The first full week of the new year has brought political power moves in San Francisco as Mayor Ed Lee announced his appointment of longtime neighborhood advocate Julie Christensen to fill a vacancy on the Board of Supervisors in time for the board presidency vote today.
Lee revealed his decision Wednesday at a well-attended press conference outside the brand new North Beach Library that Christensen helped champion.
“Julie shares my vision of creating a stronger and more affordable San Francisco with a focus on inclusiveness, jobs, housing and world class transit,” Lee said in a statement
Lee had to fill the District 3 supervisors' seat that former board President David Chiu vacated when he was sworn in Dec. 1 to serve as Assembly member. The seat represents Chinatown, Telegraph Hill, Polk Street, Nob Hill and Fisherman's Wharf.
Christensen is a sharp departure from the seat's former more progressive seat holders, particularly Aaron Peskin, who is considering running against her when she runs for election on Nov. 3 to serve the remaining one year of Chiu's term.
Christensen, a 20-year Telegraph Hill resident in District 3, is a founder of Surface Works, a design product consultant company with such clients as Kenmore, KitchenAid and Maytag. She has been a strong supporter of the Central Subway project and extending its terminus to Fisherman's Wharf. Christensen is a member of the public policy think-tank SPUR's advisory board.
“One of the main goals … needs to be to keep our neighborhoods affordable,” Christensen said when introduced by Lee.
The appointment is seemingly a slight to the Chinatown Community Development Center, an influential housing non-profit that was said to be supporting one of its own members, Cindy Wu, chair of the Planning Commission, for the seat. Supervisor Jane Kim, who rose up in politics through the CCDC, said she would have been “elated” had Wu been the appointment over Christensen. The CCDC is also aligned with the politics of Rose Pak, a longtime Chinatown leader, who has also been one of Lee's strong supporters.
While Lee said he considered Chinese candidates, “I do think that I made the best decision based on both experience, passion and their ability to carry out all the work for the entire district.” Christensen is more aligned with the mayor politically, political observers say, providing more reliable and consistent votes than Wu would.
Telegraph Hill resident Jon Golinger, a Peskin protégé, was said to be also considering a run for the office, but has thrown his support behind a possible Peskin run. “She will be a kneejerk vote for big business and developers,” Golinger said of the appointee.
Golinger and Peskin had gained politically when they successfully fought at the ballot the 8 Washington luxury condo development with a “No Wall on the Waterfront” campaign, which later built support for a ballot measure protecting height limits across the waterfront. When asked Wednesday, Christensen would not say whether she had supported the 8 Washington development, which could become a campaign issue.
However, she acknowledged she was disappointed by both sides and that “I would like to move away from bumper stickers and from kneejerk either yes or no to actually looking at goals and trade-offs. I have a good record of coming up with projects that deal with a lot of controversy, but in the end come out on the winning side.”
She added, “Our waterfront is precious. We know that. We all want to proceed carefully with how it develops.”
Supervisor Scott Wiener, a more moderate board member, said Christensen “is one of the best neighborhood leaders in the city.”
The appointment is expected to become official today in time for the board's vote on its president for the next two years. Supervisor Katy Tang is currently serving as the board's interim president. Contenders for the post include Tang and Supervisors Mark Farrell and London Breed.