A WOMAN FOR THE WIN
Courier’s exclusive interview with mayoral candidate London Breed
London Breed is one of four major candidates campaigning for mayor of San Francisco in June election. Photo: Tony Taylor
After the Board of Supervisors voted to replace her as acting mayor with a former venture capitalist investor, London Breed tweeted a placatory message: “I have a vision for an inclusive & fair San Francisco, and will keep working every day on the important issues we face: homelessness, housing, & public safety.”
Breed became acting mayor upon the sudden death of Mayor Ed Lee on December 12th and the vote to remove her came shortly thereafter. Following hours of public testimony on January 23rd, the first African-American woman to lead San Francisco — albeit briefly — was replaced by a white male who represents some of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods.
District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell took office with a 6-3 vote and will act as interim mayor until voters select a new mayor in June. He’ll have to relinquish his seat on the board, but gets to name his replacement.
According to The New York Times, Breed, who supports legalizing marijuana and recently wrote an op-ed on the need for cities to divest from fossil fuel companies, is considered right of the San Francisco center for her corporate ties and perceived receptiveness to the tech industry.
One reason given by progressive supervisors for voting against Breed as acting mayor was that she was linked to tech billionaire Ron Conway, once dubbed the “Godfather of Silicon Valley.” Conway is an angel investor who has backed Google and PayPal and made a fortune with early investments in companies like Airbnb and Pinterest.
Breed is one of four major candidates running for mayor on June 5th. Other candidates include former Supervisor Angela Alioto, District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, and former state Senator Mark Leno. The winner is eligible to serve the balance of Mayor Lee’s term, then run twice more, potentially securing the mayor’s office until January 2028.
SFGate reported that Breed has raised over $320,000 in campaign contributions, which puts her “within striking distance” of Leno, who leads the field of candidates in fundraising. According to the city’s Ethics Commission, Leno, who announced his intent to run for mayor last May, raised more than $417,000 in 2017; and, after expenses, has $338,267.
Since 2015, Breed has served as President of the Board of Supervisors, the second-highest ranking official in San Francisco, leading the legislative body of the city and overseeing a $10 billion budget with over 30,000 employees. She was elected District 5 Supervisor in 2012, representing the Fillmore/Western Addition, Hayes Valley, Lower Haight, Haight-Ashbury, Japantown, Alamo Square, North of Panhandle, Cole Valley, and Inner Sunset neighborhoods.
The 43-year-old San Francisco native, who was raised by her grandmother in Western Addition’s Plaza East Public Housing, graduated with honors from Galileo High School and attended the University of California Davis, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science-Public Service with a minor in African American Studies. She went on to earn a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of San Francisco.
Castro Courier editor Tony Taylor met up with Breed in the eclectic District 5 coffee shop Cafe International on the corner of Haight and Fillmore streets. Arriving promptly at 4:30 pm wearing a smart gray business suit and her winning smile, she took a moment to order a tea and greet a recognized patron.
“I’ve been here forever and what’s so crazy about this campaign is that people are coming out of the woodwork,” she began. We sat at a table against the window overlooking Haight Street as the setting afternoon sun splashed the wall behind her. “Folks I grew up with are coming to help. They’re sending money. I feel like the energy is good and I’m excited about this. It’s not something I ever thought was even possible.”
Q: What’s your earliest memory of politics?
Breed: I was about 15 when I got my first job in the mayor’s youth forum during high school. I used to work at a school for women over 18 who were getting their GED. There, I learned about how city government works and about the legislative branch.
I didn’t necessarily feel like I wanted to do politics, I just knew I didn’t want to be poor. That was all I was thinking about, even then.
When did you decide politics was the right avenue for you?
I always wanted to serve the community and change lives. When I was working at the African American Art and Culture Complex, I noticed that funding was problematic and there were challenges getting people employed or into housing. I was watching my community change and it was frustrating. I wanted to be in a position that allowed me to make decisions about the priorities of the city. I wasn’t thinking about running for anything.
I love being in the community. It’s just a different kind of feeling. When you have someone coming in to show you their report card, or someone who just got a job and they’re gonna buy you lunch; you get all [the feedback] directly. Sometimes politics can be disconnected from that. I wanted a voice at City Hall that understood what it was like to grow up in poverty in this city.
