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Politics & Policy

New Board of Supervisors kicks off year with short, sharp meetings

Board of Supervisors meeting on May 3, 2022 | Camille Cohen/The Standard

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is jump-starting its legislative year starting with an inaugural session on Monday morning, where a board president, one of the city’s most powerful positions, will be elected. 

The board has a new member—District 4 representative Joel Engardio—while District 6 mayoral appointee Matt Dorsey has been elected for a full term, making for a reshaped board with different alliances and priorities. Along with veteran District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani, Engardio and Dorsey are expected to comprise a “moderate caucus,” shifting the board closer to the political center. 

There’s still a progressive majority on the board—but expect moderates to work with swing voters, such as newly reelected District 8 member Rafael Mandelman, to shift policy on issues like the nexus of homelessness, the overdose crisis and street conditions. 

Board Presidency

Mandelman and District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan have been mentioned as possible candidates for board president—but sources tell The Standard that incumbent Shamann Walton has the votes to be elected again

District 11 member Ahsha Safaí threw in his lot with Walton, the District 10 supervisor, over the weekend.

Should Walton get the votes, you can still expect an overall shift toward the center with moderates gaining a higher profile on the board’s committees.

Members of the board contacted by The Standard Monday morning had no comment on how the vote will go. 

While some might argue the job is more trouble than it’s worth, another term as board president would give Walton an additional platform for issues around what has been traditionally considered an underserved district.

Most board watchers agree that the president’s most important job is assigning colleagues to the committees that vet legislation before it arrives at the full board. Additionally, the board president serves as acting mayor should the elected mayor vacate office for any reason. 

Mayor London Breed became acting mayor when Mayor Ed Lee died due to a heart attack in 2017; Sen. Dianne Feinstein also assumed the job after the murders of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978.

Walton’s tenure has not been without problems: Last August, he faced criticism over a confrontation with a Sheriff’s Department cadet working security at one of the entrances to City Hall. The cadet, Emare Butler, alleged that Walton physically threatened him and called him the N-word. Both Walton and Butler are Black. 

Storm Response 

Tuesday’s regular meeting has a light agenda, but at least two contentious issues—the city’s response to the “bomb cyclone” storms and leadership of the Police Commission—are still on the board's plate.

Mayor London Breed will make her periodic appearance before the board to answer questions and make remarks. The question on tap, from Walton, is on “emergency preparedness.” 

Breed has been getting heat over the city’s response to the atmospheric river storms that have been hammering the region in recent weeks, with record rains and central neighborhoods like the Mission subject to flooding. 

Residents have complained that there was little to no advance response to the flooding. Breed said that the National Weather Service provided insufficient information about the extent of the storms, but the agency countered that they gave the city advance warning of “a significant rain event” with hazardous conditions.

Police Commission President Cindy Elias at a Police Commission meeting on June 6, 2018 | SFGovTV

Police Commission Battle

Also on the agenda is a motion confirming the reappointment of attorney Cindy Elias to the Police Commission. 

Elias’ term is not up until April; District 3 member Aaron Peskin had introduced the motion in December, allegedly over concerns that the new board would not confirm Elias in April. The move received strong pushback from Breed and moderate board members.

Peskin then split the item, creating a separate, nonbinding “motion of intent” which passed 8-3 at 2022’s final board meeting. The original motion, which has binding effect, will be on Tuesday’s agenda. 

Affordable Housing for Downtown

The supervisors will also hold a special order hearing at 3 p.m. to consider legislation to increase maximum floor plate sizes for Transbay Block 2, located on Folsom Street between Beale and Main streets. 

The plan would ease the way for 335 units of affordable housing, 184 of which will be for families and 151 will be for seniors. 

The mixed-use project will replace a former temporary regional bus terminal and is being developed by Mercy Housing and Chinatown Community Development Center. It’s part of 3,800 units of housing, 1,400 of which will be affordable, planned for the Transbay Project Area.