Trio of out San Francisco immigrants panel applicants get recommended for appointment

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday March 1, 2021
Share this Post:
Three LGBTQ people are seeking to join the San Francisco Immigrant Rights Commission: Jessy Ruiz Navarro, left, who currently sits on it; and Luis Zamora and Lucia Obregon Matzer. Photos: Ruiz, courtesy immigrant rights commission Zamora and Matzer, courtesy Facebook
Three LGBTQ people are seeking to join the San Francisco Immigrant Rights Commission: Jessy Ruiz Navarro, left, who currently sits on it; and Luis Zamora and Lucia Obregon Matzer. Photos: Ruiz, courtesy immigrant rights commission Zamora and Matzer, courtesy Facebook

A trio of out applicants seeking appointment to San Francisco's Immigrant Rights Commission won support Monday from the Board of Supervisor's Rules Committee. The full board at its March 9 meeting will take up their appointments as well as the four straight applicants who also secured a recommendation from the supervisor panel.

Aiming to continue serving is Commissioner Jessy Ruiz Navarro, who is originally from Mexico. She first joined the oversight body in 2019 as its first transgender member and its first commissioner whose primary language isn't English.

Navarro, who works for the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center, does not live in San Francisco so requires a residency waiver in order to continue to be an immigrant rights commissioner. The rules committee voted to support her remaining in her Seat 1 on the advisory panel.

Also needing a residency waiver is gay Walnut Creek resident Luis Zamora, who works in San Francisco as a facilities supervisor at law firm Morgan Lewis & Brockus LLP and is the current public policy chair for the Golden Gate Business Association, the country's oldest LGBT Chamber of Commerce. He won support to be appointed to the oversight body's Seat 5.

And Lucia Obregon Matzer, a queer immigrant from Guatemala who became a U.S. citizen four years ago, won support to be named to Seat 11 on the Immigrant Rights Commission. A San Francisco artist and member of the La Diaspora Culture Fest collective, Matzer is the community leadership development manager at the Mission Economic Development Agency.

Sarah Souza, an administrative aide to District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who chairs the rules committee, won support to be named to the advisory panel's Seat 10. The Brazilian immigrant would be the first DACA participant to be a city commissioner if approved by the full board next week.

Due to her applying for the position, Peskin recused himself from voting on the matter. Gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, vice chair of rules, made the motion to move forward the recommendation for the Immigrant Rights Commission's seven seats out of the eight people who had applied.

"It is a tough decision," noted Mandelman prior to making his motion.

District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan seconded the motion, having earlier said she intended to support the three applicants who required a residency waiver in order to serve on the commission. She noted they all have a long history of working in San Francisco and acknowledged that high housing costs have priced many people out of the city's housing market.

The other person who needs such a waiver is Oakland resident Haregu Gaime, a naturalized citizen from Eritrea who works as an immigration attorney. She won support from the rules committee to continue serving on the commission in her Seat 2.

Fellow Commissioners Ryan Khojasteh and Elahe Enssani also secured support to remain in their Seat 3 and Seat 9, respectively, on the advisory panel. They both live and work in the city.

Khojasteh, who ran against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2018, is a San Francisco assistant district attorney and the son of Iranian immigrants. Enssani is a SF State professor who was born in Tehran, Iran.

Failing to win a recommendation from the rules committee was applicant Vinay Ramesh, a second-generation Indian American. The San Francisco resident is a Sri Lankan interpreter with the California Asylum Representation Clinic.

Matzer and Souza are up for seats designated for immigrants with terms that expire this June 6. The five other applicants would serve two-year terms that expire on June 6, 2022, with one of the seats specifically meant for an immigrant to the U.S.

Preservation panel picks move forward

Mayor London Breed's three picks to serve on the city's Historic Preservation Commission — Diane Matsuda, Chris Foley, and Ruchira D. Nageswaran — all won the support of the rules committee. Peskin, who joined in the unanimous vote for the applicants, is sending their nominations to the full Board of Supervisors to vote on tomorrow, March 2, so that they can be sworn in ahead of the advisory panels' March 3 meeting and provide it a quorum.

As the Bay Area Reporter noted in a February 26 online story, the preservation panel will no longer have LGBTQ representation on it, as all three of Breed's nominations are straight. She opted not to reappoint the panel's two gay members, Jonathan Pearlman and Aaron Hyland, who had been serving as the commission's president.

Pearlman's Seat 3 is to be filled by an architectural historian, and LGBTQ community leaders have encouraged Breed to name Hyland to it. Breed spokesman Jeff Cretan told the B.A.R. last week that the mayor will take the lack of LGBTQ members on the commission under consideration as she makes her decision on whom to appoint.

While he praised the mayor's applicants as "great candidates" and voted to support them, Mandelman also raised the issue of there being no out commissioners on the advisory panel during the March 1 hearing. He particularly signaled out Hyland for his leadership on LGBTQ matters that have come before the Historic Preservation Commission.

"I think it is important someone queer is on that commission and not just someone queer, but someone who will play a leadership role and make sure the queer history of San Francisco gets its due on the Historic Preservation Commission of San Francisco," Mandelman said.

Peskin also expressed support for seeing someone from the LGBTQ community be named to the advisory body. He asked anyone interested in serving on it to reach out to both Mandelman's office, and the mayor's office and her director of appointments, Tyra Fennell.

"I know you and I are helping the mayor's office find that person with the required qualifications as set forth by the charter," said Peskin.

Foley and Matsuda currently serve on the commission and are seeking reappointment. Foley, a real estate broker and developer, was appointed to the oversight panel in 2019.

The Indiana native is a founder and chairman of the development firm Ground Matrix, whose projects include the food hall inside the Twitter building on Market Street. Foley is also a father to a 13-year-old daughter who is Thai American and came out as lesbian over two years ago.

Matsuda is a native San Franciscan who has lived in Japantown for decades. A staff attorney with Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, Matsuda is also director of special projects at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California. In the 2000s she served four years as executive officer of the California Cultural and Historical Endowment in Sacramento and was named to the city advisory panel in 2008.

Nageswaran, a senior architect with the firm Knapp Architects, Inc., would serve in Hyland's Seat 1 on the commission, set aside for a historic architect. All three terms would end on December 31, 2024.

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.