You were raised by your grandmother. Tell us about her and how she influenced you.
Ms. Brown was hardcore and as a kid you don’t appreciate the discipline. She instilled in me a lot of great values. People who needed something to eat or a little bit of money always stopped by our house. I would say, “Momma, we don’t even have nothing,” and she would say, “Be quiet girl, tomorrow that could be you.”
She had this kind of attitude that you just look out for each other. She would even make us pick up the trash outside. She was a disciplinarian. It’s funny because I find myself saying the same things [she said to me] to kids I work with in the community.
What would it mean for her to see you as the first African American female mayor of San Francisco?
I just can’t even imagine. [Breed pauses thoughtfully, her eyes aglow.] She wouldn’t be all excited. She’d probably say, “You did good.
San Francisco gets a lot of slack for gentrification, but how has it changed for better?
It’s hard to say. In my neighborhood of Western Addition, it’s not what it used to be. I miss my friends and my family members. The challenges have been affordability and the skyrocketing rents. In terms of providing job opportunities, it’s been wonderful. But for every eight jobs we created [we built only] one unit of housing, and that’s where we can do better. Sure there’s a 3.4 percent unemployment rate, but we have an opportunity with housing.
Breed, who is President of the Board of Supervisors and represents District 5, is a San Francisco native. Photo: Tony Taylor
How, as mayor, will you help fix the housing crisis?
One thing I did as a member of the Board of Supervisors was introduce neighborhood preference legislation. We would build affordable housing where people qualified for it, but then they had the worst time getting in through the lottery system. We’re building housing in the Southeast sector of the city and a lot of housing downtown where a lot of the homeless population is. How do we make sure they’re prioritized to get housing? As supervisor, I wanted to provide a direct connection.
It isn’t just about building affordable housing. It’s also about making sure the most impacted people have access to what’s built. As mayor, I plan to move full speed ahead in developing more affordable housing opportunities for low-income and middle-income residents. Teachers, janitors, restaurant workers, they don’t make a lot of money. They make too much sometimes to qualify for affordable housing in San Francisco, but not enough to afford market-rate. If we’re really gonna have diversity in San Francisco, we need to create a housing ladder.
As mayor, I plan to make sure we do more development of different housing levels so more people can qualify for affordable housing. I plan to develop a long-term, strategic plan to build modular housing, and increase density in transit corridors, like we did on Fillmore and Divisadero Street, to build more units. I plan to identify underutilized properties and purchase them or do a public-private partnership, like I’m doing with the McDonalds on Lower Haight and Stanyan, where we will have 120 to 160 new units. There are creative ways to provide more housing faster in San Francisco and we have to address issues with process to speed up development to get units built.
We have to make sure people have a safe, affordable place to call home.
What is your plan for helping those with mental health issues? We can build them housing, but someone with a mental health issue simply may not want to get help.
We have a model for that. Housing with wrap-around services is not easy. Part of it is that our conservatorship system is not one that makes it easy to conserve people for long periods of time to get them healthy and supported. We’re trying to change the policy to be more focused on health rather than the criminal justice system. We typically don’t deal with people until they get into the system.
What I’m doing with legislation and administrative changes is to remove it from Department of Aging and Adult Services and into Department of Public Health so it’s treated like the public health crisis that it is. We can develop the case whether they’re part of the criminal justice system or not and take it out of the District Attorney’s Office and into the City Attorney’s Office. There are a little over 100 people with serious mental health challenges that we’re targeting. We’ve identified them and have a list. We can provide whole wrap-around support in order to get them conserved.
We have 40 new mental health stabilization beds at St. Mary’s. It’s not about institutionalizing people, it’s about getting them healthy. After they get healthy, the next step is making sure once they’re treated and supported, where do they go next. I want to provide more opportunities like the Richardson Apartments*, where people can live independently and still get the support they need. We need more than one site. It’s less costly than dealing with people on the streets.
[*Richardson Apartments is a permanent, supportive housing building of 120 units for extremely low income, chronically homeless individuals, located on the corner of Fulton and Gough Street]
What do you think San Francisco’s most important values are?
