San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee

In January, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee unveiled what he called his “affordability agenda,” including a proposed hike in the minimum wage and construction of more low-cost housing. But he also urged San Franciscans not to take the city’s economic recovery for granted. “There is not a city on the planet that would refuse to trade places with our robust economic condition right now,” he said. Still, some critics say the mayor has been too slow to address the city’s housing shortage and rapidly rising cost of living, and that he is too cozy with the tech industry. Mayor Lee joins us to discuss the economy, the future of MUNI, the city college accreditation crisis, State Senator Leland Yee’s corruption case and other issues.

Ed Lee, mayor of the City and County of San Francisco

  • Guest

    Ed, in feudal Japan when a Samurai brought shame on his nation or his clan, he would fall on his sword to make things right, thereby taking responsibility for his failure and the damaging consequences thereof. Given that your policies regarding high tech have evidently ignited a disaster of mass evictions by rapacious speculators, and have caused enormous pollution from shuttle buses, these failures of yours having heaped shame and notoriety on a great city, is it not time that you to volunteer to fall on your sword i.e. step down?

  • Kurt thialfad

    Why do you support the sanctuary law? Would you be supportive of expanding the sanctuary laws to include non-enforcement of other federal laws such as kidnapping or the use and sale of marijuana?

    • Skip Conrad

      One has to wonder whether the sanctuary policy makes San Francisco a fat target for human smugglers, foreign gangs, and organized crime.

    • jurgispilis

      What the effect of Sanctuary policy on housing?

  • Slappy

    Rather than construct more low-cost housing and keeping rent-control, why don’t you discontinue rent-control and just let the free market take over, and allow housing prices in the entire bay area to fall? Low-cost living is a blight in whatever area it is present. People with jobs in the city will be able to live closer to work, which will allow them to spend more money within city limits but also allow them to save more money for the future.

    Also, what good will a minimum wage increase do in the long run? Small- and large-business employers alike will be forced to increase the costs of their goods to offset the increase in wages, thus negating the intended goal.

    The mayor’s agenda SHOULD be to woo even more scientists and engineers to help balance SF’s business portfolio which, in turn, would do much more for the city’s economy. He should also be working to abolish rent control, which will reduce living costs not just for SF but the entire bay area. It seems that the “affordability agenda” is nothing more than a song-and-dance routine that preys on gullible voters’ emotions, does jack to make the city a cleaner, better, more affordable place to live, and serves only to get him re-elected by the uninformed.

    I dare you to force him to address these points without allowing him to beat around the bush.

    • tweeter415

      Rent control property owners are hardly paying any Property Tax because of Prop 13! So before asking to abolish rent control and price-out all the service workers in SF, abolish prop 13 and let the property owners pay their Fair share.
      Free Market without regulations is a jungle controlled by the gold holders. There are many examples from recent history. It leads to what I call for lack of better term legal-corruption. The richest people in the US are custom fitting regulations to benefit the few and harm the rest, David Conway and his rich Twitter investors are doing the same thing in SF. Free Market is great but a jungle lead by the strongest isn’t.

  • John

    The mayor must address the affordability and gentrification crisis or he will be thrown out of office. I’m sick of hearing about how change in urban areas is inevitable. It’s not, it’s the result of purposeful policy decisions that prioritize the needs of some (in Mayor Lee’s case tech. companies) over the needs of others (for affordable housing, robust PUBLIC infrastructure, etc.)

    • Chuck

      Rents are rising all over the Bay area and in every major city in the world. Try finding affordable housing in Paris, London, NYC, Singapore, etc. We have to adjust to the changing prices and decide where we want to live and spend our money without asking government to provide for us.

  • Skip Conrad

    What is the mayor’s take on this “pay to play” approach to “getting things done” in the City, as exemplified by district 4 supervisors Ed Jew and Leland Yee, and of course, the notoriously corrupt DBI.
    Why does District 4 always get the crooked supervisors?

    • jurgispilis

      Yes, as the mayor stated, Leland has been in office for decades. Ripping us off … for decades. Lining his pockets … for decades. Laughing at this constituents … for decades.

    • Kurt thialfad

      Yes, we have the SF Ethics Commission, the SF Human Rights Commission, the SF Immigrants Rights Commission (no other American city has a Immigrants Rights Commission). All these expensive groups with the commitment to justice, yet we have one of the most crooked cities in the nation. A suggestion: get rid of these 3 fat useless commissions.

