Sara Bloomberg

Sara Bloomberg

Tony Kelly won last month’s debate at the Nabe, winning 77 percent of club members votes.

August 2014

Kelly Secures Democratic Club Endorsement

Sara Bloomberg

Last month, Connecticut Street resident Tony Kelly won the Potrero Hill Democratic Club’s endorsement for District 10 supervisor, securing 77 percent of club members’ votes after a lively debate that included all five candidates for the seat. The debate was held at the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House (Nabe), and was moderated by Marisa Lagos, a politics reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Kelly outscored incumbent Malia Cohen, as well as challengers Ed Donaldson, Marlene Tran and Shawn Richard. DeBray Carpenter ended his campaign after he failed to get the minimum number of signatures required by the San Francisco Department of Elections to appear on the ballot by the June 10 deadline. Roughly 100 people packed the Nabe’s community room, creating a standing-room-only vibe, with many attendees finding spots to sit on the raised stage behind the candidates.

Housing and transportation dominated the debate. But the night’s unofficial theme was Cohen versus everyone else, a storyline that was accentuated when, while the endorsement votes were being counted, all of the candidates except Cohen paused from mingling to take a group photograph.

During the debate Cohen went on the defensive several times, repeating the phrase, “Let’s set the record straight.” In response to criticism from Kelly about who is financing her campaign, Cohen retorted that “My money is coming from a lot of people in this room—three quarters from District 10 residents—and only 16 percent from real estate.” 

But Kelly pressed his point, suggesting that lobbyists for real estate interests are working against the development of affordable housing. “Take speculators out of politics. I’m not taking money from lobbyists. They’re not knocking on my door but...,” Kelly said, and dramatically let the end of his statement trail off unfinished.

Kelly and Tran are the only candidates who’ve filed to receive public financing for their campaigns, though the deadline to make that request isn’t until the end of this month. So far, Kelly has received $20,000 in public assistance, and is the only supervisorial candidate in the City who has secured public funds. Cohen declined to participate in public financing, and has raised more than $240,000 as of mid-July, according to documents filed with the San Francisco Ethics Commission.

All of the candidates agreed that private charter buses, colloquially known as“Google buses,” shouldn’t be allowed to use public bus stops. In January, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a pilot program to monitor, regulate and charge the private buses, which primarily serve technology companies located on the Peninsula, $1 a day per stop. The Board subsequently denied an appeal for an environmental review of the program, with only supervisors David Campos and John Avalos voting in favor of it.

“I think it’s worth pointing out how absent the tech companies are” from this public conversation, Cohen said at the April hearing to consider imposing an environmental review, as reported by the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Cohen ultimately voted against the appeal. But her response at the debate as to whether private buses should be allowed to use public stops was an emphatic, “No.” 

“We know there’s one person who gets to park in spots for free, though,” Donaldson quipped, referring to media coverage of Mayor Ed Lee’s illegal parking habits. Parking illegally at public bus stops can trigger a $271 ticket.

“What would you do to improve Muni service to the Hill?” Lagos asked the candidates. Donaldson was the only politician to voice support for Sunday meters, which generated $9.6 million of revenue annually for the City, and is no longer being enforced except in certain neighborhoods. Cohen began to lambast the “over-proliferation” of parking meters, but ran out of her allotted time to speak on the issue. Mayor Lee encouraged the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to repeal Sunday parking meter enforcement.

Cohen, Tran and Donaldson supported an increase in the vehicle license fee starting next year, while Kelly talked about creating a shuttle program for the Hill. “We want MTA to do it. They refuse to, [so] we’ll do it in the private sector with all of the employers in the neighborhood, the shopping centers, and try to get that to happen and then the MTA can take it on,” Kelly said.

From homelessness to Airbnb, housing was one of the night’s biggest issues. “Currently in San Francisco developers have the option of producing below market housing on site or paying a fee to produce it elsewhere. Would you want to change this system?” Lagos asked.

Richard stressed the importance of removing barriers for individual home ownership, in order to create more housing security, and lamented the lack of family housing in most new developments.

“Developers should not have the option of going outside of the area,” Donaldson said. “Often times when they do that, it gets delayed substantially.” In response to a question about speculation, he said he supports creating incentives for nonprofits to buy housing in order to save affordable stock and keep it out of the hands of speculators. Donaldson also suggested that the City join the Joint Powers Authority with the City of Richmond and use eminent domain to protect individuals from losing homes being foreclosed on as a result of predatory loans.

Kelly took the biggest swing at City Hall and the Mayor’s Office of Housing, characterizing the inclusionary housing law as a “someday, somewhere” policy that’s failing. “That’s something we need to change. If the City can’t build 30 percent of its housing for the 60, 70, 80 percent of us who need affordable housing, we’re in deep, deep, deep, deep; how many seconds do I have?  Deep trouble,” Kelly said.

According to Cohen, a critical part of the problem is the lack of marketing to low-income tenants. “I’m making sure that these developers are marketing these units to people of color, in multiple languages,” Cohen said. “I do believe that housing should be inclusionary and done on site.”

Two competing housing measures are on the November ballot—one sponsored by District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, the other by Mayor Lee—that seek to establish controls to slow luxury developments while incentivizing production of affordable and low-income housing.

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