State of the City | San Francisco (2024)

Transcript is from speaker's notes and may differ from what's said on the video.

Welcome to Pier 70 and the Dogpatch neighborhood, recently voted one of the hippest neighborhoods in the world.

I want to tell you the story about a famous San Franciscan. Born in 1835, she hailed from Connecticut, and was named the “Niantic”. Yes, it’s appropriate we gather at a pier today, because the Niantic was a ship, a commercial ship, destined for trade with China.

Until, in 1849, her captain got word that hundreds of migrants were ashore in Panama, looking for transportation to San Francisco where, no doubt, their fortune in gold awaited. So the Niantic’s crew rebuilt her into a passenger ship, and in May of 1849 she left Panama with nearly 250 pioneers.

The Niantic arrived in San Francisco as one of the first ships to bring 49ers ashore. Legend has it, newcomers would jump ship before it could even drop anchor in San Francisco Bay. Within a few days, most of the Niantic’s crew abandoned her for the gold rush, too.

So the captain waited for high tide and sailed the Niantic as close to land as they could, running her aground on the shore where Clay and Montgomery Streets now meet. There, the Niantic became a store, offices, and a hotel. Someone cut a door in her side and inscribed “Rest for the weary and storage for trunks.”

Alas, a great fire in 1851 burned much of the Niantic. So enterprising San Franciscans built the “New Niantic Hotel”, once dubbed the finest in the city, with the ship’s hull as its foundation. Then it too burned down in 1872.

The next incarnation, the stone “Niantic Building”, directly atop the old ship and hotel, would not burn. Instead it was toppled by the earthquake in 1906. Surely any rational city would give up at this point, right?

No, in fact you might know where the Niantic rests to this day—right at the foot of the Transamerica Pyramid building, An iconic part of our skyline – and where today Sh-vo is investing a billion dollars in the building and surrounding area.

From Connecticut, to China, to Panama… the Gold Rush, to hospitality, to offices —through abandonment, fires, and earthquakes—the Niantic perseveres. Our downtown perseveres.San Francisco perseveres.

If our ship runs aground, we hang a welcome sign and get back to work. If our hotel burns, we build a bigger one. And if that crumbles, we build a great pyramid.

We are San Franciscans. We’re not beholden to past catastrophes. We’re not victims of circ*mstance. We are the captains of our own ship. We are the City That Knows How.

The last few years have been tough, and our challenges ahead are tougher still: public safety concerns, a spiraling fentanyl crisis, empty offices, shuttered businesses; and profound learning loss among our kids.

I know we can overcome these, in part because, through four consecutive elections last year, our voters re-instilled every level of our government with a mandate to get the basics right, to put children before politics, to put results before posturing.

Thank you, voters of our city, for electing our new District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, who is combatting open-air drug dealing, who is taking on the perpetrators of gun violence; who is prosecuting hate crimes, including against our API communities; and who is sending a message that accountability and equity can—and indeed must--co-exist with justice.

Thank you for electing Supervisors Matt Dorsey and Joel Engardio, who champion public safety and who, like me, refuse to accept rampant drug sales or struggling schools.

I have been waiting for help like this. Now let’s talk about the work we are going to do.

First and foremost, public safety. Last year we came together to fund new strategies: to recruit and retain police officers, to add new police academy classes; to establish new laws around destructive practices like street vending of stolen goods; and to allow for commonsense tools like access to private security cameras.

But our public safety challenges are not going to be resolved in one budget cycle. The gap between how many officers we need and how many we have is still vast. We are at least 500 officers short, just as hundreds more are approaching retirement.

This isn’t unique to San Francisco; police staffing is a national problem. But we must solve it locally. To do it, we will expand recruitment strategies and work to retain officers. We will give them the resources they need to succeed. Yes, we must hold officers accountable, but we must also respect the hard work they do every day and respect them.

We can also support and ease their work with complementary alternatives to police interventions. That means Ambassadors in the Tenderloin, Downtown, in transit stations, and across our neighborhoods who provide a positive presence on our streets. It means our Street Crisis Response Teams are out 24/7 taking calls for people in crisis.

Our residents are demanding we build back the police force, and we need to deliver. The push for full staffing has to be consistent and it has to be sustained.But full staffing is still years away.

Right now, our officers are working overtime to meet the basic needs of our city and we need to continue that. So I will be introducing a $25 million dollar budget supplemental to fund overtime and keep our officers walking beats, making drug arrests, and addressing retail theft.

I want to make one thing very clear: I am NOT okay with open-air drug dealing in this City. Period. The families who are losing people to fentanyl are certainly not okay with it. And the people who work and live in the Tenderloin are not okay with it either.

Yes, we are pushing innovative programs to get people into care and treatment, including working to open overdose prevention programs…but we need to enforce the law. Likewise, home and business break-ins require a TIMELY police response, an investigation, and an arrest.

And all this requires having officers, and clear support from city leadership.Because Public safety isn’t only about taking care of our residents – it’s also taking care of our economy.

