyard, and Treasure Island. This growth potentially means 7,000-16,000 new students by 2040. We also already have more children than available seats in our most child-dense neighborhoods (south and east). We will need to 1) re-evaluate school capacities, 2) build more schools, and/or 3) repurpose other existing facilities to serve these families, and should begin this now.

Is there anything else you think our members should know about your candidacy? Links, references, endorsements, etc?

I am a single mom of three kids and have been invested as a leader and advocate in our public schools since my oldest child started kindergarten 13 years ago. I am committed to continue doing this for many more decades ahead. I am one of the most qualified, prepared, and experienced candidates to run for school board in many years. I’ve fought for issues like education funding, access to after school programming for all students, and more accountability. I served as President of the Second District PTA, supporting and developing parent leadership at more than 60 schools across San Francisco. I was 4-year co-chair of the QTEA (2008 parcel tax) oversight committee. I’ve been a parent leader on all school district-related ballot measures for years. I’ve served on State PTA commissions and committees focused on legislative priorities and improving parent understanding and participation in their local LCAPs, and have a good understanding of how state education policies affect our own district. I also have strong support from across the City. I’m supported by Mayor Breed; all of our state legislators; Assessor Chu; Supervisors Stefani, Tang, Brown, and Safai; School Board members Norton, Murase, and Walton; City College Trustees Selby and Randolph; Alice B Toklas LGBT Democratic Club; United Democratic Club; SF Parent PAC; several building trade unions; and many community leaders, teachers, and parents. I would love to add my fellow YIMBYs to this list. www.michelleparker.org.

Want to vote on our future endorsements?