A Time of Change
June has been a busy month with many events happening nationally and locally, some of historic proportions. We are experiencing a sea change, a renewed commitment to civil rights and human rights and an examination of the laws and institutions we depend on to ensure them.
Nationally and locally, we have seen outrage at the killing of Black people by law enforcement, the injustice of our justice system, the calling for police reforms and demanding the defunding of police departments. In our City, we join the country in examining racial inequities and our systemically racist societal infrastructure.
Clearly, we are at a time of recognition of the need for change, providing an opportunity to define the public safety system we need and deserve. This is the moment to understand more deeply the role of law enforcement under the larger umbrella of public safety, and explore how we can create a public-safety system that includes law enforcement that is not defined by law enforcement alone. To do this we need to examine the root causes of crime, and who we have left behind in the areas of education, economic opportunity, and mental and emotional health. We need to look at disparities by race and work to reform institutions that foster and condone racial divides, especially those who chose to create the narrative of “it’s us against them.” John Donne’s solemn 400-year-old poem which starts out with “no man is an island entire of itself …” is resonating loudly today. We are all part of a larger picture, one that is interdependent with each other. This is the time for critiques of societal issues, and for us to critique our own behavior, beliefs and privilege.
Our office is proud to have created the first Office of Racial Equity for San Francisco. This office will evaluate and identify racial inequities in city policies and operations in the areas of health, education, housing, environment and economics. Many other cities have created such offices, and we studied the lessons learned from those attempts to create an office that would deliver on our commitment to racial equity. This critical look at our city infrastructure is needed now more than ever. We cannot erase systemic racism if we continue to create policies that foster racial inequities and further marginalize communities. The state of California is now looking into creating a statewide Office of Racial Equity.
Affordable Housing in the Richmond
We are happy to announce the acquisition of a site for 100% affordable senior housing in the Richmond! Thank you to the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC) for partnering with my office and meeting with our neighborhood organizations to plan for the acquisition and development of this site at 4200 Geary Blvd. (at the corner of Sixth Avenue). As proposed, the project will be an all-electric building with 99 affordable units that will serve low-income and formerly homeless seniors. The ground floor will consist of a large community room, TNDC tenant services offices, TNDC property management offices and about 1,900 square feet of community-serving retail. The project is in the schematic design phase, and TNDC is in the process of underwriting the project with the City. The approximate construction start date is planned for February 2022, with tenants moving in at the end of 2023 or early 2024. Because of Neighborhood Resident Housing Preference, 40% of the units can be set aside for seniors who currently live in District 1.
I would also like to thank the voters, because this project was made possible by the passage of Propositions A and E on the November 2019 ballot. Prop. A was a $600 million affordable housing bond with $150 million dedicated to senior housing, and Prop. E rezoned large lots throughout the City to streamline 100% affordable housing and educator housing projects.
Thanks to Prop. E, this site is already pre-zoned for 100% affordable housing. I authored Prop. E and have fought for funding to bring affordable housing projects like this to the Richmond, and I’m so happy to see the work of my office bearing fruit. This site has proven that building 100% affordable housing is not a “thing of the past,” as previously stated by some. It is something that can happen with determination and perseverance. This adds to the three permanently affordable buildings in the Richmond that we acquired through the Small Sites Program, which strives to preserve affordable housing and prevent displacement of tenants. Last year, my office secured a grant to help create our own affordable housing nonprofit (like TNDC) on the west side so that we can acquire and develop more affordable housing like this in the Richmond. If you’re interested in learning more about this project, please email email@example.com.
Youth Leadership in the Richmond
Last year, our office partnered with the CORO Foundation to create a D1 Youth Leadership Academy. From January through May, D1 youth fellows participated in a hands-on leadership training program that strengthened their leadership skills as they worked toward positive change for our district and gained a greater understanding about our district. I want to congratulate them on their graduation from the program and thank them for their work. In light of COVID-19 and SIP, the group pivoted from their first project to a project filling an immediate need in our district by creating a COVID-19 Resource Guide for D1 Youth.
COVID-19 is still with us and will continue to be the biggest public health crisis of our time until a vaccine is developed. Therefore, while San Francisco is slowly reopening, we must be mindful that this disease is deadly, easily transmitted and still very much a threat. While restrictions have been loosened, the rules of physical distancing still apply as does the wearing of masks whenever you are outdoors or in stores. San Francisco has joined many regional cities and counties in the Bay Area in applying for a variance from the state which enables us to reopen according to recommendations from our local chief health officer.
For the most up-to-date information on businesses reopening in the Richmond, go to http://www.onerichmondsf.com. Since the beginning of COVID-19, my office has been virtually convening our community-based organizations and small businesses, connecting them to city resources, helping them troubleshoot issues, partnering with them to provide services to our most vulnerable populations, and providing general support throughout this difficult time. We also delivered more than 2,000 masks, 1,000 gloves and dozens of bottles of hand sanitizer to organizations, and have helped to deliver meals to vulnerable seniors. I want to thank them for all they do for our district; please support them as they reopen to serve our residents.
MTA is reopening some bus routes that had been previously shortened or paused, including the 5-Fulton, 28-19th Avenue and 38-Geary. For more information about the most recent changes, visit http://www.sfmta.com/covid19.
All government meetings continue to be held virtually, even as we enter this budget season. Our city controller has estimated an approximate $1.5 billion deficit in the city budget this year, with much lower than normal projected revenues throughout this year and next. Therefore, the city must budget itself accordingly. The mayor has instructed all city departments to submit budget reductions. The city budget can be a confusing and complex process, and since I have been in office, we have hosted City Budget 101 workshops, which many of you have attended. Please join us for a virtual District 1 Budget Community Meeting on Thursday, July 9 from 5:30-7 p.m. where we will share with you the latest news about the city budget and explain the budget process. To register, please email Chelsea.Boilard@sfgov.org.
The City now has a list of 42 sites that can potentially be used for Safe Sleeping Villages for unhoused people. Unfortunately, there are no feasible sites in the Richmond as the only two sites listed are schools, and SFUSD will be resuming classes soon. However, we are still pushing for a Safe Sleeping Village on the west side so we can offer an alternative to the people experiencing homelessness in our neighborhood.
As noted before, the courts have ruled that the City cannot move tents unless we have a place to offer them to move to. This process has been extremely frustrating, and even more so after our virtual town hall meeting on homelessness where the mayor’s office announced that the Richmond is not their priority. I have been pushing the mayor to implement a comprehensive plan to address homelessness across the entire city, instead of just temporary fixes and band-aids. The Board of Supervisors can continue passing legislation, but the mayor has control over city departments and most of the city budget. We will continue to advocate for solutions like purchasing hotels for permanent housing and connecting job training and job placement with offers of housing. Neighbors, I thank you for your patience during this time.
Please join the Richmond Neighborhood Center on July 16 at 5 p.m. for a forum that will look at how racism has increased against the Asian community during COVID-19, and how to strengthen our solidarity with Black Lives Matter and communities of color in our fight against systemic racism. Pre-register at https://bit.ly/3dpClTa. Our congratulations and thanks to Richmond Station Police Captain Michelle Jean on her retirement and her work serving our district. We wish her many, many years of joyful retirement!
Neighbors, I know this is a challenging time. Together we will get through this. Stay well. Go well.