SAN FRANCISCO—Some people are starting off the year at ease. But one woman is already at battle with San Francisco’s City Hall. Ellen Lee Zhou promises to solve problems with drug abuse and rent control if she is elected for mayor.
On Jan. 14, Zhou sent two emails to the city’s Board of Supervisors opposing the proposed plans to open more cannabis retail stores and impose stricter rent control.
The city is planning to convert areas with medical cannabis dispensaries into retail stores for cannabis.
She said businesses are also impacted because of the limited space available which the city is reserving for more cannabis stores.
“In my opinion, that’s enough,” said Zhou. “There’s no need for anymore physical, recreational, or any cannabis store at all. Because we can do delivery.”
Zhou said she met with a staff member from the Office of Cannabis on Jan. 14. He told her that there are currently more than 50 cannabis stores in operation, over 260 applications, and 400 permits pending.
When asked why the city allowing permits to open more, Zhou said it is mainly because of cannabis operators.
“They donate money to the mayor campaign, donate to the board of supervisor campaign,” said Zhou. “They are the mafia. They are the ones controlling our city.”
After Proposition 64 legalizing marijuana was passed with 57 percent in favor in 2016, those against its usage are left to cope with it daily. Many Asian Americans are strongly against it.
Zhou said more drugs will attract more homeless. This means the city has to spend more to look after the homeless population.
According to a report (pdf) released by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, people who are both long-term homeless and rely heavily on urgent medical, psychological, and substance use system services account for 570 out of 9,975 total adult homeless. The annual cost for such services averages at $88,000 each year for individuals in this population group.
Zhou said the city’s government is not really protecting the people and that it is actually wasting the public’s money.
“In their heads [they’re] thinking about helping the homeless or people who have lost their homes, but the money does not go into the homeless! If the city spends $60,000 a homeless person, then we should not see homeless people fighting on the streets. It should be clean,” she said.
A Greater Housing Crisis?
The city government is also planning to have more control over the housing crisis by taxing landlords for empty units.
There are more renters than property owners in San Francisco. Therefore, the majority of the vote would be from renters, so politicians are more likely to favor the tenants. Zhou calls this relationship a “gaining system,” a game where politicians get both tenants and landlords where they want them to be.
“The people who are victims, the renters, no place to run anymore and the property owners… they are dealing with corruption,” she said. “Evil people create the same failing policy to make people suffer—homeless suffer because they have no place to be. Working class suffers because they are not able to have an affordable place.”
Zhou sent a second email to city’s Board of Supervisors on Jan. 14, stating she and the community oppose the unfair housing regulations.
“We have no housing problem until the government created all these unfair housing policies that killed the housing market,” wrote Zhou. “Our housing crisis created by the left, one side, one party government. No mutual nor right side of the policies. The more regulations you continue to create, the more housing crisis we see.”
She said the Asian community is impacted especially hard because many neither speak the language nor understand the law. When the laws are passed to be in favor of tenants, landlords are taken advantage of.
“When the tenants know, oh I get a free lawyer; I get free legal consult, that’s how a lot of people have been sued and the settlement is either coming out from the insurance company or our party from the party owner,” said Zhou.
In addition, many who have been sued do not have evidence of any written agreement. Zhou thinks that having any list is useless because the new regulations are not landlord or business-friendly.
According to the 2017 U.S. Census data on housing occupancy, there are about 31,000 vacant housing units out of the total 390,000 in San Francisco.
Zhou officially joined the city’s mayoral race in early January. When asked what she would do differently, she replied with better regulation.
“For example, if they can build a building…there’s one place and you go there but they don’t have to go and keep opening to other cities near residential areas. That is called restricted and more regulation and better educating the people and tell them to stay away from drugs.”
With regard to the housing crisis, she plans to open a main office that documents all cases of abuse. It will find out which tenants have been receiving free legal services.
“When I become mayor, it will be heading central offices, to documents who sues what and the people who are victims will be receiving services, legal help for them as victims too. Many of the property owners…will be getting legal help just like the tenants because we are talking about equality.“