Kanishka Cheng was born in Sri Lanka and immigrated to the US with her mother and younger brother when she was six years old. Escaping Sri Lanka's civil war, Kanishka was granted refugee status as a political asylum seeker and settled into Contra Costa County, where she spent her early years living in public housing. Kanishka was the first in her family to attend college, graduating from University of California, San Diego and earning a Masters in Urban Planning from University of California, Los Angeles.
Kanishka has worked to advance progressive values through urban planning and public policy for over a decade. After graduate school, Kanishka worked at the Oakland Housing Authority (OAKHA), one of the top performing Housing Authorities in the nation. At OAKHA, Kanishka developed policies and programs to address the foreclosure crisis and its impact on Section 8 and low-income tenants.
In 2011, Kanishka began working for the San Francisco Planning Department. At the Planning Department, she managed the City’s update to its groundbreaking chain store controls and successfully brought forth a consensus policy through the legislative process. In 2015, Kanishka moved from the Planning Department to begin work as a Legislative Aide at the Board of Supervisors, most recently serving Supervisor Mark Farrell. As a legislative aide, she helped write San Francisco’s first Citywide Accessory Dwelling Unit legislation, which allows for small in-law units to be added to existing buildings and remains the only way to increase rent controlled housing in San Francisco. In addition, Kanishka helped pass city-wide legislation to close the gender pay gap, ban the sale of furniture treated with toxic chemicals, and protect tenants from false evictions.
Kanishka was featured in Time Magazine for spearheading the effort to have San Francisco join an international movement to increase female representation in the public arts. She is working with a team of women leaders and artists to install a statue of Maya Angelou at the Main Library.
Kanishka has over a decade of experience working in city planning and development. As a Bay Area native, she understands the original promise of BART - fun, safe, clean, and modern transportation, and is running for BART Board to bring the system to its full potential.
Kanishka lives in the Inner Richmond with her husband Jay and her rambunctious dog Laila.