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Politics & Policy

Supes Roundup: Housing, a New Police Commissioner, Irving Street Toxins and Ragging on Recology

Written by Mike EgePublished Jul. 12, 2022 • 7:15pm
Pedestrians walk past a group of items, laid out for sale on Mission Street in San Francisco, Calif. The sidewalk above the 24th Street Bart Station has become of hub for street vendors in recent months. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

The Board of Supervisors ended up halving their docket as local lawmakers deferred several items at Tuesday’s meeting, including those related to the budget deal with Mayor London Breed and a number of measures for the November ballot. 

Concerns over toxic contamination in the Sunset, an apparently still-misbehaving Recology, and public safety issues prevailed, as the board also introduced new legislation to approve new rules for street vendors and deal with other issues. (As always, wonks looking for the full kit and caboodle can check out the complete agenda.)

Housing Measure Amendments

Speaking of agenda, the supervisors ended up continuing much of Tuesday’s business— consisting of items related to the pending approval of the city budget, as well as a number of charter amendments destined for the November ballot—to future meetings. But before they sent off District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan’s Affordable Housing Production Act, she announced some amendments to the measure.

  • The revisions include changing the definition of “multifamily housing” to projects with 10 or more units instead of the previous iteration of just two or more.
  • The percentage of additional inclusionary affordable housing units required to qualify for the measure has also been reduced from 15% to 8% of total units.  
  • The measure would streamline approval for specific kinds of affordable housing, including 100% below-market-rate projects, teacher housing, as well as some market-rate projects with increased inclusionary affordable housing. It also includes a provision that would invalidate any competing measure provided it received fewer votes. 
  • If placed on the ballot, the measure would be in direct competition with the Affordable Homes Now charter amendment, which qualified for the ballot last month and is supported by Mayor London Breed and a number of housing activist groups such as YIMBY Action. 
  • Chan’s proposal is also described as a streamlining measure, but includes additional requirements—such as specific apartment formats—that opponents say would make projects financially unfeasible. 
  • It also requires projects to employ only “skilled and trained” labor, meaning workers must have completed apprenticeships. So far, some of the city’s influential unions are split on whether that language should be included.  
  • The budget items were continued to satisfy aspects of city code that requires that the full board receive the budget no later than July 15, but not enact them before that date, and to instead enact them between July 15 and Aug. 1. These items were continued to July 19. 
  • Most of the charter amendments up for consideration were also continued to July 19, but Chan’s housing measure was continued to a Committee of the Whole hearing on July 26.

Walker Wins Police Commissioner Seat

Mayor Breed’s nomination of Mission artist Debra Walker to the Police Commission was confirmed by an 8-3 vote. Chan, who reiterated her objections from committee, along with District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston and District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen, voted against the nomination. 

All three praised Walker’s record of activism, but noted their preference for a candidate with policy experience in criminal justice reform. 

District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman spoke in favor of Walker. 

  • Walker brings representation from the city’s queer constituency back to the commission, which lapsed when civil litigation lawyer Petra DeJesus resigned last year. 
  • Walker is a Mission-based painter and printmaker who also has a long history of civic involvement. Most recently, she served on the Arts Commission, and she also served as a tenant representative on the city’s Building Inspection Commission for several years.
  • The most recent appointees to the commission, Max Carter-Oberstone and Kevin Benedicto, are civil litigators with backgrounds in pro bono criminal justice work. 
  • Remaining members include vice president and former deputy public defender Cindy Elias; Jesus Yanez, a pretrial release specialist with the SF Pretrial Diversion Project; immigration defense lawyer Jim Byrne; and Larry Yee, a former union officer and president of the Chinese Six Companies.

Cleaning Up the Sunset—Or NIMBY Sideshow?

Toxic contamination in the Inner Sunset was also a prevailing issue at Tuesday’s meeting. The board unanimously approved a resolution by District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar urging state and local agencies to “provide a comprehensive, coordinated response” to toxic contamination on the 2500 block of Irving Street. An affordable housing development, which has proven controversial with neighbors, is planned for the site. 

  • The discovery of residual deposits of perchloroethylene, or PCE, has complicated further negotiations over the project. The toxin was likely produced by a dry-cleaning business that once operated across the street from the site. 
  • Before the meeting, Mar and a group of concerned residents held a press conference calling for better response. The presser was initially supposed to be held at the 2550 Irving St. site, but Mar moved it to City Hall to keep it focused on the toxins concerns and avoid interactions with protesters who oppose the housing project. 
  • Residents say the California Department of Toxic Substances Control hasn’t done enough to measure and publish information about the toxins, and that building anything on the site should be delayed until further cleanup is done. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Department of Public Health has ceded the matter to state regulators.
  • Citing inadequate outreach, the Mid-Sunset Neighborhood Association sued the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, the developer of the planned 90-unit, seven-story building at 2550 Irving. A request to halt the project was rejected by the court.
  • At the meeting, Mar thanked the Mid-Sunset neighborhood group for its advocacy on the matter, and while he described the kind of contamination at the site as “not uncommon,” he reiterated neighborhood concerns about how it was handled. He also noted that the housing project was able to avoid environmental reviews because of recent state laws enacted to increase housing production. 

Ragging on Recology

Two items on Tuesday’s agenda allowed for Supervisors, led by District 3 rep Aaron Peskin and District 11 member Ahsha Safai, to air continuing gripes about everyone’s favorite recalcitrant refuse removal provider, Recology. 

  • An extension of the scandal-plagued garbage-hauler’s current contract for trash removal at city facilities was unanimously approved, but not before listing a number of complaints. 
  • Safai highlighted poor service on emptying street trash cans that are the company’s responsibility. 
  • Board President and District 10 member Shamann Walton noted that Recology’s performance at public housing sites was unresponsive. “Communication has gone down the toilet,” Walton said. 
  • Peskin noted this would be one of Recology’s last contracts before service goes out to competitive bidding in the future. 
  • Supervisors also unanimously passed a resolution requiring the company to appoint an employee to its governing board, as mandated by voters with the passage of Proposition F last June. “Had they had employees on that board, they might have had the sense not to engage in the practices which got them in such trouble,” Peskin said. 

Roll Call: New Rules for Street Vendors, Transbay Housing, Monkeypox and Early Child Care

Supervisors introduced significant new legislation at the meeting, including:

  • Ronen introduced a resolution approving new permitting guidelines from the Department of Public Works on street vending, to attenuate sales of stolen goods and other problematic issues. It’s a follow-up to legislation by Mayor Breed and co-sponsored by Ronen and Safai that created a framework for new rules this past March. 
  • District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey introduced the first in a series of bills that would clear the way for construction of the Transbay Block 4 project, which promises 681 new units of housing, more than 300 of which will be affordable. F4 Transbay Partners and Mercy Housing are working together on the project. 
  • Mandelman introduced a resolution urging federal agencies to undertake a more aggressive Monkeypox vaccination campaign. He described current efforts as “embarrassing and shameful.”
  • District 7 member Myrna Melgar introduced legislation co-sponsored with Mayor Breed to consolidate departments dealing with issues around early child care into a single new Department of Early Child Care. She also requested a hearing for an update on progress with the temporary closure of Laguna Honda Hospital, citing ongoing concerns aired by patients facing relocation and their families.

Sarah Wright contributed to this report.

Mike Ege can be reached at

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