Cakewalk for Mayor Survey: Democracy Never Tasted So Good!

A recent Business Insider article called Mayor Ed Lee’s re-election a “cakewalk.” Concerned San Francisco voters are hosting their own cakewalk in front of City Hall, with cake for each issue they’d topic they’d like addressed in the coming election.

Go to and rate the topics you’d like to see Ed Lee “chew on” with his fellow Mayoral candidates. Here are the current topics: Evictions, CCSF, SFPD, CleanPowerSF, Homelessness, New Housing, Drought, Diverse Industry, Transit, Regional Growth, Culture, and Pro-Worker Economy. You can add your own too!



The 2015 Mayoral election is an important opportunity to shape the future of San Francisco and address the challenges and opportunities facing our city and the greater Bay Area. But according to a recent Business Insider article, Ed Lee is facing a “cakewalk” re-election campaign in the midst of a “city at war with itself”.

If the media and political insiders expect the 2015 Mayor’s race to be a cakewalk, let’s give them one . . . with a San Francisco twist. In early August, YIMBY/WEISS for Mayor will host a cakewalk event and press conference at the Civic Center Plaza, with special invitations extended to Ed Lee and fellow candidates Reed Martin, Francisco Herrera, Stuart Schuffman, and Kent Graham. We will use the information gathered in this survey to decorate cakes with the issues that candidates, voters, and neighbors want to highlight in the form of candidate debates, community teach-ins, and voter solution forums. “Let them eat cake” indeed.

Your input matters! Through election debates and dialogue we can ensure that our current Mayor and the five official candidates joining him on the ballot are on record with their point of view regarding the issues that San Francisco neighbors and voters care about most. This survey provides San Francisco residents with the opportunity to share ideas, questions, and insights about the current challenges, legislation, ballot initiatives, and specific development projects that should be debated by the candidates who have stepped up to democratically lead our city, county, and region for the next four years. If you can’t make it to our cakewalk event in early August, we will present survey data trends and responses (without any identifying information) at


Inclusive and sustainable growth (local and regional) 

One of the main issues under debate in the 2011 Mayor’s race was how to grow our local economy in the aftermath of a global economic crisis caused by “too big to fail” banking institutions. Now San Francisco is in the midst of a regional affordable housing and growth crisis caused in part by policies, industry growth, and investment trends. San Francisco neighbors and policy makers are currently divided in their thoughts about how (and even if) to grow our neighborhoods through increased density and height. It’s imperative that our leadership is able to speak to this divide, provide analysis on how we got where we are today, and provide a strategic, inclusive, and sustainable plan for the growth of our city and region.

Proposed questions for a candidate debate, teach-in, and/or solutions forum:

  • Faced with increasing demand, is there a reasonable limit to how many more people can sustainably live in San Francisco and what are sustainable benchmarks for growth?
  • As the tech industry and corresponding jobs of the South Bay continues to grow, what responsibility do tech companies and municipalities down the peninsula have in supporting the development of regional housing and transit?
  • How do we develop affordable housing for a diverse range of workers in San Francisco?
  • How does the statewide drought factor in to sustainable growth?
  • What types of development and housing solutions should we be exploring and investing in over the next 20 years?
  • What types of investment alternatives should we be exploring and developing over the next 20 years?
  • How do we heal the rift between city-wide neighbors who have polarized views about the future of growth in San Francisco?

Current Development Project in the Mission: 2000 Block of Bryant Street 

The Planning Commission hearing for the proposed development planned for the 2000 block of Bryant Street in the Mission was recently delayed for an additional 3 months due to coordinated opposition by cultural preservation groups (due to the proposed demolition of an existing arts venue), SF Building Trades (due to demands for unionized construction and affordable housing for workers making union wages) and residents of the Mission (who called for the site to be developed as affordable housing without the proposed loss of light industry and arts use). Nick Podell, the developer of this project, told the Chronicle that “We do hope to use union labor for this project, but given land costs, the subsidies necessary to provide affordable housing and skyrocketing construction costs, some trades may not be included because of their extraordinary price differential.”

Read more about this project from recent articles: SF Business Times, Mission Local, and48 Hills.

