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Politics & Policy

Thea Selby, City College trustee and activist, on why she’s running

Thea Selby, a neighborhood activist and member of the City College Board of Trustees, launched her campaign for state assembly on a message of accountability and results. Selby, who runs a marketing firm alongside various roles in policy and advocacy, has a resume that spans transit, education and small business in San Francisco. 

Selby has earned the endorsements of California Treasurer Fiona Ma, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff, the Haight Ashbury Merchant and Neighbor Association and various community leaders. 

Selby, a longtime San Francisco resident who raised two children in the city, says she got her start in political activism after a double homicide on her block in the city’s Lower Haight neighborhood. She created the Lower Haight Merchants & Neighbors Association partly in response to public safety concerns in the neighborhood.

Public Safety

She went on to become a founding member of Transit Riders, a coalition representing Muni riders. She also served a stint on a bond oversight committee in San Francisco, and vice-chaired an advisory committee governing California’s High Speed Rail project in 2015 and 2016. In 2015, she was elected as a member of the City College Board of Trustees. 


Selby points to her experience at City College, which has been mired in financial and accreditation issues for years, as evidence of her ability to make difficult and even unpopular decisions. The college closed a $34 million deficit earlier this year, which Selby attributed to a combination of administrative salary cuts and labor negotiations. On education, Selby said that the state should take a larger role in funding community colleges, and has voiced support for the recalls of three members of the San Francisco school board.

“I think sometimes it takes a shock to the system to get things going, and that's why I support's about the students,” Selby said. “This is the system that got my kids to UC Berkeley and UC San Diego, so I really believe in our public school system...I just think we all have to move forward.” 


On transportation, Selby called for more funding both for ambitious statewide projects—namely the troubled High Speed Rail project, which suffers from ballooning costs and delayed timelines—and local agencies like Muni.

In the assembly, she said that she would work to appropriate funds for statewide rail, which has shown lagging support in polls and in the legislature: “Northern California sort of sees the big picture and recognizes you start in the middle,” said Selby, referring to an initial link under construction in the Central Valley. “Southern California, I think, needs a little more education.”

More locally, Selby said that she is working to build support among labor and environmental organizations for a “mega measure” to fund public transit, which she described as a local tax of high income earners in San Francisco to fund ongoing transit operations.


On housing, Selby said that state legislators should strike a “check and balance” system between local control and state mandates to streamline housing production. San Francisco is required to build 82,000 housing units by 2031 under state law. 

“I'm a huge believer in local control. When I was on the High-Speed Rail Authority board, I always thought the decisions were better made when you had the locals involved because they know their own area. It just makes a difference,” she said, adding that it is the role of mayors and community-based organizations to allay fears about new housing production. 

Read more about Selby’s campaign here.

Annie Gaus can be reached at