  • SF League of Pissed Off Voters

    San Francisco’s Climate Action Strategy says ““moving to 100% renewable electricity is the single biggest step the City can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” If the Mayor continues to oppose CleanPowerSF, when will he propose an alternative route to 100% clean power?

    And why did his office order the Department of the Environment to delete CleanPowerSF from the Climate Action Strategy?

  • Ben Rawner

    What is the Mayor planning to do about the numerous homeless people who populate the streets of SF. The stench of Urine and ,many times feces, permeates all public spaces in SF and is quite disgusting. I walk to work down Sansome street and have to dodge Urine puddles and hold my breath way too many times.

    When will the Mayor adress the crack epidemic that the tenderloin has been experiencing for so many years. I walked through that neighborhood and saw crack being sold maybe 30 feet from officers standing around. There is obvious corruption in the police force if this type of behavior is allows to flourish. When will be mayor root out the corrupt police officials who are probably being paid off to look the other way while the crack flows?

  • ES Trader

    Mr Lee,

    San Francisco has become The City of Champions with the 2x WS, the Niners, the return of the Warriors coming with their potential & most International prestige, the America’s Cup comeback last year.

    How can The City allow the next Cup to be taken to Hawaii? That was the greatest comeback in team sports ever !

    The City will become known for allowing Champions to escape !

    By the way I am completely baffled by ex-Mayor Agnos’ opposition to a Pier 32 Arena citing height and traffic as reasons.

    The NBA and MLB schedule only overlap for April and the Giants are out of town for 1/2 of the month. A Pier 32 Arena would be a spectacular venue for the Warrior’s homecoming

    • Terry Mullen

      Please, sir, the city lost enough money to Ellison last time, we don’t need to go thru that again.

      • ES Trader

        very short sighted view and you have no concept of the international appeal of a high profile international event. Europeans dont care about the Giants, Niners or Warriors, but America’s cup elevates The City to a venue for international travellers; you are pinching nickles and ignoring high spending international tourism that will develop

        Even Sacramento will have a downtown arena for the Kings, Warriors will be in outer Siberia closer to Potero Hill & the Stick

        But it probably wont matter since much of The City will be underwater in the next 100 years

        • Terry Mullen

          Nice try, but I grew up sailing and everyone looked forward to the America’s Cup being here 30 years ago. Ellison changed the equation of the race and SF should not allow itself to be taken advantage of again. Too many false promises from AC and unmet expectations of # of teams competing. I was trying to be polite, but your comments about the warriors also reflect an unhinged mental state. Warriors are smart to build there because they face no legal challenges which can complicate or scutttle the whole deal. These are all lesser priorities than trying to balance the growth of the city with allowing working class people to stay here and keep everything running.

          • ES Trader

            I was aware of the Bay’s Cup possibilities when Tom Blackaller was
            dueling Dennis Connor. As for Ellison, of course he’s going to seek
            the best deal, (how do ou think he became a multi billionaire? by being a
            patsy?) but just like Ted Turner & Courageous, their egos needed to be stroked.

            ‘s win was probably the greatest comeback in the history of sports and
            The City fathers should have acknowledged that and played up to his ego.
            Ticker Tape Parade like Giants (2x) but no they let the opportunity to
            cement his relationship w/ The City.

            And like everything in life
            the EZ road often does not deliver the greatest pot of gold and the
            Warriors will likely discover it.

            Its capitalism and
            supply/demand so if you and your Google protesters cant afford it move
            to Oakland. If uour services are worth paying you then the market will
            meet your financial needs.

            Are you people creationists or evolutionists ? Decide, cant have it both ways.

          • Terry Mullen

            You are all over the map…what is your point? I think we can disagree without you losing your mind

          • ES Trader

            get a compass

  • jurgispilis

    Does Ed Lee support the local hire ordinance #311? Has the mayor read the local hire ordinance?

  • Another Mike

    Why doesn’t the city build more public housing, especially for seniors who have lived in SF for decades? You can’t even add your name to a waitlist.

  • jurgispilis

    Would modernizing the SF archaic building code make housing more affordable?