Over the last year, I’ve visited businesses to meet not just with CEOs, but with workers. These are the people who ride BART and Muni every single day, who go out to our bars and restaurants, and who we need to bring Downtown back to life.

Their number one concern, what I've heard over and over again, at office after office – public safety. And we have to listen to them.

But even as we do, we must accept another tough fact: San Francisco Downtown as we knew it is not coming back. And that’s ok.

Empty office buildings have fueled dire predictions about economic doom and screaming headlines about the death of downtown. Let’s keep some perspective. In 1907, downtown was mostly rubble and ash. That’s considerably worse than today’s shift in how people work.

We have our challenges, but this isn’t an end to Downtown. Like the Niantic, it’s a call to action to re-imagine the future. To think about what kind of city we are – and what kind of city we can be.

The truth is, it won’t be any one thing that “saves Downtown.” It will have to be many things.

And the good news is that Downtown San Francisco has so many advantages: A beautiful waterfront location; Local and regional transportation; A dense, walkable neighborhood; Restaurants, bars, and entertainment; And proximity to iconic venues like Chase Center and Oracle Park.

Most importantly, we have unparalleled talent. A culture where it’s common to dream of the next great idea that will change the world.

Behind me is Astranis, a company that is building satellite technology that brings high-speed internet access across the world.Millions of people can benefit from what is being designed and built right here.

When asked why Astranis is located in San Francisco, their CEO, John Gedd-mark, pointed to the talent.The people. The densest collection of engineering talent anywhere.

Pier 70 has a rich history of fostering the future. The Iron Works that drove shipbuilding through our city’s early history and two world wars. The BART tunnel tubes were built right here. And now a satellite tech company is here building the future.

As people think about the changing nature of the workplace, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to recruit new business sectors and companies to create a more diverse and resilient local economy.

Whether that’s in finance and healthcare, or in green tech and biotech; Or in driverless vehicles which are out testing on our rising hills and narrow streets; Or in artificial intelligence – a groundbreaking industry that is just tapping into a new vision of what’s possible; an industry centered – and growing – right here in San Francisco.

Our city’s unemployment rate remains at 2%. Our airport was just named the best in the country.This City is ready to foster a spirit of success.

For the past several months, I’ve met with business leaders, small businesses, and workers to seek and share ideas.And today, we are releasing my plan: “A Roadmap for the Future of Downtown.” It calls for reforming our tax structure to make San Francisco more competitive – right now.

I am proposing legislation: To protect our existing companies by pausing tax increases on our retail businesses, hotels, manufacturing sector, and arts and entertainment. And to attract new businesses by offering tax breaks for three years for any company that comes to San Francisco.

We will work on tax reform legislation for next year’s ballot by collaborating with our Controller, the Board of Supervisors, the business community, and labor. Because taxes require serious thought and planning, and we have to stop the endless cycle of one-off tax measures thrown on the ballot without any real thought or analysis.

We will prioritize arts and entertainment Downtown to bring the streets alive through rezoning efforts and investments,and a new Arts Culture and Entertainment District.

We will dedicate cleaning crews and ambassadors to work alongside our public safety officers.

We will make it easier to open and operate small businesses downtown, through improving our permitting process.

We will hire more transit operators, who we desperately need to build back Muni service Downtown.

And of course, to recruit police officers and Muni operators, to create a resilient, thriving local economy, we need homes that working people can actually afford.

The approval of our Housing Element – a plan for what we need to build over the next eight years – was a major first step. But it was only a first step.

To build the 82,000 homes the plan calls for, we need to approve and build homes THREE TIMES faster than we did over the last decade. And that’s in a market where, right now, builders are struggling to make any project financially feasible.

My plan, “Housing for All”, is how we make this happen. It’s built on a simple premise: We need to remove the barriers to building new housing. That’s it.

The plan starts with my Executive Directive setting out what our Departments need to do. We will: Remove barriers to ALL new housing.

Open up the housing pipeline.

Untangle city processes and get departments delivering results faster.

Cut fees and other city costs.

Identify the funding for affordable housing to meet our goals.

And rezone areas all across the city so that all neighborhoods – all neighborhoods – are part of our housing future.

We’ve actually created much of the housing we need – on paper! In addition to the 18,000 homes we’ve built since 2018, we have more than 52,000 that have been approved, but for various reasons simply are not being built.

To open this pipeline, I will introduce legislation to build the public infrastructure of our largest projects, faster. We will get the roads, pipes, and power lines built quickly so that housing construction can start.

Potrero Power Station, just down the road from here, is already on board and ready to go. This project alone has over 2,000 new homes stuck in the pipeline and would create over one thousand union jobs.

With our legislation, we can break ground on new workforce housing this year.

This one policy could help unlock tens of thousands of homes, including nearly 13,000 affordable homes. Housing for All is a promise: a promise that the next generation will be able to afford to live in this City.

