Mayor Ed Lee’s Port Commission pick sails through board committee



Mayor Ed Lee’s Port Commission appointment to fill the seat vacated by his previous controversial pick, Mel Murphy, sailed through the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee on Thursday.

Eleni Kounalakis, if ultimately confirmed by the full board in two weeks, would serve on the five-member Port Commission, filling out the remainder of Murphy’s term, ending May 1, when she’d likely be reappointed.

Murphy was pressured to resign in August following controversy about alleged building violations, which led to a lawsuit against him by the City Attorney.

Kounalakis drew support from important segments of the political arena in former progressive Mayor Art Agnos, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

“San Francisco’s waterfront is one of its greatest and most important features,” Kounalakis said during the board’s Rules Committee hearing. “The need to protect, maintain and constantly search for new ways to improve the San Francisco waterfront is an important task for our city.”

Her appointment comes as Port Director Monique Moyer announced her retirement and amid some of the most hotly debated periods over waterfront development. A lawsuit is pending over the legality of voter-approved Proposition B, which required voter approval of any development which exceeds existing height limits along the 7.5 mile long waterfront.

“I know very well the importance that civil society plays anywhere, but particularly in areas as important as San Francisco’s waterfront,” Kounalakis said. “There are many stakeholders. Community advocates, neighborhoods and so many others make up the symphony of voices who actively engage to make sure that their perspectives are heard and considered. I pledge to respect the many overlapping interests and jurisdictions.”

Kounalakis was appointed by President Barack Obama as ambassador to Hungary from 2010-13. She is currently a senior advisor at Albright Stonebridge Group, a global business advisory firm established and led by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She was appointed chair in 2014 of the California Advisory Council for International Trade and Investment, which attracts foreign investment to California. She is the past president of the Sacramento-based real estate company AKT Development, founded by her father.

Kounalakis is an active political donor, having contributed most recently $10,000 to Mayor Lee’s affordable housing bond this past November, $500 to the mayor’s campaign and $500 to the mayor’s appointee to the District 3 seat, Julie Christensen, who lost in November to current seat holder Aaron Peskin.

The Rules Committee, on which supervisors Katy Tang and Malia Cohen serve, voted to confirm the appointment. The full board will vote on it in two weeks.

Cohen said Kounalakis has a “strong grasp of the underlying issues, particularly around the Port and land use.”

“It is an ongoing battle along the southeast and southern waterfront,” Cohen said. “There are many things afoot.”

Meanwhile, Jon Golinger, who ran a successful “No Wall on the Waterfront” campaign against the Port Commission-supported 8 Washington development, said the commission is, in general, too weighted toward business consultants and real estate interests. He is encouraging the Board of Supervisors to place on the November ballot a charter amendment that would split up the appointment power between the mayor and board and establish specific criteria for each seat in order to diversify representation. Such a measure was recommended by a June 2014 civil grand jury report.

“An important element in ensuring that the Port’s future and its planning is the product of greater public input, the Jury recommends a charter amendment to change the appointment of Port Commissioners. It is recommended that the Board of Supervisors make two Port Commission appointments and the Mayor make three,” the report said.

Ed LeeEleni KounalakisJon GolingerKaty TangMalia CohenMel MurphyNancy PelosiNo Wall on The WaterfrontPoliticsProposition Bwaterfront

Just Posted

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes sit in a container after being crushed at Smith-Madrone Winery in St. Helena, Calif. on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. (Courtesy Smith-Madrone Winery)
‘Champagne problems’ and supply chain nightmares: San Francisco’s wine industry is suffering

‘Everywhere you turn, things that were easy are no longer easy’

A Giants fans hangs his head in disbelief after the Dodgers won the NLDS in a controversial finish to a tight Game 5. (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
Giants dream season ends at the hands of the Dodgers, 2-1

A masterful game comes down to the bottom of the ninth, and San Francisco came up short

<strong>Workers with Urban Alchemy and the Downtown Streets Team clean at Seventh and Market streets on Oct. 12. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins> </strong>
Why is it so hard to keep San Francisco’s streets clean?

Some blame bureaucracy, others say it’s the residents’ fault

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi — seen in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday — touted Congressional Democrats’ infrastructure bill in San Francisco on Thursday. (Stefani Reynolds/The New York Times)
Pelosi touts infrastructure bill as it nears finish line

Climate change, social safety net among major priorities of Democrats’ 10-year funding measure

<strong>A lion from Cambodia at the Asian Art Museum, which was acquired from a private collector and dates back to between 1150 and 1225, is one of two pieces identified as a potential stolen artifact in the leaked Pandora Papers.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins> </strong>
Asian Art Museum reckons with Cambodian antiquities of disputed provenance

Pandora Papers revelations accelerate culture shift at museums near and far

Most Read