We stand strong as a sanctuary city. We continue to push the envelope and challenge injustices in the US. We’re about doing what’s right and stepping up to the plate when no one else has the courage to do it. When we opened the door to same-sex marriage, we were like, “Damn the law, SF is open for businesses,” and we were so proud because of it. Yes, we have challenges with people who, sadly, are sleeping on streets and issues around crime, but what major city doesn’t? We’re compassionate and provide services.
I like defying odds and doing things no one else is doing, like safe injection sites. We’re one of the first cities in the US to open one. Doing nothing is not an option. So, let’s try it and see if it works; see if it changes lives.
We’re risk takers. We’re proud when we stand up for things that other people are afraid to do. People look to us as the example. I plan to set a good example for the rest of the country to follow.
Let’s talk about Ron Conway and his contribution to your campaign.
[According to the Examiner, during a February event at City Hall, Breed suggested her fellow supervisors were fearful of black leadership and blasted them for using Conway’s support of her as an excuse to oust her from the Mayor’s Office. “I am nobody’s slave — no white man millionaire slave,” Breed said at the end of her speech, in an apparent reference to Conway.]
I’ve worked my butt off to get here. My grandmother raised me, my community supported me, I earned scholarships to go to college. I’m the only member of the Board of Supervisors who grew up in poverty in this city. I’m still a renter. I’m not some billionaire. Sadly, the way politics sometimes rears its ugly head, people have to tear you down in order to build themselves up rather than focus on what they’re gonna actually do to deal with some of our most pressing issues.
The sad part is, as a black women who has worked so hard to do what it is I’m doing, as someone who has helped to change and save lives, it’s offensive. Aaron Peskin has given me money, so am I beholden to him? I do what I feel is the right thing to do in regards to my votes, my policies, my work. Mark Leno has never questioned anything about what I’ve done in the past. He’s given me certificates for my work in the community. Now we’re competitors and somehow I’m someone else’s person? It’s sad and offensive.
[In February, the Examiner reported that during a debate at the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House, Leno raised the issue of Super PACs as the only such bodies organized in San Francisco that are supporting Breed. Leno asked Breed to sign a pledge to denounce and reject Super PACs, as Kim and Alioto had. “I just wonder why all of a sudden there’s a pledge,” Breed said during the debate.]
Do you think the support from Conway is a conflict of interest with what you’re trying to accomplish and people you’re trying to protect, like SF’s vulnerable population?
Maximum contribution for campaigns is $500. Independent expenditures and Super PACs are all the same; you can’t coordinate with those things. I am confused about what we mean when we say there’s all this money I’m supposedly getting and where there could be a conflict.
There’s been Super PACs that have supported my opponents. Is anyone asking them about Big Pharma or PG&E or other major companies and the conflicts of interest that exist there? I have a track record of doing good work, not just on the Board, but also in the community. I will continue to do that. If there is a conflict of interest in any matter, I will consult with the city attorney and recuse myself.
Last year, one of our opponents announced they have over $14,000 in lobbyist money and as of January 1st that’s illegal. Is that a conflict?
[During the February debate in Potrero Hill, Breed alleged Leno’s campaign netted $14,000 in funds from local lobbyists in 2017, which became illegal in 2018 after the voter-approved Proposition T took effect. But it was not illegal when Leno began his campaign last year. “If there’s anything illegal in the money that I raised, I would gladly return it,” Leno said during the debate.]
As mayor, what steps will you take to protect long-time SF residents in vulnerable communities like the Mission, Bayview, and Western Addition?
With neighborhood preference legislation, a lot of people tried to fight me tooth and nail. Western Addition has had challenges with gentrification. When the Mission housing moratorium was proposed I voted to support it. I grew up going to the Mission on the 22 bus to get my 501 Levis jeans. Those stores aren’t there anymore. The neighborhood isn’t the neighborhood anymore.
It was changing so fast and people in that community were like, “What is going on?” What is the solution to protect the reasons why people love the Mission in the first place? I supported that moratorium because we needed to put a pause on development and create a plan of action to support that community.
I plan to make sure there are things like civil right to counsel, which we’re proposing on the Board. As mayor, I will make sure the ordinance passes and make sure it’s fully funded. So, when people who are facing eviction and often times can’t afford an attorney, they’ll have a right to counsel. 90 percent of people who are low income that were facing eviction last year did not have legal representation, which could have prevented some homelessness and displacement.
