Editorial: San Francisco supervisor recommendations

  • by BAR Editorial Board
  • Wednesday September 21, 2022
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San Francisco City Hall. Photo: Sergio Ruiz via sfgov.org
San Francisco City Hall. Photo: Sergio Ruiz via sfgov.org

San Franciscans in Districts 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 will be voting for their supervisor on the November ballot. It's no surprise that the city must do better when it comes to increasing the supply of housing (especially supportive, affordable, and middle-income), providing services for those suffering from mental illness and drug addiction, and reducing homelessness. All of these are somewhat related; for example, securing services and housing for someone with mental illness gets them off the street. At the same time, the city's reopening during the ongoing COVID pandemic is painfully slow and that impacts the economy, particularly for small businesses. Below are our recommendations in the hope that the Board of Supervisors will find ways to work together on these and myriad other issues.

Supervisor Catherine Stefani. Photo: Courtesy the candidate  

District 2: Catherine Stefani
Supervisor Catherine Stefani is unopposed for her reelection and we urge voters in the Marina, Cow Hollow, the Presidio, and other District 2 neighborhoods to reelect her. On homelessness, Stefani wrote in her Bay Area Reporter endorsement questionnaire that she's committed to placing and funding Navigation Centers in every supervisorial district and acknowledged that there is not one in D2. She wrote that she held a hearing to hold the Department of Public Health accountable for the drug overdose crisis in San Francisco and its erroneous report that it is meeting the need for mental health and addiction services in the city. "The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed my legislation to reform the Behavioral Health Commission after years of financial mismanagement to address the crisis on our streets," she added.

On housing, Stefani wrote that there is too much red tape "when it comes to addressing our housing affordability crisis as people are priced out of the city we love." More is needed for housing for teachers, nurses, firefighters, and low- and middle-income families, she stated.

Regarding the city's LGBTQ Cultural Strategy Report that has numerous recommendations to promote queer culture, Stefani, a straight ally whose younger sister is a lesbian, stated that she "would definitely push and seek to fund ... a permanent museum of LGBTQ+ history and culture." The best way to preserve queer culture, she wrote, is to ensure that San Francisco remains the city "where LGBTQ people can thrive." She has supported every LGBTQ cultural district that has come before her and has voted to expand health services for LGBTQ people, she noted.

Stefani has done a good job as supervisor, and we endorse her reelection.

Supervisor Gordon Mar. Photo: Courtesy the candidate  

District 4: Gordon Mar
Incumbent Supervisor Gordon Mar, who represents the Sunset, has been an ally to the LGBTQ community. He told us during an editorial board meeting that expanding housing on the westside is one of his top priorities and he's seen progress. Next week there will be a groundbreaking ceremony for a 100% affordable housing development for teachers, and Mar also saw approval for a development at 2550 Irving Street, despite considerable initial opposition from residents. That 80-unit affordable housing project was decreased in size by a floor — losing 20 units — which Mar said was a compromise. "Folks in the Sunset do support new housing if it's not too tall," he told us.

Mar is also a champion of accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, and with the passage last year of Senate Bill 9, the California HOME Act, more housing permitting can be streamlined. Mar said he's looking to expand a program citywide that he started in D4 to incentivize ADUs.

Mar's opponent is Joel Engardio, a gay man who's unsuccessfully run for supervisor three times in D7. Redistricted into D4, Engardio is running against Mar. Mar was asked what he'd say to LGBTQ voters in the district who might want to support an out candidate. He turned that around and said that Engardio faces the issue of convincing Asian voters to support him. "I'd just say that I haven't led on LGBTQ issues," Mar said, noting that he generally defers to gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman and, now, gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who was appointed by Mayor London Breed in May. Nonetheless, Mar noted when it comes to funding LGBTQ initiatives, "I have been 100% supportive through the budget process." Mar also pointed out that early in the COVID pandemic, he sponsored a resolution calling on the health department to add data on its dashboard to reflect the number of cases in nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities. That also included sexual orientation and gender identity data as well, he said.

Mar has been an effective supervisor for his constituents and a strong ally. We endorse him for a second term.

