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Politics

The Storylines That Defined a Rocky Year in San Francisco

Written by Josh KoehnPublished Dec. 24, 2022 • 5:00am
The biggest stories of the year in San Francisco (clockwise from top left) included Brooke Jenkins taking over as district attorney, another championship for the Golden State Warriors, progressive prosecutor Chesa Boudin being recalled and Asian American voters leading the charge in multiple recalls. | Photos by The Standard

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Ladies and gentlemen, give yourself a round of applause. The year is almost over.

Assuming human historians still exist in the future, and classrooms aren’t being led by chatbots in elbow-patch sport coats, those looking back at 2022 will probably view this year as a time when everyone was just done with it.

The general vibe was one in which many people felt anxious and angry, scared and suspicious, thrilled to be back out in public and overwhelmed by being back in public, and exhausted—all at once. Frustration that was simmering during the first two years of the pandemic finally boiled over in 2022. Even doctors were calling for an end to “mindless” covid rules

The Standard polled San Franciscans about the state of the city twice this year, and dissatisfaction over public safety and the performance of elected officials only got worse over the course of the year.

But there were also a few bright spots, or at least some moments that weren’t completely awful. Let’s take one last look back at a tumultuous year in San Francisco.

Total Recall 

The Year of the Tiger also turned out to be the Year of the Recall. 

An angry electorate made its voice heard at the ballot box on four separate occasions. Voters were fed up on multiple fronts, starting with the board of the San Francisco Unified School District. Parents and elected officials in the city grew furious with the board’s decision to prioritize renaming schools and changing the admissions process to Lowell High School over getting kids safely back into classrooms. Teachers who were missing paychecks grew outraged as well.

Three school board members—Alison Collins, Gabriela López and Faauuga Moliga—were given the boot in February, and a November election allowed two of Mayor London Breed’s three board appointees to remain on the job.

But anyone paying attention to San Francisco politics knows this was just the beginning of the backlash.

The pandemic cleared many people from the streets, but not the ones living on them. Homelessness, drug addiction and street dealing became even easier to spot across San Francisco, especially in the Downtown core. And a rash of high-profile retail thefts at Union Square last year set the stage for a fall guy in 2022.

DA Chesa Boudin addresses his supporters at The Ramp on Terry A Francois Blvd in San Francisco on June 7, 2022. Vote tallies led to the progressive prosecutor being recalled. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

A multi-million dollar signature-gathering effort successfully put District Attorney Chesa Boudin on the ballot, and a majority of voters decided in June to stop the progressive experiment a year and a half before the end of Boudin’s term.

Mayor London Breed again put on her appointment cap and tabbed recall spokesperson Brooke Jenkins—who was totally just a volunteer!—to take over the DA’s office. It’s too early to say the office has radically changed under Jenkins, but she has worked closely with police when it comes to cracking down on street dealing and drug possession—two issues voters clearly want addressed. In November, Jenkins easily won a race to serve the rest of Boudin’s term. 

The passage of Proposition H this fall moved elections for citywide officials to even-numbered years, so Jenkins will have until 2024 to shape the office in her image. Boudin was blamed, sometimes unfairly, for street conditions and quality-of-life concerns. He also lost a lot of people by citing data when people simply wanted to feel heard. Regardless, with Boudin’s removal, the pressure to make noticeable improvements will now likely land on Jenkins, Mayor Breed and police Chief Bill Scott.

Tweetledee, Tweetledumb

The pandemic’s hollowing out of the Downtown core has San Francisco staring down a commercial real estate collapse and budget disaster. Almost no one expects workers to return to in-office work en masse—except for one man.

Elon Musk made waves in October with his purchase of Twitter, and since that time—yes, it’s been less than two months!—he has been on quite a tear. 

In this photo illustration, Elon Musk is displayed on a computer screen along with the logo of Twitter | Muhammed Selim Korkutata / Anadolu Agency

He fired much of the workforce, leading to concerns about a rise in hate speech as content moderators were among those to get the axe. Then Musk ordered many of his employees to get back in the office and had beds installed so his workers could never leave, leading the city to launch an investigation. Then he got mercilessly booed at Dave Chappelle’s comedy show at Chase Center. And then he polled himself right out of the CEO job.

None of this even mentions the bombshell “Twitter Files” reports, which have pulled back the curtain on … “almost nothing.”

Musk’s volatile behavior feels reflective of the local economy, as companies are still innovating at a lightning pace and making gobs of money while layoffs have affected thousands of workers

Goldmembers

People love sports for the escapism, but maybe even more so for the camaraderie, standing next to complete strangers and cheering on another group of strangers who we think we know intimately

The Golden State Warriors once again offered Bay Area basketball fans an escape hatch by returning to championship form in June to win the NBA Finals over the Boston Celtics in six games. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green further cemented their legacy as one of the best trios to ever take the court, only this time the championship celebration took place at Chase Center. 

Cameron Park (left) and Sam Ehrenberg cheer in the second quarter of the fifth NBA Finals game between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics. The Warriors won 104-94. | Paul Kuroda/The Standard

After moving to the city from Oakland, nearly everything that could go wrong for the franchise broke badly. Call it Troy Murphy’s Law. But a return to health and some incredible contributions from Kevon Looney, Gary Parton II and rising star Jordan Poole helped put the club back on top.

The team has struggled this season after an ugly fight in which Green socked Poole in a preseason practice, leading many to question if this summer was the last great season from the Dubs’ core. Time will tell, but at least we got a chance to party after watching the most beautiful brand of basketball ever played.

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Josh Koehn can be reached at [email protected]


Illustration with images of Mohammed Nuru, Victor Makras, Zhang Li, Bernard Curran, Sandra Zuniga and Harlan Kelly.

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