What happened to Geographic Equity?

Geographic Equity is the idea that controversial services, like housing for the formerly homeless and marijuana dispensaries (MCDs), should be spread out all over the city.

Supervisor Kim introduced, and voted for resolutions that would promote Geographic Equity in the abstract*, but when it came time last week to actually permit one of these uses in the Sunset, Supervisor Kim forgot about Geographic Equity.

On Oct. 3, the Board of Sup.s voted 9–2 (Cohen, Sheehy voting No) to prohibit a Medical Cannabis Dispensary in the Sunset. This would have been the Sunset District’s first dispensary and the region’s first bilingual (Cantonese/English) medical pot store, had it been allowed. **

In the last 10 years in District 6 (1/11th of San Francisco) we built 60% of San Francisco’s new housing overall and 55% of San Francisco’s subsidized housing. 60% of SF’s emergency shelters & Navigation Centers are in 6 and so are most of the Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, as well as many other uses and services.

Although many District 6 residents are here because we enjoy the density and diversity of housing, jobs, businesses and services that exist in our district, from a city-wide perspective, it’s not good land use planning to concentrate the majority of activity in one small area. We now know that this kind of planning creates bottlenecks and traffic. It also denies people in other districts access to the services and opportunities that we enjoy in District 6.

Geographic Equity is a good idea. Unfortunately, the rhetoric can also be used to oppose the creation of housing for the homeless and other controversial uses. If we’re not careful, it can become just another way to dress up ordinary NIMBYism.

This is why it’s so important for the future Supervisor in District 6 to vote for controversial uses in other districts when the chance arises. Real Geographic Equity means voting for marijuana dispensaries, housing and homeless services in other districts, not just waving the idea around as an excuse to oppose these uses when they are proposed close to home.

Whether it’s medical marijuana dispensaries, safe injection sites, supportive services for people exiting homelessness, bus rapid transit lanes, or ordinary housing, we need Supervisors who can remember to vote to ensure true Geographic Equity, throughout San Francisco.

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* On May 9th Supervisors Jane Kim, Hillary Ronen and Malia Cohen introduced legislation at the Board that aimed to ensure Geographic Equity in the provision of homeless services and facilities. This legislation has not passed.

** In voting to approve the MCD in the Sunset, Supervisors Cohen & Sheehy were being consistent with values they have already expressed. Sheehy is a reliable supporter of medical marijuana, and Cohen has already acted to try to ensure that MCDs will be permitted throughout the city.

On September 12th the Board passed 9–2 (Sheehy, Farrell voting No), a 45 day moratorium on new applications for MCDs introduced by Malia Cohen. Part of the purpose of this pause was to give the city time to create a policy that would ensure that MCDs do not continue to be clustered mostly in Districts 6 & 3.

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