The San Francisco Latinx Democratic Club brought an intimate group of voters together in the Mission Saturday afternoon for a meet-and-greet at the Senegalese restaurant Bissap Baobab with congressman and U.S. Senate hopeful Adam Schiff.
The event marked the first in a series of planned meet-and-greets with 2024 Democratic candidates, according to club co-president Kevin Ortiz.
Schiff announced in January that he aims to replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-San Francisco), whose declining health has become a public concern and who announced earlier this year that she would not seek reelection.
The Latinx club plans to host Schiff's fellow contenders, Reps. Barbara Lee and Katie Porter, as the event series continues, Ortiz told The Standard.
Some 30 people attended Saturday’s kickoff, sipping on brightly colored drinks and seated on folding chairs in the middle of Bissap Baobab's adjacent event space to hear Schiff touch on housing, AI, the future of transportation and other challenges he believes the country faces as it heads into the 2024 election cycle.
“The problem today is when we have tent cities like they did in the Great Depression. It is not the same problem like we had during the Great Depression,” Schiff said. “The problem today is not that people aren’t working. It is that they are working and they just simply can’t make enough to get by.”
Today's affordability crisis stands in marked contrast to the Bay Area of his childhood.
Schiff—who represents California’s 30th District, spanning West Hollywood and Pasadena—told the gathering about how the $18,000 annual salary his father made as a traveling salesman in the 1970s was enough to buy the family's first home in the Bay Area.
Now, he said, a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco costs somewhere around $3,000 a month.
“I think that although we have a crisis of homelessness,” he said. “We also have a crisis of affordability.”
When asked about driverless cars—a point of fascination and consternation as San Francisco becomes a testing ground for the technology—Schiff said he’s sensitive to the potential of automation displacing workers and supports state legislation that would regulate this emerging frontier in transportation.
In the same vein, he said lawmakers need to learn from the advent of previous technologies and regulate AI to avoid exacerbating the inequitable distribution of money and power, further marginalizing workers.
“We have to make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past with AI and that the technology is regulated in such a way that we direct the benefit of it,” Schiff said. “AI can do incredible things with medicine and science, but we shouldn’t do things at the cost of working people.”
Meet-and-greet attendee Isabel Gutierrez said Schiff seemed well-versed in subjects affecting San Francisco.
“I think he hit on all of the right points,” she told The Standard. “I’m looking forward to hearing from the other candidates, but he definitely sounds like a strong choice right now.”