4 priorities seen for new D8 supervisor

  • by Andrea Aiello
  • Wednesday January 4, 2017
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Editor's note: The Bay Area Reporter asked community leaders to weigh in on what they think the new District 8 supervisor should focus on in 2017.


The Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District was a pretty amazing idea when it started more than 10 years ago: local property owners voted to pay an additional fee to develop services to make the neighborhood clean, safe, and vital. Yes, they, in essence, taxed themselves to improve the Castro. So with that commitment in mind, here are some of the priorities the CBD sees for the next supervisor.

Affordability and housing supply

To maintain a vibrant and thriving neighborhood a mix of housing needs to be maintained. That's why we'd prefer to have the city's required affordable housing units in new developments built on site and included in any new buildings in the neighborhood, rather than outsourced elsewhere.

At the same time, the city needs to look at why so many existing housing units are kept empty, rather than rented out. By some estimates, thousands of apartments citywide are purposely left vacant because landlords believe there are disincentives to renting them out. Let's finally deal with that so people can have homes in buildings that already exist.

It's also astonishing how slowly the system works, even when everyone agrees that a vacant lot or underused property should be developed for much-needed housing. One example is 2100 Market Street, site of the long defunct Home restaurant. It has taken three and half years for a plan for housing there to move forward. That's too long.

Quality of life issues

No one in San Francisco should step out of their homes onto dirty needles, clean up human feces, or be afraid to walk their neighborhood in fear of being accosted by a meth-crazed individual or by someone in the depths of psychosis. Likewise, it is inhumane for us to let people suffer on the streets without immediate access to treatment and resources.

Each neighborhood has different challenges related to homelessness and under-housed individuals. Regional and citywide solutions must be developed, but neighborhood solutions should also be created. The population of un-housed individuals in the Castro is very different from those on Divisadero or in the Tenderloin. The local Castro Cares program is trying to develop solutions, and the new supervisor must be knowledgeable about the issues and support community groups to develop local solutions.

Economic vitality

The current commercial/retail vacancy rate in the Castro is about 7 percent. New construction will bring about 9,000 square feet of commercial space to the neighborhood.

So we have the available space, but it's incredibly challenging to open a small business in San Francisco. The wheels at City Hall move very slowly when it comes to approving new businesses. It's unacceptable when it takes a popular local restaurant, with no opposition, nearly a year to expand its dining room into an empty adjacent storefront. And it took more than a year for a small business with neighborhood support to replace a blighted lot with outdoor seating. This can't keep happening.

It's also wrong for long-term commercial vacancies to be allowed to persist for years and years. Empty storefronts cause blight and hurt the neighborhood, and the new supervisor should get involved and help expedite plans for businesses that will help keep the Castro thriving.

Public safety

Recently there have been officers in the Castro on foot patrol, and this needs to continue. San Francisco Police Department Captain Daniel Perea, who leads the Mission Station, which has the responsibility for the Castro, is in the neighborhood often, and he knows the importance of this type of community policing. But the Castro has to compete for attention with the Mission, one of the busiest districts for the SFPD. And by many accounts, the station is understaffed.

The new supervisor should look at whether Mission Station has adequate resources to continue to serve both the Mission and the Castro.

Housing, homelessness, local business development, and public safety are all complex challenges. If there were simple, easy solutions, they would have been found by now. The CBD's commitment is to help the new supervisor with any insight we can offer to tackle these priorities.


Andrea Aiello is the executive director of the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District.