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Political Notebook: Mandelman prioritizes homelessness, housing issues

by Matthew S. Bajko

District 6 supervisor candidate Matt Haney, left, rode with District 8 Supervisor-elect Rafael Mandelman in Sunday's Pride parade. Photo: Rick Gerharter
District 6 supervisor candidate Matt Haney, left, rode with District 8 Supervisor-elect Rafael Mandelman in Sunday's Pride parade. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

Gay District 8 Supervisor-elect Rafael Mandelman is eager to get to work at City Hall addressing two of the city's most pressing concerns: homelessness and housing.

Having defeated the current representative for the city's gay Castro district, as well as Noe Valley, Diamond Heights, and Glen Park, in the June 5 primary election, Mandelman will succeed gay Supervisor Jeff Sheehy when he takes his oath of office July 11.

Mandelman, 44, formerly worked for the city of Oakland as a deputy city attorney and throughout his legal career has helped cities across the East Bay build housing. During the campaign for supervisor, he highlighted the need for San Francisco to build more affordable housing and improve the services it offers to people living on the streets.

And he spoke often of how the dual issues have personally impacted his own family. When he was 11 years old his mother, struggling with mental illness, ended up homeless. Mandelman had to fend for himself, and in high school, lived with a couple who offered him a place to stay in the city's Richmond district.

He eventually secured guardianship over his mother in order to get her the care she needed. It is why he supports revising the state's conservatorship laws in order to make it easier to provide services to homeless individuals struggling with mental illness or substance use on the city's streets.

Thursday, Mandelman will be in Sacramento testifying on behalf of gay state Senator Scott Wiener's Senate Bill 1045, which would give counties more flexibility in administering conservatorship programs for the chronically homeless.

(Mandelman will serve out the remainder of Wiener's supervisor term through early January 2019. Wiener resigned from his board seat after being elected to the state Senate in November 2016.)

His position on the policy dovetails with that of Mayor-elect London Breed, the first African-American woman to be elected mayor of San Francisco. Like Mandelman, Breed, 43, has pledged to address the city's lack of affordable housing and ongoing homelessness crisis as her top concerns.

The two met last week at the Grove, a restaurant not far from City Hall, to discuss their priorities once they take office.

"We both are concerned about the folks on the street who are just very, very sick," said Mandelman. "I also want to work with her on the larger homelessness issues of having thousands of people living on our streets."

Since being appointed to Wiener's seat in January of last year, Sheehy has focused on increasing city funding for homeless youth, especially LGBTQ youth who make up nearly half of those living on the street. He worked with both the late mayor Ed Lee and Mayor Mark Farrell to secure $1.54 million this current fiscal year and in the proposed budget for the next fiscal year to support several programs targeted at homeless youth.

Mandelman told the Bay Area Reporter that he would ensure that the city continues to allocate the funding, which provides housing assistance and funds the LGBT Community Center's LGBTQ homeless youth services.

And he insisted that "there is a lot we can do" when it comes to building affordable housing in District 8. Mandelman is meeting with Kate Hartley, director of the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development, to discuss the issue. Over the last decade the only new below-market-rate housing project built in the district, noted Mandelman, has been the apartments geared for LGBT seniors at 55 Laguna.

"I want to do an inventory of sites in District 8 that could accommodate new affordable housing development," said Mandelman. "There are some but not a ton."

He pointed to such sites as corner gas stations and city-owned parking lots in the Castro, and underutilized commercial spaces along the upper Market Street corridor as possible redevelopment sites. Mandelman would also like to see buildings with rent-controlled units in District 8 be acquired through the city's small sites acquisition fund.

"One problem is we are not looking at larger buildings. The per-unit cost there could be lower," he said. "We need to be realistic about our expectations, as sites may be more expensive in some neighborhoods than others. But that doesn't mean we give up on doing affordable housing in the Castro."

One idea Mandelman floated is establishing a community development organization focused on building affordable housing for the LGBT community in the Castro. It would be modeled after established agencies in the city's Chinese and Latino communities.

By the end of the year Mandelman pledged to reach out to property owners to gauge their interest in redeveloping their sites.

"I do think there are potential sites for new developments of affordable housing," he said.

Staff, swearing-in set
Mandelman will be sworn into office at 1 p.m. Wednesday, July 11, inside the board's chambers in City Hall a couple of hours after Breed takes her oath of office to become mayor. He will also resign that day from his seat on the city's community college board, allowing Breed to appoint his replacement.

Mandelman said he did not suggest anyone in particular to Breed. He does believe she should look at naming an Asian-American appointee since that community currently is not represented on the college board.

He already has hired his three legislative aides to assist him at City Hall. Fellow gay community college board trustee Tom Temprano will be handling issues related to the Castro. The well known DJ will need to step away from the bar he co-owns in the Mission due to working for Mandelman.

Kyle Smeallie, a straight man who was Mandelman's campaign manager, will focus on Noe Valley where the campaign had its headquarters. Erin Mundy, a queer bisexual woman who served as the campaign manager of gay former state lawmaker and city supervisor Mark Leno's failed mayoral bid, will handle issues in the hillside neighborhoods of the district.

They are still determining what citywide policy issues each will focus on in the supervisor's office.

Mandelman's victory last month means the progressives will once again have a 6-5 majority on the board, as Sheehy had aligned with the moderates. But moving to block the progressive supervisors from electing a member of their bloc the new board president, Breed resigned from the position at the end of the supervisor's June 26 meeting. (She will step down as the District 5 supervisor the day she becomes mayor.)

She voted Tuesday night with the 10 other supervisors to elect District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen as her successor through the end of the year. Cohen, who is termed out this year and seeking a seat on the state tax board in November, was the only person to be nominated for the powerful post.

With competitive races for the board's District 2, 4, 6, and 10 seats on the November ballot, control of the board could swing back to the moderates next year. A new board president will be elected in early January when the winners of the fall races are sworn into office.

Facing only token opposition in November, Mandelman is expected to easily win a full four-year term as supervisor.

"It means I get to start doing the job. I don't have to spend the next six months dividing myself between a campaign and doing the job," said Mandelman. "It is hard to do that and do a good job as a supervisor."

Political Notes, the notebook's online companion, is going on summer hiatus. It will return Monday, July 30.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes .
Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail m.bajko@ebar.com.

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