By Janice Bressler
The word is out – Sandra Fewer, District 1 supervisor and outspoken champion of the Richmond District, will not seek a second term in office. But though her time on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will end next January 2021, Fewer’s colleagues and constituents say that she has already left an important legacy and is not done fighting for the neighborhood she calls home.
“Sandy is a rare politician,” said longtime Richmond resident Joseph Smooke, a photojournalist and co-founder of the nonprofit People Power Media. “She has never been focused on angling for higher position or the next election … she’s passionate about people, especially the people who often aren’t represented by City Hall.”
David Heller, president of the Geary Boulevard Merchants Association, also praised Fewer’s commitment to the community, calling her “one of the very best supervisors for small businesses that District 1 has seen. Her roots are so deep in this neighborhood and her love of the Richmond is so deep.”
Fewer admitted that her decision not to seek re-election was not an easy one.
“When people put their faith in you by electing you to office, it’s such an honor. This decision has weighed on me for quite a while,” Fewer said.
Close to tears, Fewer admitted that many of those she consulted on her decision had urged her to run for a second term. “When I spoke with elders in Chinatown, they told me I should try to stay in office, that my personal interests should yield to the greater good. That’s the Chinese way.”
But Fewer, who has spent more than a decade in public service, first on the SF School Board and now as a supervisor, said in the end, the stress of the job was a key factor in her decision.
“You are never off,“ said Fewer,“ There’s work every weekend, most evenings. If there’s a fire in the middle of the night, I get up and pull on sweatpants to see what I can do.“ She added: “I think my physical health was a factor, but just as important, my emotional health. There is so much negativity in this job. Some people seem to expect a supervisor to solve all their problems. We didn’t get here overnight, and solutions won’t come overnight.”
Fewer is widely praised for her in-depth approach to complicated issues and her willingness to develop programs whose results may not be fully appreciated or visible within the short term of a single election cycle. For example, Fewer pushed hard to secure a recently awarded grant from the state to develop a westside affordable housing nonprofit. Once such an organization is established, explained Ian Fregosi, one of Fewer’s legislative aides, it will have the power to not only buy existing apartment buildings and convert them to permanently affordable units, but also to build new ones.
“We’ve needed something like this for a long time,” Smooke said. “It took real leadership to make this happen. It is something that will take time to come to fruition, so a politician looking for a quick fix wouldn’t have taken it on. But we’ll be reaping the benefits of this in our community in the years to come, long after Sandy leaves office.”
Asked what she herself sees as her proudest accomplishments, Fewer answered without hesitation: “My three children.” Fewer and her husband, both San Francisco natives who grew up in the Richmond, also raised their three children in the district. All three, a son and two daughters, are now adults and pursuing their own passions beyond San Francisco; two live abroad and one lives in Oakland.
As for the work she’s most proud of as a supervisor over the past three years, Fewer said that her wins for affordable housing are among her top achievments.
“Sixty-five percent of our district is renters, and we’ve worked hard to create protections to keep people in their homes,” Fewer said.
In addition to the grant to establish a westside affordable housing nonprofit, she pointed to the recent Small Sites Program acquisition on Third Avenue, as well as a number of measures that she authored or co-sponsored and saw passed, such as Proposition E, which facilitates the building of affordable housing and housing for educators throughout the City.
Fewer also sees her work on behalf of seniors of the Richmond as an important and lasting legacy of her time as D1 supervisor. This year, Fewer will preside over the groundbreaking for a special “playground for seniors” at the SF Public Library on 10th Avenue.
“There will be special equipment and stations designed especially for seniors, to help them stay limber,” Fewer said.
Another Richmond District program Fewer spearheaded is One Richmond, a neighborhood program that encourages residents to support the community in ways large and small – whether making a conscious effort to shop at neighborhood merchants, helping an elderly neighbor with a household chore, or volunteering with a local neighborhood group. The program’s practical, community-building ethos is contained in its motto: “Have you done your One Richmond thing today?
”Fewer said the recent controversy over her use of an expletive condemning the Police Officers Association at a political event was not a factor in her decision not to run again.
“If anything, that was a battle that might have prompted me to change my mind and seek re-election.”
Fewer said once she steps down from the demands of the supervisor’s office, she looks forward to spending a lot more time with her friends.
“I’ve put a lot of friendships on hold for the past three years, and my friends have been so patient with me and given me so much support,” Fewer said. Both she and her husband love gardening and she hopes that leaving her City Hall job will open up more time for that activity, as well.
“But no matter what I do after this, Fewer added, “I’m definitely committed to doing a One Richmond activity every single day.”
For more information about One Richmond go to www.onerichmondsf.com
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Categories: Sandra Lee Fewer