  • Terry Mullen

    Recently, United Educators of SF (teacher’s union) proposed a 7% yearly increase over 3 years to 21% to help teachers slightly catch up with affordablility. Will you, as mayor/public offical, support the union and urge the school district to allocate the money? Or will this become another ugly union struggle where working people are scapegoated like the BART strike?

  • Ben

    Through my recent experience in buying a home, I learned that upwards of 30% of Bay Area housing is purchased by foreign investors with no intention of living in the homes or even renting them out. This has a devastating effect on the pricing and stability of the market across the Bay. Do you have specific plans to limit the flow of housing stock out of San Francisco?

    • Kurt thialfad

      Require a “residential” home be occupied by the “resident owner”. Differentiate residential real estate from investment real estate. Why would an investor buy residential housing? An investor should buy investment housing. A resident should buy residential housing.
      This is how it is done in many countries – to protect local residents.

  • Another Mike

    Since when is the city charging non-profits the payroll expense tax? The city treasurer website says they don’t.

    • Kurt thialfad

      Law firms are exempt from payroll tax. That is why so many are here.

  • Peter

    Since 2004, city-funding for social service nonprofits has only increased by 7.5%, meanwhile the cost of living in San Francisco has increased by over 25%. As mayor, what do you plan to do to make sure that nonprofit workers, who are providing critical mental health/substance abuse/social service work, annual increases like city-funded for profits companies?

  • ava koren

    Mr. Lee, come take a walk with me on my street, Buena Vista Terrace and I will point out to you 5 units that I am aware of that have not been rented since I moved in in 2007. These are not rich landlords, theses older, tired people who will not be subject to the Draconian rent control laws that take away a landlord’s right. Now, couple that with the disaster that is Airbnb- tenants and landlords alike have started to rent out by the night – and there is no housing left on my street. I did not sign up to live in a hotel zone. I want my neighborhood back. PLEASE enforce the existing laws. Stop Airbnb from ruining our city. You cannot have rent control (your cake) and eat it too (Airbnb).

  • Would like to ask Mayor Lee about the closing of one of San Francisco’s most effective programs for women WISE (Women’s Imitative for Self Employment). Does his office know about this and have any resources to help continue a program that has helped thousands of low-income San Francisco women start businesses in San Francisco?

  • Chuck

    It seems the City fails to maintain conditions in public housing while
    rent control has eliminated affordable housing except for a few middle
    class white folks who got here first. Nancy Pelosi got federal funds to
    provide Tenderloin housing but the Board and Mayor have done nothing
    positive of significance. How much money is the City spending on new housing—not just coercing others. Will the City now comply with basic housing, health and safety codes in public housing?

  • Nann White

    As we grow the city we will also be growing our open spaces and parks. We currently have trouble meeting budget needs for maintaining the parks we have. What will you do to help with the financing of for the maintenanc of our parks now and in the future?

  • Jon Gold

    Mayor Lee, how will the infrastructure support all the new high-rise housing? For example, all the upper Market buildings, the building on Market at 8th, Vida on Mission, the buildings going up on Valencia….and why oh why are all these new buildings drastically larger and differ from the Victorian look and feel of a neighborhood!?

  • norma

    the housing crisis has hit sf resident hard. the recent legislation from david campos to increase the tenant payout is outrageous and is on the lines of criminal extortion. support of folks who cannot afford to live in sf should be supported by ALL SAN FRANCISCANS, not just property owners. what is mayor lee’s position on this?

  • Mayor Lee, it took me awhile to come to like and respect Mayor Newsom–I didn’t start out as a fan–but he eventually won me over. He appointed you, so I’ve been under the assumption that you’d have at least some political beliefs in common, and that you were adequately qualified. I did vote for you when your election came up, and now after hearing what you’ve said today about both your approach to housing, and to the pressing problem of homeless people and drug users getting forever stuck in the grinding wheel of the correctional system, I am happy to say that you’ve passed my test.

    Of course, I’m sure that there are, or will be policies that I won’t agree with, but it’s simply not reasonable to expect ones’ elected officials to have a perfect report card for every individual’s personal political wants and needs. It never fails to both amaze me and piss me off when people, usually in the comments section of internet sites such as this, demonize a politician, our president being a very common victim, for a single topic or action with which they disagree. In the BIG PICTURE, I have to put myself down as a Mayor Lee fan and supporter, and this radio program did an excellent job of asking the tough and interesting questions that allowed me to make this decision–thank you once again, Michael Krasny, for another great program.

