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Politics & Policy

‘Tired of the negativity’: Breed hits back at doubters in State of the City speech

A smiling woman in a blue blazer stands at a podium with a microphone, in front of a window with a blue sky.
Mayor London Breed speaks at Pier 27 for her State of the City address in San Francisco on Thursday. Breed’s speech came two days after an Election Day victory, when two of her ballot measures passed and the third leading. | Source: Juliana Yamada for The Standard

In a speech that featured both a Teddy Roosevelt quote and outro music of Destiny's Child's "Survivor," Mayor London Breed had one message for all of her detractors and doubters over the last half-decade during Thursday's State of the City address: We're so freakin' back, baby!

Considering Tuesday's political wins for the mayor, it was certainly an easier speech to make than, say, a week ago when questions were (and still are) swirling about Breed's reelection bid. Two nights ago, the mayor was able to get two out of three of her propositions passed by voters—and a third looks on track to succeed. She'll likely gain allies on the influential Democratic County Central Committee, though it's still up in the air whether a majority will endorse her for November's big contest.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed addresses the negative narrative of the city at the 2024 State of the City address on Thursday. | Source: Courtesy SFGovTV

But the primary's outcomes provided the juice needed to make a forceful address to roughly 500 attendees of her yearly check-in on city matters, pushing back on years of mounted criticisms projected against her and the city for its image issues surrounding crime, homelessness and a struggling downtown.

The city and the rest of the country need to move on from that, she said in her address at Pier 27 on Thursday.

"I have a message for you," she said in a moment of heightened applause. "San Francisco is not wearing the shackles of your negativity any longer."

The speech was in many ways trying to close the chapter on the city's brutal moments during Covid—and tamping down ideas of any such "doom loop" taking place.

Breed made several promises to curb any such doubt. She will veto any "anti-housing" legislation that comes before the Board of Supervisors, she said, almost certainly a dig at potential mayoral opponent Aaron Peskin, whom she's accused of hardcore NIMBYism.

And downtown, which she mentioned nearly two dozen times in the address, will hinge on a recovery plan embodied by a new initiative called "30 by 30": 30,000 new residents and students in one of the city's most hard-hit economic districts by 2030.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed discusses her plan for additional housing developments in San Francisco at the 2024 State of the City address on Thursday. | Source: Courtesy SFGovTV

"She gives a good speech," Supervisor Rafael Mandelman said. "I thought this was consistent with that. She had a good night on Tuesday. And she got to do a little victory lap on that here. She told the story of what she's accomplished and what she's working on. I think she hit the notes that she ought to have hit."

Breed also echoed comments similar to those she made in a post-election news conference yesterday, criticizing the framing that her ballot measures and a series of moderate wins somehow made the city no longer progressive.

"Building homes and adding treatment beds is progressive," she said. "Wanting good public education and an effective police force, valuing the safety of our seniors in Chinatown and the Bayview, our immigrant and working families in the Tenderloin, is progressive. We are a progressive, diverse city, living together, celebrating each other. LGBTQ, AAPI, Black, Latino, Palestinian and Jewish. That has not changed, and it will not change."

The address also appeared to serve as a reminder of who her allies are on the Board of Supervisors—and who aren't. Supervisors Peskin, Dean Preston, Shamann Walton, Connie Chan and Ahsha Safaí were notably left out of the speech, while all the others got a mention.

That left some in attendance wondering whether all the promises were going to be possible if she keeps the top seat in November.

"It was OK," said Mwangi Mukami, who leads the nonprofit MLIFE Foundation, about the speech. "San Francisco has a lot of challenges ... and we know that those challenges cannot be solved by one person." Mukami said he thinks Breed is "doing the best she can" when it comes to housing and education efforts but questioned whether it was possible to make a full recovery with a divided Board of Supervisors and city.

A person at a podium speaking to an audience with city skyline visible through floor-to-ceiling windows in the background.
Mayor London Breed speaks at Pier 27 for her State of the City Address in San Francisco on Thursday. | Source: Juliana Yamada for The Standard

"You need the citizens to believe in that dream," he said.

Peskin, who made a quick exit after the speech from the scrum of the city's crème de la crème who gathered near the mayor's podium, said he was in full agreement with the positive message being proffered by the mayor.

"The words that I didn't hear, or didn't hear enough of, were words about affordability," Peskin said in an interview. "Interesting that there wasn't a word about Proposition A. Not a word about real steps that the city is going to take to ensure that the city is affordable and housing is affordable. That was my quick, off-the-cuff thoughts."

Breed's other nemeses trying to take her mayoral seat were quick to respond to the speech on Thursday: "Not once did the mayor propose the magnitude of reform that our city desperately needs," said Daniel Lurie in a statement. Mark Farrell cast similar doubt on her track record: “The anemic progress and results Mayor Breed is touting today are too little, too late."

Editor's Note: The approximate number of attendees at the mayor's State of the City speech has been updated.