Campaign Trail: Leno blasts Breed’s housing record

The mayoral campaign heats up as former senator and tenant advocates directly criticize supervisor's history on tenant issues

Mark Leno kicked the mayor’s race into another gear this week when he released an ad and held a press conference directly challenging Sup. London Breed on her housing policy and saying that she represents the “failed status quo.”

Mark Leno stands near a homeless encampment to criticize Sup. London Breed

Standing in front of the house on Page Street where Iris Canada was evicted, Leno said that “it’s time to be very clear where the candidates stand.” He asked voters to get “beyond the rhetoric, and look at the record. Everyone wants to say they are a protector of tenants right before Election Day. London Breed has not voted for, advocated for, stood by, and certainly has not fought for the homes or the livelihoods or working families, the elderly, the disabled, those who are depending on rent-controlled units.”

Deepa Varma, executive director of the Tenants Union, talked about the eviction of the 100-year-old Canada by people who wanted to convert her unit into a condo, and said that “one of the first votes London Breed took was to lift the lid on condo conversions.

Ending Street Homelessness by 2020

The status quo has failed us. That's why I wrote a plan to end street homelessness by 2020. It starts with moving 1,000 people off the streets and into housing, establishing a Mental Health Justice Center, enhancing tenant protections, and completing a top-to-bottom audit to stop waste.If you're happy with the way things are, vote for London Breed. But if you want to see change, look at my plan here: more excuses. Let's get it done.

Posted by Mark Leno on Wednesday, April 18, 2018

“From the beginning, London Breed has not been with us,” Varma said. “When it came to buyouts, increasing relocation benefits, she voted against us. On regulating Airbnb and eviction protections, she voted with the real-estate industry.”

Varma noted that on the anti-speculation tax, Prop. G, “Leno helped us get the Democratic Party endorsements. Breed didn’t.”

The Tenants Union has put out “20 reasons you should not vote for London Breed.”

In his ad, Leno, standing in front of a homeless encampment, says that “the status quo has failed us.

“If you are happy with the way things are, vote for London Breed.”

It’s the first time any of the major candidate has directly taken on the positions of Breed, although an independent expenditure committee backing Breed has attacked Leno.

I talked to Leno this afternoon, and he told me that, with absentee ballots set to arrive in about two weeks and the election not much more than a month away, it’s important to clarify the differences between the candidates.

So far – to the frustration of both Leno and Jane Kim – a lot of the news media has suggested that the candidates aren’t that different on the issues. Leno’s attempting to change that narrative.

UPDATE: Breed’s communications director, Tara Moriarty, got back to me with this statement:

“Mark Leno took thousands of dollars from real estate interests as a legislator in Sacramento, and also consistently failed at his job to pass Ellis Act Reform to protect tenants. Since taking office in 2012, London Breed has consistently worked to protect tenants. As a tenant herself, unlike Mark Leno, she understands firsthand the challenges renters face. Her strong tenant protection record includes:
  • Wrote legislation prioritizing neighborhood residents for the affordable units in their community.

  • Is streamlining the process to build rent-controlled accessory dwelling/in-law units to expand our rent-controlled housing stock.

  • Wrote Right to Civil Counsel legislation to provide tenants with legal assistance to fight evictions and keep people in their homes.

  • Saved 104 affordable units at Frederick Douglas Haynes Gardens.

  • Working to pass the Housing for All Ballot measure which will generate $1 billion for housing, including funds to purchase rent-controlled buildings, and build homes for our families, seniors, teachers, and firefighters.

  • Committed to building at least 5,000 homes per year to ease our housing shortage.

  • Driving the effort to build affordable housing on underutilized sites around the City, such as at the former McDonald’s site on Haight and Stanyan streets.

  • Supports reforming San Francisco’s archaic approval processes for code compliant new housing and streamline 100% affordable housing projects.

She did not challenge any of the statements made by Leno or by the Tenants Union, which has a record of more than half a century of representing renters rights.

This latest salvo makes it even more clear that this race is close, that three candidates (Leno, Breed, and Sup. Jane Kim) are in contention, and that there are still voters who haven’t figured out what the candidates really stand for and who to support.

It’s going to be a wild six weeks.