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San Francisco homelessness commission nominee admits inexperience, vote delayed

Dena Aslanian-Williams previously served as the president of West of Twin Peaks Central Council. | Source: Screenshot SFGovTV

The Board of Supervisors punted a vote on Mayor London Breed’s pick for the newly formed Homelessness Oversight Commission on Tuesday after past social media posts emerged where the nominee voiced opposition to a recreational vehicle site for homeless people. 

The board delayed the vote until next Tuesday to allow for further discussions with the nominee, Dena Aslanian-Williams, who previously served as the president of West of Twin Peaks Central Council. Breed nominated her for a seat on the commission that’s reserved for people with experience working on a neighborhood or business association. 

However, at a hearing on Tuesday, some supervisors raised concerns over Aslanian-Williams’ past comments on the social media platform Nextdoor in which she opposed an RV site for unhoused people and disagreed with harm-reduction policies. 

Aslanian-Williams commented on a post last August urging another social media user to “please fight” an RV site for homeless people near Lake Merced. In a separate comment, she criticized harm reduction, stating that the “bureaucracy and the nonprofits set in place are huge and entrenched.” 

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Aslanian-Williams told members of the board’s Rules Committee on Monday that she doesn’t have much experience working with unhoused people but that she would bring a beginner’s mindset to the role, focusing on ensuring that the homelessness department is fiscally accountable. She expressed a deep love for San Francisco and a desire to see the city improve.

“I’d like to be able to communicate the work being done to the citizenry,” Aslanian-Williams told the rules committee. 

Some supervisors came to her defense, arguing that Aslanian-Williams—a Compass real estate agent—could be a bridge between the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing and the business community. 

Supervisor Myrna Melgar, who oversees the district where the RV site was proposed, said that Aslanian-Williams had actually supported the site. 

On Tuesday, Supervisor Dean Preston called into question Aslanian-Williams’ past affiliation with the San Francisco Association of Realtors, arguing that the organization often stands in opposition to solutions to homelessness. Preston asked for the vote to be delayed for a week so that he can meet with the candidate. 

The board will have another chance to vote on the appointment next Tuesday.

David Sjostedt can be reached at david@sfstandard.com

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