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Election 2022

Scion of SF Coffee Dynasty Attempts Run for District Attorney, Realizes He Needs to Be an Attorney to Qualify

Written by Anna Tong, Joe Burn, and Garrett LeahyPublished Aug. 12, 2022 • 5:17pm
Austin Hills
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - Austin Hills attends the de Gournay Celebrates Opening of New Boutique on March 1st 2017 at de Gournay Showroom in San Francisco, CA (Photo - Drew Altizer Photography)

An attempt to run for San Francisco District Attorney by the son of an elite coffee dynasty family was brought to an abrupt end this week when he was told that he could not enter the race because he was not an attorney.

Austin Hills, whose family founded Hills Bros. Coffee in San Francisco in the late 1800s, pulled papers to run for the office on Wednesday, according to the Department of Elections website

The Standard made several attempts to contact Hills on Friday and visited his listed address but was told by a man who said he was Hills’ brother that Hills had been unsuccessful in his bid because had not realized that he needed to be an active attorney to run.

According to the latest copy of the eligibility requirements for San Francisco District Attorney, a person wishing to run for the position must have served as an attorney licensed to practice in California for at least five years prior to filing.

A search for Austin Hills on the California State Bar Attorney website garnered no results. 

The 42-year-old is registered as a Libertarian, according to public voter information. And this doesn’t appear to be the first time he has attempted to run for public office: according to his Facebook posts, he registered to be an Independent write-in candidate for the 2016 presidential election.

Hills frequently lambasts SF’s Mayor London Breed on his social media accounts, in one example posting a photo of a person experiencing homelessness with the caption, “Thank you Mayor London Breed!” He also appears to be a fan of helicopters and skiing, according to his Facebook account.

The Hills family's coffee dynasty has a storied local legacy. The original Austin Hills, Sr. and his two sons sailed from New England to California in 1873 and began selling coffee and tea on Harrison Street in SF. In 1900, one of the sons invented vacuum packing, which is still the most popular method of packaging coffee today, according to the Hills Bros. website

Nestle purchased the company in 1985, and it can now be purchased at retailers like Sam’s Club and Staples. The family also owns Grgich Hills Cellar, a popular winery in Napa Valley with a stop on the Napa Valley Wine Train.

The Hills family appear to be city socialites. In 2010, Hills’ father hosted a Bollywood-themed wedding, where “saris were in full swing, some guests channeled the old British colony with pith helmets and khakis” according to SFGate coverage of the occasion. Danielle Steel and Nancy Pelosi attended.

Confirmed candidates to run in the November election so far include current DA Brooke Jenkins, former police commissioner John Hamasaki, Joe Alioto Veronese—another former police commissioner—and attorney Maurice Chenier.

Joe Burn can be reached at
Garrett Leahy can be reached at

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