Mayor London Breed is a renter in San Francisco but Supervisor Aaron Peskin has a small fiefdom of properties around Telegraph Hill. Supervisor Catherine Stefani invests in dozens of blue-chips stocks while her colleague Hillary Ronen is a fan of crypto.
How much money do San Francisco’s elected officials really make and where do they invest it? These questions led The Standard to dive into public records for the mayor and supervisors, and it turns out they’re just like us!
Well, some of us.
Every year, public employees are required to file a Statement of Economic Interests, better known as a Form 700, with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission. These forms cover everything from property holdings, stock investments, gifts and loans received, and paid positions outside of a person’s regular scope of work.
Admittedly, the information in a Form 700 is limited. As one city official told The Standard, a Form 700 is basically a “Swiss cheese” approach to transparency because everything is self-reported and a slew of carve-outs and exemptions make it nearly impossible to know a person’s true assets and net worth. Conversely, some supervisors seem to be confused about what is required and provide details that are unnecessary—such as their salary for serving on the Board of Supervisors and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA), which is required in their role as supervisors.
However, the economic disclosures do provide a window into the net worth of San Francisco’s elected officials and potential conflicts of interest. The Form 700 does not require public officials to include their personal homes, second homes, vacation homes and properties owned outside of the jurisdiction in which they serve—as long as they do not draw an income from tenants or, say, Airbnb rentals.
But, in an effort to better understand elected officials’ economic interests, The Standard went an extra step by scouring records in the Assessor-Recorder’s office to try and identify all of the properties they and their spouses own within San Francisco’s city limits. Below is a breakdown of our findings.
Mayor London Breed
With an annual salary of more than $353,000, Mayor London Breed not only makes more than any other California mayor, she’s the highest-paid mayor in the entire country. Last year, Breed made $70,000 more in salary than Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti—the second-highest paid mayor in the state—and twice as much as San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.
San Francisco’s top elected official has yet to invest any of her money into property in the city or stock, according to her Form 700 and records with the Assessor-Recorder’s office. A spokesperson for the mayor confirmed that she is a renter. Of course, the mayor could own mutual funds or contribute to a 401(k) plan, which are not required to be disclosed.
The only thing the mayor disclosed in her most recent Form 700 was a gift—a $250 ticket to attend the “Matrix Resurrections” movie premiere last December. But going by reviews, is that really a gift?
Breed’s appearance makes sense as she did make a brief cameo in the film.
No, it wasn’t a glitch in the matrix — that really was San Francisco Mayor @LondonBreed making a cameo as ‘Calliope’ in #TheMatrixResurrections , which was shot in San Francisco.@nbcbayarea pic.twitter.com/nJYSG39o93— Bigad Shaban (@BigadShaban) December 23, 2021
Connie Chan — District 1
Supervisor Connie Chan’s disclosure forms are sparse. She listed stock in just one company: Apple. The value of the stock was set at the lowest threshold to require a disclosure, between $2,000 and $10,000.
Chan’s staff declined to provide any additional information on her economic interests, but a review of property records shows that Chan and her longtime partner, firefighter Ed Marsullo, bought a home in the Richmond district in 2011 for $680,000. The home was recently assessed at about $800,000, but Redfin estimates it is now worth nearly $1.7 million.
Catherine Stefani — District 2
Of all the elected officials in the city, Supervisor Catherine Stefani has the most diverse portfolio of investments, probably because her husband, Christopher Bankovitch, works as a stock trader at XFA in addition to drawing two other incomes.
Stefani’s Form 700 notes that she owns stock in almost 100 different companies, including big players ranging from Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson to FedEx, Walgreens, Anheuser-Busch and Coca-Cola. State law requires public officials to disclose the worth of their investments, but due to the Form 700’s wide reporting ranges—between $2,000-$10,000, $10,001-$100,000 or $100,000-$1 million—it’s impossible to be precise. Stefani’s stock is worth somewhere between $294,000 to $2.4 million.
