Christine Johnson #1, Sonja Trauss #2 for San Francisco District 6 Supervisor

San Francisco’s District 6, which includes Soma, the Tenderloin, Mission Bay, and Treasure Island, has simultaneously experienced more development than any other district and also failed to address serious challenges over the past several years. Supervisor Jane Kim’s successor will have the opportunity to steer the Board of Supervisors in an equitable direction to improve the city and benefit their constituents.

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District 6’s population exceeds that of other districts by 50 percent. This could increase to 80 percent by 2020.

Christine Johnson and Sonja Trauss represent complementary pro-growth leadership approaches needed for the task. Unfortunately, District 6 can select only one of them as Supervisor. Competitor Matt Haney, endorsed by Kim, seeks to keep the district on the same path, has opposed pro-housing policy, and is unwilling to push for controversial but necessary citywide reform.

A nonprofit director and former teacher, Trauss is best known as founder of the YIMBY — Yes In My Back Yard — movement, which organizes around building more housing. Before moving to San Francisco in 2016, I had followed her precursor to YIMBY, the Bay Area Renters Federation (BARF), and joined SF YIMBY shortly after the 2016 election, where we’ve become friends. As I’ve written elsewhere, policies which prevent housing development, despite rapid economic growth, root our biggest problems like high rents, homelessness, congestion, and pollution. More housing would reduce inequality and poverty, not just in the bay area but California overall: high rents are the reason for our highest-in-the-nation poverty rate.

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Source: Vadim Graboys (sfzoning.deapthoughts.com)

At the core of Trauss’s campaign is a proposal to Legalize Affordable Housing Everywhere. Since affordable (subsidized) housing units must be apartments, they can’t be built in this map’s red areas. Trauss wants to amend zoning codes to allow affordable apartment buildings in all parts of the city, which would reduce the pressure on the displacement-prone green zones.

While her housing advocacy has attracted national media coverage, Trauss also has sound ideas on related issues like homelessness (building more shelter) and transportation (narrowing 4-lane Soma streets to make room for bus and protected bike lanes), and supports evidence-based policy on other issues like safe injection sites. And as co-executive director of California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund, she knows the ins and outs of local laws. Her combination of organizing prowess, deep legal knowledge, and liberal pro-growth policies would make her a phenomenal supervisor.

However, Johnson may be even more effective. She staunchly defended new housing projects as a planning commissioner, often as a lone voice on a commission responsible for many of this city’s woes. As San Francisco director of SPUR, she led pro-growth policy analysis while herself serving on multiple commissions. She’s an engineer by training and comes to the table with deep public finance expertise. Many of her policy goals are similar to Trauss’s, such as zoning reform, and she’s willing to pursue other avenues of change with the potential for both short- and long-term impact.

Congestion pricing may be the clearest example. Trauss and Johnson agree we have too many cars, and both support narrowing streets. But Johnson has been a strong advocate for identifying the problem (cars) and taxing it. Trauss doesn’t support congestion pricing, and seeks to reduce San Francisco’s existing form of it by exempting Treasure Island from the Bay Bridge toll.

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Vehicle pollution has given District 6 the worst air quality in San Francisco. Source: Aclima and Google

Similarly, Johnson is fiercely opposed to the destructive Prop 13, which caps property tax rates and keeps property assessments fixed. In addition to depriving the San Francisco government of funds commensurate with the wealth created here, low property taxes subsidize homeowners who block housing proposals to increase their own property values. Taxing property wealth commensurately with home values would reduce this incentive. Johnson told me that if not running for Supervisor, she would be campaigning for Prop 13 reform.

Prop 13 needs to be repealed for commercial and residential property and replaced with a property taxation system that is fair and acknowledges the realities of today. -Christine Johnson

Johnson is willing to take the heat for following the evidence. She’s the only candidate to resist supporting Proposition 10, which would enable cities to enact unlimited rent control, stifling housing production and harming newcomers. She also emphasizes the damaging inflexibility caused by budget set-asides, which now represent 30 percent of the General Fund. To ensure City Hall can fund promising new programs, she wants to set expiration dates on set-asides, to the chagrin of current beneficiaries.

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District 6 has built over half of the housing in the last decade, while District 4 has built 0.1 percent. Source: SF Planning Department

Haney’s skepticism toward market-rate housing is disqualifying on its own. He focuses on 100% affordable housing, maximizing the inclusionary rate (despite the reduced housing growth caused by Kim’s ballot measure on this front), expanding rent control, and enacting vacancy control (limiting rent increases when a new tenant moves in). These positions ignore the clear truth that more housing of all types is critical to bring down San Francisco’s sky-high rents and to welcome newcomers to our city. In debates, he’s also shied away from fighting for equitable growth plans with other districts. Haney sided with many low-density areas of San Francisco in opposing SB 827, a bill which would have legalized apartments near transit (Johnson and Trauss both supported it). He’s right on some issues like protected bike lanes and congestion pricing, but would overall be a continuation of Kim’s run.

To bring a new pro-growth voice to the Board of Supervisors, vote Christine Johnson #1 and Sonja Trauss #2 for District 6 Supervisor.

Written by

Economist. Founder and president of the UBI Center. Studied at MIT and UC Berkeley. YIMBY. Former Google data scientist.

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