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Politics & Policy

Democratic Party official suspended from job following controversial tweet

A man in a suit speaks into a microphone in front of a blue and gold ornate background.
Former Supervisor John Avalos was placed on leave at an influential housing group days after posting a tweet that appeared to condone harassment of a state senator. | Source: Paul Chinn/SF Chronicle/Getty Images

A Democratic Party official has been put on administrative leave from his position as leader of one of San Francisco's most influential affordable housing organizations, The Standard has learned.

John Avalos, executive director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, confirmed he was put on leave in a phone call on Thursday but did not comment further.

Avalos is a former member of the Board of Supervisors and is currently running to retain his seat on the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, the governing board of the local Democratic Party.

Karoleen Feng, who serves as the board president of Avalos' organization, said his leave would last until the end of next week. Feng declined to provide a specific reason for the action.

Avalos was criticized this week for a tweet he sent in response to a video compilation of state Sen. Scott Wiener being followed and publicly confronted over his positions on the Israel-Hamas war, with one individual telling the elected official, “Your whole bloodline’s cowards.” 

Wiener, who co-chairs the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, has been outspoken in his support for Israel and has been quick to call out what he sees as antisemitic attacks, sometimes coming from progressive activists.

In a subtweet, Avalos wrote, "Never again means never again for anyone. Never again also means ppl of conscience have a responsibility to prevent the past fear & indifference to Jewish suffering from ever happening again to anyone anywhere. Ppl have the right to call out elected leaders’ complicity w/genocide".

Some viewed the tweet as Avalos justifying the harassment towards Wiener.

In comments provided to The Standard, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman called it "pretty offensive," and Tyler Gregory, CEO of the Bay Area's Jewish Community Relations Council, whose organization created the video of Wiener, described it as "pretty gross."

Wiener said Avalos' comments amounted to “pretty bizarre and unhinged logic.”

A man in a suit speaks into a microphone, partially obscured by a blue blurry foreground.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, co-chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, has been followed and confronted in public for his positions on the Israel-Hamas war. | Source: Jason Henry for The Standard

"Avalos’s argument is that because Jews have been persecuted and killed, it’s therefore appropriate behavior to physically harass and intimidate a Jewish elected official and his staff," Wiener said. 

The criticism of Avalos followed months of heated debate over how elected officials should weigh in on the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks against Israel.

Last month, the Board of Supervisors passed a cease-fire resolution in an 8-3 vote that saw hours of heated public comment. As a member of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, Avalos helped draft a separate cease-fire resolution that was adopted on Jan. 24.

In a follow-up tweet on Wednesday, Avalos wrote, "Just so it’s clear: While I believe people have the right to protest and confront elected officials who are complicit w/genocide. I deplore antisemitism. The mash up video that JCRC has put together to distract from the genocide contains glaring antisemitic remarks that I condemn."

Avalos' housing organization, known colloquially as "Choo Choo," was established in 1978 and serves as a coalition of nearly two dozen groups advocating for more affordable development in the city.