Mayor London Breed takes the oath of office from Superior Court Judge Teri Jackson at City Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

In inaugural speech, Breed focuses on ‘twin troubles’ of homelessness, affordable housing

Mayor calls for construction of 50K homes within the next decade

Mayor London Breed opened her inaugural address at City Hall Wednesday by listing the successes San Francisco has seen in the past decade — economic growth, low unemployment, a decline in homicides — but said she would spend her time addressing homelessness and affordable housing.

“We’ve made great progress, but through it all, we grappled with the twin troubles of homelessness and housing affordability,” Breed told those gathered. “At the dawn of this new decade, they remain our greatest challenges. And they are what I want to talk about today.”

Breed spoke after being sworn in to her first four-year term as mayor. She was re-elected in November by more than 70 percent of the vote with no significant challenger after serving about one year in office.

Breed vowed to address homelessness by tackling many of its root causes.

“Homelessness isn’t just a problem; it’s a symptom,” Breed said. “The symptom of unaffordable housing, of income inequality, of institutional racism, of addiction, untreated illness; and decades of disinvestment. These are the problems. And if we’re going to fight homelessness, we’ve got to fight them all.”

But despite those strong words, her proposals didn’t win over several progressive members of the Board of Supervisors.

To read the speech click here.

Reacting to the speech, Supervisor Matt Haney said that “what surprises me is that the mayor still didn’t present any new ideas on addressing the skyrocketing homelessness, rampant drug use and drug dealing or filthy streets and sidewalks.”

“She actually lowered expectations for what The City can accomplish in the coming years,” Haney said. “I think that’s the wrong approach. San Franciscans deserve solutions as big as the problems we are facing.”

Breed pointed to the efforts The City is taking in the near term.

“We will meet our goal of opening 1,000 new shelter beds by the end of the year,” Breed said. “We just opened the Embarcadero Navigation Center and our new Bayview shelter breaks ground shortly. We just opened our first safe parking facility to help people who live in their vehicles.”

She said that The City plans to open 200 more mental health beds and, in the next six months, 300 more supportive housing units.

With plans for more spending, Breed signaled a more aggressive approach to dealing with those living on the streets.

“To be clear, with these efforts will come a measure of what my grandmother used to call ‘tough love,’” Breed said. “We are no longer accepting that ‘compassion’ means anything goes on our streets. Yes, many people are sick and we will offer them help. But if they don’t want — or can’t — accept services, then we will bring them into treatment.”

Breed also reiterated her plans to reform San Francisco’s business tax with a ballot measure in November to generate more funding for homeless services and other needs.

Breed blamed The City’s affordable housing challenge on long-standing policies.

She called for the construction of at least 50,000 new homes, with at least 17,000 of them at below-market rates over the next decade.

“Our housing problems were entirely predictable,” Breed said. “They are the result of decades of almost intentional under-building, and the decision decades ago to downzone almost three-quarters of the city and ban apartments.”

“We don’t have a housing crisis. We have a housing shortage,” Breed said.

Breed also announced her support of state Sen. Scott Wiener’s controversial Senate Bill 50, which would require cities to zone for greater housing density near transit stops and hubs, and called for increased housing density in San Francisco.

“To get to 50,000, we can’t let disingenuous warnings of shadows and height get in the way of badly needed new housing,” Breed said. “To get to 50,000, we have to recognize that density isn’t a dirty word.”

Supervisor Gordon Mar, a critic of SB50, said that “I think that the mayor has a very simplistic analysis of the housing affordability crisis in our city.”

“We have been overbuilding luxury condos and we’ve already exceeded our regional housing goals through 2022 on market rate housing,” Mar said. “We really need to keep laser-focused on affordable housing.”

Mar called Breed’s endorsement of SB50 “definitely a jab at some of us that have been focused on real solutions to our affordability crisis.”

He added that the board and mayor worked well together in 2019 on affordable housing and said he would like to see similar efforts this year.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, meanwhile, said that “I am not all there on the mayor’s land use policies, but I thought she did an amazing job of explaining where we are in terms of homelessness.”

Mandelman said that he was “confident that [Breed] is focused on the right things.” He said that the speech was an opportunity to “paint broad themes of her first full term” and expects she will advance new strategies.

“I think she recognizes that we are in a bad place, that we need to make dramatic change, and I think she is working to make that happen,” Mandelman said.

Breed, who is considered a moderate politician, begins her four-year term with a Board of Supervisors that has a progressive majority.

Supervisor Ahsha Safai, a moderate, said that in order to have a successful term, Breed will need to work well with the board.

“For the mayor to be successful in the next four years, she needs to do everything she can to engage with the Board of Supervisors,” Safai said. “She is not going to solve any of the vexing issues of this city with her ideas and her leadership alone. It has to be a collaborative effort.”

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