As we head into 2017, i want to take a moment to reflect on 2016 — to reflect on the work of our office with the community, our residents, and our businesses throughout the year. While 2016 was a difficult year for many, and presented new and unique challenges, I strongly believe that here in San Francisco we continue to move our city in the right direction.
PUBLIC SAFETY AND HOMES
I hear from constituents daily about crime and concerns regarding public safety. This is a real issue across the city, and rightfully a serious concern for many people within District 2. Especially as a parent of three young children, I get it. The five years before I came into office, City Hall did not fund a single SFPD Police Academy class, and combined with record retirements from our police department, we have been faced with record low staffing levels at SFPD. The good news is as chair of our Budget and Finance Committee, working with the mayor, we have now fully funded our Police Academy, and we expect to be back to mandated staffing levels toward the end of 2017.
That said, until our Police Department is at full staffing, we will have to continue to work together as a community, in partnership with our Police Department. Over the past two years, I’ve hosted five public safety town halls in District 2, and more recently have started meeting with neighbors in smaller groups. Please contact me or my office if you’d like to participate in these conversations.
Related to these public safety concerns is homelessness, whichcontinues to to be a personal top priority for me. One of the most visible symptoms of homelessness has been the tent encampments that are now spread throughout every neighborhood. While some of my colleagues preferred to institutionalize and encourage tent encampments on our neighborhood streets (seriously), I authored and placed Proposition Q — Housing Not Tents — on the November ballot, which passed with the support of more than 194,000 San Francisco residents. Proposition Q will help move homeless San Franciscans out of tent encampments and into supportive services, shelter, and housing. Now, Proposition Q will provide an additional tool for our city to address the proliferation of tent encampments.
The issue of homelessness does not stop there, and we cannot escape the fact that we have a large problem. I commissioned a first-of-its-kind report earlier in 2016 that laid out the economic case for the city to pay for housing to get individuals and families off the street; it is empirically less expensive, even in this housing market, to house the homeless than treat them on the streets, as the burden on our police and fire department, public health department, and ambulance services is overwhelming. It is why I was so disappointed in December when my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors and the mayor decided to divert funds from our homeless budget to fund free City College for everyone. I think that was a morally wrong decision.
Last, cost of living and housing affordability continued to dominate discussions inside and outside of City Hall. I firmly believe we need to build more housing at every income level to change the tide, and was happy that Supervisor Peskin and I were able to reach consensus on our landmark policy on citywide construction of accessory dwelling units that paves the way for the creation of tens of thousands of permanently rent-controlled residential units.
PARKS AND INTERNET ACCESS
Parks and open spaces are our city’s great equalizer. Unfortunately, funding for our parks has not kept pace with our needs. For more than a year, I worked with neighborhood, park, and environmental advocates to author and pass Proposition B in June 2016 to provide just over $1 billion in new funding over the next 30 years for our Recreation and Park Department — without raising taxes.
Furthermore, in our growing city, I actually believe it is critical to develop new open spaces. We have purchased the old Francisco Reservoir in Russian Hill, and in 2016 the Recreation and Park Commission, along with the Board of Supervisors, approved a major milestone in our Francisco Park Project by allowing our Recreation and Park Department to enter into an agreement with the neighborhood group the Francisco Park Conservancy. The Conservancy is leading the effort, along with my office, to fund the new Francisco Park Project, and I am thankful for their partnership and incredible efforts. Neighborhood outreach and community meetings have started, and you can get more involved with the project at franciscopark.org.
Lastly, as we pride ourselves on being the “innovation capital of the world,” it blows my mind that more than 100,000 San Franciscans and 14 percent of our public school children still do not have Internet access at home. Internet access is a fundamental right and in my mind a utility on par with water and power. For more than a year, our office has been leading the effort to close the digital divide and bring fast and affordable Internet options to every resident and business in San Francisco. Among many things, we passed a first-in-the-country local law to guarantee tenants the right to choose their own Internet provider, and released a detailed report to provide pathways and cost estimates for providing fast and affordable Internet options to every resident and business. Much more to come in 2017.
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2017
For 2017, I will stay focused on neighborhood issues within District 2, in particular public safety and homelessness, and will work on any and all issues that crop up.
There will be much more in 2017, but I am thankful for the progress we made in 2016, and look forward to continuing our work together in 2017.