This week’s Board of Supervisors meeting was short but included a number of significant actions. The supes unanimously confirmed a new police commissioner and made at least two decisions that could change the face of Chinatown and Golden Gate Park. They also engaged in what appeared to be some unspoken drama on the redistricting brouhaha.
No Call. No Show.
One of the stranger events at Tuesday’s meeting was Mayor London Breed’s appearance before the board, which is required once a month and was supposed to happen today. Except that it didn’t.
- The appearance is intended mainly as an opportunity for supervisors to ask the mayor questions—usually softballs crafted to call attention to recently introduced legislation. However, question time with no questions is common enough; in these instances, the mayor usually discusses a topic of her own choosing for about five minutes.
- This time Mayor Breed wasn’t called on at all. Normally, the appearance is first on the agenda, around 2 p.m. But this Tuesday, Board President Shamann Walton called the item over an hour later. An aide to Breed appeared remotely and explained that while the mayor had been ready to appear at 2 p.m., she left after waiting 15 minutes for the call that never came.
- A source inside City Hall told us that Walton explained to staff that he simply forgot to call on her.
It’s certainly possible that the board president’s lapse of memory was due to many of today’s agenda items being heard out of order. It’s also possible that it was due to tensions from the ongoing redistricting process.
- The Redistricting Task Force recently adopted a draft map which would remove the Potrero Hill neighborhood from Walton’s district, replacing it with the Portola neighborhood. It’s been implied by opponents of the current map that the move would split Walton’s political base, possibly denying him a second term.
One hallmark of the current board president’s term is that Walton likes to adjourn meetings with a quote. We present you with this week’s quote to judge for yourself. It’s from the science fiction writer Paolo Bacigalupi:
“It only takes a few politicians to stoke division, or a few demagogues encouraging hatred to set your kind upon one another. And then before you know it, you have a whole nation biting on its own tail, going round and round until there is nothing left but the snapping of teeth.”
Board Plans to Have a ‘CoW’ Over JFK
The board voted to hold a “CoW Hearing,” or committee of the whole hearing, of both the Board of Supervisors and the governing board of San Francisco’s County Transportation Authority—both of which comprise the same 11 members—to consider new legislation by Supervisor Connie Chan to partially reopen John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park to car traffic.
- One of the two ordinances, both introduced last week, would bring cars back to JFK Drive.
- Last month, the mayor introduced a plan to keep cars out of JFK for good. Breed’s proposal is supported by both the Municipal Transportation Agency and the Recreation and Parks Department, along with a large and vocal group of park users. Proponents say closing JFK to through traffic will make the park safer and more usable for pedestrians and cyclists. At least four members of the board support the mayor’s plan.
- Chan’s legislation, based on concerns about access to the museums and certain other attractions in the park for seniors and disabled persons as well as nearby neighborhood residents, dovetails with a public engagement playbook run by lobbyists for the Fine Arts Museums, which have seen a significant decline in attendance during the pandemic and see any attempt to remove car access or surface parking near the museums as a serious threat to attendance, especially by regional visitors.
Other Items of Note
- The board unanimously confirmed the appointment of attorney Kevin Michael Benedicto to the Police Commission. Benedicto, a business litigation attorney, had served as counsel on a blue ribbon panel investigating racist text messages by SFPD officers and helped revise the department’s use of force policy. Benedicto will replace outspoken criminal defense lawyer John Hamasaki.
- Mary Kate Bacalao, the Policy Director at nonprofit Compass Family Services, was appointed to the Local Homeless Coordinating Board. The appointment was questioned earlier by members of the board’s Rules Committee over apparent conflicts of interest as Bacalao’s nonprofit receives funding from the Coordinating Board.
- The board voted unanimously to revoke the encroachment permit for the “Bridge to Nowhere”—a pedestrian bridge spanning Kearny Street and connecting Portsmouth Square park to the Financial District Hilton hotel, which owns the bridge. About 40 minutes of public comment was heard in favor of revoking the permit and demolishing the bridge. Supporters said it would pave the way for improvement plans, including more enticing entrances to the park and open up another 20,000 square feet of open space. Representatives of the Hilton spoke against the revocation, claiming that in previous discussions the city promised to pay the costs of demolition. The present process will compel the hotel to pay for it instead.
- During roll call, Supervisor Ahsha Safai introduced legislation to reform the city’s contracting and procurement processes, which would extend time for certain contracts and lock in prices, among other things.
- Supervisor Rafael Mandelman announced a letter of inquiry to the city administrator on issues with the procurement system that were complicated by the pandemic, and asked for recommendations on a new process to expedite low-value procurement contracts.
- Supervisor Myrna Melgar requested a hearing on implementation of the Compassionate Alternative Response Teams program, sponsored by several nonprofit groups for response to behavioral health incidents on city streets.
Mike Ege can be reached at [email protected]