Proposed questions for a candidate debate, teach-in, and/or solutions forum:

  • How can this particular project serve as a case study for the future of neighborhood planning, both in the Mission and city-wide?
  • What percentage of affordable housing can be included in this new development and still have it “pencil-out” for the developer with an equitable ROI?
  • How will this project be affected if the “Mission Moratorium” ballot initiative is approved by voters in November 2015?
  • How can City Hall preserve and proliferate two important aspects of neighborhood development: Light industry and culture-serving venues?
  • Speaking to the developer’s remarks about union labor, how can San Francisco development support union jobs in the midst of rising construction and land costs?

Current Development Project on City Property: Balboa Reservoir

In 1985, then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein led an effort to develop housing on Balboa Reservoir (located at Ocean and Phelan, adjacent to CCSF’s main campus). Feinstein’s plan eventually failed because it didn’t adequately address the needs of CCSF & neighbors. With the right vision, leadership and process we can create a plan that works for the future of CCSF, neighbors, and a livable, equitable, & resilient SF in 2015.

Proposed questions for a candidate debate, teach-in, and/or solutions forum:

  • Should City Hall support 100% affordable housing for this SF PUC/city-owned property? And if so, how?
  • Since Balboa Reservoir is adjacent to CCSF’s main campus, how can this new development support CCSF programming?
  • Since Balboa Reservoir is currently used as a parking lot for CCSF, what solutions should the Planning Department consider in regard to parking and the promotion of public transit?
  • Since the Balboa Reservoir is currently owned by SFPUC, how can part of the development be used in support of rolling out the CleanPowerSF renewable energy program?
  • How will CCSF’s Performing Arts and Education Center be factored into the new development?

Renting in San Francisco

San Francisco is unique among most cities due to our high ratio of renters to homeowners (65% tenants to 35% homeowners) and rent control protections that provide some safeguards to tenants from displacement through unregulated rent increases. The November 2014 attempt of housing activists to curb speculation and subsequent displacement through Proposition G unfortunately fell short of the supermajority of votes that was needed to pass it. According to the office of the Sheriff, the number of evictions for 2012 and 2013 was 1,964, during 2014 it was 815, and January through May 2015 so far the stat is 379, for a cumulative total of 3,158. Ed Lee recently made a public statement in a speech at Trans March that he would work to curb evictions, which leaves us wondering what more he (or anyone) can actually accomplish, and if he could have done more why hasn’t he done so already?

Proposed questions for a candidate debate, teach-in, and/or solutions forum:

  • What can be done to stem the tide of displacement and no-fault evictions?
  • Should rent control be expanded and/or iterated upon in support of affordable housing and equitable rent for small property owners?
  • Is there an interest in moving towards a “30% of income for rent with an equitable cap” model in San Francisco?
  • What innovative programs can City Hall develop in support of affordable housing for a diversity of neighbors and workers?
  • How can City Hall shift responsibility of enforcement of Owner-Move In and Ellis Act Eviction regulations to city departments rather than the current practice of putting the onus on displaced tenants to report violations?
  • Why hasn’t City Hall already introduced legislation for Tenant “Right  of First Refusal” (modeled after Washington DC’s existing legislation) as a tool for tenants to have the first option to collectively purchase their housing when the property enters the market?

Pro-worker economy

The San Francisco Bay Area is the epicenter of a post-recession proliferation of tech-based platform companies that minimize and/or eliminate corporate responsibility for worker protections and benefits through the practice of designating workers as independent contractors with a 1099 tax designation rather than as employees. There is also concern about having a non-diversified, tech-heavy economy whose emerging companies are reliant upon venture capital. San Francisco Mayoral candidates should be exploring ways to support pro-worker business models and the proliferation of new and existing industries that create a wide-array of entry-level and skilled positions for existing San Francisco residents.

Proposed questions for a candidate debate, teach-in, and/or solutions forum:

  • How can City Hall support job creation and job preparation for a diverse range of entry-level skill sets?
  • Should City Hall support the proliferation of pro-worker business models, such as worker co-ops or labor agreements? If so, how?
  • What are the essential worker protections and benefits that City Hall wants to ensure for its workforce regardless of their tax status?
  • In what ways can /should local, state, and national government evolve to support 1099 workers’ rights?
  • In what ways can/should SF-based tech “platform companies” with high 1099 to W-2 worker ratios evolve to support 1099 workers’ rights?

