A look at the candidates who want to replace Assemblyman Kevin Mullin

Daily Post Staff Writer

Giselle Hale has plans for more housing 

If elected to the District 21 seat in the state Assembly, Redwood City Mayor Giselle Hale would try to make it easier for school districts to build employee housing.

Hale, a Democrat, pointed to the Redwood City School District’s plans to build 87 apartments and 170,000-square-feet of office space where its current district office stands at 750 Bradford St. in downtown Redwood City. Hale said that the lengthy process that the district and other districts that want to build employee housing must go through ought to be sped up a little.

That’s just one of the ideas Hale says she will bring with her to Sacramento if elected to represent the Assembly district that spans from South San Francisco to Redwood City. The district’s current Assemblyman, Kevin Mullin, is not seeking another two-year term in favor of running to replace Rep. Jackie Speier in Congress.

Hale, 43, has been on the Redwood City Council for four years, and before that was on the city’s Planning Commission. She has worked for Facebook and Cisco. Hale has also worked in President Obama’s 2008 campaign and was Rep. Anna Eshoo’s campaign manager that year. Most recently, she was the Chief Operating Officer at Political Data Inc., but stepped down from her position due to a conflict of interest between the firm and her run for Assembly.

Supported SB9 and SB10

Hale said she supported the controversial lot split bill SB9 and SB10, which lets housing developments of 10 units or less be approved without a public hearing or council approval. She is endorsed by SB10’s author, Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco.

But Hale pointed out that SB9 ended up being much ado about nothing, with her city’s usually busy planning department not getting any lot split proposals. She said city planners estimate there will be about 200 SB9-initiated lot splits over the next seven years. On the other hand, there will be about 500-600 granny units, or accessory dwelling units, built in Redwood City over that same amount of time.

Hale has a series of housing-related ideas, and touts the housing record to back it up.

Redwood City has met its housing goals and is planning to surpass the new goals set by the state. Hale commented that she’s approved more housing projects than anyone else seeking the seat. The city’s draft housing element states that the city has approved 1,406 homes across seven projects.

Bond measure for housing

She expressed interest in exploring a statewide bond measure to get cities money to help build lower income housing. She also brought up changing the state’s environmental laws related to planning to speed housing projects up.

Hale has two daughters, ages 5 and 8, and she said child care and education are of upmost importance to her. Worried that child care centers would have to shut down at the peak of Covid, she worked with other child care advocates to create the Covid Childcare Relief Fund, which provided $5 million in funding to keep 340 child care providers. If elected, she wants to expand childcare, sick and family leave to help families across the state.

James Coleman, a recent Harvard grad, brings new ideas to campaign 

South San Francisco Councilman James Coleman is quickly ramping up his young political career by aiming to succeed Kevin Mullin in the state Assembly, District 21.

Coleman, 22, a Democrat, was elected to the South City council in 2020 after getting involved in local politics following the murder of black man George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer that same year.

Studied biology, government

Coleman was at the time a junior at Harvard, where he studied biology and government, taking classes online after being sent home due to Covid restrictions on the university’s campus.

Expecting to be back on campus for his senior year, Coleman was at first hesitant to run against his neighbor and longtime councilman Rich Garbarino, but he ultimately won.

Coleman graduated from Harvard virtually last year and currently campaigns full-time while living with his mother in the South San Francisco home where he grew up.

In his two years on council, he says he’s worked hard to introduce new ideas and get things approved.

Supported universal income

This includes working with others on council to approve a $5-an-hour hazard pay increase for grocery store workers and a ballot measure slated for November that would let the city own and manage housing instead of relying on developers. Coleman also voted for a universal income program that will pay 160 low-income families $500 a month for a year.

Coleman supported housing bills SB9 and 10 last year, but says the way to move the needle is through “social housing,” meaning getting the city to build and control housing, which is precisely what the council is working to put on the ballot.

Coleman says social housing should be mixed-income because public housing

Taxing corporations

Coleman is also volunteering on a ballot measure being led by the Peninsula Democratic Socialists to tax large South San Francisco corporations $2.50 per square foot a year to help fund universal preschool for people who live and work in South City.

When asked about ways to fund the Peninsula’s grade separations, or separating the train tracks from the road via a bridge or tunnel, Coleman suggested using the state’s budget surplus because each project can run well over $180 million.

“I am not keen on unfunded state mandates. Cities don’t have the hundreds of millions in their budget for these projects,” Coleman said.

He also suggested a tax on expensive property transfers to help fund grade separations.

