San Francisco voters will recognize two familiar names in the state Senate box on their primary ballots. Current City Supervisors Jane Kim and Scott Wiener are both running for District 11 representing San Francisco and northern parts of San Mateo County.
Ken Woo, a Republican firefighter and business owner, is also in the race. One of them will be replacing incumbent Mark Leno, who is terming out of office after this year.
Kim and Wiener have a lot in common. Both were elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2010, and both have been passing a lot of progressive legislation in the past year. Both say they’d be committed to tackling some similar issues, like affordable housing, homelessness, and transportation.
But when they’re asked how they would solve those problems, their differences begin to show. Take affordable housing for example. In almost every debate, Wiener criticized Kim’s support of what's commonly known as the Mission Housing Moratorium last November; had the proposition passed, it would have paused market-rate housing development in the Mission for over a year.
“We need to stop trying to shut down housing production in our city, and that is why I opposed the Mission Housing Moratorium,” said Wiener. “Supervisor Kim co-authored the Mission Housing Moratorium. That was a step in the wrong direction and the voters wisely rejected it.”
Kim had something to say about that.
“There was no moratorium,” she retorted. “It never said, ‘We will never build again.’ It said, ‘We never put studies and plans in place to ensure that we’re not building more than single digit affordable housing.’”
The idea of creating more affordable housing crept into almost every topic in each of the debates. When asked how they would tackle climate change, both candidates said building more affordable housing in the city would be a big help. They both believe a city dense with housing would reduce the number of people commuting into the region in cars.
“We have residents that are commuting as far as from Central California, from Vallejo, to get to the jobs where they are making good income for their families. This is impacting our carbon footprint far more than other environmental failures here in the state of California,” Kim said.
Both Kim and Wiener agree that more housing – and reforming the Ellis Act – are effective big-picture solutions to homelessness in Bay Area. But when the debate ventured into short term fixes, Kim and Wiener started to disagree, specifically on the Right to Rest Act. That’s a bill currently making its way through the state legislature. If passed, it would get rid of local ordinances that ban activities like camping on the street, sitting and lying on the sidewalk, and living in cars. Wiener doesn’t like it.
“Our goal should not be to allow people to live in tents on our sidewalks. It is neither humane, safe, nor healthy for people to be living and ultimately dying in tents on our sidewalk,” Wiener said.
Kim supports the Right To Rest Act, and she criticized Wiener for backing the sweep of the homeless camp on Division Street earlier this spring.
“It’s one thing to say that it’s inhumane to pitch a tent on the street, but it’s also inhumane to sweep people when you don’t have a place to put them,” Kim responded.
PUBLIC SAFETY AND POLICING
One of the final issues Kim and Wiener disagreed on was public safety and policing. When asked about how they would stop quality of life crimes like break-ins and bike theft, Wiener talked about getting more officers on the street.
“We do not have nearly enough officers, whether it’s to walk beats or do traffic enforcement, and this is a real distinction in this race. While I have fought to try to restaff our department as our city has grown, my opponent has been oppositional and in fact opposed my legislation to tie police staffing to population growth,” Wiener said.
Kim didn’t exactly agree.
“We know that intervention, school, after school programs, job creation, drug treatment and, yes, housing, absolutely works to prevent crime, and as your state senator, I’m going to work to strengthen these very programs. I’m not opposed to increasing the number of officers on our street, but I’m also supporting making cops accountable,” Kim said.
Last month, Kim was one of the first supervisors to call for former Police Chief Greg Suhr’s resignation.
Other topics they discussed at their debates included tech shuttle buses, LGBT issues, and education – including Kim’s proposal to make City College free. Voters can cast their vote for state Senate candidates on June 7 in the primary election. The top two contenders will compete again on the November ballot.