Board of Supervisor Candidates: DISTRICT 9 - Hillary Ronen

DISTRICT 9 - Hillary Ronen

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.

Art plays an essential role in our city. It builds community by bringing people together to celebrate, heal, contemplate, and practice resiliency. It provides a space for expression to make sense of the world and those around us. One of my favorite examples of resiliency was the response from Mission artists to the defacing of "Por Vida," the LGBT mural outside of Galeria de la Raza. Rather than let fear and hatred take over, artists organized a rally, arts conference and fundraiser. It was an honor to work with groups like Galeria, Calle 24 businesses and the LGBT community to denounce the homophobic and hateful actions of a few. Despite the role that artists play in our community, many continue to be displaced and their spaces remain threatened. As Supervisor, I will continue working to pass laws that keep tenants and artists in their rent-controlled homes, and identifying and creating revenue to build thousands of units of affordable housing.

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?

While large-scale arts entities like the ballet and opera play important roles in the arts community, I believe our smaller arts nonprofits need a greater degree of support because of the unique role they play in giving voice to historically underrepresented communities. As Supervisor, I will fight for funding to support cultural equity in the arts. I will also push for the Arts Commission to increase the size and flexibility of its grants to arts organizations, as well as provide greater resources to individual artists -- whether that be in the form of grants, establishing an artist registry, or support in securing affordable workspaces. I am proud to support Prop S on this November’s ballot, and will continue working with the arts community to innovate and identify revenue to support a thriving arts community for generations to come.

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.

During my time in the D9 office, I’ve already been working with local artists and community on ways to improve the vibrancy and safety of our neighborhoods. In my neighborhood, the Portola, we’ve been working to turn vacant lots - previously used as illegal dumping grounds - into green spaces that beautify the corridors along San Bruno lining the freeway. I’m very proud of the first pocket park we created on Burrows St., where we worked with local artists and neighbors to clean up the space, plant trees and greenery that offsets the impact of GHG emitted from the freeway, and paint murals that brighten up the area with Portola pride. We’re currently working on another pocket park on Thornton Ave. If elected, I will continue prioritizing projects that bring neighbors together, in collaboration that improves and beautifies our public spaces.

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?

As the District 9 Office Chief of Staff, I have been successful in advocating for funds for important efforts through the annual budget process. As Supervisor, I will fight for increased funds for the school district to provide arts education in our schools, and for the Department of Children, Youth and their Families and the Arts Commission to support afterschool arts programming. I also look forward to working collaboratively with Board of Education members and arts organizations to identify new resources for arts education in District 9 and San Francisco as a whole.

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?

As Chief of Staff to District 9, we’ve passed significant legislation directly addressing San Francisco’s housing crisis. I authored and organized the campaigns to pass legislation addressing harassment of tenants, increasing relocation payment to tenants evicted under the Ellis Act, regulating buyouts of tenants from their homes, and preventing the eviction of educators and families during the school year. I also led the efforts to obtain more affordable housing in our district by spearheading a moratorium on market rate housing, pressuring the mayor to dedicate $50 million of the housing bond for the Mission, designating $35 million from the general fund for housing in last year’s budget, and getting the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to promise funding for affordable housing in transit rich areas of our district. I absolutely would support artist-specific affordable housing, and look forward to working with arts organizations and stakeholders to create below market rate developments to house our artist communities. As Supervisor, I will continue fighting to keep tenants in their homes and prioritizing building 5,000 units of affordable housing especially in D9.

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

Last year, I played a key leadership role in championing passage of Proposition J, which established funds to help Legacy businesses, including arts nonprofits, pay increases in commercial rent in exchange for longer term leases. As Supervisor, I will work to ensure the growth and success of this first-of-its-kind program, which can mean the difference between an arts group staying in San Francisco or moving outside of the Bay Area altogether. I am proud that Precita Eyes Muralists in the Mission was one of the first legacy businesses nominated. Also while in the District 9 Office, I supported the successful extension and expansion of the Nonprofit and Artist Anti-displacement Mitigation Fund to help arts nonprofits stay in place or rent/buy a new space in the city. As Supervisor, I will continue identifying new ways to improve this program, including making the requirements more flexible. I also look forward to exploring collocation opportunities for arts collectives and 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?

While I don't always support set asides, I support the SF Arts and Families Funding Ordinance because it restores funding that was previously intended for dedication to the arts when the hotel tax was originally established. Having fought to open the City’s first navigation center here in D9, and having led the charge calling for a State of Emergency on Homelessness, I also support the Ordinance's efforts to end family homelessness. As Supervisor I will maintain innovative collaborations with community groups and nonprofits to find new and effective ways to solve homelessness.

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?

Yes, I support extending the 1% arts set aside across the City. I would also like to explore creating incentives for developers to use the in lieu fee option to bolster the Public Art Trust Fund given the almost nonexistent use of that option. The funds could be used for workspaces for artists, as well as supporting nonprofit arts organizations. I would also push for the Planning Department to better track the public art within private developments created by the 1% requirement, and make that information readily accessible to the public so that all San Franciscans can enjoy those installations.

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