Former state Sen. John Burton’s mayoral appointment to the Port Commission sailed toward approval Monday.
The 87-year-old, who also served as chairman of the California Democratic Party from April 2009 through May 2017, expressed concerns over the economy of the waterfront due to the COVID-19 pandemic during a Board of Supervisors Rules Committee hearing Monday.
He said the Port of San Francisco has changed over the decades and is now more of a place for tourists to visit and an area for real estate development.
“It is kind different than the Port that I grew up with, but I am very interested in learning from the other members and from the staff and see how we could just improve the Port as far as economics are concerned because, as you know, the Port does not receive money from the general budget, it’s got to be self-sustaining, and with the COVID and if you rely on tourism and restaurants, self-sustaining is damn near impossible,” Burton said.
Rules Committee members on Monday praised Mayor London Breed’s nomination of Burton, who will fill the seat previously held by real estate broker Victor Makras. His term would end on May 1, 2024.
“I can’t imagine a more capable and experienced person to serve on this commission,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen.
Burton is responsible for returning the waterfront to local control through the Burton Act of 1968, when he was an assembly member. Among other changes, that Act mandated the creation of the Port Commission to which he is now being appointed.
“When I first got interested in the Port we were a port,” Burton recalled. “We were a seafaring area. But over the years a lot of our shipping went over to Oakland because our piers were what they call finger piers and couldn’t deal with the containerization. And now it’s almost kind of a tourist attraction and a real estate development almost.”
Supervisor Catherine Stefani said that “there are so many issues that we need to address” at the Port, including climate change and the use of the funds from a 2018 bond to adapt to sea level rise.
“We can benefit from your passion, your experience and your knowledge of San Francisco,” Stefani said.
The full board is expected to confirm the appointment on Oct. 20.