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Politics & Policy

Aaron Peskin to announce run for San Francisco mayor in Chinatown, sources say

A man stands at a podium in a grand room with flags and a person working in the background.
Aaron Peskin, the president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, is expected to announce his mayoral campaign Saturday at an event in Chinatown, sources say. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

After months of rumors and guarded statements, Supervisor Aaron Peskin is expected to announce his campaign for mayor of San Francisco this Saturday in Chinatown, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the event.

The Standard has confirmed details of the campaign kickoff with multiple political activists, retired leaders and Chinese community members. Peskin called and invited these people to the event, which will be held at Portsmouth Square at 11 a.m. Some said Peskin called them as early as last week to inform them of his plans.

Records provided by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department show that the Rose Pak Democratic Club, a progressive Asian American political group, reserved Portsmouth Square from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, paying a $360 permit fee for a “Chinatown Community Rally.” The applicant, Calvin Yan, is a member of the club and a staffer in Peskin’s office. 

Yan declined to comment Wednesday, deferring to club president Jeremy Lee, who couldn’t be reached by press time.

In a phone call Wednesday morning, Peskin told The Standard that he had mistakenly answered the phone and was taking part in a separate conference call. The line cut out when asked to confirm whether he will be holding a rally Saturday to announce his run for mayor. He did not respond to a follow-up call and text.

Jim Stearns, the supervisor’s longtime political consultant, also did not respond to a call and a text message requesting comment.

Aaron Peskin listens intently in a crowd while Mayor London Breed speaks.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin has frequently sparred with Mayor London Breed during their time in office. | Source: Juliana Yamada for The Standard

Peskin, 59, is one of San Francisco’s most experienced politicians, but he has never won a citywide race. He was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2000 and served two four-year terms before rejoining the board in 2015. He is currently in his fourth term representing the district that includes North Beach, Chinatown and the Financial District.

Saturday’s event was first reported in a tweet by the Voice of San Francisco.

His entry into the mayor’s race will offer voters a clear-cut progressive candidate, as he will face off against moderate candidates in Mayor London Breed, former mayor and supervisor Mark Farrell and nonprofit founder and Levi’s heir Daniel Lurie. Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, who is also running, has positioned himself to the left of the field, but Peskin is a more clearly defined progressive.

Last month, Peskin told The Standard he sees “a lane” to victory through the city’s ranked-choice voting system.

During his time as a supervisor, Peskin has wielded substantial power over City Hall, serving three terms as board president—a role that he currently holds. He has sparred with colleagues and city staff, leading to an acknowledgment during the pandemic that he had a drinking problem, and he also has enraged YIMBYs and pro-development groups in the city by blocking new housing projects. 

Joe Arellano, a spokesperson for Breed’s campaign, compared Peskin to the fictional character The Terminator, saying his approach to governing is “intimidation, obstruction, and dysfunction.”

“He is the person most-responsible for creating a city of haves and have nots, by limiting the amount of housing that gets built and freezing out young people from owning a home,” Arellano said in a statement. “He’s also a hypocrite—he masquerades as a progressive while owning hundreds of thousands of dollars in Amazon, CVS, and Bank of America stock and owning millions of dollars of property across town.”

Farrell issued a statement saying he would do everything in his power to stop Peskin from becoming mayor.

“Peskin is abusive, toxic, and a documented obstructionist to the progress San Francisco needs to make to get back on track,” Farrell said, adding that the board president has not been helpful in addressing public safety, housing or the local economy.

Laura Foote, the executive director of YIMBY Action, said that a Peskin mayoral victory would represent a “major step backwards” for the city.

“Aaron Peskin has a long track record of opposing housing and trying to freeze our city in amber—much to the detriment of everyday San Franciscans,” Foote said. “He does not believe we have a housing shortage that requires changing how we do things. He's comfortable fiddling with conditional use permits while San Francisco's housing shortage burns.” 

Peskin was born and raised in Berkeley and graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz. In addition to serving as a supervisor, he runs a nonprofit with his wife called Great Basin Land and Water, which represents and negotiates with Native American tribes on water rights and land acquisitions in California, Nevada and Utah.