SFPD & Neighborhood SafetySix of our 11 Board of Supervisors recently passed a population-based staffing policy in San Francisco despite decreasing crime statistics, a text scandal that exposed the existence of racial bias in the SFPD, statistics that show an alarmingly disproportionate number of arrests for our decreasing African American population, and statistics that demonstrate the high cost of using the criminal justice system to address homelessness.

Proposed questions for a candidate debate, teach-in, and/or solutions forum:

  • Why are we increasing the number of armed police officers in the midst of a decrease in crime?
  • Does an increase in armed police officers help us achieve our neighborhood safety goals in comparison to investing in unarmed alternative services?
  • What are the costs and benefits of criminalizing homelessness and are there cost-effective alternatives that will help us achieve better outcomes?
  • How do we address and resolve the disproportionate arrest rates of San Francisco’s African American population (50% of arrests from under 6% of population)

The Future of CCSF (City College of San Francisco)CCSF provides pathways to prosperity to San Francisco neighbors in support of their own livelihood, local workforce needs, and the greater good of our community. Over the last few years CCSF has been endangered by an accrediting body (the ACCJC) that chose to threaten, rather than strengthen, one of San Francisco’s most valuable assets.

Proposed questions for a candidate debate, teach-in, and/or solutions forum:

  • How can City Hall support CCSF after the drop in registration due to an accreditation scare from the ACCJC?
  • How can City Hall protect current certificate programs and adult learning programs that support essential workforce functions and/or community services?
  • How can we better promote clean energy and climate mobilization through CCSF programming (Specifically, what role can the development of SFPUC owned Balboa Reservoir play and/or the expansion of a “Green College” at the SFPUC owned SE Campus?)
  • How can we better prepare CCSF students to participate in the Bay Area technology workforce?

De-criminalizing Homelessness

In January 2015, the head of the SF Department of Public Works declared an emergency “due to the inadequacy of facilities to link over 6,000 chronically homeless individuals with needed services. Street homelessness is found to have profound health impacts on the individuals experiencing homelessness such as exacerbating disease, undermining addiction recovery, increasing vulnerability to violence and generally shortening life expectancies.” The Coalition on Homelessness recently released a report called“Punishing the Poorest”, which is an investigation of the impacts of criminalization on homeless people in San Francisco.

Proposed questions for a candidate debate, teach-in, and/or solutions forum:

  • Which recommendations provided in the Coalition on Homelessness’ “Punishing the Poorest” report can be implemented ASAP?
  • How can we shift from treating homelessness as a crime to treating homelessness as a public health and human rights issue?
  • How does an increase in hiring armed police officers and/or building a new jail help and/or resolve the homeless crisis?
  • What more can we do to create interim housing and service solutions in the midst of our homelessness crisis.

CleanPowerSF (November 2015 Ballot Measure)

A community-choice aggregation program with the name of “CleanPowerSF” has long been part of San Francisco’s environmental strategy. The program came close to launching and leading the region in 2013, but opposition from PG&E and Mayor Ed Lee stalled the effort while Sonoma and Marin took the lead with their community-choice clean power programs. After years of advocacy from the Board of Supervisors and environmental activists, Ed Lee and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) finally approved not-to-exceed rates for CleanPowerSF earlier this year, moving the City’s local renewable energy program one step closer to launch.

Now PG&E has turned in signatures to get a proposition on the November 2015 Ballot “that would allow PG&E to label its dirtier fossil fuel and nuclear energy mix as green as the energy that will be provided through CleanPowerSF. CleanPowerSF plans to launch with an energy mix that is between 33% and 50% renewable, at rates competitive to those of PG&E, with an option to “opt up” to a 100% renewable product for a small premium. PG&E offered a 22% renewable power mix as of their latest (2013) filings.” Read more at the Sierra Club Yodeler.

Proposed questions for a candidate debate, teach-in, and/or solutions forum:

  • Where do candidates stand on PG&E’s ballot initiative?
  • Why did the implementation of CleanPowerSF stall for 2 years under Ed Lee’s administration?
  • How can SF become a regional/national leader in climate mobilization?
  • How can we prepare SF neighbors to connect to CleanPowerSF workforce opportunities through public education programs, including CCSF.

