A fine balance: Housing for all in San Francisco

On Sunday morning I met a gentleman named Royalton. Royalton has been without a home since losing his job and home after going through triple bypass surgery last year. Today he is on the road to recovery.

Royalton wants a job. While he has the advantage of job skills and interview experience, many like him do not. Royalton informed me that a lot of jobless people without a home need basic skills assistance in order to find a job. He would like to see the implementation of programs that will provide job training as well as the guidance on how to properly fill out application forms and prepare for job interviews. It is only with this kind of support and assistance, he states, that our city neighbors without homes can get back on their feet. Royalton’s goal after getting a job is to save enough money to find a place to live.


In conversation with Royalton on Sunday


I also spoke with Salvador, a handyman who has worked for years as a painter and decorator around the Bay Area and currently works at a yoga studio in the city. For the past few years he has been without a permanent abode. He came to San Francisco from Spain in 1992 and fell in love with the openness and diversity of the people he met in the city. He dreams of having a place to call his own after a long day at work. Salvador is one of the thousands of invisible people working without homes in our city.

Salvador, one of the invisible people working without a home in our city

Why are some of our longest serving residents and hardest working people without homes?


As Mayor:

  • I will accelerate affordable housing construction for people like Salvador and Royalton.
  • I will fund the Small-Sites Acquisition Program.
  • I will implement the protections that are necessary to preserve this affordable housing.
  • I will ensure that the city adequately funds its program to acquire apartment buildings with tenants at risk of displacement so that tenants can remain in place in their own buildings, and will work to pass a Right of First Refusal legislation to give tenants a right, with city support, to purchase their buildings when they are put on the market.

The City is experiencing a rapid increase in rental prices, in some parts of the city rent is 100% higher than it was only three or four years ago. However, and unfortunately for people like Royalton and Salvador, as well as all working class San Franciscans, only luxury apartments that rent for upwards of $4,000 are being built. This is hardly a realistic choice for those seeking a place to call home or the working class people of San Francisco. While twelve to twenty percent of construction projects are mandated to be earmarked for “affordable units”, developers have two loopholes: they can pay a fee based on the number of units, or build a separate below-market-rate project within a mile of the project.

I strongly believe that increasing the amount of on-site construction of affordable units will create more economically diverse neighborhoods. As Mayor I would increase the percentage of on-site affordable units and reduce the number of instances where developers can choose to pay the fee. Specifically, I would increase the fees for luxury developments, up to the maximum “nexus” allowed by State law, so that developments pay the “fair share” of the impact it creates. This increase is to ensure that the new units are truly affordable — places that people like Royalton and Salvador can call home.

As Mayor of San Francisco, I will enact the anti-displacement plan for the Mission District called for in Proposition I, to ensure we build as many affordable as luxury apartments in San Francisco. For every new luxury apartment, there will be one affordable apartment. This minimum balance between affordable and luxury units is, after all, what SF voters demanded in last year’s Proposition K, but we are far from that goal. We can begin to achieve this through a combination of zoning changes that increase inclusionary requirements and development fees in all taller buildings, and by dedicating increases in local property taxes to affordable housing.

Mayor Lee has been in office for four and a half years now and he still hasn’t moved on making affordable housing a reality. Do you really think if he’s re-elected he will change his ways? This is the same Mayor who plans to remove our neighbors without homes from the streets when the Super Bowl comes to town. As Mayor of San Francisco, I will be a Mayor for all of our city’s people — the 99%. San Francisco must be once again affordable for those who are the city’s backbone — those who toil each day doing low-wage jobs.

I have been a community organizer for decades. I know that San Franciscans love and cherish the character and diversity of our neighborhoods. It is precisely that which is being destroyed by the unfettered construction of “luxury” units.

Working from the ground up we can build a movement that has the political will to implement the wisdom of the neighborhoods. It is by creating a working-family friendly city that we will achieve our common goals: to preserve the unique city we all call home. To preserve the city we love. To preserve the beautiful city that is San Francisco.

Francisco Herrera


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