We have to jump in and protect our existing residents. Renovate public housing. Look at what’s happening with dilapidated affordable housing developments where HUD is trying to step in and say, “either you fix this or we’re gonna walk away.” One instance could put over 300 people out of housing. Even now, I’m doing that; and as mayor I’ll take it to the next level.
Last question. You’re very busy. What does free time look like for you?
I hang with friends and talk about stuff that isn’t necessarily politics. I go to the movies, go to dinner. I go to the gym. I love going to Napa to sit out in the sun and just look at the sky. I used to love to party, but I think those days are behind me now.
How to Keep Poison Out of the Food Web
A few years ago, Lisa Owens Viani experienced a life-changing moment — two young hawks she’d been observing in a nest near her home were found drowned in a swimming pool. Their deaths were the result of eating prey that had been lovingly fed to them by their parents.
The prey had been poisoned by rodenticides, poisons used to rid homes and businesses of pests but with disastrous impacts on wildlife and sometimes even pets and children.
Owens Viani vowed to halt this senseless destruction of such magnificent birds. She started locally, asking stores not to carry the worst kinds of rodent poison. However, going from store to store was just not making much of a difference. So, with assistance from Allen Fish, the Director of the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, Owens Viani took the leap and started an organization, “Raptors Are the Solution” (R.A.T.S.). Raptors such as red-tail and Cooper’s hawks are nature’s own pest-control officers.The fight has been long and difficult. Poison manufacturers and many businesses have a vested interest in being able to use rodenticides extensively.
How rodenticides work
Rodenticides are mostly anticoagulants; they block the Vitamin K cycle which is needed for certain blood-clotting proteins. When an animal ingests a lethal dose of the poison, it can slowly - or quickly, depending on the poison - bleed to death internally. This is an excruciatingly painful way to die.
Before it dies, the poisoned animal becomes desperately thirsty and may go out in the open to search for water. In a weakened condition, the animal becomes easy prey to larger animals that are in-turn poisoned.
When a mouse dies of rodenticide poisoning, that is a primary poisoning. If your cat eats mice with poison in their systems and dies, your cat has died of secondary poisoning. If a coyote eats a lot of mice and is then eaten by a mountain lion who has also eaten other poisoned critters, then the death of the mountain lion is tertiary poisoning. And yes, it happens ... a lot.
A wildlife report in 2014 stated that in the Santa Monica Mountains, “11 of 12 mountain lions tested positive for exposure and two died from poisoning. 93 of 105 bobcats tested positive for exposure and 70 died from related secondary disease. And 20 of 24 coyotes tested positive for exposure and 12 died from poisoning.” (National Park Service, National Wildlife Federation Blog)
Even if the poisons do not kill the animal, they can make it seriously ill. For example, a new study shows a strong link between anti-coagulants and immune system impacts such as mange in bobcats.
How NOT to poison nature
The simple fact is that when we use rodenticides, we are poisoning the food web. We are killing the very creatures who could help to control the rodents we are trying to eliminate. Owens Viani suggests different approaches that are not only better for the ecosystem, but also more effective long-term in controlling rodent pests.
The approach I like the best is putting up a Barn Owl box. One Barn Owl can eat up to 1000 rodents a year. During breeding season, a family can consume over 3000 rodents. You can imagine the fast build-up of poisons if only a fraction of those rodents have been chomping on rodenticide-laden food pellets.
Owens Viani cautions that you talk to your neighbors first, so that they don’t use rat poison and inadvertently poison the owls you have so carefully attracted to your Barn Owl box. In fact, if you live near Golden Gate Park, you might still ask your neighbors not to use rat poison, as there are often other owls nesting in the park.
Other anti-rodent suggestions include removing plants such as ivy that rodents can hide in, not leaving pet food outdoors, using snap traps where other animals cannot be caught in them, tying garbage bags securely, and keeping dumpsters closed at all times (duh).
You might wonder if this really works.
According to a guide for controlling rodents by the Marin County Integrated Pest Management, “Eliminate food and rats will relocate.”
If you hire a pest control company, ask them not to use poisons. If they say their baits are not poisonous, one wildlife expert suggests that you ask them to lick the bait in front of you. That should answer that question!
