As your Supervisor, my priorities include supporting our small businesses, protecting our tenants and small property landlords, and advocating for resources and safety for working families. And as the Board’s Budget Committee chair, I am working to ensure the budget process is transparent and inclusive, and city departments are held accountable for public dollars spent and yield the quality services that San Franciscans deserve. This is why, just in the first half of 2023, I have authored legislation to accomplish these priorities.
Supporting Tenants and Small Property Landlords
Over the last three years, San Francisco and California have provided rent relief funding for tenants during the pandemic. Now that the city and state emergency orders have been lifted, the program will begin winding down this summer. Rent relief funding has been a lifeline for tenants, small businesses, small property owners and nonprofit affordable housing providers who do not have as much access to resources as corporate property owners.
This is why I introduced a resolution urging the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development to prioritize tenants and small property landlords, as well as nonprofit housing providers, in its rent relief program and provide program information in multiple languages. As a result, about 45% of rent payments went to supporting tenants with small property landlords, and 30% went to permanent supportive housing and affordable housing units.
Now, I am working on legislation to further strengthen the Union-At-Home ordinance which will strengthen tenants’ ability to form a union and negotiate their rights with landlords. In 2022, I cosponsored Board President Aaron Peskin’s Union-At-Home legislation to allow tenant organizing activities in buildings with five or more rental units. This was in response to concerns raised by tenants of buildings owned by corporate landlords who refused to negotiate rent relief or tenant rights issues during the pandemic.
During the pandemic, when thousands of Californians lost their jobs and found themselves in need of the unemployment benefits they were due, the California Employment Development Department (EDD) could not keep pace with the unprecedented surge of workers seeking unemployment insurance claims. This left workers without their benefits for weeks or months at a time, and navigating the website or getting through to EDD claims officers was nearly impossible. To call attention to this unacceptable treatment of workers, I introduced a resolution urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to overhaul and improve the usability of the EDD. While many industries are returning to pre-pandemic employment levels, we are still seeing layoffs in the tech industry, and the lack of jobs that offer living wages for wage workers, causing a continuing increase in unemployment. We must do more to support our workers.
This is why I am now drafting two pieces of legislation to further protect our workers as new technology and laws take place. The first is an amendment to the Planning Code to regulate the use of autonomous vehicles in delivery services. As we increasingly see driverless vehicles on our streets, we need to ensure we have the tools to move us forward and still create good paying jobs while encouraging positive innovation here in San Francisco.
The second is an ordinance I will introduce this month will be to make sure public dollars and contracts are awarded to companies that are good employers and have no outstanding labor violations. Our taxpayer dollars should not be spent on union busting, wage theft, and/or discrimination against working people.
Boosting Small Business and Improving Our Neighborhood
For decades, the Seal Rock Inn and Restaurant hosted guests in the Sutro Heights neighborhood and served delicious food to neighbors and tourists alike. Impacted by the pandemic, Seal Rock Restaurant closed down the restaurant in 2020, and faced unexpected hurdles to reopen with a significant amount of annual encroachment fee despite having operated the restaurant in the same footprint since 1974.
As we continue to recover from the impacts of the pandemic and prepare to weather the looming recession, and to support our neighborhood small businesses, I introduced legislation to waive the encroachment fee, hopefully clearing the way for the Seal Rock Inn and Restaurant in reopening their restaurant.
And to make sure we continue to improve every part of the Richmond, in March I introduced a resolution to initiate the historical landmarking of the Alexandria Theatre’s historical resources. This historical landmarking legislation was introduced so we can start a conversation with the property owners to preserve key elements of the theater while paving the way for the lot to be developed to benefit our community. I certainly hope to see housing developed at the site and am committed to push for significant improvements that the Richmond and the Alexandria Theatre deserve.
Another beloved Richmond District institution, the Internet Archive, located in the Inner Richmond, has been providing free access to information, including loaning free digital versions of books. But now it is facing legal challenges that warrant everyone’s attention. In spring of this year, a New York judge ruled that the Internet Archive is violating the copyrights of four major publishing companies by lending out free digital copies of published materials. This ruling would require that libraries must use licensing agreements to lend digital books, which would impede on the Internet Archives and our public libraries’ ability to provide free access to information.
In April, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed my resolution recognizing the irreplaceable public value of libraries, including online libraries like the Internet Archive, and the essential rights of all libraries to own, preserve and lend both digital and print books to the residents of San Francisco and the wider public. My resolution also urged the California State Legislature and the United States Congress to support digital rights for libraries, including controlled digital lending and the option for libraries to own their digital collections.
Advocating Services for Crime Victims
Last month, I introduced a resolution urging our law enforcement agencies to administer victim services and justice equitably. All victims, regardless of their race, gender identity or their socio-economic status, deserve equal representation from our law enforcement agencies and from our justice system. This includes protection from law enforcement as well as access to services available for victims of crime through the San Francisco Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office’s Department of Victim Services.
