Out supervisor candidates detail housing plans

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday June 1, 2022
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Board of Supervisor candidates Ken Carlson (Contra Costa), left, Rebecca Kaplan (Alameda), and Laura Parmer-Lohan (San Mateo) offered various proposals for housing and rent relief ahead of the June 7 primary election. Photos: Courtesy the candidates<br>
Board of Supervisor candidates Ken Carlson (Contra Costa), left, Rebecca Kaplan (Alameda), and Laura Parmer-Lohan (San Mateo) offered various proposals for housing and rent relief ahead of the June 7 primary election. Photos: Courtesy the candidates

The lack of affordable housing throughout the Bay Area remains one of the most pressing issues impacting the region. Should the three out candidates for supervisor seats in Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Mateo counties be elected, they plan to advance various proposals to address their jurisdictions' housing needs, from building more units near transit stations to backing developments aimed at LGBTQ seniors.

The trio of supervisorial candidates laid out their plans in the questionnaires the Bay Area Reporter sent them, which also asked them how they would protect tenants unable to pay their rent during the COVID-19 pandemic from being evicted. All three races are on the June 7 primary, where if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote then the top two vote-getters will compete for the seat on the November ballot.

Gay Pleasant Hill City Councilmember Ken Carlson is seeking the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors' open District 4 seat, which spans the cities of Concord, Pleasant Hill, Clayton, and parts of Walnut Creek. If elected, he pledged to continue to support tenants who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic.

"Just because the pandemic ends it does not mean that our residents can instantly recover financially. I will continue support and prevent evictions allowing tenants time to find jobs and recover financially from the pandemic," Carlson told the B.A.R.

Vying to become the first known LGBTQ member of his county board, Carlson pointed to his support of three specific projects for low-income/affordable housing in Pleasant Hill. The city transferred property to Habitat for Humanity, he explained, and awarded it a forgivable loan to build the below-market-rate units.

"I just advocated for 484 units of workforce housing which was also approved. I continue to advocate for and seek opportunities for affordable and workforce housing opportunities," said Carlson. "I will continue to fight for more housing units and density that is appropriate for our community."

Oakland At-Large City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, a lesbian and the body's lone out member, is also vying to become the first LGBTQ person on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. She is seeking the open District 3 seat that includes the cities of Alameda, San Leandro, a portion of Oakland, and the unincorporated communities of San Lorenzo, Hayward Acres, and a portion of Ashland.

Kaplan worked with her council colleagues to pass a moratorium in Oakland on evictions for COVID financial losses. While the law stemmed a tide of evictions in the city, she said more could be done at the county level to protect renters still facing economic hardships due to the ongoing pandemic.

"For example, there are new state funds available for local jurisdictions to apply for, to help expand tenant assistance, and while Oakland has applied to the state for those funds to help those within Oakland, Alameda County has not yet sought them, which I am urging the county should do," noted Kaplan. "The county only now has enough money to assist roughly half of their qualified applicants for rent assistance, so I am advocating to pursue the additional funding to help cover those rents and prevent a flood of evictions at the county level."

Kaplan added that she would press the county board to adopt additional protections for tenants, such as a "Just Cause for Eviction" policy and "other process steps to redress potential wrongful evictions, which we have passed in Oakland, and which need greater support at the county. "

She supports the creation of "livable transit-oriented communities" in order to foster smart growth development in more urban areas of the county in order to protect its open space and agricultural lands. One zoning change she would push for on the county board is changing minimum parking requirements in developments in order to promote public transit use.

"We must revitalize our central neighborhoods by improving connections to transportation, ensuring public safety, and encouraging local businesses. This strategy is simultaneously an effective way to protect farmland and wild areas from being lost," said Kaplan, who previously served on the board of the county's transit agency. "I have been a leader in seeking common-sense development rules that allow for density on our transit corridors while eliminating unreasonable barriers to development in the right locations. I would combine this progressive legislative approach with courageous leadership, requiring smart traffic demand management programs, pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements, and coordinating transit to make these efforts effective."

