Board of Supervisor Candidates: DISTRICT 1 -  Sandra Lee Fewer

DISTRICT 1 -  Sandra Lee Fewer

How would you describe the specific impact of artists and arts organizations on the life of our City?  Please use at least one example of the arts changing lives or communities.

SF has a long legacy of treasuring our arts and arts community, and we pride ourselves on having a diverse range of arts in the city. As a member of the SF Board of Education, I am clear that there is a critical role for arts within our schools.  We saw a dry spell for many years because of lack of funding, but we have reintroduced not only visual but performing arts into our schools, and this recent additional funding has transformed the arts experience for tens of thousands of students each year.  There is a new mural being painted at Galileo High School, which will transform the experience for thousands of students entering that school every day—it is quite frankly magnificent. My own son was a ballet dancer and pianist and composer. As a mother, I think the arts are very important component of our students’ lives, and I have vigorously advocated for a sequential arts curriculum so that every student who graduates has a arts foundation upon which their knowledge can grow.

How will you ensure that San Francisco’s historically underserved communities are able to access the full benefits of the arts and resources for creative and community expression?

In SF schools, 90% of our students are of color and most are low-income; they come from traditionally underserved neighborhoods and so having arts in schools is so important.  But the arts must be accessible not only to students but their families.  Having families be able to enjoy both traditional and non-traditional arts could include city-funded free performances or family passes to museums.  But underserved communities should not only be able to enjoy the arts but also create art themselves.  The arts are often viewed through a middle-class paradigm but we could be offering mini-grants to allow for the cultivation of community artists in underserved neighborhoods and support the organic development of new art communities that too often face a lack of resources as an obstacle.

Over the past year the arts have been utilized to improve safety and protect the environment. For example, artist studios have activated vacant buildings. Murals have highlighted bike corrals and warned residents about the dangers of pollution. Name one or two ways you would leverage the work of artists and arts organizations to cultivate vibrant neighborhoods and achieve civic priorities.

In District 1, we have seen many new murals be commissioned— like Mr. Foggy’s Neighborhood on Clement— which represents an exciting and vibrant Richmond District.  I wold love to see more of this in our neighborhoods, using art to highlight our neighborhood history, key issues facing residents, and storytelling.  Also, given that 70% of Golden Gate Park is in District 1, I’m interested in exploring how we can use this resource to cultivate more opportunities for visual and performing arts as an intersection with open space.

Research shows that students with an arts-rich education have better grade point averages, lower drop-out rates, and score better on standardized tests in reading and math. How will you ensure every San Francisco student is provided a robust arts education in school and has access to ample opportunities to engage in art outside of school?

I agree that for every student to have a robust and well-rounded education it must include the arts—and we are not currently incorporating arts into our academic curriculum and in particular our humanities curriculum.  As the Director of Parent Organizing and Education at Coleman Advocates and as a Board of Education member, I have vigorously supported measures like the Public Education and Enrichment Fund, which provide funding for the arts in schools. I’d like to work with arts organizations to explore how we can build opportunities for intersection with the arts, and support our teachers and afterschool staff in understanding how to build it into their curriculum.  

How will you improve affordable housing and tenant protections, both for low income and middle class San Franciscans? Do you support artist-specific affordable housing? Why or why not?

The major issue I see facing our city is one of economic inequality (deeply connected to racial disparities in our city for communities of color)—and that encompasses several other policy issues, including: the development of affordable housing; tenant protections; long-term infrastructure planning for our growing population (like do we have a transportation system or enough schools in place); how we are treating workers in San Francisco; and even decisions about how our city collects and disseminates our resources (and from/for who).  I believe that we must think outside of the box with regard to strategies for building affordable housing, and look at surplus public lands, community land trusts, small site acquisitions, and financing options from pension funds for affordable housing development. There is incredible demand for affordable housing and because so many low and middle income workers are struggling I do worry about artists being pit against teachers against firefighters, etc.  That said, I would be interested in discussing more specific proposals and I am open to artist-specific housing.

What can the City do to address skyrocketing rents -- for office, studio, rehearsal and performance spaces -- for artists, arts groups and other nonprofits?

Rents are out of control and not only for residential units-- I am interested in working with state officials to develop an initiative for commercial rent control.  I also think that we must work to pass Prop X, the PDR ballot measure on the November ballot to protect artists and non-profit organizations.

Do you support the SF Arts and Families Funding Ordinance, restoring allocations of some Hotel Tax revenues to the City’s arts agencies and resources to prevent family homelessness?  Why or why not?

I support the principle of this measure but cannot support in full because as a school board commissioner, I was recently advised by the Superintendent that this measure reduces funding for the schools in the amount of $2M that currently pays for social workers and nurses.  It is these staff people who are currently supporting our students, including those struggling with family homelessness.  If anything, schools are asking us for more support personnel as more families struggle with homelessness and housing insecurity.  So while I support this in principle, I really am struggling with the fact that it reduces funding for supports in our schools.

Private development in some portions of the City must set aside 1% of their construction budget for art, or support for arts facilities.  Would you support extending that 1% for art requirement on new development to the entire city?  Why or why not?

I’m open to it, but I’d have to learn more about this issue to understand the considerations and possible impact.

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