Since my time at the Emergency Operations Center, California and San Francisco have begun the challenging road to recovery—which continues to be a series of two steps forward and one step back, as our COVID-19 numbers have spiked again. My top priority has been charting a path for the city to safely re-open.
ECONOMIC RECOVERY: STARTING WITH SMALL BUSINESSES
As the co-chair of the city’s Economic Recovery Task Force, along with City Assessor Carmen Chu and Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, I’ve spent most of my time negotiating an overhaul of the city’s business tax structure, legislating small business relief and piloting the Shared Spaces program in North Beach.
By this November’s election, you can expect a gross receipts ballot measure that rebalances our business tax burden from small businesses to the city’s largest corporations, while standardizing rates across our most cost-sensitive industries. The other key component will be a mechanism to “unlock” the business tax revenue voters approved in 2018’s June and November elections, which the city has been collecting but hasn’t been able to spend while the opposition litigates in California’s courts. Voters overwhelmingly approved both 2018 Prop C measures, because we know that housing our homeless improves conditions for everyone, including our small businesses. We also know that our economy and workforce is stronger when parents can afford reliable childcare. This business tax overhaul will finally eliminate payroll taxes, exempt small businesses, and free up more than $300 million of unspent Proposition C funds for investment into universal childcare and homeless services and housing.
In North Beach, we’re seeing the success of a Shared Streets program piloted by the North Beach Business Association, as restaurants begin to come back to life by repurposing areas of the public realm to increase social distancing and allow for al fresco dining. Many thanks to Lee Hepner in my office who spent hours coordinating with stakeholders and going over public health and safety protocols. This program will only continue to be successful if we are vigilant about masking, social distancing, and cleaning.
My office has also spearheaded a package of small business relief efforts, including permit streamlining and fee waivers, with input from NBBA, Discover Polk and the Lower Polk CBD. Look for more creative repurposing of the public realm, as we expand the Shared Spaces program to Fisherman’s Wharf and the Polk Street corridor.
Speaking of economic recovery, please support our fundraising efforts to help our crabbing and fishing community recover quickly from the Pier 45 fire, which wiped out millions of dollars of handmade equipment: https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/pier-45-crabbers-relief-fund
KEEPING SF MOVING: TRANSPORTATION RECOVERY
I am also co-chairing our Transportation Recovery Workgroup, along with SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin. Last month, the SFMTA Board approved a revised budget that decreased Muni expenditures by $30 million for FY 2021 and $54 million for FY 2022, largely by keeping vacant staff positions unfilled. We’ve still got a long way to go to get Muni going at top service, but for right now we are focused on providing safe and affordable transit for essential workers and hospital and health-care visits, and ramping up from there. Future budget planning includes CARES Act federal relief, a transportation bond, and General Fund support.
District 3 residents who asked for increased service on the Folsom/Pacific 12 line will be happy to know that we added two extra buses to help with overcrowding. And we are moving forward with transit-only lanes across the city to speed up essential service, and in advance of plans to bring metro subway trains above ground for modified service, starting in August. Our goal is to reclaim at least 70 percent of our former service levels, hopefully as early as 2021. Thankfully, we invested in a new bus fleet before the pandemic, so our focus will be maximizing that fleet in the months ahead.
Finally, special thanks to the community members who helped to finalize our San Francisco County Transportation Authority D3 pedestrian safety neighborhood project list, including Telegraph Hill Dwellers, Chinatown TRIP, NBBA, SFCTA citizen rep Rachel Zack, SFMTA citizen rep Queena Chen and PSAC rep Gabrielle Haug. In addition to school safety improvements at Francisco Middle, John Yehall Chin Elementary and Spring Valley Elementary Schools, we are moving forward with pedestrian safety improvements at the intersection of Columbus, Stockton and Green Streets, pedestrian scrambles in Chinatown, and signal improvements in Nob Hill.
SAFETY FIRST: TESTING AND PUBLIC HEALTH PROTOCOLS
Working with the Department of Public Health and the city attorney’s office, we’ve begun to establish protocols for re-opening everything from hotel rooms to music rehearsal studios to fitness clubs. At the center of all of this policy work is the need to protect our essential workers.
I have also been focused on mitigating the spread of COVID-19 within our congregate settings, including our SRO residential hotels, where we know residents are most vulnerable to exposure. My office has created a free SRO testing program in partnership with Chinese Hospital and DPH, and recently worked to create criteria for decedent testing and reporting.
As we increase culturally competent and free testing citywide, our next focus will be contact tracing, both through employers and social networks. My chief concern is that this information be protected and only used to help public health officials understand how the virus is being transmitted so we can contain it and support our residents impacted by the virus with wrap-around services.
In the months ahead, I’ll be partnering with various neighborhood leaders on more virtual recovery updates, and I hope that you’ll join!