District 7 Supervisor Candidates Face Off In First Forum

Supervisor Myrna Melgar, small business owner Matthew Boschetto and firefighter Stephen Martin-Pinto presented their positions.

Three people at a table.
District 7 supervisor candidates Matthew Boschetto, Stephen Martin-Pinto and Supervisor Myrna Melgar at Bookshop West Portal on June 27, 2024. | Jerold Chinn/Ingleside Light

West Portal street changes, upzoning for more housing and people living in RVs by Lake Merced were just some issues candidates for District 7 supervisor discussed at a Thursday night forum hosted by Mission Local at Bookshop West Portal.

Kelly Waldron, a reporter at Mission Local covering the race, moderated the event before a crowd of 30 people. Three of the four candidates participated: Small business owner Matt Boschetto, firefighter Stephen Martin-Pinto and Supervisor Myrna Melgar, who was elected in 2020. Edward Yee did not participate.

Waldron asked about half a dozen questions, including individual questions for each candidate and a lightning round where candidates responded to questions with “yes” or “no” answers. She kicked off the forum by asking about the people living in RVs parked on streets between Stonestown Galleria and Lake Merced who will be evicted in July when four-hour parking restriction enforcement begins.

Melgar, 56, said she has been working with the Department of Homelessness of Supportive Housing for the past three years to help find alternative solutions for people living there. “We have had success with 38 families who have taken vouchers and gone into permanent housing,” she said. “However, it is not a safe place to be neither for the folks who live there nor for the community around them to have no sewer water or disposal of waste right above Lake Merced Boulevard.”

Melgar added that those who do not take a voucher or offers by the city will need to move.

Martin-Pinto, 42, said the city simply needs to enforce the laws on the books. “We have standards,” he said. “If you don't enforce the standard you're creating a new standard.”

Martin-Pinto added that homeless outreach teams should be more aggressive, citing De Wolf Street as an example where city departments worked to help RV residents find housing.

Boschetto, 35, said there was room for compassion, especially for the working poor, for people experiencing homelessness, but looked at it in two categories: those who accept services and those who refuse services. “​​We need to offer them services and if they accept those services, we better have the infrastructure to get them in them right away,” he said. “But if they don't accept those services, you know, we can't let people stay there.”

Waldron asked candidates about how District 7 will help meet the state-mandated housing goal of 82,000 new housing units by 2031.

People seated.
The crowd at Bookshop West Portal for the District 7 supervisor forum. | Jerold Chinn/Ingleside Light

Martin-Pinto said there is still room in the district to grow and build around Stonestown Galleria and Park Merced while protecting single-family homes on the west side. The permitting process can be improved in building new homes tossing the idea of a “split permitting process where building permits are ministerial, but the planning process is discretionary,” he said.

Boschetto said that he does want to build more housing units in the district, but cited that the the city’s draft upzoning map caused “more political uproar” than what was needed. “If we were much more targeted about it much more surgical about it, we'd be able to produce the units without creating the war,” he said.

Melgar said the city needs more affordable housing for families and seniors, so people can downsize to smaller homes and for people who are starting with their work life. “I think the plan to upzone commercial corridors and transportation corridors is the right one,” she said. “I think the maps that the Planning Commission put out are not quite there yet. I think that we need to finesse them a little bit, but I stand on the side of building housing.”

Waldron asked about the proposed traffic changes on West Portal Avenue and Ulloa Street and what they have learned from how the process went down and how a supervisor should manage the situation.

A family of four was killed at the intersection of Ulloa Street and Lenox Way in March when a vehicle crashed into the bus stop where the family was waiting for the bus. The crash prompted Mayor London Breed and Melgar to ask the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to draw up plans to make traffic safety improvements in the area. The original proposal drew opposition from the West Portal community and merchants.

Martin-Pinto said it was important to gather all the facts of the crash before proposing a solution and the best way to proceed. “What a supervisor has to do is navigate through that emotional, highly charged process with maturity with intelligence, with deference and try to gather the community and direct them toward the best situation,” he said.

Boschetto said the original proposal came from City Hall, not the community. “I just really want to focus on community-led processes; really listen to my constituency, see what they want from me as a supervisor and try to lead and make my decisions from there,” he said.

Melgar said both acting decisively and using a community process was the right to do. After pushback from the original proposal by the SFMTA, the “West Portal Welcoming Committee” was created that included merchants, transit advocates and residents to refine the proposal. “I think what we ultimately came up with, while it may not make everyone happy, I think most people can live with,” she said.

Waldron asked individual questions tailored for each candidate.

First up, Waldron asked Martin-Pinto if he voted for former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election as Martin-Pinto had registered as Republican as of last year. He said that he voted for Trump in 2020 because he believed Trump has stronger policies on border control. Martin-Pinto said he does not support Trump and now and is seeking other candidates.

Boschetto was asked why voters should support him if he had not voted in the past, a fact recently exposed in a Mission Local article. He said that he had prioritized voting on days when he was busy with his kids and small businesses adding that it was a “huge mistake.” He added that he realized that voters do have a voice following the recall elections in the city and apologized.

Melgar was asked how she would represent all District 7 constituents in light of comments were made about attendees of a meeting on housing organized by several organizations, including Neighborhoods United. She said the participants “were not my people.” “I think it is important to have representatives who will listen and who will have processes to incorporate people's voices. Despite those disagreements, I think that's actually the trick to democracy,” she said.

Howard Lee, who said Martin-Pinto resonated with him, said he understands that Melgar is “caught in a rock and hard place” and does not fault her for balancing the needs of everybody and her own needs “but my values don't fall within hers.”

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