Why is SEIU 1021 Attacking Marjan Philhour?
Bobak Esfandiari
115

In Marjan Philhour’s campaigning over at Nextdoor, your candidate asks people to look at the “signal” rather than the noise. Ms. Philhour also asks people to understand that when her big money third party donors take pot shots at her opponent, she is legally and ethically forbidden from coordinating with them in any way or asking them to stop. So before I address your substantive points I’d simply remind you to take your own candidate’s advice to heart. (For instance, I suggest you read Matt Haney’s refutation of the ridiculous SFUSD donation hit piece you mentioned.) With that said, let’s dive into “the signal.” I’m going to address your three major points raised in reverse order:

1. We can’t build our way out of the housing crisis.

Your argue that our current housing crisis is caused “by not creating enough new housing to keep pace with our growing population.” Marjan Philhour and her supporters like Mark Farrell and Scott Wiener would like us to believe that our problem is simply one of demand — we need more supply to match the demand, and presto, market rates will go down. The math on this over-simplistic approach does not add up. It is impossible to build enough housing to the point where market forces begin lowering prices. San Francisco’s chief economist found in 2014 that it would take 100,000 new units to begin stabilizing the housing market. That is the same amount of new units that have been built in San Francisco since 1920. 1920! We simply cannot build enough housing in San Francisco to match the huge number of highly paid professionals rapidly moving into the Bay Area and San Francisco. No one wants to shut the doors on new innovators, entrepreneurs, and professionals moving here. We all want to see the robust economic engine of San Francisco keep chugging along. But since we cannot match demand, we need to build more while simultaneously supporting policies that prevent wild runaway rents and housing prices. Which brings me to the next point:

2. Your candidate’s endorsements and real estate donors indicate she will never be a strong advocate for affordable housing.

The same SF economist cited above said we need a market-wide affordable housing target of at least 25% to affect the rental and housing market. Your candidate is endorsed by Mark Farrell and Scott Wiener, both of whom voted against modest legislation in support of that very goal. (Although it passed, 9–2, many advocates don’t even think 25% is enough.) Neither Farrell or Wiener are true friends of affordable housing solutions: Mark Farrell supports the continued erosion of new affordable housing development via Propositions U and P. Last year Scott Wiener put forward a ridiculous proposal to define brand new luxury SRO condos as “affordable housing.” Based on these and other endorsements, and based on donations from big time real estate developers, elite tech CEO’s, Airbnb, and others in support of Ms. Philhour, it is fairly clear that she, like Farrell, Wiener, Ed Lee and others, will be another vote for luxury condo developers and big business. Which brings me to my final point, which is answering your primary question:

3. Why is the SEIU attacking Marjan Philhour?

Marjan Philhour, Mark Farrell, Mayor Ed Lee et al. will support policies making it harder for SEIU 1021 members to live in the City. Teachers, law enforcement, firefighters, nurses, social workers, and others who either rent or cannot afford million dollar plus homes need a strong advocate at City Hall. That’s why Sandy’s campaign is overwhelmingly funded by small donations from Richmond district residents, as opposed to large corporate donors from outside the Richmond district that are spending heavily to elect Marjan Philhour. That’s why SEIU is fighting for a progressive candidate like Sandy.