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Mark Farrell aims to make SF more welcome to commerce

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A self-proclaimed City Hall outsider is looking to change the political tenor, reduce labor costs and help small business thrive.

Venture capitalist Mark Farrell seemingly beat the odds by besting a more politically connected challenger to win the November District 2 race to represent the Marina and Pacific Heights neighborhood. He is now looking to bring what he stood for during the campaign to City Hall.

Farrell’s campaign took a hard stance against progressive politics and cast himself in a more conservative light, which may not sit well with his progressive colleagues on the board.

Despite the campaign dialogue, Farrell said he is committed to working collaboratively with those on both sides of the political aisle.

“I absolutely think it is necessary to work together,” he said. “I look forward to doing that. A large part of what hasn’t happened at City Hall the past couple of years is working together. Let’s not make it not about political ideology.”

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Farrell beat out five other candidates, including the one favored to win, Janet Reilly, who was considered more progressive than Farrell. Farrell won the race with ranked choice voting, picking up 50.57 percent of the votes, with 11,426, over Reilly’s 49.43 percent of the votes at 11,168.

Upon being sworn into office on Jan. 8, Farrell’s focus for the district will center on the planned California Pacific Medical Center hospital development for Cathedral Hill, the redevelopment of King Edward II hotel on Lombard Street and the future of the Francisco Reservoir.

Farrell is also prepared to take on The City’s budget, not only helping to close this year’s $380 million projected deficit, but also longer-term financial changes.

“Sixty percent of our budget is taken up by our city employees and benefits,” Farrell said. “If we are not willing to resolve that issue we’re being very facetious.” 

He said he wants to create a “sustainable future” where city workers are not uncertain each year if projected deficits will result in layoffs and when taxpayers “are not burdened with anything they shouldn’t be.”

Coming from the private sector, Farrell is business-minded. He wants to work on creating the right policies to help make The City welcome more business while also helping small businesses thrive.

“A lot of lip service has been paid to small businesses but not a lot of action out of City Hall,” he said. “We need to change that.”

The political newcomer could be faced with one of his most political decisions on his first day in office: deciding who should be San Francisco’s interim mayor for a year.

“This one of the most intriguing political times in modern history here in San Francisco,” Farrell said. If he had it his way, the interim mayor would not run for election after serving, and moderate ally District 7 Supervisor Sean Elsbernd would be president of the Board of Supervisors. 

The self-proclaimed “family person” won the election with the support of family and friends and not with institutional political support, he said.

“I ran as that person and will continue to be a supervisor as that person,” Farrell said.


Mark Farrell

Date of birth: March 15, 1974

Neighborhood you live in: Jordan Park

Occupation: Small-business owner

What is the most significant issue facing your district? I believe the most pressing issue in District 2 is the revitalization of our merchant corridors on Chestnut, Union, Fillmore and Sacramento. While each corridor suffered significantly in the recession, and all appear to be rebounding, I believe we need to do everything possible in City Hall to ensure this rebound continues.

What’s your favorite thing to do in the district? Taking our children to Crissy Field

What’s the best kept secret about your district? The incredible hiking trails in the Presidio
What’s your mantra? Follow your passion in life

What was the last book you read? “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis

Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier looks back

What are your top three accomplishments?
1 Saving St. Luke’s Hospital by convening a Blue Ribbon Panel and getting Califonia Pacific Medical Center to commit $250 million to rebuild the hospital

2 Leading the efforts to forego building new fossil-fuel-burning power plants in exchange for shutting the polluting Mirant Power plant.  

3 Payroll tax exemption for biotech companies and the Film Rebate Program known as Scene in San Francisco.

How do you want to be remembered?
I’m not dead yet.

What are the biggest challenges facing the city?
Fixing San Francisco’s financial mess and finding ways to balance the budget without nickel and diming our citizens and using our small businesses as ATMs.  

What is the biggest challenge specifically facing D-2, which your successor needs to deal with right away?
CPMC — the proposal to build a new hospital at Van Ness Avenue and Geary Boulevard and the plans for the Pacific and California campuses.  
Favorite moment on the board?
I have several favorite moments, including passing the biotech payroll tax exemption and the first film rebate program in the state, both of which created thousands of jobs.

Worst moment on the board?
Getting to the point where I had to call for a censure vote on Supervisor Chris Daly. And the gross misinterpretation of the accessibility upgrades to the chamber being about the $1 million ramp. Don Fisher has offered to pay for the ramp, making it essentially free. The rest of the cost was for audio visual upgrades to the room which had nothing to do with access. My opponents on the board used it as a hurtful wedge issue.  
Biggest regret?
Not having the votes for the implementation of Laura’s Law (AB 1421) which would have provided court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment to people with severe mental illness. However, my work on Laura’s Law prompted DPH to work with the Courts and the Department of Aging and Adult Services to seek treatment for the most severely ill through the conservatorship process in Section 5358 if the Welfare and Institutions Code.
Who should be interim mayor?
Sheriff Michael Hennessey    

What do you plan to do next?
Stay tuned.

Words of wisdom for Mark Farrell?
Do not listen to the bell chamber that is City Hall; listen to the people on the street and in the district.  Always go to your kids’ soccer games, and do not miss Mass.

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