Supervisor Brown on Housing, Homeless, and Clean Streets

[Published in the November / December edition of NOPNA News]

Vallie Brown is no stranger to NOPA. Prior to being appointed by Mayor London Breed as the new District 5 supervisor, she was a neighbor, community organizer, and legislative aide to both Breed and Ross Mirkarimi. She draws on these experiences when speaking of her vision for NOPA, which centers on three topics: housing, homelessness, and clean streets.

“We’re in a housing crisis and we need all types of housing to ensure we have choices,” she urged in a recent conversation. “We need to ensure all new developments feature as much affordable housing as possible without crushing the project.” By leveraging density bonuses, she pushed two high-profile NOPA developments, at 400 and 650 Divisadero, to raise their inclusionary housing levels to 20% and hopes future developments will achieve 23% inclusionary. At the same time, she aims to ensure inclusionary units for those at various levels of the average median income (AMI), primarily 55%, the lowest range. Finally, she plans to use other tools, such as neighborhood preference, condo fees, and the city’s small site program, to protect renters from displacement and increase the city’s affordable housing funds.

“I can’t go to a community meeting without hearing about the homeless issue,” Brown mentioned, turning her attention to the area’s homelessness. “Anyone who has lived here a while would agree.” Brown supports the recent conservatorship legislation passed at the state level and adds, “we’re seeing what the opioid crisis is doing to people.” She sees Prop C as a critical step to increasing shelter capacity and housing options along with on-site, wrap-around services, a model which has worked in cities such as New York. Lastly, she adds that this is a regional issue: “We need San Jose, Oakland, other cities in the Bay area to come together and solve this homeless problem though money and services.”

Clean streets, her third priority, is intertwined with the first two. She sees programs such as once- or twice-monthly dump days, additional public trash cans, and public education as critical to fighting the neighborhood’s trash problem. She also raised the idea of neighbors “adopting a block” to increase accountability. For those who say these are city issues, she says, “We need to have the shared responsibility for making our city better if we can get people to understand that, then things will get better.”