In her first address as mayor of San Francisco Wednesday, London Breed committed to an ambitious political agenda tackling the challenges that concern residents most: homelessness, housing and street cleanliness.
Breed, the 45th mayor of San Francisco and the first black woman to hold The City’s highest office, doubled down on the platform that won her the mayorship in her inaugural speech to a crowd of hundreds gathered outside City Hall.
She called for court-ordered guardianships to move the chronically homelessness into treatment, safe injection sites to clear the streets of drug users and needles, and the increased construction of housing.
One of Breed’s biggest political challenges in office will be working with a Board of Supervisors that has a progressive majority after the swearing-in of Rafael Mandelman as District 8 supervisor on Wednesday afternoon.
“We can’t let the politics of progressive and moderate and all of those things that have torn our city apart get in the way of our ability to deliver for the people of San Francisco,” said Breed, who is considered a moderate politician. “People who are struggling are depending on us.”
Supervisor Aaron Peskin, the progressive leader on the board, told the San Francisco Examiner that Breed delivered “an aspirational speech that touched on a lot of issues at a very high level.”
“Now it is time to actually do legislation,” Peskin said.
He disagreed that conflict between the political factions has held The City back.
“When we disagree, we come from a place of principle,” Peskin said. “There are checks and balances in our form of government. There are appropriate times for those differences to be aired.”
He added, “I’m not scared of dissent. Dissent and healthy debate are what makes San Francisco a great city.”
Mandelman said he shared Breed’s concerns with regard to viewing policies through a progressive-versus-moderate lens. Like Breed, Mandelman supports the expanded use of conservatorships, or court-ordered treatment for those who are chronically homeless.
“This isn’t like shirts or skins figuring out who is going to beat who,” Mandelman told the Examiner. “There are a lot of issues where I agree with the mayor. I think there are probably some issues where I don’t agree with the mayor. It’s going to depend on the issue.”
Breed received thunderous applause when Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco, swore her into office. Having grown up in public housing in the Western Addition just blocks away from City Hall, she has emerged as a symbol of hope that success is possible no matter the obstacle.
She invoked her life story during the speech and said that she could have ended up a pregnant teenaged mother or the victim of gun violence, but credited her community and public services with helping her rise and overcome.
Disadvantaged residents have said Breed understands their plight and expect her to move government to help them succeed in a city where the tech boom has widened the gap between rich and poor and sent housing costs soaring.
“We have failed in building more housing to accommodate the increase in the number of job opportunities that have poured into San Francisco, pushing residents that have been here all their lives out of The City that they call home,” Breed said.
“The politics of ‘no’ has plagued our city for far too long,” Breed continued. “Not on my block. Not in my backyard. We have made mistakes in the past by not moving housing production forward all over this city. I plan to change the politics of ‘no’ to the politics of ‘yes.’ Yes we will build more housing.”
Peskin called her comments “just a soundbite,” and said The City has thoughtfully planned for large-scale development in various neighborhoods.
Among those in the crowd were her biggest supporters, including State Assemblymember David Chiu, Assessor Recorder Carmen Chu, Sheriff Vicki Hennessy, Board of Supervisors President Malia Cohen and supervisors Ahsha Safai and Katy Tang.
Attendees also ranged from labor leaders to baseball great Willie Mays.
Breed was elected mayor after the sudden death of Mayor Ed Lee in December. After her brief term as acting mayor ended when the Board of Supervisors replaced her with former Mayor Mark Farrell, Breed beat out top progressive contenders Supervisor Jane Kim and former state Sen. Mark Leno in the June election.
Breed will serve out the remainder of Lee’s term in office and is up for reelection in November 2019 for a four-year term. Among her first duties in office will be to appoint her successor to the District 5 seat and to appoint a replacement for Mandelman on the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees.
Rev. Amos Brown of the Third Baptist Church delivered the invocation for Breed and called the inauguration “a moment of great substance.”
“She’s going to do something about homelessness, and not just talk about it,” Brown said.
Those in attendance were optimistic for the future and hopeful that Breed would deliver on their concerns.
John Burris, a prominent civil rights attorney, said the inauguration represented the “promise of a new beginning.”
“I have high hopes that on the issues that are important to me, police accountability, that she will have a very progressive agenda,” Burris told the Examiner. “I am hopeful that she has come from the community so she knows the impact of what happens by police abuse.”
Those who lean more to the left than Breed are optimistic that progressive policies will come out of her administration even though she is a moderate politician.
“I am hoping for the best,” said David Elliot Lewis, a neighborhood advocate who previously sat on the Mental Health Board. “She supports safe injection sites. That’s a pretty progressive idea. To me that shows she has progressive instincts.”
Tim Paulson of the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council is hopeful Breed will deliver on labor’s priorities, including raising the minimum wage for certain city workers and increasing regulations for Airbnb.
“I do believe that maybe in the first 100 days of Mayor Breed’s administration that we will see some leadership that will get those things over the top,” Paulson told the Examiner.
As Breed delivered her speech, Western Addition resident Monique El-Amin said she came to tears.
“I became very emotional because this city has changed before my eyes as I grew up,” El-Amin told the Examiner. “This used to be a humanitarian city and that’s what we want to get back to being.”
The longtime Breed supporter expressed concerns about homelessness and needles on the streets.
“I know she’s going to fix it,” El-Amin said.
And Breed told the crowd she would: “San Francisco, we have work to do.”