Lesbian San Carlos City Councilmember Laura Parmer-Lohan is running for the open District 3 seat on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. The district sprawls from the coastal towns along Highway 1 to the suburban cities of Atherton, San Carlos, and parts of Menlo Park and Belmont.

Parmer-Lohan would become the first out woman to serve on her county board if elected. There hasn't been an LGBTQ community member on the board since 2010 when gay then-supervisor Rich Gordon won election to the state Assembly.

She pointed to her calling for San Carlos to allocate in its city budget financial help for families to stay in their homes due to the eviction risk related to COVID. As a supervisor, she pledged to "continue to promote realistic and quantifiable programs to advocate for working families and reverse housing instability."

Another idea she backs is consolidating county-owned corporate yards to free up land for the development of affordable housing. The county should also look at buying larger parcels of land that come on the market in order to build housing for farm workers, she told the B.A.R.

"I will continue to champion the creation of affordable housing. In the City of San Carlos, I insisted that staff conduct proactive outreach to the broader community, including renters, to facilitate discussion on the topic," said Parmer-Lohan. "During my tenure on council and as mayor, the initial call for a building moratorium has evolved to a call for more affordable housing. And the city is activating housing trust funds and public/private partnerships to convert two six-unit apartment buildings to quadruple the number of qualified residents."

Housing at BART stations

All three candidates support building more affordable housing near the regional transit agency BART's stations in their respective counties.

"I believe affordable housing should be justly dispersed throughout our community, with thought to access to transportation, retail, and other needs," said Carlson.

Kaplan pointed to her voting on the council to designate the areas around Oakland's transit hubs as Priority Development Areas to allow for denser in-fill housing developments and backed updating the city's zoning to support such projects.

"I am a strong supporter of transit-oriented development as a strategy to protect the environment and to create jobs while also expanding affordable housing," she told the B.A.R. "I have a strong track record of actively supporting the development of housing, including affordable housing, at transit hubs, including at MacArthur BART, which is already built, and at Coliseum BART, where the council recently unanimously approved a proposal I brought forth to develop housing at all income levels along with mixed-use development."

In addition to BART property, Parmer-Lohan told the B.A.R. she also favors seeing any publicly owned lands used for the construction of more affordable housing.

"Housing is a right and needs to be created," she said. "I am an advocate of transit-oriented housing, infill and redevelopment to house our young adults, seniors, teachers, first responders, farm workers and essential workers. We need to increase density and height along transit corridors and encourage developers to seek density bonuses."

Affordable homes for LGBTQ seniors

On the topic of affordable housing for LGBTQ seniors in their counties, the candidates pledged to do what they could as a supervisor to increase the supply of such homes in their communities. Kaplan noted that not only is there an inadequate supply of affordable housing for LGBTQ seniors, but what does exist often isn't welcoming of such residents.

"I have worked with community organizations including Lavender Seniors, and the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center, and partnered with other organizations, to support our LGBT+ seniors, to help pursue creation of housing (including affordable housing) for LGBT people in Oakland, and, should I have the opportunity to serve on the County Board of Supervisors, I would bring this approach to the County, which controls significant resources," pledged Kaplan.

Carlson noted how as a council member he had partnered with Satellite Affordable Housing and approved the development of 81 units of affordable senior housing in Pleasant Hill.

"I will continue this model on the Board of Supervisors," he said. "We need to create more inclusive and safe affordable housing for our seniors, and we need to do it with easily accessible support services."

Parmer-Lohan told the B.A.R. that "any, and all, affordable housing for seniors must be inclusive and welcoming" to LGBTQ seniors. In addition to backing policies at the county level to increase the supply of such housing, she said she would work to ensure the developments provide "safe living" environments for LGBTQ residents.

"To realize this, I will establish a program that provides training to housing facilities and staff, and provide tools to ensure that their policies and practices are culturally sensitive and welcoming including all gender restrooms and gender identity inclusive intake forms," said Parmer-Lohan.

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