Short-term Rentals (November 2015 Ballot Measure)

A coalition of home owners and affordable housing activists called “ShareBetter SF” submitted more than 15,000 signatures for a ballot initiative in the November 2015 election that will more tightly regulate short-term rentals and Airbnb.

“Backers of the ballot initiative say the existing regulation passed last fall doesn’t go far enough, and neither will changes proposed by Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Mark Farrell. The initiative proposes a law with a 75-day limit on hosting, quarterly data reports from platforms and an ability to go to civil court if the planning department does not react to complaints in time. Last week, Lee ordered the creation of a new enforcement office just as the city also sent violation letters to 15 hosts for allegedly turning 73 housing units into full-time short-term rentals.” Read more at TechCrunch.

Proposed questions for a candidate debate, teach-in, and/or solutions forum:

  • Where do candidates stand on Short-term rental legislation?
  • What strategies do candidates support in order to enforce current regulations?
  • What are the positive and negative impacts of short-term rentals on neighborhoods and housing affordability?
  • What can we learn from short-term rental legislation enacted by other cities, both nationally and internationally?
  • Is it possible to explore new lease types for live-in homeowners that will encourage mid-term and/or longer-term rentals for San Francisco workers/residents.


Cultural Preservation

According the the Arts Element of the San Francisco General Plan, our city has a goal to recognize the arts as necessary to the quality of life for all segments of San Francisco. However, the culture makers, arts organizations, and cultural venues that contribute to the unique citywide and neighborhood character of San Francisco have been experiencing rapid displacement in the midst of our city’s post-recession economic boom. Public utilities of culture such as the Elbo Room, the Hemlock Tavern, and CELLspace/InnerMission have all been threatened with displacement for new development projects over the past year.

Proposed questions for a candidate debate, teach-in, and/or solutions forum:

  • Do candidates support a ballot initiative to re-dedicate a portion of the city’s hotel tax to the arts?
  • How can we better preserve existing performing spaces and culture making venues in San Francisco?
  • How can we support affordable housing for culture makers in our neighborhoods?
  • In what ways can City Hall support the well-being and revitalization of neighborhoods in need through the arts?


Taxis and Transportation Network Companies (Uber/Lyft/etc.)

Many San Francisco residents love the convenience and pricing of “Transportation Network Companies” such as Uber and Lyft, but the SF Taxi Workers Alliance has been asking City Hall, the SFMTA, and the California Public Utilities Commission to consider the unfair advantages, safety issues, and impacts to workers that come with TNC’s current level of regulations for commercial licenses, pricing, insurance, workers comp, and car inspections. In a recent ruling that could lead to a change in worker status for TNC drivers, the California Labor Commissioner’s Office ruled that a driver for the TNC service Uber should be classified as an employee, not an independent contractor.

Proposed questions for a candidate debate, teach-in, and/or solutions forum:

  • What role should City Hall play in enforcing regulations for TNCs such as Uber and Lyft?
  • Should TNC drivers be considered employees or independent contractors?
  • In what ways can our current system of taxis and TNCs be adapted in order to support both workers and taxi/TNC riders?


Tech Shuttles and Regional Transit

Regional commuting has been part of the Bay Area’s economic landscape since WWII. But San Francisco’s tech shuttle pilot program, which facilitates commuting between San Francisco and South Bay Tech companies, has been controversial due to its impact on affordable housing and City Hall’s willingness to override state law regarding environmental impact reviews and private parking in public red zones. In a recent memorandum filed by tech companies involved in a San Francisco Superior Court lawsuit against the pilot program, Apple claims to transport 2700 workers a day from San Francisco to Cupertino through its shuttle program. Google claims to transport 3000 workers, and Genentech counts another 1000.

Proposed questions for a candidate debate, teach-in, and/or solutions forum:

  • What is the connection between tech shuttles and displacement and rising rents in San Francisco neighborhoods?
  • Did San Francisco take the right approach by overriding state law in order to accommodate tech shuttles?
  • How does the tech shuttle program impact public transit infrastructure?
  • What is the future of regional commuting with both public and private transportation?
  • Should tech companies in the South Bay be responsible for supporting housing development where their employees live?