One of the reasons I voted to elect my colleague Supervisor Norman Yee president of the Board of Supervisors two months ago was his experience and ability to cobble together a coalition — as well as the fact I knew he would appoint a strong, independent, and experienced Budget Committee chair (who ended up being Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer.) This leadership and teamwork paid off over the last few months, with the new board unanimously appropriating some $415 million in excess state property tax revenues based on balancing what the generous voters of San Francisco have recently voted for.
When the voters approved Proposition A (which I was honored to sponsor) last June, it gave San Francisco the tools to finally free itself from the dangerous and costly stranglehold of PG&E by providing a source of funds to build out our own clean, green, and affordable power transmission, delivery, and distribution infrastructure. We not only provided a tool for funding long-delayed energy upgrades but fast-tracked the build-out of an eastern neighborhoods power substation. This substation is critical to ensuring that the new mixed-use affordable neighborhoods springing up in the southeast are not delayed (like other projects that PG&E has arbitrarily been holding hostage across the city, ranging from the Balboa Community Pool to Muni bus driver bathrooms to literally thousands of units of affordable housing). We also included funding for the city attorney and Public Utilities Commission to assemble an expert consultant and legal team to assess PG&E’s existing infrastructure and what it would take to acquire PG&E’s local infrastructure in the midst of its bankruptcy proceedings.
Last June, the voters also approved Proposition G to provide SFUSD teachers with a “living” wage, as well as what we affectionately refer to as “Baby” Proposition C, which created San Francisco’s first permanently affordable childcare program. As far as I’m concerned, there is no better investment than investing in our kids in their most formative years. Unfortunately, greedy interests have both measures caught up in legal challenges that temporarily prevent the city from releasing and spending the money collected for these purposes. So as the world would have it, the Board of Supervisors by a unanimous vote spent the windfall $415 million on the voters’ stated priorities, including forgivable loans to the School District for teacher’s salaries and to the Office of Early Childcare to allow these education workers to survive in this expensive city. San Francisco values the critical work of our educators, and we negotiated many long hours to balance this need against many others.
Continuing to up the ante on our local contributions to housing and homelessness is another shared priority on the board. Last November’s “Our City, Our Home” Proposition C is also subject to litigation, which the city attorney is confident will eventually lose. In the meantime, the board is providing forgivable loans to begin immediate implementation of these priorities by appropriating funding for building new 100 percent affordable housing and acquiring at risk of eviction apartment buildings/single resident occupancy “hotels.” The goal is to get these units out of the speculative market and to permanently house folks affordably. Funding for the expansion of Navigation Centers and emergency shelters was also included, along with new resources for emergency shelter beds and medical respite facilities. Now the Board of Supervisors will be tasked with monitoring the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing and the Mayor’s Office of Housing, who are the recipients of these significant investments. The hard part will be ensuring accountability from these agencies that often come up short on details, delivery, and results.
Last but not least, I’ve been busting my behind to find a spot for a Navigation Center in District 3. The statistics are clear, there has been an objective increase in homelessness in the northeast quadrant of the city. But when the director of DHSH, Jeff Kositsky, says in the press that there are “no sites [in the northeast] for a Navigation Center” after receiving funding and resources to do just that for the past three years, it is very disheartening, particularly for the community members and city staff who have brought forward potential locations over and over since 2015. Kate Hartley, director of MOH, was adamant 88 Broadway would be breaking ground early this year, and that a temporary Navigation Center would only delay that. In fact, we later found out they are still securing funding and PG&E has delayed the affordable housing project over power hook-ups. We could have sheltered upward of 80 local chronically homeless people during this past rainy season at that site, and still gone on to build permanent affordable housing there. The on-the-ground government employees doing direct service work are some of the hardest working out there, but departments must be accountable for the delays in getting these programs off the ground. I have begun the process of creating a housing oversight committee, which I hope will ensure projects are moving forward quickly and with some creative vision and political will.
Finally, I want to thank my staff, Sunny Angulo, and the collaborative team of North Beach Business Association, Telegraph Hill Dwellers, North Beach Citizens, and North Beach Neighbors for working together to bring new Bigbelly trash cans to North Beach. Test out these five solar-powered pilot bins throughout the neighborhood and let us know your feedback. North Beach Citizens will be maintaining them through a city workforce grant, and if you see trash on the street or illegal dumping, please report to 311 so DPW can address. We hope these bigger bins will prevent rummaging and overflowing, and it was exciting to toss the first piece of trash into one last month.