  • Dennis Haas

    Frankly, the ratio of salary to housing cost hasn’t changed in 40 years (…that is, there has ALWAYS been a housing crisis in the Bay Area, San Francisco in particular —or— there has NEVER been a housing crisis in the Bay Area). As a masters-degreed aerospace engineer making $200 per week in the early 1970s, my very modest one-bedroom apartment in Menlo Park cost $250 per month. So, today, a salary of $1000 per week would substantiate a $1250 per month apartment (…and I understand that entry-level engineers command $80000 per year salaries which ought to enable a $1925 per month rent at the same ratio). Therefore, is there really a crisis?

    Sunnyvale, CA

  • Kurt thialfad

    Which developer recently purchased the Francis Scott Key Annex in the Outer Sunset? What project is slated to happen there?

  • Justin Gayle

    What about environmentalism in the city? Especially after festivals like 420 and Pride. The city gets completely trashed. I noticed there wasn’t a compost-recycle center program in the middle of Civic Center, which I think would have prevented allot of the litter. How can we be a more green city?

  • Jean Bernhard

    Why is there so little new housing competition in SF? You could build and sell 100,000 units and keep prices competitive, this year alone. So what are you waiting for?

  • RHoover

    How soon can the State, City and Caltrains get the trains that travel up and down the peninsula electrified as soon as possible. Can Tech companies help defray some of the cost to help us speed up the process.?

    • Another Mike

      To what purpose?

      Electrification should come as part of California’s High Speed Rail project, because that will be electrified from the beginning.

      • RHoover

        The Purpose is to get those Tech buses off the streets sooner rather than later. Their workers are going to use Caltrains as much as any other commuter.

        • Another Mike

          Caltrain takes only 51 minutes of the two-hour, 26 minute trip from the Mission to Google. Even if Caltrain moved at warp speed, this trip via public transport would take twice as long as the googlebus ride.

          • aslevin

            Caltrain is working with Mountain View to speed up the shuttle connection from the MV Caltrain station. And Google could help encourage the Downtown Extension to Transbay which would put Caltrain within easy reach of more people in SF.

          • Another Mike

            The Central Subway will connect more people to Caltrain than making it terminate closer to the Ferry Building would.

            Look where the Google bus stops are: Noe Valley, the Mission, the Sunset, North Beach. That’s where the googlers live — why make them go down to the Embarcadero every morning?

          • RHoover

            They have to learn to take the train down the peninsula. The service is only good as the demand. And yes, I understand demand it going through the roof. That is specifically the reason to speed up electrification.

  • Another Mike

    Apparently the burden of providing affordable housing in SF will continue to fall on the mom and pop owners of pre-1979 housing.

    • trite

      It is unfair to lay the burden of insufficient housing in the city
      on the shoulders of the small landlord. Likewise, perhaps there may be
      those who buy houses to flip and make a profit, but they should be
      distinguished from people who buy a house with long-term tenants and are
      unable to move themselves and their families in. The ill-advised Ellis
      Act tampering at the expense of legitimate buyers is an overreach of
      government. By all means we should build more housing for low- and medium-
      wage people, but we should not expect the small property owner to be
      coerced into providing that housing.

      • Another Mike

        As the mayor suggested, the long term landlord often doesn’t have the heart to evict his long time tenants when he is ready to retire. That’s why selling his building to “a speculator” who can dispassionately evict them, fix it up, and sell at a profit, is so appealing.

  • The caller that was complaining about MUNI was either off-base, or only relying on her own anecdotal evidence, and she seemed to be a highly sensitive, easily offended type.

    I too ride the MUNI every day–the 22 Fillmore and the 5 Fulton or 31 Balboa into the Tenderloin every morning, as well as the underground subway trains, and I mostly see very civil behavior. When school lets out, you’ll get boisterous, often annoying kids, and occasionally at other times, there will be someone that behaves like an ignoramus. Yes, it would be nice if everyone had decent manners, but, you know what?? That’s part of living in the Big City!! A very sensitive, easily offended/wronged personality type may be better served by a suburban or small-town locale. When someone does behave badly, I tend to just allow myself a bit of schadenfreude and then go back to reading the book I always have with me.

