The first time Sasha Perigo met Jon Jacobo, she couldn’t help but feel impressed.
As a young journalist who supported his stances on social justice in addition to his work as a director of an affordable housing nonprofit, Perigo had heard of Jacobo and knew he was a rising star in San Francisco’s political scene.
But what started as a friendship after Perigo interviewed Jacobo’s boss at the Tenants and Owners Development Corporation (TODCO) soon turned into a nightmare that she said would traumatize her body, psyche and bank account. An invitation to come over to Jacobo’s house one night in April 2021 led to a terrifying incident, Perigo said, in which she repeatedly tried to resist Jacobo’s sexual advances before eventually being raped.
“I cannot emphasize how much this was not a misunderstanding,” Perigo said. “He looked me in my eyes when I said ‘no’ and took off my pants. It was so clearly intentional. He was not drunk. There was no mistaking. I was not laughing. I was not being playful about it. Like, there was just no way.”
Months would go by before Perigo publicly came forward in a letter posted to Twitter and an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle.
Jacobo denied the allegations, saying his “memory of these events is different.” In a text message to The Standard last week, he referred back to his statement.
While the fallout was swift, it was hardly severe.
Police launched an investigation for potential charges, but no case moved forward. Perigo declined to work with law enforcement because of her deep distrust of police. Jacobo resigned from his seat on the Building Inspection Commission, and his political allies at City Hall distanced themselves from him.
In the 19 months since the rape allegations surfaced, Jacobo has mostly operated in the background as the TODCO’s director of community development, working to renovate three of the organization’s buildings. But in interviews with his boss, TODCO President John Elberling, and nonprofit and political officials, it’s clear that Jacobo’s career is far from canceled. Rather, it appears the alleged rapist’s career trajectory is once again on the ascent.
Serving in a top role at TODCO puts Jacobo in a uniquely powerful position.
Few nonprofits in the city have more political clout than TODCO, an affordable housing nonprofit that makes no attempt to build more housing on its own. Instead, the organization has leveraged its eight properties in the South of Market area to benefit from city and federal subsidies on top of a refinancing scheme that has created a piggy bank worth millions.
A recent investigation by The Standard found that TODCO has dramatically increased spending on lobbying, political campaigns, salaries for executives and grants to other political groups over the last decade. Meanwhile, the organization steadily decreased the share of revenue it spends on its low-income, elderly, disabled and formerly homeless tenants, some of whom complained of rampant rodent infestations and drug overdoses in its buildings due to a lack of resident services.
In a two-hour interview last August, Elberling told The Standard that he was starting to near retirement. The TODCO boss said newly installed CEO Anna Yee, who declined interview requests, would play a major role in future operations, and the organization was also grooming Jacobo to help oversee financial operations.
“He’s transitioning. We need someone to pick up our housing development work, the renovations and [refinancing],” Elberling said. “He’s now going through development courses on how to be a nonprofit affordable housing developer. And we’re also going to bring on an outside consultant to work with him.”
Before the rape allegations, Elberling previously saw Jacobo as a promising candidate to run for the Board of Supervisors. TODCO had once counted former Supervisor Jane Kim amongst its allies on the board, and Jacobo worked in her office near the end of her final term.
Kim, who has been prominently featured in TODCO's political mailers, was forced to apologize after bringing Jacobo to a political event just weeks after the rape allegations became public. She declined comment for this story.
As Jacobo’s star rose and talk grew of him running for supervisor, Jacobo offered TODCO’s boss an opportunity to have an ally overseeing the Mission and, perhaps in time, a progressively aligned mayor.
“Not now,” Elberling said last summer, declining comment on the rape allegations against Jacobo.
However, multiple people involved in local political campaigns told The Standard that they have been hearing talk of Jacobo once again running for supervisor after Hillary Ronen terms out of the District 9 seat at the beginning of 2025.
The idea of Jacobo serving in elected office or having a prominent role in leading TODCO into the future is alarming to many people in San Francisco’s political and nonprofit circles.
State Sen. Scott Wiener called the possibility of Jacobo leading TODCO into the future “deeply concerning.”
Sonja Trauss, a housing activist and executive director of YIMBY Law, said the grooming of Jacobo to help lead TODCO into the future fits a pattern for Elberling.
“He's not one of these people in politics who’s a coalition builder,” she said. “I guess if you want to continue that brand, Jon Jacobo is a good choice.”
Jacobo declined an interview about the rape allegations and his career.
“For the last year,” he said in a text message, “I've worked with TODCO's director of housing development on TODCO's three on-going property rehabilitation projects, and will continue that for the long term.”
Sasha Perigo and Jacobo were having drinks after midnight at his house, she said, but it wasn’t anything excessive. It got late, and he offered to let her stay. Perigo had a boyfriend at the time, and while she and Jacobo had hooked up before, she told him she had no intention of doing so again.
As they laid in bed, Jacobo allegedly became aggressive.
“I wasn't like screaming at him or punching him, but I definitely was pushing him off of me and said ‘no’ dozens of times,” Perigo told The Standard. “He's like, ‘Oh, you've never cheated before? It would be so hot to be your first.’”
Eventually, Perigo said, Jacobo stopped, and they fell asleep. But in the morning, he allegedly pounced and raped her.
Records show Perigo went to the hospital for a rape kit, and she started telling friends and family almost immediately after the alleged attack. About two to three weeks after the alleged rape, Perigo said, she and Jacobo met, as word of the incident was getting around amongst people they knew.
“He told me that at the time he thought it was consensual,” Perigo said. “But after he heard my explanation and my friends’ explanation, he agreed that it was rape. He told me that to my face. He was crying.”
Jacobo told her he had started therapy and stopped drinking, she said.
“My intention was never to come forward,” said Perigo, who couldn’t focus and lost contracts for work because of the trauma she was experiencing. “My intention was like, OK, I just want to forget about it.”
Months would go by, Perigo said, before she learned that Jacobo had been in a serious relationship at the time of the alleged attack. She not only worried about this woman’s well-being, but also felt “anger” about the trauma she had quietly endured. Within hours, she drafted a letter and posted it to Twitter the next morning.
Friends, family, nonprofit colleagues and city supervisors all reached out to her to offer support. Perigo included her email address in her letter, and she said other women reached out to her with their own stories of uncomfortable encounters with Jacobo. Thanks to her time as a journalist, she had collected more documentation than most survivors do, which gave her a fair amount of credibility.
“I was really lucky,” Perigo said. “I was met with a lot more support than most people get.”
But in the nearly two years that have passed since the alleged rape, Perigo said, she has seen nothing come close to any sense of “restorative justice.” Jacobo continues to deny her allegations, and he is now being elevated at TODCO, reestablishing himself on social media and attending events for affordable housing—a space in which they both now work.
“If you don't believe me, frankly, I wonder what survivors you would believe,” Perigo said. “And if you do believe me and you don't care, what does that say about this organization and these enablers of Jon?”
Perigo has also heard the rumors of Jacobo’s resurrection as a potential political candidate.
“It's like [Elberling] wants the ticket to City Hall,” she said, “and he thinks Jon’s still better than nothing.”
Josh Koehn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org