D6 candidate Honey Mahogany, left, and Supervisor Matt Dorsey. Photos: Courtesy the candidates  

District 6: Matt Dorsey, first choice
Honey Mahogany, second choice

This is a tough one. Matt Dorsey, a gay man in recovery and living with HIV, has proved himself an effective campaigner and member of the board since his appointment by the mayor in May. Honey Mahogany, a Black trans person, worked for years as a legislative aide for former D6 supervisor Matt Haney and certainly knows how City Hall works. Either would be a good fit for this sprawling district that includes South of Market, Mission Bay, and Treasure Island.

Dorsey impressed us with the robust San Francisco Recovers proposal that he's developed with fellow board members Stefani and Mandelman. While a resolution now, Dorsey told us it's an approach he intends to take over the next four years, should he be elected to a full term — start the process with a resolution and develop it further. The citywide approach involves many city departments to address drug-related harms. The plan draws on what has worked in other jurisdictions, such as Oregon, he explained. He wants to "flip the script," he told us, so that neighborhoods are clamoring for recovery centers, rather than protesting them. Dorsey is supportive of harm reduction strategies, he said, as well as programs like supervised consumption sites. And he's serious about his board package. "If I can't get the board to pass it, I'll go to the voters," he said.

Dorsey was previously a chief communications aide for San Francisco Police Chief William Scott, and before that he served for many years as the spokesperson for former city attorney Dennis Herrera. He also knows how City Hall functions. Dorsey made no secret that he lobbied Breed for the appointment after Haney won an Assembly seat. He said that at the police department, he would see the overdose death numbers rise month after month and the collective toll that took. "The mayor won me over with the Tenderloin emergency [declaration]," he told us. "I respected how she went to the mat for people who are dying."

On policing, Dorsey was unsurprisingly supportive of SFPD and Breed's funding to fill 200 vacant police officer positions.

Mahogany was dismissive of Dorsey's San Francisco Recovers. "Let's be clear, it's a resolution," she told us, and maintained that departments are already coming up with recommendations that started at the behest of Haney to curb the overdose crisis. Mental Health SF has created street crisis response teams, she added. But she also said the mayor could have funded similar programs the last three years.

On the mental health crisis, she acknowledged that San Francisco has been a "hard no" on conservatorships, but indicated that it can be part of the solution for people who cannot make decisions for themselves.

Mahogany is focused on what she calls social housing, a relatively new term for housing that she defined as government-owned and subsidized that is not just low-income but for varying income levels. She worked for land use in Haney's office and touted successes like the Embarcadero SAFE Center that provided up to 20 individuals with shelter and services. D6 is also home to the Taimon Booton Navigation Center for trans people. In general, she pointed out that the city's east side bears a disproportionate share of the responsibility on both housing and shelter. "We need to push all parts of San Francisco to do their fair share in supporting the unhoused," she wrote in her questionnaire. "... It is a citywide issue."

Mahogany is supportive of alternatives to policing, particularly when handling mental health calls, homelessness, and traffic stops, where there is a high racial bias, she stated. At the same time, she supports increased beat officers and foot patrols — people who get to know the neighborhoods and the communities. "Police can be a part of the solution, but we need to make sure they are part of a larger framework, utilized effectively, and above all, held accountable," she stated.

Mahogany told us that she'd be an independent candidate. "I don't agree with the mayor on everything," she said. "I got into politics because of my community — I saw 30 members of my family displaced — and LGBTQs."

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman. Photo: Courtesy the candidate  

District 8: Rafael Mandelman
Long the board's only out member, Rafael Mandelman got some company in May when Breed appointed Dorsey to the vacant D6 seat. Mandelman represents the Castro, Noe Valley, Glen Park, and surrounding areas and has been very effective in advocating for the queer community, including securing millions of dollars in funding for Jazzie's Place, the LGBTQ adult homeless shelter; Openhouse, the LGBTQ senior agency; Our Trans Home SF, Lyon-Martin Community Health Services; the Castro Country Club, an LGBTQ sober space; and others. He has helped secure millions of dollars in HIV/AIDS funding, worked with Breed to acquire the property at 1939 Market Street for development of 100-plus units of affordable housing for mostly LGBTQ seniors, and authored the ordinance establishing the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District.

