Five candidates for District 7 Supervisor discussed issues including city parks, law enforcement, public schools, neighborhood character and parking permits at a candidate forum hosted by the Sunset Heights Association of Responsible People and the Golden Gate Heights Neighborhood Association.
Candidates Ben Matranga, Mike Young, John Farrell, Joel Engardio and incumbent Norman Yee each had five minutes to introduce themselves followed by six minutes to respond to audience questions. Yee did not appear at the prior candidate forum.
The debate, held in the County Fair Building on Aug. 25, attracted over fifty audience members.
The familiar debate between density and neighborhood character in San Francisco’s west side neighborhoods was a popular topic.
“The west side is adding more housing. Park Merced alone will add 5,000 units over the next 15 years; Stonestown is renovating and talking about adding more housing,” Young said. “I’d like to get [the plans] right before we start building.”
Yee spoke about what he had done to preserve the district’s character.
“Nobody was talking about family housing and about a year ago I said, ‘wait a minute, we need family housing,’” Yee said. “I’m working with the Planning Department to come up with a white paper that we’ll publish in about a month. It’s taken about a year to define what we mean by Family Housing so that we can actually ask developers to build these things.”
Several candidates endorsed an Muni plan to extend the M-line tunnel from West Portal to Park Merced or Daly City in order to calm traffic as District 7’s population grows.
Residents also asked the candidates what they would have done about a Muni plan to remove two stops along the L-Taraval line including one near the 17th Avenue Safeway.
Although Yee asked Muni not to remove the 17th Street stop, Muni continued with the plans anyways.
“I don’t know the answer to that right now, because I haven’t studied it as deeply as you have. However, I think it’s important that you consider safety and convenience,” Engardio said in his response.
Yee touted his record on pedestrian safety and personal interest in the issue based on his month-long hospital stay after being hit by a car.
Although Yee spoke about his role in passing Vision Zero, the City’s pedestrian safety plan to lower pedestrian fatalities to zero by 2024, Yee distanced himself from the city’s execution of the program.
“One of the things you have to understand is that, as a legislator, we create policies, we don’t implement them,” Yee said.
Yee later added that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has often not done a good job of gathering and responding to community feedback during his first three years in office.
“I am constantly having to play a role and saying [to the SFMTA], ‘Stop. Stop. You can’t do this because you haven’t had a meeting with the neighbors yet,’” Yee said.
The need for additional police enforcement was another common topic for discussion.
“There are as many police officers in San Francisco as when I was growing up in the mid-1980s, yet we have 150,000 more people,” Matranga said.
Yee mentioned his efforts to get more police officers assigned to District 7 in response to a recent property crime wave in the West Side.
Acting Chief Toney Chaplin has said he will honor ex-Police Chief Greg Suhr’s promise to assign 12 more officers to District 7, according to Yee.
Farrell, a one-time Parks Director at Midtown Terrace Playground, disagrees with the Recreation and Parks Department’s practice of renting out city-owned buildings.
“There are better ways [to find money for the parks]. There are hundreds of millions of dollars that aren’t being picked up on right now and that’s where my expertise [as an assistant budget accessor] comes in. I am against privatization,” Farrell said.
When asked about $2 million in bond funding for Lake Merced Park, Yee said that he is disappointed with delays in many parks projects in District 7.
“There has been a lot of things done by Rec and Park that I don’t agree with,” Yee said.