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Politics & Policy

Jon Jacobo: Pressure mounts on San Francisco police to investigate rape, abuse allegations

Jon Jacobo is speaking at a press conference with microphones in front, and onlookers behind him.
Jon Jacobo resigned from his job at TODCO, a politically influential nonprofit, after a report by The Standard detailed allegations against him that included abuse, sexual assault and rape. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

The fallout from The Standard’s report in which three women made allegations of violence and sexual assault against San Francisco political organizer Jon Jacobo was swift, but it appears to be far from over.

Less than 10 hours after the report’s publication Tuesday, officials for TODCO—one of the most politically powerful affordable housing nonprofits in the city—confirmed that Jacobo had resigned from his director position. Meanwhile, Police Chief Bill Scott posted on social media that investigators were working “diligently” on the women’s cases, and Supervisor Hillary Ronen called for a public hearing to understand how thoroughly the city responds to allegations of sexual assault and harassment.

The Standard has since learned that special crimes investigators called and emailed Sasha Perigo—a woman who publicly accused Jacobo of rape in 2021—and she intends to meet with police to discuss pressing charges against Jacobo. 

Perigo resisted working with law enforcement three years ago—in part because of her distrust of police but also because she was uncertain if her experience was an isolated incident or part of a pattern of predatory behavior by Jacobo, who was a former commissioner, City Hall aide and rising star in progressive politics.

The allegations in Tuesday’s report, which included witness accounts, disturbing audio recordings and text messages, made it clear that allegations of abuse and sexual violence by Jacobo date back as far as 2015.

Three women seen from the back against colorful backgrounds: red, window-lit beige, and blue.
Three women who have worked in high levels of local government and public policy in San Francisco filed police reports against Jon Jacobo, with allegations ranging from domestic violence and threats to sexual assault and rape. | Source: Jenna Schoenefeld for The Standard; Michaela Vatcheva for The Standard; Constanza Hevia H. for The Standard

One potential difficulty in the investigation into Jacobo could be the need for San Francisco police to work with law enforcement in South San Francisco and Oakland, where some of the alleged incidents occurred. None of the three women who came forward this week said they have been contacted by police since Tuesday’s story was published.

Evan Sernoffsky, a San Francisco police spokesperson, said the department could not discuss reports filed against Jacobo due to confidentiality laws. However, he noted that in "all cases involving outside jurisdictions, we contact law enforcement in those areas and alert them.”

Reckoning and recriminations

One of the women who came forward with allegations against Jacobo said that watching the reactions to Tuesday’s story was a “mixed bag.”

She said she received many calls and texts of support but has heard nothing from Jacobo’s progressive allies and Mission District community groups like Calle 24, where Jacobo served as vice president. He resigned from that position Tuesday.

“A lot of us were self-identified progressive activists,” said the woman, who dated Jacobo for years and accused him of choking her and making death threats. “That was the community we were born out of, and those are the people we really wanted to hear from the most.”

She added, “Not hearing from some key players has been disheartening, and some of that has probably been them reckoning with the facts.”

Now, pressure is mounting as city officials decide whether San Francisco should continue to give millions to TODCO, which has accumulated political clout by redirecting money from services for its low-income tenants to polling and ballot measures in support of progressive causes.

John Elberling, the president of TODCO, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. 

John Elberling in a denim jacket stands on a sunny street with red-leafed trees and buildings behind him.
John Elberling, the head of TODCO, was grooming Jon Jacobo to take over the financials of the nonprofit housing organization as recently as 2022. | Source: Camille Cohen/The Standard

The city's SF Open Book website, which provides contracts for organizations doing business with San Francisco, shows TODCO has two open grants that have awarded the organization more than $3.2 million since 2018. The total remaining money in those contracts could pay the organization more than $5.4 million.

Anna Yee, CEO of TODCO, said in an email Tuesday that the organization was “not aware of the issues raised” in The Standard’s report. However, Nadia Rahman—a former president of the San Francisco Women’s Political Committee—posted a screenshot of an email sent to Elberling and Yee on March 14, 2023, alerting the nonprofit execs of three other women “who were either raped or abused” by Jacobo. 

Mayoral candidates react to allegations

Candidates for mayor called TODCO's support of Jacobo unsettling.

Mark Farrell, a former mayor and supervisor who called for a federal investigation into TODCO in 2016, said, “It is past time for the city to get serious about holding TODCO accountable.

“It is well known that TODCO funds polls, bankrolls ballot initiatives and candidates, and shakes down developers for their support on projects in SoMA and elsewhere,” Farrell said. “TODCO hasn’t developed any new housing in years, while the conditions of some of their buildings are in dire need of tenant improvements and services.”

Supervisor Ahsha Safaí said he has “serious questions surrounding the organization’s leadership and handling of these allegations.” He added that it is “clear that the SFPD has not done enough to investigate these accusations.”

Jon Jacobo in a mask holding a coffee stands next to his bike, talking to an out-of-focus person.
New allegations of sexual assault and abuse have put political organizer Jon Jacobo back in the spotlight after he was publicly accused of rape in 2021. | Source: Lea Suzuki/SF Chronicle/Getty Images

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who is also running for mayor, said he was concerned the women coming forward have “had to publicly relive this trauma after seeing no action or movement of their cases. That is not the message that we should be sending victims, and I support my women colleagues on the board in their sexual assault hearing.”

Daniel Lurie, a nonprofit founder and heir to the Levi Strauss fortune, said it is imperative that women have support when coming forward with allegations of abuse and sexual assault.

“That any of these women feared there would not be consequences due to San Francisco’s toxic politics is deeply concerning,” Lurie said. “People must be held accountable, and so too must any system that harbors and enables a predator.”

Joe Arellano, a campaign spokesperson for Mayor London Breed, who is currently in China, called the allegations against Jacobo “serious and reprehensible.”

He added, “The mayor is confident that SFPD is investigating these cases and that the district attorney will prosecute, if the investigation leads to that.”