But the Castro is not the vibrant neighborhood it once was, for many reasons, and Mandelman is keenly aware of that. The rezoning he spearheaded for upper Market to make it easier to open bars and restaurants likely will help, though he said it's too soon to tell. Other items, like funding for a Castro corridor manager through the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, didn't produce the results he was hoping for. Street safety is a key concern, but Mandelman acknowledged people have a "diversity of feelings" about street camping. Some don't want tents removed if there isn't a home for the people; others, and Mandelman includes himself, believe encampments are "quite bad" for people in them and those around them, though he said that not everyone living in a tent is disruptive.

When the monkeypox outbreak hit this spring, Mandelman called a hearing to demand answers from health officials about why the vaccine system wasn't working. Yes, there was a shortage of vaccine from the federal government, but Mandelman wanted to know why the Department of Public Health had communications failures and why its drop-in vaccine clinic saw people waiting in line for hours. He used his bully pulpit to call for a more urgent response to the virus that is primarily affecting men who have sex with men.

On housing, Mandelman has tried different approaches with various measures of success. His fourplex legislation was watered down by the board and vetoed by the mayor, a major disappointment. He's right, though, when he wrote in his endorsement questionnaire that "we will need to make many and far bolder moves than 'fourplex' if San Francisco is to meet the 82,000 new units needed to meet our Regional Housing Needs Allocation for the next Housing Element cycle." The debate between housing advocates and opposing neighborhood activists "gets in the way of our pursuing reasonable middle-path housing solutions." He told us he will continue to push for fourplex legislation.

On mental health issues, Mandelman wrote that he will continue to fight for additional resources to end homelessness, especially for those unhoused people who experience mental health and substance use challenges. A more assertive response is necessary, he told us in an editorial board meeting, for those people who need higher levels of care. In some cases, that may mean conservatorships for people if they cannot make medical and therapeutic decisions for themselves.

Maintaining the city's LGBTQ culture is of critical importance to Mandelman — he held a hearing on the city's draft LGBTQ Cultural Strategy report this summer — and worked with Breed and gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) to secure $17 million in city and state funding for a permanent LGBTQ museum. He told us he wants to see the museum in the Castro, but finding a suitable location has been challenging because potential property owners want a higher price than the property is assessed.

In short, Mandelman is hard-working and is an important voice on the Board of Supervisors for the LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS communities. We endorse him for reelection.

Supervisor Shamann Walton. Photo: Courtesy the candidate  

District 10: Shamann Walton
Supervisor Shamann Walton has been an important ally to the LGBTQ community, and we recommend him for reelection. He is the first Black man to serve as board president. He is fully on board with Navigation Centers — District 10, which includes the Bayview, Hunters Point, and other neighborhoods has three, as well as a safe sleeping site, RV sites, and vehicle triage center.

To bring people back to downtown — and other parts of the city — Walton wrote in his endorsement questionnaire that the city must invest in the public transit system "and ensure every San Franciscan has equal access." He's right that residents in the southern part of the city have been fighting for years for adequate and reliable transportation. He also stated that big businesses must bring back their workforce, which would support small businesses downtown.

On housing, Walton stated that he would continue to advocate for building affordable housing and "holding developers responsible for community benefit packages that support walkability, mixed-use, and environmental concerns." He did add, however, that the goals dictated by the state for the city to build 82,000 housing units by 2030 are not realistic. "There are real issues around making sure that environmental impacts are thoroughly vetted," he wrote.

Walton has pledged to work with Mandelman on policies to preserve the queer culture in the Castro, as well as Supervisor Dean Preston, who now has the Tenderloin in D5, and the D6 supervisor, who represents the Leather & LGBTQ Cultural District.

We were disappointed over the confrontation Walton was involved in with a Black sheriff's cadet at a City Hall checkpoint the Friday of Pride weekend and his alleged use of a racial slur when he was asked to remove his belt. Walton surely knows the history whereby disgruntled ex-supervisor Dan White sneaked into City Hall in 1978 and killed gay supervisor Harvey Milk and then-mayor George Moscone, so security is a fact of life now at the building. We hope that it won't be repeated.

Walton has done a good job representing his constituents and the city at large. We recommend him for a second term.

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