After just three weeks on the job, the Planning Commission’s newest and youngest member is enjoying a quick rise to civic prominence after being appointed Thursday to serve as panel vice president.
Cindy Wu — a planner and outreach specialist connected to the increasingly influential Chinatown Community Development Center and its powerful consultant, Rose Pak — was unanimously confirmed as the new commissioner earlier this month after being appointed by Board of Supervisors President David Chiu.
Commissioners Katherin Moore and Bill Sugaya voted against Wu’s ascension to vice president Thursday, and that of Commissioner Rodney Fong as president. In his dissent, Sugaya pointedly chided the Mayor’s Office for a lack of transparency on influencing the situation.
Sugaya said communications between the Mayor’s Office and other commission members regarding the vote went against Mayor Ed Lee’s campaign pledge for greater openness in City Hall.
“Apparently that does not extend to the Planning Commission,” said Sugaya, who scrutinizes development projects more heavily than most commissioners. “So I’m voting no.”
Wu responded in a non-combative way.
“I recognize I am the newest member of the commission,” Wu said. “But I am happy to serve — willing to serve — with everyone on the commission.”
The Mayor’s Office would not say whether planning commissioners were cajoled into voting for the two commissioners, but a spokeswoman noted that the decision was up to them, calling Fong “an excellent choice” who will serve The City well.
“I can't discuss what conversations he may or may not have had on the subject, because I was not privy to those, but no, the mayor cannot direct commissioners on their selection,” said spokeswoman Christine Falvey.
Outside the meeting Thursday, Wu said she will recuse herself from voting on matters in which CCDC is the primary developer, at the advice of the City Attorney’s Office.
But Wu also has conducted outreach on the CCDC-backed $1.6 billion Central Subway project connecting Chinatown with the South of Market neighborhood and could have a say next month on the controversial luxury waterfront condo development known as 8 Washington, which enjoys support from Pak. For matters such as those, Wu said she will consult with the City Attorney’s Office on a case-by-case basis as to whether she should refrain from voting.
Wu’s commission seat opened after Mayor Ed Lee appointed former commission President Christina Olague to fill the Board of Supervisors seat vacated by Ross Mirkarimi, who was elected as sheriff in November. Wu, a 30-year-old resident of the Mission District, holds degrees from UC Berkeley and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Fong, a former president of the Port Commission appointed to the Planning Commission in 2010 by former Mayor Gavin Newsom, has worked for tourism organizations. His family owns the Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf.
Meet Cindy Wu
Post: New Planning Commission vice president
Career: planner and outreach specialist
Education: UC Berkeley and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Neighborhood: Mission District