Peskin faces one challenger in quest for four-year term as supervisor

After defeating Mayor Ed Lee’s appointee to the Board of Supervisors last year, Aaron Peskin served for just one year before having to stand for election to a four-year term on Tuesday.

He has one challenger: longtime residential building manager Tim Donnelly.

After taking his seat last December, Peskin has noticeably shaken up City Hall. He has elevated the legislative body in ways that hold departments more accountable and in tackling weighty issues.

In part, Peskin’s influence is about the numbers. His return to the District 3 seat on the Board of Supervisors — a post he held between 2001 and 2009 — gave the progressive bloc a majority on the board for the first time in years.

In his bid to represent the Chinatown, Polk Street, Telegraph Hill and North Beach neighborhoods, Peskin last year ran on an affordability platform — as rents were soaring, evictions were rising and Mayor Lee was criticized for bowing to the interests of the tech sector, largely blamed for the rise in the cost of living.

Peskin pointed to three main accomplishments during his past year in office during a September editorial board meeting with the San Francisco Examiner. He also noted that the pressures on rentals were lessening.

“The market is objectively stabilizing,” he said. “It ain’t cooling out.”

He partnered with Supervisor Jane Kim to pass Proposition C on the June ballot to increase affordability requirements for developers, succeeded in imposing a moratorium on the conversion of single-room occupancy hotel units — considered a vital stock of low-income housing — and co-sponsored legislation to increase regulation on short-term rentals, which prompted a lawsuit by Airbnb against The City.

As chair of the board’s Government Audits and Oversight Committee, Peskin is positioned to build on his promise to make government more efficient and combat waste as well as ferret out suspected wrongdoing, such as recent hearings he called on the sinking of the 58-story Millennium Tower.

“The balance of the board changed last December when I came on board,” Peskin said, “which I would like to think is a good thing, and I’d like to think my campaign rhetoric about having checks and balances has to some extent come to fruition.”

He added, “I’d like to maintain that in the lame duck years of our current chief executive.”

Peskin’s challenger, Donnelly, is a native of San Francisco who has for three decades worked as a building manager, most recently for a building in the Russian Hill neighborhood.

There are some key policy differences between the candidates. Peskin opposes the 365 by Whole Foods Market store that is seeking to open on Polk Street, while Donnelly supports it. Additionally, Donnelly only supports the approved Polk Street improvements of adding bike lanes, which will also remove some parking, if The City were to build a nearby parking garage.

“I don’t think I’m going to beat the guy. He’s a powerhouse. But I want to give people a choice,” Donnelly said during a recent interview with the Examiner.

Donnelly said he supported Peskin last year after he found Julie Christensen, the mayor’s appointee to the seat who Peskin defeated last November, unresponsive. But Donnelly said he has since found reasons to complain about Peskin.

“He tells people what they want to hear,” Donnelly said. He also described Peskin as “grandstanding” on certain issues, such as hearings over the sinking Millennium Tower.

Donnelly has raised no money, though he noted he can spend up to $2,000 before he has to report campaign spending. Peskin has reported raising $77,193 this year.

Donnelly said he planned to run a basic outreach effort, which includes making phone calls and distributing business cards, and said he would “go to the grocery store and hand out my platform with a good recipe
on the back.”

Donnelly is not affiliated with any political party. Peskin is a registered Democrat.

Donnelly wants to slow down development. “I think we have gotten ahead of our infrastructure,” Donnelly said. Instead, he encourages development in other communities outside of The City.

“The supply and demand doesn’t have to fall on San Francisco. Developers given a choice want to build here because that’s the cache, that’s where the big dollars are,” Donnelly said. “We need to spread it out, especially places that need the revenue. They need more people to make them vibrant, that’s where they should be focused on putting people.”

Donnelly also opposes the Van Ness Avenue bus rapid transit, similarly for the loss of parking but also the cost. “Why not try making the 47 a limited?” he suggested.

Peskin has previously voted in support of the Van Ness BRT.

Other ideas Donnelly has include banning tech buses from using Muni stops, and instead having those riders use public transportation to get to the freeway areas, where they can then hop on the private buses or use Caltrain to commute to the tech firms in Silicon Valley.

He also thinks politicians should only serve for one term and never vacate a term for a higher office.

Joshua Sabatini

Joshua Sabatini covers City Hall for the San Francisco Examiner. Reach him at

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