So yesterday, instead of hanging out on our fire escape or enjoying the outdoor seating of farm:table, we spent the good part of our afternoon listening to District 6 candidates ramble on about affordable housing at the main public library. During the past week we had seen signs around the neighborhood announcing the debate, some of them in English, others in Chinese and others in Spanish. Being a sucker for all things multilingual, I liked that.

However, the debate left much to be desired which was foreshadowed by SFMike of the Civic Center Blog wishing us luck after he snapped us a few shots at the beginning and then left. For starters, only 7 out the 14 registered candidates were invited to participate: (from left to right) Glendon “Anna Conda” Hyde, James Keys, Jane Kim, Jim Meko, Theresa Sparks and Debra Walker. Elaine Zamora was also invited but couldn’t come for personal reasons.

Apparently, inviting not all candidates but only the ones who raised more campaign money, more signatures or the organizers like better is a common thing in these kinds of forums. I understand that having a debate with 14 people could be hard to manage, but why deprive citizens of enjoying candidates debating nude? Or finally meet the man behind Pot Talk TV? At least Glendon Hyde could have made the effort to show up as Anna Conda… At least in this forum they allowed the candidates not invited to speak to be present in the room, unlike the the debate organized by the South of Market Business Association about a month ago. Maybe the SOMA guys were afraid excluded candidate Dean Clarke’s dog would bark at the speakers like he did this time when they were introduced? Smart dog, by the way.

Since the focus of the debate was on low-income housing, it was organized by a bunch of groups that advocate for it, and the folks in attendance seemed to be all recipients (or wannabe recipients) of it, the debate was rather repetitive and without much diversity of opinions. I mean, saying anything against low-income housing in the Tenderloin would be like admitting to the fact that there is sometimes fog in San Francisco. We all know the truth (in that more low-income housing won’t fix a single problem) but no one wants to be that guy/girl/transsexual who actually comes out and says it.

Quotes from the housing debate

Debra Walker said San Franciso is one of the most expensive cities in the US and probably the world, so we should find creative ways to keep affordable housing around. Jane Kim also said that “most of us can’t afford to live in San Francisco”.

Jane Kim (and the other candidates agreed with her) said affordable housing is not just about accommodation, but about services too. They all emphasized the importance of the quality of life in the neighborhood, of clean and safe streets. In fact, when asked about Chris Daly, Theresa Sparks said his big downfall had been to focus too much on housing and less on safety and quality of the neighborhood (and also focusing too much on the TL to the detriment of other parts of the district).

Jim Meko said that at one point in his life he lived on Hyde street between Turk and Eddy (I think he said in an SRO) and that “there’s no dignity” in living in a room without a shower or kitchen, “we need to move away from the SRO model of housing”. He also said that we have to prevent San Francisco from becoming “a bedroom community for Silicon Valley”.

Glendon Hyde repeated several times that landlords need to be held accountable for the shitty services they provide (and for bedbugs). He also said rent control should be extended, and that “we should go after the AoA” (yesss!).

Of course, when asked about gentrification they were all against it, but they didn’t really define what gentrification means to them. Theresa Sparks said “what makes San Francisco San Francisco is diversity” so gentrification by a single population group can’t be allowed, “there’s no alternative”. However, Theresa Sparks also said the smartest thing in the whole debate, and something we wholeheartedly agree with:

The Tenderloin needs to stop being a containment district for low-income people, and low-income services need to stop being focused in the Tenderloin. People should be able to live anywhere in the city, regardless of how much they earn.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot: James Keys basically said nothing besides “I’m endorsed by Chris Daly” and generally behaved like a jackass with no platform other than empty populism, which in this town just might work…

Note: the post has been ammended to reflect that the candidate who wasn’t let into the forum organized by the SOMA Business Association was H. Brown and not Glendon Anna Conda Hyde as we originally stated. It was an honest mistake and we apologize.