Diane Papan gets things done 

San Mateo Councilwoman Diane Papan says she’s running for state Assembly District 21 because she’s made a difference locally and knows she can make a difference from Sacramento.

Papan, a Democrat, has been on the San Mateo City Council since 2015. She is a director of John’s Closet, a nonprofit that provides new clothes, scholarships and other essentials to over 15,000 students. She is an attorney by trade who works with local businesses.

Papan says she likes to look at how things get done, what people’s needs are and find the “sweet spot” needed to move the needle and has done that both in her work as an elected official and in her work.

450 units of affordable housing

She, along with the rest of the San Mateo City Council, are getting some 450 affordable homes built on city land across three projects. One project, 67 apartments at Bay Meadows, has already been built. Another 225 homes are under construction at 480 E. 4th Ave. and another 170 homes are in the planning process for the former Waters Park office complex.

As for the controversial AB9 that allows lot splits in single-family neighborhoods, Papan didn’t take a formal position on it when it was working its way through the Legislature last year, commenting that she doesn’t see it adding much housing “on a great scale.” Instead, she thinks the state needs to be giving cities some resources to go with all the housing mandates it is handing down.

She’d like to see some of the state’s surplus go toward building housing and would like to bring back some form of the redevelopment agencies that Gov. Jerry Brown ended in 2011. The agencies helped fund the creation of low-income housing through the collection of property taxes.

Rail crossings

Papan has some knowledge of how to cobble together money for grade separations, where train tracks must be separated from the road, and issue that many cities in the area are dealing with individually.

Some of the money San Mateo got to complete its grade separations near the Hillsdale Shopping Center came from high-speed rail, which ought to be ponying up more money for grade separations, Papan contends. She said there’s been talk of creating a special district on the Peninsula to fund the bridge projects, which can cost at least $180 million a piece, as Caltrain has not expressed the same level of interest in getting the projects done as the cities. Papan says creating a larger district to get the funds could be easier than having each city fend for itself.

Papan, who grew up in Daly City, likes to say she’s a daughter of the district. Her father, the late Lou Papan, served in the Assembly from 1973-1986 and again from 1996-2002.

Papan, 58, has a 16-year-old daughter and is married to Dan Latini.

Papan has had her eyes on the seat for a while, initially planning to run in 2024, when Assemblyman Kevin Mullin is termed out, she began hearing that things may change, and started getting things ready to announce her candidacy for assembly. And when Mullin announced in November that he would seek retiring Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s seat, two and a half hours later, Papan announced her run for the seat that spans from South San Francisco to Redwood City.

Republican Mark Gilham has different views than the rest

The lone Republican in the Assembly District 21 race is Mark Gilham, who has ideas his opponents probably don’t share with him.

As for undocumented residents, he said the U.S. should have similar laws as their origin country. For instance, if someone is from Guatemala and undocumented, then the U.S. ought to do whatever Guatemala does with undocumented immigrants.

He says he wants to find a way to stop undocumented immigrants from coming in and “weed out” the bad ones.

A part-time Legislature

As for cutting down on the government, he wants to switch to a part-time Legislature that only meets for two weeks out of the year, citing Texas’ state legislature as a model. Texas’ state house of representatives meets once every two years for five months.

Additionally, Gilham wants to cut a portion of the “deadweight” in Sacramento, primarily pointing to the DMV, saying it could all move online. He said some things at Caltrans could be streamlined, but did not name any other specific agencies he would cut, instead of saying he would try to furlough government employees.

For instance, the Redwood City resident wants to cut government by 20-35%, and have undocumented residents sent back to the country they came from.

FEMA trailers

As for housing, Gilham said he’d like FEMA to set up temporary trailers in vacant areas for homeless people while a larger plan is put together. He wants to see how businesses can be moved out of the Bay Area.

When asked for his position on SB9, the controversial lot split bill that was approved last year, Gilham appeared to be unaware of it. He asked for a “refresher” on the bill.

Gilham said he spent most of last year caring for his ailing uncle until his death earlier this year, so he admits to not being completely up-to-date on the news.

A gas tax for Caltrain crossings

He was also not sure how to fund the bridges over or under Caltrain crossings, known as grade separations.

He thinks residents will have to pay and suggested a three to five-cent tax on gas to do so. Ideally, the projects would be paid for in President Biden’s infrastructure bill.

Among his first bills would be to change how school funding works, by having the money follow each child to their specific school instead of going to the child’s district and getting more dams built.