On Jan. 7, just a day after the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, I was ceremoniously sworn in by the clerk of the Board of Supervisors, Angela Calvillo, with my family beside me. Standing in front of City Hall with my mom, partner and son to take the oath of office was a symbol of a democratic transition of power in the shadow of an attack on our nation.
I thank District 1 voters for sending me to represent our incredible and vibrant district in City Hall. I know the responsibility of this office means I am tasked with fighting against special and corporate interests and advocating for working people, immigrants and communities of color.
At my first full Board of Supervisors meeting the following week, I talked about how special our district is. Before the pandemic, my family (and I know, so many of yours) would enjoy pizza at Giorgio’s, ice cream at Toy Boat for dessert and shopping for books at Green Apple. Or date nights beginning with the best dumplings in the Richmond at Shanghai House, drinks at Hockey Haven and a movie at Balboa Theater. Of course, I cannot forget the noise on Balboa, THE Noise, the great little music record shop with live jazz. All of that reminded me of the importance of our small businesses, the diversity of our community, and why we must help residents, workers and merchants in District 1, and all of San Francisco to recover from the pandemic.
That’s why my first legislative items will advance our shared goals to build more affordable housing, improve city governance and management and protect the small businesses that anchor our neighborhoods.
First, I am asking the city attorney to draft legislation to expand the Legacy Business Program to create a second tier of qualifying local small businesses – to be known as Neighborhood Anchoring Businesses – that have been established and registered in San Francisco for at least 15 years. With this legislation, I also intend to establish a legal aid fund to assist these neighborhood anchoring businesses in fighting against eviction due to a loss of income from COVID-19. The Legacy Business Program has played a key role in saving community institutions, and I hope to open that opportunity to other valuable cultural assets.
We also need to do more to make sure San Franciscans can get through this pandemic – we need to make sure our working people can stay housed. We need to continue to build on our momentum to develop more affordable housing.
To do so, I have requested that the City’s Department of Real Estate produce an inventory of all city-owned properties. The list will be broken down by department and supervisorial district and include information about the existing use of the properties, existing lease agreements or ongoing negotiations and projected use in the next two fiscal years. Having a comprehensive inventory of our existing properties and their uses will provide a tool for my office and the public to better advocate for responsible management of publicly owned land and possible affordable housing sites.
As we tackle our City’s budget deficit, we must also make sure we balance our budget, protect our essential workers and ensure our city services are serving those who are most in need. I know our city government can do better, and there may be fundamental structural challenges to our system that pose obstacles for our workers and city departments.
Therefore, I’ve tasked the controller and our Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office with analyzing the structure of the City Administrator’s Office. Specifically, I am asking what requirements the 1996 Charter Amendment set, the role the City Administrator’s Office plays, which divisions it oversees and what that oversight entails. I am asking how this role has evolved over time, how this structure compares to other comparable jurisdictions and for an analysis of the efficacy and performance of San Francisco’s system.
I am looking forward over the next few weeks to being in the community to meet our first responders, including the Richmond Station police officers and Station 14 and 34 firefighters. I’ve also asked city departments to join me in walking merchant corridors, meeting with small business owners to wish them a Happy Lunar New Year and distributing important safety information and other useful resources. Lastly, I’ve asked our Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing to visit the areas of our district where we have seen the biggest increases in visible homelessness and to work with my office to identify solutions that will serve the needs of both housed and unhoused neighbors. I want to make sure that the Richmond is getting its fair share of resources from the city agencies charged with coordinating services and response.
These are just some of the activities and programs my office is working on in our first month. I look forward to hearing from Richmond residents on additional issues of concern and working together in the coming months and years. Please feel free to reach out to me directly at Connie.Chan@sfgov.org. However, for a more immediate response, you can reach my staff at ChanStaff@sfgov.org or sign up for our office newsletter at bit.ly/d1newsletter.
This article was published in the Richmond Review in February 2021.