Supervisor Aaron Peskin, right, shakes hands with Supervisor Katy Tang as he takes his seat at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday. Peskin was sworn in at a private ceremony with close friends and political allies in the City Attorney’s Office. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

Back from Nepal, Aaron Peskin takes his Board of Supervisors seat

Hours after arriving Tuesday morning from Nepal, Aaron Peskin was sworn into his seat on the Board of Supervisors to represent North Beach and Chinatown — a position he previously held between 2001 and 2009.

Peskin was sworn into the District 3 seat about a half hour before the 2 p.m. board meeting in a private ceremony attended by close friends and political allies in the City Attorney’s Office.

“The rents are too high, home prices are off the charts, too many people are being evicted and we all know that too many people are homeless,” Peskin said when addressing the board and chambers, which was filled by many of his supporters who applauded when he took his seat.

Peskin’s presence is expected to re-energize San Francisco’s progressive politics, which has lost much
of its influence since the appointment of Ed Lee as interim mayor in 2011. With Peskin’s election, the mayor will have a much more challenging time politically to achieve his political agenda, compared to his first term in office.

Peskin toppled the mayor’s appointment to the seat, Julie Christensen, in November with a campaign that focused on issues of evictions and affordability. He was also liberal in heaping criticism upon the mayor for operating under the heavy influence of tech investor Ron Conway and other tech moguls.

The swearing-in put to rest days of speculation over whether the mayor would postpone signing the election results, which he had 10 days to do since Dec. 1, to keep Peskin off the board until next week to ensure his pet projects are approved, like the jail.

Peskin is perceived as an important vote by opponents of the new jail proposal, who expect he will join with his progressive allies on the board opposing it.

The vote on the jail is set for next week — an item that was postponed last week from an originally scheduled Tuesday vote, amid criticism that the mayor could extend his ally Christensen’s time on the board by waiting to sign the election results.

The mayor returned the election results signed at 11:26 a.m. Tuesday.

The mayor, who attended the board meeting for the voter-required question time, addressed Peskin at the outset, saying, “I look forward to working with you supervisor on housing, on affordability issues and other needs, both the neighborhood and The City needs as well.”

Peskin took what seemed like a swipe at the mayor, noting he had left the board meeting at the conclusion of question time, not sticking around to hear what he had to say about the homeless issue.

With November’s election results, Peskin said the voters sent a clear message that “city government hasn’t been doing enough to ease this crisis and there is much more that we can and should do. We have a mandate to take bold action on affordable housing.”

Peskin said he would introduce a resolution urging San Francisco state leaders in Sacramento to reform rent control laws to apply rent control to apartment units constructed post-1979.

Already his influence is being felt in board issues. Supervisor John Avalos said he wants to increase the board’s recently approved transit impact fee rates with a vote by the board next month.

Later in the meeting, Peskin recused himself from a vote on the appeal of the environmental impact report for the Warrior’s arena. He said that he wasn’t able to read the documents when away and the City Attorney’s Office advised him to recuse himself.

As for other controversial issues facing the board, Peskin said he remains undecided on the jail project. He said he had a brief discussion Tuesday with jail opponent District Attorney George Gascon and planned to meet later with City Controller Ben Rosenfield about the project.

Peskin also said he was “not inclined” to vote in favor of a proposal before the board next week that would make it lowest enforcement priority for cyclists who roll through stop signs. Peskin called it a “feel-good proposition,” suggesting that such enforcement was already a low priority. He added that there were more pressing needs to address like evictions.

Reacting to Peskin’s comments, Supervisor Scott Wiener, a moderate, said, “Aaron understands that housing is the key issue of our time. I look forward to working with Aaron to make housing more affordable and to keep people stable in their housing.”

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