District 11 Supervisor Candidates Define Their Positions At Latest Debate

Five candidates for District 11 supervisor shared their positions on parking, public safety and first-day legislation at the most recent debate.

Five people stand behind a table with microphones.
Adlah Chisti, Roger Marenco, Michael Lai, Jose Morales and EJ Jones pose for a photo after the most recent District 11 supervisor candidates debate. | Anne Marie Kristoff/Ingleside Light

Parking and road traffic policies, public safety, empty storefronts and housing initiatives like upzoning, their stance on the Ocean View Library project, which San Francisco supervisor has been effective, what endorsements they have been most proud of and what makes the community special were laid out in a debate between District 11 supervisor candidates.

Members of the public packed the Minnie & Lovie Ward Recreation Center on Sunday afternoon to hear from candidates Roger Marenco, Adlah Chisti, Michael Lai, Jose Morales and EJ Jones. The debate was hosted by community organizing and clean-up group We Are OMI, the national sustainable housing and land-use policy reform group Urban Environmentalists and the YIMBY group Southside Forward. Mission Local’s managing editor and District 11 resident Joe Eskenazi served as moderator. 

Chyanne Chen was among the candidates who were unable to attend due to a prior engagement.

“District 11's current supervisor, Ahsha Safaí, is terming out this year, leaving an open seat and that means we have an excellent opportunity to see a diverse selection of candidates and hear their visions for the city,” said Steve Marzo, volunteer with Southside Forward.

Candidates were asked 13 questions, mainly sourced from the hosts and Eskenazi, with two coming anonymously from the community. Each was given 90 seconds to answer and 30 seconds to provide a rebuttal.

The debate kicked off with a question about when is it OK for residents to park on sidewalks, whether parking control officers should swarm the Excelsior and OMI and what should be done for those placing traffic cones to reserve spots.

All candidates agreed that parking on sidewalks should be allowed if there was adequate space for pedestrians, including those in wheelchairs or with strollers, traffic cones should not be used to reserve spots and that driving or owning a car is a vital feature for the District 11 community.

Marenco, a streetcar operator with Muni, added that there was a need to protect current parking spots. Morales and Lai said parking needed to be improved, suggesting the use of angled parking on streets. Lai also said that the city should include more parking options in affordable housing developments.

In addition to parking, Chisti said that there needed to be more focus on reliable and accessible public transportation and was the only candidate who said yes to enforcement by traffic officers but added that there needed to be better solutions overall.

“We have a lot of elders in our communities that walk every single day and we don't need them on the road getting hit by cars,” Morales said. “It's the last thing we want. I also don't think anybody should get a ticket for parking in your own driveway, which I have seen. A lot of my neighbors have gotten tickets and that's just completely unfair and un-American in my opinion. Parking is a pretty big issue so we have to come up with a solution that benefits the majority of the people.”

In another question, candidates were told they won the election and asked what their first piece of legislation would be.

Marenco and Morales shared similar answers which included legislation on cleaning up and repairing the city’s streets with reallocated funds. Morales said he would also tackle the city’s crime and drug crisis by partnering with other agencies like the National Guard and neighboring sheriff’s departments for assistance.

While Lai said that legislation is just one tool a supervisor could use once in office, he added that looking at the budget would also play a key role. He would use both to prioritize lowering small business permit fees and embark on creative ideas for affordable child care like using funds from Prop. C that was passed in 2018.

Chisti and Jones both had set items they would accomplish in their first 100 days in office. Jones said he would roll out a comprehensive system for parking permit disbursement to help lessen the burden on taxpayers including making the first permit free, rolling out a comprehensive safety plan and removing language in the City Charter that currently prohibits city workers from striking and changing the HR staffing system to a faster method to hire city employees like janitorial crews in a more timely manner.

Chisti would back District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani’s legislation on oversight, accountability and transparency for nonprofits and said there needed to be a proper standard to see how money is spent and where it’s going.

“Right now, large nonprofits are being handed taxpayer dollars, not delivering on vital services that are life-saving and I question whether the governance is working for us or not,” Chisti said.