    In general, I find the MUNI to be a very civil place to be for what it is–a place in which a bunch of strangers, often pressed for time, are squeezed into close proximity–truly a test of urban manners. The lines I use run very frequently, making it easy for me to get to and from my house, and this I very much appreciate. I gave up my car years ago and will never buy another one because MUNI is such a good option.

    As far as non-payers go, I’ve frequently seen the MUNI fare enforcement officers at work–usually about once every week, one will board a bus on my routes, and they are at the Powell St. underground station almost daily. On the buses, they will usually pull off about 3 or 4 people on average–hardly the 50% non-payers she cited as regularly witnessing. She said that she “thinks” that passengers don’t have their passes or transfers–she didn’t actually have proof of this, therefore I think that she was exaggerating in order to make her point, or allow her to complain. Something in her overall tone suggested to me that she is a very regular complainer in general, and not representative of the rest of us MUNI riders. I have a picture in my head of her sitting on the MUNI each day, silently fuming at her fellow riders’ smallest missteps, awaiting each new breach of etiquette with a paradoxically pessimistic eagerness so that she can find a new reason to feel wronged.

    Faulting MUNI because OTHER passengers don’t pay is the pinnacle of “Nosy Parker Syndrome” in my opinion, and it’s not really a valid reason, especially since statistics don’t support her complaint. She also faults MUNI for the “rude” behavior of her fellow riders. Perhaps her own heightened sensitivity is the real issue here, as she seems to be unreasonably concerned with OTHER peoples’ behavior, not the actual performance of MUNI. As a SF resident, she certainly has her right to her opinion, but I hope that Mayor Lee doesn’t give it too much weight, as there are a good many others who are overall pleased with their MUNI experiences.

  • Guest

    I wish we heard why Mayor Ed allowed that corrupt friend of his (theyre so close Ed officiated his wedding) Henry Alvarez – the director of the Housing Authority – to collect lifetime retirement benefits when the Mayor could have fired him earlier. As it happened, Alvarez was allowed to remain an extra month and collected full benefits for only 5 years of work. Current City employees must work 20 years to collect the same. Mayor Lee – that was appalling and cost us taxpayers.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    I wish we heard why Mayor Ed allowed that corrupt friend of his (theyre so close Ed officiated his wedding) Henry Alvarez – the director of the Housing Authority – to collect lifetime retirement benefits when the Mayor could have fired him earlier. As it happened, Alvarez was allowed to remain an extra month and collected full benefits for only 5 years of work. Current City employees must work 20 years to collect the same. Mayor Lee – that was appalling and cost us taxpayers hundreds of thousands for that corrupt punk who made six figures and ran the Housing Authority like an idiot.

  • ES Trader

    ex-Mayor Agnostic should be tarred, feathered, and fed to sharks at Farrallon for forcing Warriors to locate in outer Siberia ! The NBA/MLB season only overlaps in April & both teams play about 1/2 of their respective schedule out of town which means only a few games will be played simultaneously in The City. Madison Sq Gardens is on the south side of midtown Manhatten and sits right on top of Penn Station. Traffic? it comes with being a major city.

    Too tall ? Come on there is a very tall tower on Rincon Hill and both sides of the Bay Br

    has tall condos/office buildings.

    The City has lost the Niners to Santa Clara, the America’s Cup to Hawaii and now instead of a showcase home that enhances the view to America during network broadcasts the Warriors will be halfway down to Candlestick.

    Agnos and his followers are likely not sports fans but I hope pier 32 supporters rememeber this when they have a pet project that will require community consensus. They want San Francisco to become Sacramento or Stockton, Shame on you!

    • Another Mike

      The Warriors never should have left the Cow Palace. That part of town could have been a showplace by now.

      • ES Trader

        yea like Candlestick did right ? No pier 32 would have been ideal to showcase the City skyline on national broadcasts that will come as Warriors, despite last nights loss, continue to improve and have a national following

    • John

      We need housing, not more pro sports facilities.

      • ES Trader

        Capitalism is telling you that for now your services are not needed at present incomes. If the market changes its view and decides that you are needed in The City, it will pay you accordingly.

        Are you creationists or evolutionists ? Decide because it will free you of envy and you can change course and play the Capitalist game instead of feeling sorry for yourself and looking for government untervention

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor