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Politics & Policy

Millions in stock, Israel trip, jazz tickets: Inside mayoral candidates’ financials

Documents filed by mayoral candidates offer a peek into their stock and real estate holdings

In a composite image, Supervisor Aaron Peskin stands at a podium, Supervisor Ahsha Safaí looks contemplatively during a meeting and Mayor London Breed looks inquisitively while holding a sign.
Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, Supervisor Ahsha Safaí and Mayor London Breed (left to right) each reported vastly different economic interests and gifts they received last year. | Source: The Standard

A vortex of cash is engulfing the San Francisco mayor’s race, with spending by candidates and independent committees on pace to smash city records. But the personal finances of Mayor London Breed and her challengers could also weigh heavily on voters’ minds.

Tuesday marks the deadline for elected officials and government employees who influence public policy to file Form 700s, a statement of economic interest that must be submitted annually. The documents provide insight into investments, real estate holdings, outside streams of income and gifts connected to an individual. 

The Standard combed through the reports for Breed, Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin (who is expected to announce his candidacy any day) and declared candidate Ahsha Safaí to find out where they keep their money and what gifts they’ve been receiving. Candidates for mayor who are not currently public employees—such as Daniel Lurie and Mark Farrell—aren’t required to file a Form 700 until later this spring, but other records provide some financial insights.

Mayor London Breed, wearing a blue dress, smiles and speaks into a microphone while seated by a banner of the JCRC Bay Area.
Mayor London Breed talks about a trip she took to Israel in 2023 while speaking at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco on June 21, 2023. | Source: Justin Katigbak for The Standard

Mayor London Breed

Despite being the highest-paid mayor in California, London Breed has yet to invest any of her $357,000 annual salary into local real estate or the stock market, according to her Form 700 filed last week.

The mayor did acknowledge accepting gifts from various people, most of them connected to a Sister City trip she took to Israel in May 2023. Breed reported that a total of 31 individuals and two organizations—the Koret Foundation and Jewish Community Federation—donated $16,500 for the trip.

In a sign of just how small San Francisco power circles are, among the people donating $500 for the trip was Mimi Haas—the mother of mayoral candidate Daniel Lurie. (Lurie need not feel jealous; Haas gave a cool $1 million to a committee supporting her son’s run for mayor.)

Other donors for Breed’s trip included Amy Friedkin, the first woman president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee; Maryam Muduroglu, the city’s chief party planner; philanthropist Lisa Pritzker; and banker Scott Seligman, who was recently tied up in a yearslong fraud scheme, according to The Detroit News.

The trip was organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area and served to commemorate San Francisco’s relationship with Haifa, a port city in Israel. The tour lasted a little under a week and was notable in that Breed revealed to her travel companions that a recent DNA test showed she has Jewish ancestry. According to Tye Gregory, CEO of JCRC Bay Area, the trip was attended by about 30 people.

The mayor has been a supporter of the Jewish state during her tenure. In January, Breed refused to sign a cease-fire resolution related to the Israel-Hamas war that was approved by the Board of Supervisors. 

A spokesperson for Breed said the mayor’s trips abroad aim “to bolster diplomatic relations, stimulate economic growth and deepen cultural ties around the world.” 

This month, Breed will depart for Shanghai in what will be her third sister-city trip since taking office. The San Francisco Special Events Committee, a city nonprofit, is sponsoring the trip, and the total cost is currently unknown.

Other gifts reported on the mayor’s Form 700 include her attendance at various Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation events last fall totaling $1,000 and a $6,600 trip to Washington, D.C., for the Bloomberg CityLab summit. (Billionaire Michael Bloomberg has donated $200,000 to Breed’s reelection.)

Supervisor Aaron Peskin in a suit stands on an ornate staircase in San Francisco's City Hall.
San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin owns hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars worth of stock, on top of three properties in Telegraph Hall. | Brian Feulner for The Standard

Supervisor Aaron Peskin

Aaron Peskin’s candidacy for mayor is still unofficial, but multiple sources have told The Standard that he has been lining up campaign contributors and endorsements, with an announcement expected imminently. 

Peskin’s stock and real estate portfolios do not appear to have changed significantly over the last couple of years, but he is still among the richest members of the Board of Supervisors. His holdings in Amazon alone are worth between $101,000 and $1 million, so he isn’t exactly struggling. At the end of last year, Peksin had 31 total stocks worth between $314,020 and $3.02 million, including investments worth tens of thousands of dollars in CVS, Disney and Bank of America. 

The supervisor, who has frequently sparred with YIMBYs—and often won fights over housing development—also owns three properties within two blocks of Coit Tower that are worth no less than $2.1 million combined, according to Peskin’s filings. However, the wide range in property valuations allowed on the Form 700 makes that number seem deeply conservative. Redfin estimates the three properties to be worth almost $4.6 million. 

Peskin earns $156,000 a year as a supervisor. But that is not his only source of income. He and his wife, attorney Nancy Shanahan, also operate Great Basin Land & Water, a nonprofit that works with Native American tribes on water rights and land acquisitions in California, Nevada and Utah. As president of the group, Peskin made between $10,000 and $100,000, while his wife, the nonprofit’s general counsel, made more than $100,000 last year, according to his Form 700.

Tax filings show the nonprofit’s revenue more than doubled from 2021 to 2022, going from $755,000 to more than $1.5 million. Records filed with the IRS show Peskin made just over $34,000 for seven hours of weekly work for the nonprofit in 2022, while Shanahan worked 12 hours a week and made almost $99,000.

Peskin also accepted hundreds of dollars worth of tickets to SF Jazz and Club Fugazi, as well as $98 worth of L.A. Burdick chocolates from Apple designer Jony Ive. When asked to talk about his plans to run for mayor and his economic interests, Peskin texted: “It sounds like you know the story you want to write—my form 700s are public record and always have been.”

Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, wearing glasses and a suit, participates in a formal meeting while two women colleagues sit on either side of him.
Supervisor Ahsha Safaí didn't declare any stocks or property-related income, but he did enjoy some tickets to a holiday event. | Juliana Yamada/The Standard

Supervisor Ahsha Safaí

A representative for the Excelsior and Ocean View neighborhoods since 2017, Supervisor Ahsha Safaí’s financial portfolio has included multiple properties in San Francisco over the last two decades, according to previous reporting by The Standard.

Like Peskin, Safaí earns $156,000 a year as a supervisor.

Considered a swing vote who has veered to the left in recent months to court some of the city’s progressive vote, Safaí came under the microscope in November after certain associates with his previous position running a public affairs agency were tied to corruption scandals.

On this year’s Form 700, Safaí reported a total of $521 in gifts—all tickets related to a diplomatic holiday party in December. Safaí did not report any real estate holdings or investments, though he confirmed to The Standard that he still owns a home in the Crocker-Amazon neighborhood he and his wife purchased in 2019.

“I’m not a multimillionaire,” Safaí said. “That’s pretty much it. I’m a middle-class guy running for mayor.”

Mark Farrell, wearing a suit and tie, smiles at a podium with microphones as his wife holds "Mark Farrell for Mayor" sign behind him.
Mark Farrell, a former San Francisco mayor and supervisor, reported a stock portfolio worth more than $6.1 million when he left office in 2018. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

Mark Farrell

Because he does not currently work for city government, Mark Farrell was not required to submit a Form 700 by the April 2 deadline. Farrell will be required to submit new economic disclosures no later than June 11.

Still, Farrell’s past work in politics—six years as a supervisor and a brief stint as mayor—offers a snapshot of his wealth when leaving the Mayor’s Office in July 2018. Farrell reported making between $100,000 and a million dollars in annual salary from his investment firm, Thayer Ventures, where he is still employed. He also reported a stock portfolio worth at least $6.1 million. Investments included stock worth more than a million dollars apiece in companies such as BookingPal, TripBam and Sonder—the last of which has suffered a fall from grace over the last several years. Shares of the company plummeted just last month after massive accounting errors were identified.

Farrell served as the managing director of multiple investment funds, including a third Thayer Ventures fund that was created just three days after Mayor Ed Lee died, according to his Form 700. Lee’s unexpected death from a heart attack on Dec. 12, 2017, set the stage for Breed to become acting mayor before Farrell received an appointment to the job following a controversial vote by the Board of Supervisors. He held the position for six months.

Farrell’s campaign said it plans to file a Form 700 during the required nomination period, which runs from May 17 to June 11. The campaign added that the report should look quite similar to the filings he submitted during his time as a supervisor and mayor.

A man in a suit speaking to a smiling woman in a red jacket, both indoors, with signs and a recycling symbol nearby.
Daniel Lurie, an antipoverty nonprofit founder and heir to the Levi’s Strauss fortune, is expected to file a form declaring his economic interests later this spring. | Source: Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard

Daniel Lurie

Given his family’s wealth, Daniel Lurie’s statement of economic interest will be closely scrutinized when he files it this spring. His mother, Mimi Haas, is the widow of Peter E. Haas, who was the great-grandnephew of Levi Strauss, the denim jeans impresario who created an empire

It’s not clear just how much money Lurie has independently, but he is currently considering whether to self-fund his campaign. (Breed, Farrell and Safaí have all filed for public matching funds, which also puts a cap on how much they can spend.)  One clue comes from his previous work as the founder and CEO of antipoverty nonprofit Tipping Point. Back in 2017, Lurie was paying himself a full-time salary of just under $82,000 for an organization that brought in almost $105 million in revenue that year. He clearly wasn’t doing the job for the money.

Lurie’s wife, Becca Prowda, works as the chief of protocol for Gov. Gavin Newsom, but no Form 700 was immediately available. It seems we’ll just have to wait for Lurie’s big reveal.

“Daniel is deeply committed to transparency,” said Max Szabo, Lurie’s campaign spokesperson, “and his statement of economic interest will be filed in advance of the June 11 deadline.”