San Francisco supervisors called for new approaches to stubborn crime, homelessness and drug abuse issues—including a direct challenge to Mayor London Breed—at a reconvened meeting April 12. Originally scheduled for April 11, a damaged Comcast fiber connection box forced the board to reschedule.
The damage was described by Board President Aaron Peskin as an act of vandalism reportedly committed by a person with behavioral health issues, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Peskin to Breed: Come to UN Plaza
The main action at Wednesday’s brief meeting came from several supervisors announcing new items addressing the city’s most stubborn problems—crime, homelessness and drug abuse.
That included an announcement by Peskin that a future meeting would be held at United Nations Plaza, considered an epicenter of the intertwining crises. He challenged Breed to answer questions in that setting, demanding that she defend current policies regarding the drug abuse epidemic.
“I, for one, want to know how she’s planning on coordinating all available resources to address this humanitarian crisis that is at our doorstep, and I can think of no better way to require focus and accountability than to hold this question time at the plaza itself,” said Peskin in a speech, referring to the mayor’s regular appearances before the board.
Breed had been originally scheduled to address the board on Tuesday, but could not attend the rescheduled meeting due to a conflict.
Ballot Measure on Police Staffing Coming
At roll call, District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey requested that the City Attorney's Office draft a charter amendment to establish a minimum staffing level for police and a series of budget set-asides over five years toward that goal.
Dorsey, who will sponsor the charter amendment along with District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani, said he was prompted by the closure of the Mid-Market Whole Foods over safety issues to make the drafting request earlier than planned.
“San Franciscans have been denied the benefits of a fully staffed police department for nearly 30 years,” Dorsey said. “Today, our current police understaffing crisis has never been worse. Whole Foods’ closure [...] is Exhibit A as to why San Francisco can no longer afford not to solve our police understaffing crisis.”
The charter amendment requires voter approval; the earliest opportunity would be March 2024. Dorsey and Stefani would have to marshall either a majority of the board, or the required number of voter signatures, to place it on the ballot.
Calls for Action on Homelessness
District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman introduced a resolution urging Breed to fund 2,000 more shelter or temporary housing placements in the current budget.
“This is a policy choice other cities have already made. In New York City and Boston, [...] 96.2% and 95.2% of those experiencing homelessness have some form of shelter or transitional housing," Mandelman said. "Here in San Francisco, only 43% of those experiencing homelessness have some form of shelter.
“The people living on our streets are getting sicker every day, preparing to die while one of the wealthiest cities in the country tells them to wait for housing. It’s inhumane, irrational, and I think it has to end.”
The resolution reflects continuing disagreement between supervisors, who passed shelter-on-demand legislation last year, and the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing over favoring shelter or more permanent housing, highlighted at a recent board hearing.
Meanwhile, District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí announced he was sending a letter of inquiry to the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing and the Department of Emergency Management on impacts of the current injunction against the city abating street encampments.
“It’s my opinion that we probably should disregard this injunction because there is a humanitarian crisis on our streets,” Safaí said in announcing the inquiry.
Dilemma Over Transit, Housing Aid
Supervisors passed a resolution supporting a multibillion-dollar bond measure planned for next November by the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority to raise money for affordable housing across the region.
At the same time, District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston introduced a resolution urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to provide multiyear bridge funding for transit systems. The resolution comes in response to Newsom’s $2 billion cut to funding for light rail, and failure to include supplemental funding for transit systems hit hard by the pandemic.
“We need to send a clear message to the governor to include transit funding in the May revision,” Preston said, noting that local systems face a “death spiral” without state funding.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Scott Wiener continues to urge that the 2024 housing bond be replaced with a regional bond for transit, which is currently scheduled for 2026.
“I continue to believe it would be a huge mistake for the region not to put a public transportation funding measure on the 2024 ballot,” Wiener told The Standard in an email. “Once our transit systems start making massive service cuts, the damage will be done. 2026 may be too late to fix this problem.”
Other Votes: For the Birds
- Settlements with Walmart and CVS over liability in the opioid epidemic, for which they will pay San Francisco up to $19 million, were passed unanimously. District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen had earlier moved to postpone the settlements until having a discussion with City Attorney David Chiu over whether proceeds could fund safe consumption sites.
- Supervisors passed a nonbinding policy statement urging city officials and departments not to pay for Twitter Blue. Elon Musk, the billionaire who bought Twitter and recently renamed it X Corp among other quixotic changes, seems to be positioning himself as a sort of bete noire of the city’s political establishment.
- Supervisors also passed items declaring part of Commercial Street as “Emperor Norton Way” along with a declaration of intent to amend city law to name the Cherry-Headed Conure, a common parrot, as the city’s “official animal.” The parrot was the winning entry in a heavily promoted Chronicle contest.