I consider it a privilege to serve you. While it is often uncomfortable to confront the power of City Hall, as your district representative I will continue to fight for and demand resources for the Richmond, including increasing resources for public safety, building housing that people can afford and improving city service efficiency.
Fighting for Public Safety Resources
As your district representative and Board of Supervisors Budget Committee chair, I have had an opportunity to weigh in on funding for the police department and public safety in San Francisco. In each instance, I supported increases to funding, after doing my due diligence to ensure the funding was responsible and equitable.
For example, while I supported the mayor’s proposed $25 million for police overtime, I made sure to understand the breakdown of costs and added accountability measures to track the department’s use of overtime. The Budget Committee uncovered that the overtime increase was mainly spent on a safe-shopper program for downtown tourists instead of increasing beat patrols in our neighborhoods, leading me to demand a more equitable distribution of department resources and better real-time reporting of overtime use.
I also voted in support of a new contract with our police officers which included a 10% salary increase for the next three years and retention bonuses to keep our more experienced officers from leaving. During the budget process, I approved and supported the mayor’s proposed budget that increased the police department’s annual budget to $785 million, and included four police academy classes so that we can build back our department and rely less on overtime.
In addition, to ensure that our police force continues to focus on serious and violent crimes, I also supported the expansion of the Fire Department’s Street Crisis Response Team which diverts more than 18,000 calls related to mental health crises from the police, freeing our officers to focus on what they do best.
After the murder of Yohannes “John” Tewolde at the Richmond Market, the mayor at long last answered my year-long demand to deploy retired police officers to patrol our neighborhood commercial corridors. The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) retired police officer ambassadors will provide support to the Richmond District Police Station, adding patrol capacity to the Richmond. While we welcome the support from the SFPD ambassadors, it is not enough.
This is why I co-sponsored Supervisor Ahsha Safai’s legislation to mandate foot and bike patrols by SFPD in all our neighborhoods. While the legislation was passed unanimously at the Board of Supervisors, it was disappointing to learn that the mayor returned the legislation unsigned without any indication for her plan to fulfill the patrolling mandate. This is why I will continue to do my job to demand the mayor allocate more resources for the public safety our neighbors need.
Our small businesses continue to face break-ins and other public safety issues, but without additional resources provided by the administration, we must be efficient with what we have. I convened a working group with Richmond Station Police Capt. Chris Canning and district merchants, including Balboa Village, the Geary Boulevard Merchants Association and the Clement Street Merchants Association, to identify issues and solutions specific to the needs of our district. Working together, we can build the community we need that will help us keep each other safe.
Legacy of Alexandria Theatre
In September, the owners of the Alexandria Theatre and I announced the first steps to bringing housing development to the iconic building while simultaneously preserving its history. Since I took office in 2021, my office has been working with the owners of the Alexandria, historic preservationists and city staff about options and ways to develop and improve the site. This fall, we announced the exploration of a development agreement, currently being negotiated between the Planning Department and building owners, that will guarantee housing with a specific number of affordable units on site and preserve the historical elements of the theater.
I want to thank our Richmond District neighbors for their patience and trust in our work to develop the Alexandria Theatre and preserve its history. After 20 years of sitting vacant, we are finally moving forward. With the commitment to community benefits and open dialogue with the theater owner, we now can take this monumental step to build much-needed housing in the Richmond while still honoring our history.
Support the Unhoused and Keep Our Streets Safe and Clean
Keeping our streets safe and clean is our top priority, and we can do this and still work to support our unhoused community. This is my office’s guiding principle when we work with city departments, including the Street Crisis Response Team, to support those with mental illness and offer services to unhoused individuals. But keeping our streets safe and clean for everyone is a process, which is why we also work with city departments to keep our traffic medians safe for pedestrians, drivers and public transit riders alike. And when individuals pose public safety risks on our streets, we work with our law enforcement agencies to address these issues. This day-to-day work must be done to address situations as they occur. Some require immediate attention and specific solutions, while other situations call for sustained effort over time. My team and I are committed to do this hard work every day.
But we all know that the best way to solve homelessness on our streets is to prevent it from happening in the first place. We must continue our efforts to improve tenant protections and preserve affordable housing, including fully resourcing the Small Sites Program. This program allows the City to convert eligible buildings from rent control to permanently affordable housing, protecting tenants and preserving housing.
In her budget proposal, the mayor cut $20 million from the Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD), impacting the Small Sites Program, and another $5 million from a program supporting low-income residents living in San Francisco’s Single-Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels. I worked with housing advocates to identify more than $43 million in funding for Small Sites and restored $5 million in funding to the SRO Collaborative.
I will continue to demand accountability from our city departments in their contracts and services in tackling homelessness. I will also continue to advocate for regional strategies with our neighboring counties to tackle health treatments involving the homeless population, to share our resources, and to coordinate collectively with all our local healthcare systems. Our counties should also share resources and data to track regional homeless populations and services, including, but not limited to, coordinating shelter and healthcare facilities beyond city boundaries.
Continuing Through 2024
Clearly, so much more work needs to be done, and the Richmond needs an advocate to fight for resources and demand accountability, and I will continue to be that voice for the Richmond. We will not give up until the job gets done.
This article was published in the Richmond Review in December 2023.