With help from like-minded wildlife conservationists and over 40 wildlife organizations, R.A.T.S. now has an extensive website (raptorsarethesolution.org) and chapters in other parts of California.
It has been a long struggle, but not without rewards. Owens Viani was just inducted into the World Owl Hall of Fame. At the end of our interview, Owens Viani stated, “I am not giving up this fight.”
What you can do
Don’t use rat poison! Follow the Marin IPM guide (Marin County Pest Specific IPM Plan for Rats). Write to your state assembly person and ask them to support AB 2242 (Bloom) to get poisons out of nature’s system! Sierra Club has a site dedicated to wildlife protection - sign up! Sierra Club California CNRCC wildlife Committee
Katherine Howard is a member of the Executive Committee of the SF Group of the Sierra Club.
Are Coffee Shops the New Homeless Drop-In Centers?
Recently, while visiting several different coffee shops in San Francisco, I noticed many of their restrooms have signs on the doors saying, “Closed Until Further Notice.” Upon questioning the employees, they immediately tried to re-direct me to other establishments in the neighborhood that offer public restrooms.
When I asked if their restrooms would be repaired soon, the clerks explained they cannot keep them open because the homeless take baths in them, flooding the floors as well as shooting up drugs and throwing their dirty needles on the ground.
The clerks are quickly learning that a homeless person has no choice but to remain dirty because of no access to baths, and are compelled to sometimes steal food because of hunger, and are forced to sleep when and where they can because they have no beds like most people do.
But the employees still have to remember that their job is to take care of the paying customers who are entitled to a clean establishment with restrooms available.
The employees told me that they often find homeless people asleep in their restrooms and in order to get them to leave, they sometimes have to call the police for help.
One young clerk told me that since the homeless don’t get to bathe regularly, customers in the store complain that restrooms sometimes smell so badly. He said it is easier for them to place an “Out of Order” sign on the door than it is to try and explain the situation to the paying customers who are out of luck in their need for a restroom, and frequently take out their frustrations on the employees.
Often, he continued, homeless people will fall asleep with their heads on the tables surrounded by large garbage bags filled with their belongings and the customers will not sit near them.
In areas of cities with a large homeless population, employees not only put “Out of Order” signs on their restroom doors, they remove the chairs and tables, forcing customers to stand to drink their coffee, hoping to deter the poor from coming in to bathe and sleep.
In the coffee houses that do provide chairs, the employees explain that they feel sorry for the homeless who are often young people close to their own ages, and sometimes they let them sleep for several hours before asking them to leave.
Since the other customers will not sit near them while they sleep and often choose to leave the establishment, business in some areas is declining. I wonder if the employees training prepares them to gently yet firmly deal with the poor people of their neighborhoods as well as serve the paying customers.
The need for shelters for the poor is extremely critical and I applaud the employees at the coffee houses for trying to sensitively deal with the homeless situation, though I am certain they are not paid to both serve paying customers as well as interact with homeless people.
A young woman working at one coffee shop in San Francisco shared with me that telling someone who obviously hadn’t had a bath for days to leave the establishment seemed intensely cruel to her. She is in college and this is her first job, as well as her first experience in dealing with the poor.
At her shop, she added, they have to remove the cream after each customer uses it instead of leaving it out, because homeless people will drink it all. The clerk said there have been times she was not certain if the people are homeless or not, and finds it awkward to have to be the judge.
Many establishments are literally throwing homeless people out of their stores, yet some actually teach their employees that treating all people with dignity and respect is the number one requirement of all jobs.
Theft in some coffee shops continues to take its toll. The employees are expected to police the products on the shelves as well as keep homeless people out of their restrooms and also keep them from falling asleep in their chairs.
That, on top of doing their normal customer service work, seems over and above the line of duty for young adults who are often trying to pay their way through college with their part-time coffee shop jobs.
Watching the rapidly growing population of homeless people, and simply saying “build houses for everyone” is in the meantime not offering the poor ways to bathe, sleep, eat, store their belongings, as well as take care of their bodily needs, which we all have to do in order to survive.
Perhaps the clerks in these coffee shops working with the homeless population everyday are the very ones that will lead us to much-needed solutions!