When asked how they planned on helping residents who share similar traits to those in District 11 like being “house rich but cash poor” or being a part of working-class families and living in multi-generational homes, all candidates said there was a need for more affordable housing.

Chisti, Lai and Marenco suggested building within current lots like allowing owners to build ADUs or implementing practices like Senate Bill 9 to convert single lots into two or, as Marenco suggested, incentivizing vacant lot owners to use their space to create low-income and affordable housing or giving citations to those who refuse.

Morales would work to clear red tape so building housing would be an easier process and suggested creating at market rate priced homes in addition to below market rate. He also said one issue that some residents faced was being denied places like apartments for not making four times the rent despite being able to afford them and that there should be programs enacted to help those living in multi-generational homes to move out.

Another focus for Jones, Lai and Chisti was on providing support to resources like financing tools or estate planners, continued education opportunities, after-school programs like the Mission Science Workshop and job centers.

Jones also questioned the use of lot splitting if residents didn’t have the funds to which Lai gave the first rebuttal stating how similar systems worked elsewhere after World War II where developers fronted the cost and helped owners turn their plots into duplexes.

People at table
Roger Marenco speaks as the other candidates and moderator Joe Eskenazi look on. | Anne Marie Kristoff/Ingleside Light

"I'm excited about creative solutions where our working families in D11 don't need to put cash up front but they still might be able to use lot splitting to increase their wealth and provide a home for their child,” Lai said.

Another question focused on a hot topic in the city which was on public safety, specifically how candidates would address their constituents' concerns and improve the district and what public safety concerns were relevant.

Most candidates said that property theft was among the biggest concerns of residents. Morales said it was car sideshow performances and reckless dirt bikers on city streets and a need for more funding for afterschool programs to help kids stay out of trouble.

Marenco said that the city should take a similar approach to El Salvador where criminals are treated like criminals and given harsher sentences.

Lai and Chisti both added that there should be some type of San Francisco Police Department enforcement like having foot patrol officers on the streets and fully staffed police departments. In addition, Lai said there needed to be more support for small business revitalization and pedestrian safety.

While having fully staffed first responder departments was important, Jones said that one should not come at the cost of another and that the city should take a more holistic approach. He also said that there needed to be more mental health treatments for those in need and more opportunities for residents to know their neighbors.

“This is not a one-size-fits-all solution,” Jones said. “We have to do everything collectively as a community. We have to make sure that we know our neighbors so that when Ms. Tyson and Ms. Guidry have unidentified people showing up at their steps, we can say, ‘Hey, are you going to see them? Are you safe? Do you know your neighbor?’ and that's the way we have to lead when it comes to safety. We have to make sure that we're working on all ends to keep our community safe.”

Chisti gave a general rebuttal noting how the city used to have San Francisco Safe, a SFPD-funded nonprofit that was used to aid in security and safety initiatives, before it was closed to recent corruption allegations this year. She also said that Ingleside Police Station Capt. Amy Hurwitz was restarting community vigilance programs in the neighborhood and asked if mental health services would be given to those participating in sideshows before being cut off by the timekeeper.

Before candidates were directed to give closing statements, the final debate question asked what characteristics made District 11 unique, distinct and special and what unique, distinct and special requirements were needed to do the job as its supervisor.

All candidates noted how diverse, working class, family-oriented and community-engaged the district is and how supervisors who lead them have to represent the residents and have an understanding of more than just the virtues of its growing neighborhoods but also how different its problems are to other parts of San Francisco like having a lack of non-speciality grocery stores and being under-invested in.

“D11 is unique, distinct and special because you live in it,” Marenco said. “Quite frankly, it's that simple because you live here. We have diverse cultures, traditions, immigrants, etc. One of the many attributes that a supervisor needs to have is the knowledge, intelligence, education and the will to move forward. On top of the will, the drive to continue to move forward when you are at a standstill, when you are at an obstacle when you are in front of that mountain. The drive to be able to break through that mountain, go around the mountain or go over the mountain.”

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