As San Francisco Supervisor Katy Tang leaves the government sector to join Farella Braun + Martel as a land use specialist, she said she hopes to make a greater impact by uniting “policy and realities on the ground.”
Tang has joined the San Francisco-based law firm’s real estate and land use department following her transition from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, where she has represented the Sunset and Parkside neighborhoods for the past six years. Tang also served as chair of the land use and transportation committee.
Tang was appointed to San Francisco’s board of supervisors in 2013 by the late Mayor Ed Lee. During her tenure, Tang was an advocate for middle-income families, small businesses and protecting the environment. She created the city’s local density bonus programs, including “HOME-SF,” which provides incentives to developers to build low- and middle-income housing. And she sponsored legislation to streamline in-law unit permitting, among other initiatives.
The Recorder caught up with Tang to talk about her move to Farella Braun + Martel, and her new real estate and land use practice.
Why did you decide to go into private practice?
I started working at City Hall pretty soon after graduating from college in 2006 and never left. As I approached my 12th year working in local government, I felt it was time to gain private sector experience and to better understand what happens outside of City Hall.
Among all the firms in the Bay Area, why did you pick Farella Braun + Martel?
At the Board of Supervisors, we spend a lot of time immersed in land use matters. As such, I was exposed to Farella Braun + Martel, and in particular Steven Vettel’s work, for many years. I have always found both the firm and Steven to be of the highest integrity and caliber. My hope is to learn as much as I can from the firm and to also offer my insights coming from the policy and political world.
What land use issues are unique to the Bay Area?
The Bay Area has been and will continue to be an attractive place for people to live and work. However, the areas with job growth have not always matched the areas of housing growth in the region. In San Francisco in particular, we have much less land compared to most other jurisdictions in the Bay Area. So not only do we have our own citywide challenges in terms of a housing/jobs imbalance, but we also face a problem regionally given that many other jurisdictions are not as interested in housing growth.
What was the most valuable lesson you learned from your experience on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors?
I have learned so much while serving on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and it’s hard to pinpoint the most valuable lesson learned. But I would say that doing your homework and keeping an open line of communication with everyone, no matter how adverse they are to you, are critical to moving things forward.
How do you plan on transferring the skills you have honed in government service to private practice?
So many issues get wrapped up into land use matters—they can involve policy desires of critical decision-makers, needs of the surrounding community of a proposed project, personalities of parties involved and so much more. While serving on the Board of Supervisors, I have had to work through all of these issues and hope to bring my perspectives given this experience.
Were you or are you now in a position to have an impact on the city’s housing crisis?
While serving on the Board, I had a huge role to play when it came to the City’s housing crisis—but that was from a policy perspective. Moving into the private sector, I still hope to make an impact by bridging both policy and realities on the ground.