The High Changes Coming to Flore on Market
It was just over a year ago that Terrance Alan and Aaron Silverman became the new owners of what was is now Flore on Market. The restaurant on the corners of Noe and Market was up for grabs and the pair wanted to be sure that Flore retained its strong and vital role within the community.
Since then, Aaron “Air” Groner has come on board as manager of the iconic dining spot.
Castro Courier caught up with Aaron Groner and Terrence Alan to check in on what’s happened over the past 14 months, especially in light of changes to laws surrounding cannabis, which is to be a very important part of Flore’s operation just as soon as it becomes possible.
Wendy: What events do you have coming up during the month of March?
Aaron: Every Thursday we partner with PaintNite. You go to their website, pay for your spot, come to our restaurant on Thursday, and an instructor teaches you how to paint a particular painting. One week it was cherry blossoms; the next week it might be a riverscape. They provide you with a canvas, and everything you need. It’s super fun. Lastly, for March, we are doing an event in honor of Dennis Peron, on March 11th. We’re doing some events every day that week leading up to it, but the 11th is our big Dennis Peron event. That’s gonna be from 5pm to 10pm, on Noe Street between Market and Beaver. We’re blocking off the street and doing a memorial celebration of his life. On our Instagram and Facebook there’s a link to the Eventbrite page, so you can RSVP for the event. Everyone is welcome; we’ll donate to his memorial site as well.
Terrance: We will have an Okey Dokey Karaoke night; we’ll have a gay trivia night, which will be as a benefit to the GLBT HIstorical Society. We’ll be working in concert with them, where gay trivia facts are bantered about, points are awarded, and people win silly prizes. It’s community building and it is bringing our tourists, our community, and our new neighbors all together in the same room, breaking bread, and doing so with some light, directed entertainment. We’re in the planning stages of all that and hope to begin to roll that out toward the later part of March.
Wendy: Should people go to your website to look for those events and sign up?
Terrance: Yes. As soon as you see the website look completely different than it has, you’ll know. Click around, because there will be an entire section devoted to what we’re calling Flore Speaks, which is the event series.
Wendy: It’s great that you’re partnering with the GLBT Historical Society, and celebrating history in that way. This seems like the year for anniversaries, with so many arts groups, establishments, and other organizations turning 40 or so this year.
Terrance: While I didn’t have the Flore back in that day [Flore opened a little over 44 years ago], I came to San Francisco in the early ‘70s. Many of us emerged here in the ‘60s and ‘70s and have never left. Now that we are the elders of the community, we have a moment to celebrate our gifts to this community of San Francisco, and to pass on the history that is so often forgotten, or not even known. I tell people about Dennis Peron and they don’t know who he is, and yet we have an entire multi-billion dollar industry built on the work that he did.
Wendy: Of course he was a huge cannabis activist, and when the Courier interviewed you and Aaron Silverman last year, you were very excited about Flore serving cannabis infused food and beverages. Recent laws have put some hurdles in front of you before that can happen.
Terrance: When the law changed, it eliminated our ability to experiment with CBD cocktails and beer, and made all cannabis products illegal unless sold by a licensed retailer. We were blessed with eight months of runway last year, where we had both our Toke Back Mountain CBD beer and our menu of signature cocktails made with CBD and various terpene profiles. They were received extraordinarily well, and we had exactly zero problems. The long term push is to change the law at the state level, so that alcohol and cannabis can be served on the same premises. Until that happens, cannabis will continue to be what I will call an illicit substance. You cannot consume cannabis anywhere in public; you cannot consume cannabis anywhere in private, except a private home with the consent of the landlord. That’s a very, very, very, very restrictive set of policies that we put in place. It basically eliminates one of the major elements that cannabis brings to the human race, which is socialization. The fight begins immediately; I’ve been leading that fight locally here, to create a coalition of hospitality businesses. I’m addressing the San Francisco Travel Association and their several hundred members about cannabis and tourism. There are so many restrictions on cannabis use, we’d be [talking about them] for an hour. It eliminates cannabis in a socialized environment, and we have to change that law. We’ve kind of taken a side step and we’ve got to get back on the path to normalization.
Wendy: Is there any way for people to make their voices heard if they want to get involved.
