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Vallie Brown named new District 5 supervisor

by Alex Madison

Mayor London Breed, left, swears in new District 5 Supervisor Vallie Brown Monday at Hayes Valley Playground. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Mayor London Breed, left, swears in new District 5 Supervisor Vallie Brown Monday at Hayes Valley Playground. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

In her first full week on the job, Mayor London Breed appointed Vallie Brown to the District 5 seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and swore her in Monday, July 16, at Hayes Valley Playground.

Brown, 61, formerly worked as a legislative aide to Breed and is a longtime resident and community activist in District 5, which includes the Western Addition, Fillmore, Hayes Valley, Japantown, Haight-Ashbury, and Inner Sunset neighborhoods.

Breed, who was the former District 5 supervisor before becoming the city's first African-American female mayor, was greeted with applause and a standing ovation from the crowd Monday morning.

"When I was thinking about someone who is a strong community advocate, someone who will focus on delivering for the residents of District 5, I can't think of anyone better than Vallie Brown," Breed declared.

Breed said she first met Brown 15 years ago when Brown was picking up trash in the Lower Haight. The two have worked closely together in City Hall, where Breed said they often got into arguments.

"She stands her ground for what is right for the residents of District 5," Breed said. "She listens to the needs of small business and community members. She makes sure when legislation is introduced that she proposes amendments or raises questions or other issues so that the legislation and the work we do at City Hall can actually have a positive impact on our communities."

Brown first worked in City Hall as a legislative aid to former District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi in 2006. Most recently she was a project manager for the city's Office of Economic and Workforce Development, where she worked on affordable housing development on public property.

After taking her oath of office, a smiling Brown, a straight ally, addressed the crowd at the playground, for which she helped get grant money to improve.

"As your supervisor I can't do this alone," she said. "It's the community that makes it a reality, and it will be you the community who will guide me in City Hall. I am your voice in City Hall."

One of her top priorities as supervisor, Brown said, will be to create more affordable housing in the district. She explained that she understands the fear of not having stable housing, telling the story of growing up in Utah as the daughter of a single mother. And, she noted that San Francisco does not offer the same housing opportunities that it did when she first moved to the city as an aspiring artist in 1985.

"Right now in San Francisco, families, teachers, nonprofit workers, and bartenders are struggling to stay in San Francisco," she said. "I stand before you today as your community partner, your supervisor, your neighbor, and I am ready to jump in now."

In 2015, Brown worked with Breed to craft neighborhood preference legislation, which gives priority to District 5 residents to live in affordable housing built in their community.

Bob Barnwell, chair of the public safety committee of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, attended the event and said he was happy with Breed's appointment.

"I'm really pleased. I've worked with her a lot," Barnwell said of Brown. "She was one of the best legislative aids, if not the best."

Not addressed by Brown in her speech, however, were the homelessness and crime incidents clouding many parts of the district, areas Barnwell said he would like to see improved.

"There are a lot more homeless in the area in the last few years. The tents have really started to come back," he said about Hayes Valley.

He also mentioned various incidents of retail store break-ins.

Brown attended her first board meeting Tuesday, July 17. She won't have to run for election until November 2019. Already, Dean Preston, executive director of Tenants Together, a statewide tenants rights organization, has announced he will run for the seat. Preston previously ran against Breed in the District 5 race, but lost.

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