Breed appoints former aide, Lower Haight activist Vallie Brown as District 5 supervisor

Mayor London Breed appointed Vallie Brown Monday as her successor to the District 5 seat on the Board of Supervisors to represent the Western Addition, Haight and Hayes Valley neighborhoods.

Brown comes to the post having worked as a legislative aide for two previous District 5 supervisors, beginning with Ross Mirkarimi in 2006 and later Breed, following years of community activism in the Lower Haight.

Breed, who called Brown Saturday night to tell her she made the decision, said that in talking to residents before making her decision “everyone had a story to tell about how [Brown] helped them with any part of this district.” She met Brown 15 years ago, seeing her cleaning up litter on Lower Haight streets.

In 2016, Brown, now 61, departed Breed’s office to work for Office of Economic and Workforce Development, where she worked on affordable housing development on public property and a program that promotes commercial corridors.

“It will be you, the community, to help guide me in City Hall,” Brown said, after being sworn into office Monday by Breed at at the Hayes Valley Playground. “I’m your voice in City Hall.”

A more than 20-year resident of the Lower Haight, the drug and gun violence plaguing that neighborhood inspired Brown to become a community activist and form a neighborhood group, according to a 2014 interview in Hoodline. “Something had to change,” Brown told Hoodline at the time. “We just couldn’t live in a neighborhood and turn our backs on what was happening.”

Brown moved to Cole Valley four years ago.

She explained how she moved to San Francisco in 1985 as an aspiring artist. She noted she was part Native American, never knew her father, and was raised in Utah by her grandmother and mother, who worked various odd jobs. “I knew the fear of not having stable housing,” Brown said. “We moved often.”

By the time she was 14, both her mother and grandmother died. “It took a community to raise me,” she said.

Robert Selna, an Oakland-based attorney, worked as a legislative aide in 2011 for Mirkarimi along with Brown. “Vallie has many years of experience under her belt working successfully with the District 5 community on a wide range of complex and controversial issues,” Selna told the Examiner in an email. “In the context of that work, she developed a reputation for candor and integrity.”

In 2006, prior to becoming his aide, Brown supported Mirkarimi’s legislation to require police to walk foot patrols in crime plagued areas like the Lower Haight. The proposal was opposed by the Police Officers Association and unsuccessfully vetoed by then Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Also, that same year, she spoke with FogCityJournal, an online news site, about the need to take back the Lower Haight streets from drug dealers so children could walk safely to school.

Brown will serve at her first Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday. Breed will also be on hand since it coincides with the board’s monthly “question time” with the mayor.

Brown will have at least a year before she would need to stand election, which will occur in June if there is a special election or November of 2019. Dean Preston, executive director of Tenants Together, a statewide tenants rights organization, who previously ran against Breed and lost, has already announced his intention to run.

“I don’t think this pick is a surprise to anyone,” said Preston’s campaign manager Jen Snyder, who cast Brown as a City Hall insider. Snyder said residents are “sick of waiting for solutions to problems.”

Brown said she was prepared to take him on. “I welcome the challenge. We both came from community activism. I am ready,” Brown said.

Bruce Wolfe, chair of the Sunshine Task Force and a 25-year resident of District 5, called the appointment “favorable.”

“I’ve worked with Vallie for many years,” Wolfe said. “She’s always been supportive of many different areas and topics, low-income affordable housing, all kinds of stuff. She will be good to work with.”

Whether Wolfe, a long-time progressive advocate, would back her over Preston remains to be seen. “We are not in an election yet. It’s a good pick for now. Let’s see how it goes,” Wolfe said.

Vallie Brown, second from left, is shown here with Paul Henderson, Theo Miller, and Derick Brown. (Meaghan M. Mitchell/Hoodline)

Joshua Sabatini
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Joshua Sabatini

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