Terrance: Yes. They can go to the San Francisco Cannabis Task Force website, put in their email, and send their opinion or come to a meeting.
Wendy: How have the menu and beverages evolved, aside from cannabis inclusion? Initially, the plan was to offer more sharing inspired plates and cocktails.
Aaron: We’ve changed a lot. When I first came on [nine months ago], the first few months for me, were just sitting back and listening to what people wanted, and what they were expecting. I took that information, and my years of experience working in food and beverage, to help to curate and change this restaurant for the better, and just take it up to that next level of experience: higher level of engagement, quality of service standards, all of that jazz. What I was focusing on was bridging that gap between the view of a more casual cafe/coffee kinda setting, to more of a full-fledged restaurant and bar. We launched our winter cocktails not too long ago, with a selection of hot cocktails, because we have a patio and people sit outside. We’re working on our spring cocktails, which will hopefully launch mid to end of March. That new cocktail menu is taking the history within the Castro and San Francisco [into consideration]. We’re doing cocktails that are inspired by some of the leaders within the LGBT community, so Harvey Milk [for instance], and taking the thoughts and ideas behind him, and who he was as a person, and translating that into a cocktail; taking the thoughts behind the Stonewall riots and the people behind that - that was a vibrant, deep rooted, emotional experience - if we wanted a drink that spoke to that, what would that be? Every drink will be named after someone, like Harvey Milk, and this is who he was, and this is what he did, so having that story behind it. I brought in some really amazing new bartenders. I have an amazing new bartender that’s helping me create this whole new brilliant cocktail program, who also happens to be a drag queen, which is fun.
SFPUC Invests in Vital Services #AlwaysOn
We at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) know that San Franciscans expect high-quality tap water, as well as safe disposal of treated sewage to protect our public health and the health of the Bay and ocean. It’s our job to worry about those things so you won’t have to. But the bottom line is that we need additional support from our ratepayers to make critical upgrades necessary to serve San Francisco—today, tomorrow, and decades down the road.
The services we provide you are funded 100% by your monthly water and sewer bill. Your payments help maintain and upgrade an extensive array of infrastructure that we depend on to collect, treat and deliver clean, reliable water, and safely collect and treat wastewater before returning it to the Bay and ocean. And, just as your car needs regular maintenance and upgrades to keep it in good working order, so do your water and sewer systems. Here are the imminent priorities:
• The Southeast Wastewater Treatment Plant is the frontline protector of basic public health for a majority of the City. It treats both sewage and stormwater runoff for 80% of the City, and key facilities are in need of an upgrade. Built in 1952, some components still use 1940s technology. Many of its facilities have not been retrofitted to withstand the next major earthquake. We are making major upgrades to this plant and the system that serves it as part of Phase 1 of the $2.9 billion dollar Sewer System Improvement Program (SSIP).
• On the water side, our $4.8 billion Water System Improvement Program (WSIP) to repair, replace, and seismically upgrade the water system is now 95% complete. We must complete this program and continue to upgrade key pipelines and other critical components of the system to ensure high-quality 24/7 services to you.
We also maintain over 1,000 miles of water transmission pipelines and are responsible for almost 2,000 miles of sewer lines within the city of San Francisco alone. And—just as for a well-maintained car—planned system repairs over time are far easier and less expensive than emergency fixes after a break.
Water and sewer rate increases are necessary to pay for these vital system upgrades. We are planning an approximate annual rate increase of 8% for water and sewer rates over the next four years. For the average single-family residential household that pays $108 on its current monthly bill this increase translates to about an additional $10 per month each year, with more than 80% of that amount funding critical upgrades and investments.
As responsible stewards of ratepayer money, we do not take these proposed rates increases lightly. By law, we can only charge you the cost for providing services to you, nothing more, and nothing less. Now these pending and critical upgrades require an additional investment.
Setting rates is a public process that involves several oversight bodies and independent analysis. The Rate Fairness Board (RFB), composed of SFPUC customers and other appointees, is currently reviewing proposed rate plans, holding public meetings and providing recommendations to ensure affordability, stability, and fairness. We invite you to be part of this public process and attend the March 2 and March 30, 2018 meetings held at 525 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco, CA 94102 to share your feedback. To learn more about this process and your rates, please visit sfwater.org/rates