I am concerned that victims are being ignored and overlooked by our law enforcement agencies. Crime victims are often our most vulnerable and in great need of equitable access to justice and victim services regardless of a person’s race, gender identity or socio-economic status.
So, to get a better understanding of the victims served by the San Francisco District Attorney and Police departments, I requested the departments provide a written response to my office detailing the number victims served by these agencies over the last three years, the agency’s protocol to provide victim services with cultural and language competency, and status updates on the implementation of several initiatives to improve victim services.
Additionally, I have a resolution pending before the Board’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee urging the Department of Public Health to create programming for victims of gun violence, including helping to identify their rights to file lawsuits against gun manufacturers in accordance with California State Assembly Bill No.1594 which goes into effect in July of this year. My resolution will provide access to education for victims of gun violence to understand and exercise their rights under this new law.
Ensuring Local Input for Future Tax Revenues
As our City faces a $780 million budget deficit over the next two fiscal years, I introduced a resolution opposing a dangerous proposed ballot measure by the California Business Roundtable, which would make it much more difficult for local voters to support tax measures needed to fund local services and infrastructure.
The California Business Roundtable, which represents the state’s wealthiest corporations and developers, has qualified a new ballot measure for November 2024, aiming to limit voter input on important tax measures. The initiative with a misleading title – the “Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act” – would increase the threshold for voter-initiated taxes from a simple majority to two-thirds, meaning several important measures like June 2018’s “Early Care and Education Commercial Rents Tax” that help provide affordable childcare and November 2018’s Our City Our Home that support the City’s services for our homeless population, would not have passed, and SF would have lost out on millions of dollars in revenue.
Tackling Climate Crisis
San Francisco must continue to tackle the climate crisis. As chair of the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo), a body that has oversight authority on the implementation of CleanPowerSF, we negotiated an agreement with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) to form partnership with LAFCo on independent studies for green bank financing, natural gas decommissioning, battery storage, electric vehicle charging and emerging clean energy technologies to support CleanPowerSF and meet the City’s climate goals.
I’m also currently working on legislation that will update our city building code to require new building electrification be completed by certified electricians. This ordinance would provide more job opportunities for our trade unions, furthering our unions’ goals to link well-paying union jobs and build a sustainable future.
Celebrating AAPI Heritage as the Only AAPI Supervisor Representing the AAPI and Immigrant Community
May is celebrated as Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. As the only AAPI Supervisor, I introduced a resolution, with unanimous support from my colleagues, declaring May 2023 as AAPI Heritage Month in San Francisco and hosted a reception honoring and celebrating members of the AAPI community.
Recognizing that AAPI communities continue to face hate, I also introduced a resolution declaring May 18 as Asian American and Pacific Islander Against Bullying and Hate Day. This legislation is in honor of Vincent Chin’s birthday, who was murdered by two white men 41 years ago simply for being Asian. Chin’s death triggered a social and racial justice movement among the Asian American community that still resonates today.
Sadly, we continue to see anti-Asian hate and racism across our nation. Earlier this year, state legislators in Texas introduced legislation to prevent immigrants from China, North Korea, Iran, and Russia from purchasing and owning certain properties. These bills are a dangerous attempt to reinstate “Alien Land Laws” which were ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in 1952. Alien Land Laws were enacted in several states during the late 1800s/early 1900s, including California and Texas, aimed at limiting the presence and permanence of Chinese and Japanese immigrants. As the supervisor representing many immigrants of Chinese, Russian, and Korean descent living and working in the Richmond, and to show solidarity with the AAPI and immigrant community in Texas and beyond, I introduced a resolution condemning the Texas law. And the good news is that now this Texas bill is likely to face defeat.
Additionally, we have a hearing pending to address concerns on crime and violence targeting Asian-American seniors and other vulnerable groups here in San Francisco. This hearing will examine the rise of anti-Asian racism in our City and the response to that rise, including crime prevention efforts, status of investigations, victim services programs and other public safety resources. We will hear from city departments on the strategies they are deploying to reduce crime and violence targeting the Asian Pacific Islander and communities of color and to promote cross-racial solidarity.
Advancing Our Shared Goals Through Legislation
I’m proud of the work my office has done serving our neighborhood and still humbled by what we need to do so our City can continue to recover from the pandemic and revitalize our local economy, meet our climate goals, hold city government accountable and ensure working people can afford to stay and thrive in San Francisco.
While we have accomplished so much in the last few months, there is still so much work ahead of us, and we are committed to serving District 1 communities and citywide, to make San Francisco a city for everyone.
This article was published in the Richmond Review in June 2023.