That our families will have homes to raise their children.That our workers can live near their jobs, not be forced into commutes that choke our roadsand pollute our air.

You cannot support families, workers, the environment without supporting infill housing. You cannot say you want to address homelessness without building housing.

And yet so many of the critics who claim homelessness is all about – and only about – a lack of housing are the same critics who block pro-housing policies.

You can’t have it both ways! Not anymore. We must build. And we must build NOW!

Speaking of housing the homeless, look at what we were able to do over the last few years. San Francisco was the ONLY county in the Bay Area to reduce homelessness over the last three years – a 15% reduction in unsheltered persons on our streets.

Over the last year, we placed 2,400 households into permanent supportive housing, and 7,000 into shelter.Nearly 10,000 households have received rental assistance and other support so they would not end up on our streets.

I know homelessness can be frustrating and seem unsolvable. But remember, this is a national crisis impacting every city, large and small, up and down the West Coast.

We are treating this like the crisis it is and we are making progress.

This year we will launch our new "Five-Year Strategic Plan" on homelessness.It will set clear goals for our Departments and nonprofit partners, which we will demand they meet.We will work to complete our plan to add 400 new mental health beds.

And we will work with the state to add even more.We will push forward our Overdose Prevention Plan, working with Supervisors Dorsey and Ronen, to continue bringing overdose deaths down.

Working with Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, we’ve finally started to see success in the Castro reaching people who’ve refused services for years. That targeted, coordinated, consistent approach is working, and we will expand it to other neighborhoods.

We will also continue fighting to reform California's mental health laws. Our reforms have been defeated again and again in the State Legislature, despite the heroic efforts of leaders like Senators Scott Wiener and Susan Eggman. But we won’t give up.

We are bringing reforms to our conservatorship laws back this year. Because our opponents won’t be able to overcome the glare of public scrutiny forever. Californians simply won’t be willing to let people continue to suffer and die on our streets.

This year, we will also continue to better serve San Francisco families through our Children and Family Recovery Plan: providing vouchers and subsidies for early education; paying early educators more; developing a pipeline to recruit and train more educators; offering summer learning opportunities; academic support to combat learning loss; mental health support; and paid internships.

And we will build on what has been a historic era, a renaissance, for our parks and open space.

In 2022, we opened Tunnel Tops, Battery Bluff, and Francisco Park—iconic, breathtaking views in these incredible new parks. Great Highway, Slow Streets, and Shared Spaces transitioned from temporary pandemic responses to key elements of the City’s dedication to safe open space. And we made JFK Promenade a permanent park space for all San Franciscans.

We’ll continue these historic investments in our parks, like India Basin, which will transform our Southern Waterfront in the Bayview Hunters Point for decades to come.

San Francisco will keep implementing our Climate Action Plan aggressively. Expanding EV infrastructure and electrifying our buildings. Marching toward our goal of being greenhouse gas-free by 2040 – five years ahead of the state goals.

We will continue to lead on innovative equity programs through our Dreamkeeper Initiative and Opportunities for All, which have already made dramatic, positive change in people’s lives.

We will continue uplifting and defending transpeople in the face of unspeakable bigotry around the country.

We will do all this while continuing to reform how our government functions.

We’ve started with slashing the time it takes to hire new city employees. That means getting our mechanics, street cleaners, nurses, bus drivers, and gardeners – our union workers – on the job sooner so they can take care of our city.

Supervisor Stefani is leading the efforts to bring accountability to our contracting, and she has my support and partnership.And we will make the hard choices facing us with our budget.

I know working with the Board of Supervisors, under President Aaron Peskin and Budget Chair Connie Chan, we will achieve our goals while closing our $720 million dollar two-year deficit.

We won’t solve all of San Francisco’s problems in a year, and we can’t fear trying new things. Because if we stand still, we fall behind. When we push forward, even if we stumble, we stumble forward.

There is a whole ecosystem of naysayers counting San Francisco out. Of course, we’ve heard all this before.

“Earthquake destroys city.”

“Summer of Love becomes winter of our discontent.”

“Earthquake destroys city again.”

“Tech bubble bursts San Francisco.”

I want to say something to the media talking heads, the critics, to the men who point out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better:

As Maya Angelou said, "You may shoot me with your words ... But still, like air, I rise."

So you can write us off, but you better be writing in pencil.Because we have proved you wrong every time before, and soon we will again. It’s what we do.

We endure. We adapt. We lead.

In this city, anything is possible. We turn ships into hotels and offices. Power plants into housing and new neighborhoods. We build satellites that sweep across the sky.

And we create a world where young girls from the projects can live their dream to serve as Mayor.

I am honored to serve my fellow San Franciscans. I am committed to you.

And I am inspired by the knowledge that, together, we will do what we have always done.

We will rise. And we will rise again.

With our voice in unison, our eyes to the future, we will show the world that this is San Francisco—and we never give up.

State of the City | San Francisco (2024)


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