Back in 2010, I was fortunate to earn a seat on the Board of Supervisors and represent the neighborhoods of District 2, which I was born and raised in. For seven years, I came to work every day to be your neighborhood advocate and voice inside of City Hall, and I am proud of all we were able to accomplish during my tenure. Supervisor Catherine Stefani has taken the torch in District 2, and I am incredibly proud of everything she has already achieved during her short time. Her future is bright.
In late January, I accepted the nomination and support of my colleagues to become the 44th mayor of San Francisco. It has been the absolute honor of my lifetime to serve as your mayor.
While the opportunity to serve as mayor was only for six months, I rejected the notion of serving as a “caretaker” mayor, and I pledged to myself and my staff that our administration would be extremely active. Our residents, businesses, and the city of San Francisco deserved nothing less.
As much as I enjoyed being a supervisor, the scale at which you are able to make change and impact as mayor is incomparable. The opportunities to make drastic improvements for the betterment of San Francisco became clear quickly.
In addition to work around economic development, the environment, and civil rights, from day one my top priorities were to address the public safety, homelessness, and cleanliness issues facing San Francisco and our neighborhoods. In my first week in office, we drew up on a whiteboard the priorities and policies we wanted to accomplish, so we could visualize and track our progress on the issues top-of-mind to all San Franciscans. As I leave office, I am proud to say that every goal and policy on the whiteboard has been checked off, and I wanted to highlight some of those efforts that will start to have a dramatic effect on our city in the near future.
One of government’s core functions is to ensure public safety and emergency preparedness and response. As supervisor, I fought every budget cycle to provide funding for more police officers to increase staffing in our chronically understaffed police department. Unfortunately, in most years, I was in the minority and lost some of those fights.
One of my first actions as mayor was working with Chief Bill Scott and our police department to develop an in-depth staffing analysis so we could better staff the department and improve public safety outcomes. I’ve stated many times I believe we have some of the best police officers in the country; we just don’t have enough of them. Based on the analysis, the budget I submitted as mayor on June 1 included funding for 250 new police officers in addition to resources to support Taser training for our officers and much-needed new equipment for the department.
We also added more foot patrols, launched a new public awareness campaign, and installed new surveillance equipment in city-owned garages that contributed to a 20 percent drop in auto break-ins during my time in office. Our fire department and the Department of Emergency Management also received significant investment to help deliver better response times for residents experiencing emergencies.
There is no question homelessness has reached crisis levels in San Francisco. The conditions on our streets are unacceptable. As supervisor, I fought for additional resources to provide more shelter and housing opportunities, but also to address tent encampments and street behavior. I believe we reached a tipping point recently, moving from a compassionate approach to a system that enabled the conditions and behavior on our streets.
During my first month in office, I asked our Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing to work with our Department of Public Works and the police department to focus on resolving tent encampments citywide. Every individual living in an encampment was offered services and shelter. Thankfully, many accepted these services, because no one’s life ever improves by living in a tent. As a result, we reached a point last month where no large tent encampments exist citywide anymore. I strongly hope this continues in the future, because tents should not be a part of the permanent landscape of our sidewalks in San Francisco.
At the end of the day, housing is the most cost-effective and humane solution to reduce homelessness. But we can’t simply build our way out of the crisis — we need to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place. My proposed budget provided approximately $30 million for new supportive housing units, doubled our Homeward Bound program that connects individuals with loved ones outside of San Francisco, fully funded our Navigation Center pipeline, and provided flexible grants to prevent people from becoming homeless when they fall on hard times. Ultimately, the combination of approaches will continue to improve the conditions on our streets and pay dividends for years to come.
Every San Franciscan deserves clean streets and neighborhoods. As a supervisor, I advocated for more street cleaning on every District 2 merchant corridor. As mayor, I had the opportunity to make a much bigger impact.
My budget includes $13 million for new citywide investments to clean up our streets. The budget includes 44 new street cleaners evenly divided by supervisorial district, more public restrooms to decrease human waste, and new equipment to clean bike lanes, sidewalks, and our streets.
I also worked extremely hard to address the opioid epidemic and the amount of needles on our streets. We launched a first-in-the-nation program to help address heroin addiction by creating a new street medicine team of public health and medical professionals to administer a drug called buprenorphine that suppresses heroin cravings. Additionally, we created a dedicated rapid-response needle pickup team that responds to 311 complaints and hot spots.
I believe every mayor’s goal should be to leave the city in a better place. While we clearly need to do more to address many issues citywide, I am confident the investments and policies will continue to result in significant progress on the issues most important to San Franciscans.
I have full faith and confidence Mayor-elect London Breed will not skip a beat in picking up where I left off. I know she cares deeply about addressing many of the issues I prioritized and believe we should all get behind her administration and do all we can to support her.
I want to reiterate that being your District 2 supervisor, and now mayor, was the honor of my life. While this may be my last Marina Times column for some time, I look forward to staying involved in our neighborhoods while also taking a break from City Hall.
You can always stay in touch at markfarrell.com. See you around the neighborhood!