The Assessor-Recorder’s office has documents that previously listed the supervisor, who represents the Marina and Pac Heights, as a homeowner of a two-unit building near the Presidio. The property, which is held by The Bankovitch Family Trust, became a story in 2019 after Stefani’s former neighbor and tenant filed a wrongful eviction lawsuit related to renovations of the home.
Stefani and her family continue to live at the property and rent the other unit. She did not include any rental income in her Form 700 because it is her home and her husband’s family trust collects rent payments, according to Stefani’s staff. She did report a gift ticket to attend Gordon Getty’s annual holiday party. The cost was split between three groups.
Aaron Peskin — District 3
If we’re going just by what the Form 700s tell us, Supervisor Aaron Peskin might be the richest elected official in San Francisco.
Let’s start with the properties, as his role as a landlord has long raised eyebrows in light of his record of backing legislation that hampers new construction. Three years ago, for example, Peskin’s proposal to combat “monster homes” by making modest home additions more difficult was accused of being “one of the most terrifying pieces of legislation” on housing in decades.
Peskin and his wife, Nancy Shanahan, own three rental properties in the Telegraph Hill area as well as a personal home on the Filbert Steps. One of their rental properties is worth between $100,000 and $1 million (Redfin now puts the value right over a million), while two other rental properties were listed as worth more than $1 million. How much more? One three-unit property on Napier Lane is estimated to be worth almost $2.2 million, according to Redfin. A two-unit property on Castle Street is estimated to be worth almost $2 million. Peskin draws an annual income on the three properties between $30,000 and $300,000, according to his Form 700.
The District 3 supervisor, who confirmed his real estate holdings in a voicemail before declining an interview, also has a diverse stock portfolio made up of blue-chip companies: Apple, Alphabet Inc., Disney—the list goes on. In total, the stock in 31 companies was valued between $352,000 and $3.37 million.
His biggest stock holding is in Amazon, with a value between $100,000 and $1 million. The company's business in the city came under scrutiny earlier this year after The Standard reported that the mayor’s office had secretly inked a deal with the company to support a delivery hub. Peskin criticized the mayor’s office’s dealings with the company and has said in the past that his holdings aren’t big enough to matter.
But, wait. There’s more.
The supervisor and his wife also run a nonprofit called Great Basin Land & Water, which represents and negotiates with Native American tribes on water rights and land acquisitions in California, Nevada and Utah. Peskin and Shanahan each drew a salary last year between $10,000 and $100,000 as the nonprofit’s president and general counsel, respectively, according to his Form 700. Public tax filings show Peskin made almost $24,000 off of this work in 2020 while his wife made just over $100,000.
Gordon Mar — District 4
Gordon Mar’s disclosure forms are blander than those of his District 3 colleague, but what the Sunset supervisor lacks in cash he makes up with in oversharing. Mar noted his six-figure salary on the Board of Supervisors in his Form 700, which is not required, in addition to listing his paid board positions.
He received $2,200 for his work as a commissioner for the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, according to records provided by the group, while meeting records show he attended five out of nine meetings for the Association of Bay Area Governments. Board members receive a $150 stipend per meeting, which would equal $750 total.
Mar’s wife, Cecilia Wong, also made between $10,000 to $100,000 in two different jobs: one doing real estate for Century 21 Baldini Realty and another running an eponymous company called Cecilia Wong Communications. It’s not clear what this business does, as it does not have a website and is not a registered company with the Secretary of State.
The couple own a home near Stern Grove that has roughly doubled in value since being bought for just under $900,000 in 2005.
Dean Preston — District 5
Not every person looking to dismantle an inherently flawed capitalistic society owns between $400,000 and $4 million in stock in four of the biggest companies in the world. But, Dean Preston does.
The solution to the failures of capitalism is not more capitalism https://t.co/znZIsrtdRb— Dean Preston (@DeanPreston) November 1, 2021
The District 5 supervisor reported having between $100,000 and $1 million worth stock in Apple, Cisco, IBM and Microsoft. The potential value of this stock—$4 million—was the most for any elected official in San Francisco.
