Planning Commissioner, Supervisor’s Aide Brief District 11 Council

At its Sept. 9 meeting, the neighborhood leaders of the District 11 Council were given presentations by a Planning Commissioner and a legislative aide for District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai.

Christine Johnson, a member of the Planning Commission and the San Francisco director of SPUR, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association, a pro-housing think tank, visited to introduce herself.

“SPUR had a neighborhood office in the late ‘90s that actually helped a lot of the neighborhood councils get started and I think that SPUR has gotten away from that history of really working closely with neighborhoods,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of reasons for that, but I wanted to bring some of that back.”

Johnson became the director of SPUR in March after serving on the board for since January 2016.

Johnson, who was appointed to the Planning Commission in 2014, introduced herself as a “soon-to-be-former Planning Commissioner,” referencing criticism that her dual roles could lead to conflicts of interests.

Although she plans to leave the Planning Commission, Johnson said that Mayor Ed Lee, who appointed Johnson and will choose her successor, has not yet found a suitable replacement.

Johnson insisted that her dual roles have not led to a conflict of interest on the Planning Commission.

SPUR focuses on policy and no longer weighs in on very many development projects, according to Johnson. If it ever does support a particular project, Johnson promised she would recuse herself from a vote on the Planning Commission.

Johnson said that SPUR supports the Balboa Reservoir project being “not a parking lot” when asked by City College of San Francisco Trustee Brigitte Davila whether the proposed mixed-use development on a 17 acre parking lot should move forward as proposed.

“There’s a lot of people –– I’m not one of them –– who are very much for [keeping it as a parking lot],” CCSF Trustee Brigitte Davila said.

Although SPUR has not written a report about the Balboa Reservoir, Johnson said the organization tends to support mixed-use developments rather than 100 percent housing or business developments.

“Balboa Reservoir, that’s a huge piece of land, the idea of it being all affordable housing just isn’t feasible. If that’s the dream, it will always remain a dream. SPUR is into things that can happen,” Johnson said.

District 11 Update

Suhagey Sandoval updated the council on District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai’s recent activities, including organizing a mass street tree planting, introducing legislation to provide money for residents of unsafe housing and fighting against a hospital’s plan to close the last 24 sub acute care beds in the city.

On Saturday, Aug. 26, 600 volunteers helped the Department of Public Works and Friends of the Urban Forest plant 500 street trees in the district.

The mass planting broke DPW’s record for volunteers at a single event, according to Sandoval.

On Sept. 5, Safai introduced legislation to create the Tenant Assistance Fund for Hazardous Housing, a fund to subsidize the rent of tenants who are displaced from housing that the city deems unsafe.

In January, Fire Department officials discovered 20 tenants living in unsafe conditions underneath a laundromat at 4680 Mission St. or 5 Persia Ave.

Safai’s proposed legislation is the first result of a working group that Safai created to develop better city responses to unsafe housing conditions.

The legislation was supported by Mayor Lee. The Board of Supervisors has not scheduled a vote.

Sandoval announced a hearing on Sept. 13 about St. Luke’s Medical Center’s plan to eliminate 24 sub acute care beds at its District 11 location. The beds, which serve those with serious medical conditions that requires long-term care, are the last sub acute beds in the city, according to Sandoval.

Though the hospital has extended its timeline for closing the beds several times already, Sandoval said that Safai wants the beds to stay open permanently.

“This is not an ask. We’re demanding that they stay open,” Sandoval said.

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