In the ride-or-die world of San Francisco politics, our bevy of wannabe future mayors are all hanging on for dear life. As we head into the final push, the fault lines along the political landscape are becoming clearer.
Supervisor Jane Kim surprised many by hosting a rally to oppose former-rival Scott Weiner’s SB 827; a bill that would raise residential building height limits across the state for which she previously expressed a kind of muted non-opposition.
What on earth brought Supervisor Kim from conditional support (“Regarding SB827, I agree with the premise of increasing density along transit corridors”) to categorical opposition (“We don't need to destroy the Sunset”) in less than a month? A few things have happened in rapid succession that could have shaped how the candidate best sees how her road to potential victory has changed.
The Central SOMA plan starts to look like a big loser
Despite Kim’s anti-827 rally, she (as recently as this February) has sponsored a rather significant upzoning of her own. Kim’s Central SOMA Plan, which would upzone large swaths of the South of Market area, was being heavily criticized for permitting enough space for seven times more jobs than homes. All the candidates running to replace Kim on the Board of Supervisors began criticising it. Even her old ally, former Supervisor David Campos, said it was “not progressive to support this plan” (he also threw shade on the Twitter Tax Break, which Kim also sponsored).
With one of her more recent legislative initiatives becoming a political albatross, she reached for a strong pivot.
YIMBY Action solely endorsed London Breed
Jane Kim had maintained a relatively pro-development rhetoric for weeks while appearing at public debates. At the Noe Valley candidates forum, she endorsed dense development along transit corridors and the need to add supply to meet the current demand for housing. Her primary concern with upzoning was making sure the value of upzing was captured for public benefit. 48Hills reported that Kim, and every other candidate, indicated support for the bill.
On March 9, the YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard) group YIMBY Action solely endorsed her rival, London Breed. Once it was clear she wasn’t getting any support from pro-housing activists, there wasn’t much point in flirting with them any more.
Kim Outpolls Leno
Jane Kim had been polling at third place. Given our ranked-choice voting,a good strategy for a third place candidate is to try and be everyone’s second choice. However, on March 11 a poll came out indicating that Kim had edged into a close second to London Breed. Mark Leno, the prior frontrunner, seemed to be falling behind. Given the rapid rise in popularity, Kim’s strategy probably needed to shift to from “everyone’s second choice” to “at least a narrow majority’s first choice.”
Kim ally Aaron Peskin rallies anti-development voices
San Francisco has a vocal and substantial population that opposes most any housing development, affordability be damned! The political appetites of the neighborhood preservationists has gone completely unsatisfied by the current buffet of milquetoast stances from the two quasi-anti-development mayoral candidates. Accurately sensing this unmet demand, Supervisor Aaron Peskin sponsors a resolution opposing SB-827 (co-sponsored by three other Supervisors all not named Jane Kim), and held a hearing on March 12 which generated… robust, yeah, we’ll call it “robust” public comment both in favor and against.
San Franciscans who support SB 827 already had their candidate, but the voters who don’t still didn’t.
Until March 14, when Jane Kim announces a rally to oppose SB 827.
Everyone Needs a Winning Coalition
Jane Kim knows what it looks like to narrowly lose an election. She lost the race for State Senate against Scott Weiner by the narrowest of margins (49% to Weiners 51%). The upside for Kim is that she should be more prepared to run a city-wide campaign than anyone else in the race. She knows who her voters are and where the political fault are. This is what Kim’s narrow loss looks like (Kim vote shares in blue):
Weiner won by running up the score in District 2 (the Marina, Cow Hollow, Pacific Heights), District 8 (his home turf: the Castro, Noe Valley, Glen Park), and District 7 (West Portal, Forest Hill) by more than Kim could in District 9 (the Mission, Bernal Heights, Portola) and District 5 (Breed’s home turf: the Haight, Hayes Valley, the Fillmore).
In order to win the mayor’s race, Kim needs maintain support in the places she ran strong last time and find a place where she can corner some former Weiner votes. With her newfound fervent opposition to SB-827, we’ve discovered where Kim thinks that opportunity is.
For all Kim’s professed concern about the impact SB 827 would have on renters, low-income populations, and people of color, she chose to have her rally in West Portal—a neighborhood whose population holds among the wealthiest, whitest, homeownersliving on the largest parcels in the entire city. Professing concern for renters while surrounded by homeowners from San Francisco’s most exclusive and segregated neighborhood feels about as sincere as claiming to be worried about the oversized influence of rich white men from tech and then voting to make a venture capitalist Mayor. What a coincidence.
Whether or not anti-SB-827 sentiment can actually move these voters remains to be seen. They voted for Weiner in 2016—whose position on housing development hasn’t really changed from his campaign—but they also weren’t really faced with the prospect of an upzoning in their neighborhood until now.
Possible Turf War in District 5
Kim’s other challenge is that she and Breed will be squaring off in District 5, where they both won by narrow margins in their respective 2016 elections.
Kim (Blue) and Weiner (Red):
Dean Preston (Blue) and London Breed (Red):
Voters in Japantown, the Fillmore, Hayes Valley and the Inner Sunset appear to have voted for both Breed (for Supervisor) and Kim (for State Senator) in 2016, and will have to make a choice between them (or for one of the other candidates running) this time. Losing votes in these neighborhoods would mean that Kim will have an even greater need to find even more voters elsewhere.
Jane Kim is now a newly-minted almost-frontrunner with very little time left before the election. In order to win, she knows she needs to convince voters who didn’t vote for her in 2016. Based on the events of this week, it appears she believes Westside homeowners concerned about neighborhood preservation could be the missing piece of her electoral puzzle.