Since 1999, Preston and his wife, Jenckyn Goosby, have owned a home overlooking Alamo Square and The Painted Ladies. Records with the Assessor-Recorder’s office show the property was purchased for $880,000. It was most recently assessed for $1.27 million, and Redfin estimates the property’s value has increased to $3.5 million.
Preston’s office did not respond to questions about additional properties he and his wife might own, but city records show that the family of Goosby—a fifth-generation San Franciscan—has multiple trusts that own a multi-unit building in Sutro Heights, a multi-unit in the Marina and a home estimated to be worth $3.5 million in Monterey Heights.
A staffer with the city’s Rent Board said the property owner for the Goosby family’s multi-unit buildings missed a July 1 deadline to file forms for the city’s Housing Inventory, which is designed to verify if properties have tenants. One of Preston’s signature pieces of legislation this year is to tax landlords whose apartments remain vacant.
Matt Dorsey — District 6
San Francisco’s newest supervisor, Matt Dorsey, reported that he owns nothing in his Form 700. It should be noted that he took a pretty substantial pay cut—roughly $30,000—to take the District 6 supervisor appointment and leave his post as the head of communications for the city’s police department.
Myrna Melgar — District 7
It doesn’t appear Myrna Melgar pulled in any income outside her role as a supervisor, but she did list herself as a partial owner of a 6,500-square-foot warehouse on Alabama Street in Potrero Hill. Melgar listed the value of her stake in the property between $100,000 and $1 million.
City property records don’t show Melgar as an owner of the building, but rather list Avec Team LLC, which is a registered business at the address with the Secretary of State’s office. The listed agent is Matt McGraw, who got in a bit of hot water back in 2017 when whisky company Jack Daniels threw an event that infuriated neighbors.
Additional property records show Melgar and her husband, Sean Donahue, bought a home in Ingleside in 2011 for $945,000. The home’s value has more than doubled since that time, with Redfin estimating its worth at nearly $2.5 million. Technically, the home belongs 100% to Donahue, according to property records.
Rafael Mandelman — District 8
Rafael Mandelman represents The Castro but owns a property worth more than $1 million in the Mission. As an owner and resident of a two-unit Valencia Street property, he pulled in an additional income in the range of $10,000 to $100,000. This was on top of his salary as an elected official, which, like Mar, Mandelman disclosed without needing to. The supervisor told The Standard he does not own any other properties.
The Castro is always down for a good party, which explains why Mandelman had more gifts to report than other supervisors. He received tickets worth hundreds of dollars to attend the Matrix movie premiere, the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus holiday concert and the Juanita MORE! Pride Party, among five events total.
Mandelman attended just four out of nine meetings for the Association of Bay Area Governments, leaving him with $600 worth of stipends. This doesn’t meet the threshold needed to report outside income but he reported it anyway.
Hillary Ronen — District 9
She might have a small portfolio, but Hillary Ronen has one of the more interesting investment strategies. The Mission District supervisor has eschewed buying up public company stock and instead invested in cryptocurrency, according to her Form 700. Rather than put all of her eggs in one anonymous basket, Ronen split her crypto investments between Bitcoin, Cardona and Ethereum. She reported the value to be between $6,000 to $30,000, but that was back in March before the Great Crytpo Crash of 2022.
The Form 700 for Ronen did not list any properties, but she and her husband, public defender Francisco Ugarte, live in and own part of a two-unit property on Andover Street. The larger share of the property (62.5%) belongs to another couple.
Shamann Walton — District 10
Along with Mayor Breed and Supervisor Dorsey, Shamann Walton is one of the few renters among San Francisco's elected officials. He drew income beyond his $151,800 supervisor salary—also listed on his Form 700 without needing to do so—by serving on the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (Caltrain) and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Walton received $1,400 for attending Caltrain meetings and $1,900 from the air quality board.
Ahsha Safai — District 11
Ahsha Safai has owned several properties in San Francisco over the last two decades, but he and his wife, deputy city attorney Yadira Taylor, own just one home they purchased in 2019 in the Crocker-Amazon neighborhood.
The only items noted in his Form 700 are tickets to Gordon Getty’s holiday party and a Giants game.
Josh Koehn can be reached at [email protected]