Bernal Heights rarely gets the opportunity to choose a new representative to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, but Supervisor David Campos is termed-out, and it’s time for a change. A real change.
At first blush, the two leading candidates for the D9 Supe seem pretty similar. Joshua Arce and Hillary Ronen are both progressive. Both are parents to young children. Both speak Spanish fluently. Both are lawyers with deep experience fighting for social justice. And both are renters (though Ronen only moved to D9 late last year).
The big difference between them is that Hillary Ronen is running as the chosen heir to David Campos, our current Supervisor. For the last six years, Ronen has been an insider working for Campos in City Hall as his legislative aide, and she’s running to continue many of his current policies for another four+ years. That’s unfortunate, because Supervisor Campos has become an increasingly divisive and mean-spirited figure who presided over a worsening affordability crisis in D9, with no new affordable housing developments built here during his tenure. Meanwhile, increased property crime has been a persistent woe, along with indifference to quality-of -life concerns and transit improvements. Campos has also dogmatically opposed building more housing (at least until lobbyists pay proper homage).
Sure, it sucks to have an embarrassing boss, but as Campos’s self-described “chief of staff,” Ronen bears some responsibility for failures that include many pieces of legislation that were thrown out by the courts, others which backfired, and an exasperating pattern of ignoring constituent calls and emails. (Really, it’s difficult to overstate how frequently Bernalwood hears about this from frustrated Bernal residents who have gotten zero response from Campos’s office in general, and sometimes, from Ronen in particular.)
This pattern of sloppiness seems set to continue, as the centerpiece of Ronen’s campaign is a pledge to create 5000 new units of subsidized-affordable housing in the next 10 years. It’s a swell slogan, and a nice round number, but here in the realm of reality, subsidized-affordable housing costs around $600,000 per unit to build. So Ronen’s 5000 units would cost a staggering $3 billion, and her plan is so poorly thought-out that when asked at a recent debate how she would make it happen, she pulled a Rick Perry and forgot her own answer.
Enough. As D9 Supervisor, Josh Arce would be a more effective progressive to represent Bernal Heights. With a background in environmental justice and affordable housing development, Arce is a patient community-builder and a careful policymaker, and in recent years he’s used those skills to help shut down dirty power plants and create new employment opportunities for local construction workers. Here in Bernal, neighbors have praised his work on projects such as the Esmeralda Slide Re-Renovation and the installation of the (previously stalled) new Coleridge Mini-Park lighting. The reports Bernalwood has received highlight his persistence, his ability to get results from City bureaucracy, his engagement, and his attention to detail.
Arce’s proposal to pay for a new BART station on Mission at 30th Street by building 1600 new units of housing on City-identified sites and parking lots is a compelling long-term vision for the future of our Mission Street corridor. And though Arce is the first to admit it will be challenging to realize, a new BART station would also cost at least $2.5 billion dollars less than Ronen’s far-fetched housing scheme. In the face of the ongoing affordability crisis, we need a Supervisor who will work for all D9 residents without creating spiteful divisions based based on when people moved here and where they go to work. Josh Arce is the best candidate to represent Bernal Heights on the Board of Supervisors.