San Franciscans have always been stronger together than apart, healthier unified than divided. For good reason, we will likely remember 2020 alongside 1906 and 1989 as one of the most challenging years in San Francisco history. Over the course of this year alone — amid the Covid-19 pandemic, social unrest, and a volatile national election — our community has pulled together to do everything possible to get through these difficult times.
We are still facing incredible challenges, from skyrocketing unemployment to homelessness and drug addiction. But, as 2020 draws to a close, I wanted to use my last column of the year to reflect on some of our small victories, from cracking down on government fraud and inefficiency to improving our neighborhood parks and open spaces.
These neighborhood improvements may seem small, but they have all been driven by community requests. Whether I’m standing up for fiscal responsibility by voting against the city budget, advocating for public safety improvements by installing security cameras, or reforming the city’s contracting processes, neighborhood input has always been, and will continue to be, extremely important to me.
Early this year, a series of corruption scandals rocked our local government. As public servants, our primary role is to be careful stewards of taxpayer dollars. When we’re not doing that, we’re failing. As a legislator, ensuring trust in government is at the foundation of all of my work at the Board of Supervisors.
This fall, after reviewing the controller’s audits and reports on these incidents, I steered through our legislative process two proposals I authored to address government waste. The first requires that the Department of Public Health provide staffing for the city’s Behavioral Health Commission, which previously operated under an unusual arrangement with a city-contracted nonprofit that suffered from financial mismanagement. The second, my No GRAFT Act — so-named for no Government Rackets, Abuses, or Fraudulent Transactions — creates strict requirements and standards for how city departments award contracts to ensure accountability for the use of public funds. I also plan to introduce similar legislation that will govern how grants are awarded, because we cannot afford to keep spending money with little to show for it.
PARKS AND STREETS
Legislation aside, some of the most rewarding efforts over this year have been in the community as we all adjust to our new normal.
Since March, San Franciscans have been rediscovering and spending more time in our parks. Unfortunately, Covid-19 has made it difficult to maintain physical distance while enjoying these spaces. That’s why I was thrilled to announce the second phase of District 2 Slow Streets, which added stretches of Clay Street and Pacific Avenue to the city’s existing network of pedestrian-friendly open spaces. It is now possible to enjoy a car-free walk or bicycle ride from 28th Avenue to Gough Street almost uninterrupted.
While we have been successful in implementing these plans, I completely agree with concerns around signage, and I will continue to push the SFMTA to install clear and ample signs at all of our Slow Streets so they serve their intended purpose.
We have also seen a tremendous increase in demand for our established parks and open spaces, which has highlighted the need for basic upkeep. After meeting with Seacliff neighbors who reported an uptick in traffic accidents by new beachgoers, I worked with the SFMTA to repaint curbs and install cones and warning signs in the neighborhood. In Sterling Park, which has seen a spike in litter corresponding with its new visitors, I installed new trash cans and fencing, and repainted existing park benches. Finally, I included $200,000 for enhanced lighting in Lafayette Park in this year’s budget, because these basic safety upgrades are long overdue.
Working with the Marina community and the Economic Recovery Task Force, we brought the Shared Spaces program to Steiner Street, between Chestnut Street and Lombard Street, which has allowed neighbors to enjoy our neighborhood’s vibrant small businesses while maintaining physical distance. Our local merchants have poured their souls into their businesses, and I have been so inspired by their continued hustle and ingenuity over the past year. But it should never have been this hard for them. I remain dedicated to cutting red tape and facilitating small businesses’ creativity in the months and years to come, as we work our way out of this recession.
Although the pandemic has sadly kept tourists away from the Palace of Fine Arts, I took this opportunity to push the Recreation and Parks Department to finally install locking gates at the north and south ends of Palace Drive, which will deter future car break-ins and provide a measure of security that has been sorely lacking in this location. I look forward to the day when families can visit the Palace and trust that their belongings are safely stowed in their cars.
As I wrote in this paper at the outset of the pandemic, this is an extremely difficult time and it has affected each of us in different ways. This year has proven that we are in this together, and we will get through this together. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office at 415-554-7752 or [email protected] with any questions or concerns.