In her first State of the City address as mayor, London Breed said Wednesday that residents are beginning to see street conditions improve under her watch with increased police presence and street cleaning in key areas.
She vowed to house or shelter thousands more homeless residents and place on the November ballot a measure to speed up affordable housing developments.
She also used the moment to announce she hired a new public health director, Dr. Grant Colfax, who once worked for the Obama administration, and plans to hire someone in a newly-created position to reform The City’s mental health services.
In the approximate 30-minute address, delivered at the National LGBTQ Center for the Arts at 170 Valencia St., Breed detailed her accomplishments in her first six months in office and focused on what she deemed the top challenges facing San Francisco: homelessness, mental health, affordable housing and street cleanliness.
The speech comes as Breed faces re-election in November. No serious challenger has yet to file to run against her.
Breed said that increased officers and street cleaners in strategic locations such as the Civic Center area, were making a noticeable impact.
“I know we have more to do, but people are starting to see a difference,” Breed said. “Families are coming to the new playgrounds at Civic Center.”
“This is a start,” she said. “A first step toward making all our public spaces clean and safe.”
Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, who attended the address, questioned how much the conditions have really changed. “I’ve seen some improvement but I also see that the same issues are still around. I walk to lunch from City Hall, I see dealers. I see people in the street shooting up.” He noted that he recently called for police to help someone he saw suffering from an apparent overdose in an alley a “few blocks off of Larkin [Street.]”
Breed said she plans to more aggressively house or shelter the homeless living on the streets.
“We know we have around 4,000 unsheltered people in our city, sleeping on the streets, in parks, doorways, or vehicles. We know that is a travesty — but it’s one we can take on,” Breed said.
“In the next four years, I want to create enough shelter beds, step-up housing units, homeless housing units and housing subsidies for every person who is currently unsheltered. That’s 4,000 more placements for people.”
“NO MORE BUREACRACY. NO MORE APPEALS”
One of the mayor’s most controversial announcements was a plan to introduce a charter amendment for the November ballot that is intended to speed up 100 percent affordable housing development and teacher housing by taking away the ability of residents to appeal projects.
“If an affordable housing or teacher housing project is proposed within zoning, then build it. And build it now,” Breed said. “No more bureaucracy. No more costly appeals. No more not in my neighborhood. It’s simple: Affordable housing as-of-right because housing affordability is a right.”
Details of the measure remain unknown at this point; it has yet to be introduced.
Some board members gave high marks to Breed’s address and signaled they would support the measure.
Supervisor Gordon Mar said, “She really touched on all the important issues in the city and projected a good vision for moving forward.”
Mar said the housing ballot measure, “sounds like a good idea to me.”
“For the Sunset District and the West side, prioritizing 100 percent affordable housing in the limited site opportunities that we have makes a lot of sense to me,” he said.
Others were less enthusiastic.
“Another year, another speech,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin.
Asked if he would support her charter amendment, Peskin said, “I haven’t seen it, and then the question is, will she support my charter amendment to have a housing commission so we can have transparency over the Mayor’s Office of Housing.”
Supervisor Sandra Fewer questioned if rule changes were needed, when it seemed to her it’s been more about the lack of will by City Hall to make certain developments a reality. “The Mayor’s Office of Housing, since I first got into office, for two years, I’ve been begging them to build teacher housing in my neighborhood. I have a site that is ideal and there has been zero movement.”
Yee said he supported the concept of the housing measure but expressed concern.
“In my neighborhood, you still want to have the neighbors to be able to weigh in a little bit,” Yee said. “There’s always a balance. When people do point out things, we need to mitigate it.”
It’s not yet known when Breed will introduce the measure.
“I hope you believe with me,” Breed said, concluding her address. “We will meet our challenges.”