Supervisor Candidate Campaign Office Rents Are High — and Possibly Too Low

Incumbent Norman Yee pays the least in office rent of any the District Seven or Eleven candidates. Alexander Mullaney/Ingleside-Excelsior Light

This election cycle, district supervisor candidate campaign offices have been the subject of conversation — and perhaps controversy.

We queried all 10 candidates in the District Seven and District Eleven races to learn the square footage of their offices and checked campaign records to see how much they’re paying in rent.

District Seven

District Seven supervisor candidates Mike Young and Joel Engardio do not have and will not rent campaign offices.

“With real estate on commercial corridors as expensive as it is in San Francisco, we feel that our hard-raised campaign funds will be put to better use contacting voters where they are, both physically and online,” Engardio campaign manager Christopher Eldred said. “Our campaign team bases our operations out of Joel’s home.”

John Farrell plans to open a campaign office and currently has a broker working on it, he said.

Ben Matranga has a three-month sub-lease for a 950-square-foot storefront campaign office at 231 West Portal Ave. His campaign is paying $3,150 per month or $3 per square foot, campaign records show.

“Our campaign looked at several offices throughout the district and commercial rent is expensive,” Matranga said.

Market rate commercial rent ranges from $3 to $5 per square foot in the district.

Incumbent Supervisor Norman Yee’s campaign has been renting 1601 Ocean Ave., a 1,950-square-foot corner storefront, since May. The building and the three beside it are slated for development. The Planning Department is performing a preliminary project assessment to be completed Oct. 26. Should any official business around the project need to be conducted before his lease ends, Yee could enter a “lease holders conflict”.

In August, Yee successfully urged the property owner to give the small business 18-month leases, merchants told The Light. None of the small businesses in the other three buildings had leases prior.

Yee pays $1,000 per month or 50 cents per square foot.

The below-market rent could be an in-kind contribution, which the Ethics Commission defines as a “discount or rebate that is not generally extended to the public.”

Of all ten candidates in the District Seven and Eleven races, Matranga is by far paying the most. When told about his opponent Yee’s rent, he said, “A discount of this magnitude raises serious questions about what special favors his developer landlord might expect.”

District Eleven

Berta Hernandez, Francisco Herrera and Magdalena De Guzman are not renting campaign offices but Ahsha Safai and Kimberly Alvarenga are.

In September, sitting Supervisor John Avalos suggested Safai’s campaign office, a 250-square foot storefront in the Mission Child Care Consortium building at 4750 Mission St., was too low and that there was a conflict since MCCC is a nonprofit organization.

“[T]he Safai campaign is paying $500 a month well below market rate for similar space in the neighborhood,” Avalos wrote.

Campaign records show he pays $500 a month or $2 per square foot to the building’s owner, not the nonprofit MCCC.

Kimberly Alvarenga’s campaign office is located in 4458 Mission St., a space that was once a problematic sweepstakes casino that blighted the neighborhood and was more recently a dollar store.

Alvarenga said the space is 5,000 square feet and the rent is $3,100 per month. That’s 62 cents per square foot.

“It was tough to find a space that was affordable and we’re very happy that the space we had was an empty storefront and nobody was in it when we got it,” Alvarenga said. “[W]e’ve actually had some childcare providers come and look at the space as something we can potentially use for childcare later on down the road.”

The Farrah family owns the building. It’s unlikely they are giving Alvarenga a break since they are considered moderates.

This article first appeared in The Light’s October 2016 edition. It has been updated.

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