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 San Francisco’s James R. Herman cruise terminal at Pier 27,

the first stop for almost 300,000 people who come here every year from around the world to our beautiful city.

I want to tell you about another jewel of the San Francisco Port that just celebrated 125 years, the San Francisco Ferry Building.

In the 19th Century, commuters and visitors traveled by train or ferry, or both.

So a ferry terminal on the waterfront, right downtown, was a practical necessity.

It was the SFO of its day, the Grand Central Station.

But, as we so often do, San Francisco built a practical space of world-class beauty, with a 245 foot clocktower, a long, arched arcade, and an interior worthy of a Renaissance cathedral.

At the foot of Market Street, a beautiful bridge from water to land, the Ferry Building announced to every commuter, every traveler:

This is San Francisco. You have arrived.

Until, that is, the late 1930s, when two new bridges–the Bay and Golden Gate–and the rise of the automobile, made the Ferry Building seem outdated and unwanted.

Soon the grand interior was converted into drab cubicles.

And then, in an act of urban planning catastrophe that only the 1950s could spawn, a double-decker freeway rose in the Ferry Building’s front yard, slicing it from the city it served.

For decades, this great landmark was an isolated, nearly forgotten, crumbling shell of its former glory.

No one went there.

No one bet on its future.

Its time had passed.

But then the freeway came down.

And the city created a new, walkable, grand Embarcadero with the Giants on one end, and a restored Ferry Building at the center.

With patience, smart planning, investment, and time, San Francisco turned a discarded transit hub back into a global icon, “a famous city’s most famous landmark” as Herb Caen called it.

Today, the Ferry Building hosts shops, artisans, restaurants, farmers markets, ferries, and thousands of tourists and locals.

And just a few months ago, during APEC it hosted leaders from around the world.

This one building at the heart of Downtown says a lot about our Downtown, and about our city.

First, beautiful places, world-class, desirable places never stay forgotten for long.

Second, our local government, with the right vision and right investment, can spark monumental turnarounds.

Third, and most important, never EVER bet against San Francisco.

We never stay down for long.

We have faced incredible challenges in the past five years: two unparalleled health crises—one in the form of Covid, the other Fentanyl—and a national reckoning on policing and public safety.

I know some people inside and out of San Francisco feel these challenges have overwhelmed us.

I don’t begrudge people’s frustration.

I don’t dispute these have been a tough five years.

But rather than destroying our city, these storms have revealed our strength, our indomitable spirit, and our service to each other.

I believe the past is a precursor to our rise.

This is the Year of the Dragon.

And we will soar again.

We all know the story.

Shortly after I took office, we began to hear disquieting reports of a new and deadly virus.

Soon enough, Covid 19 would upend the world.

San Francisco declared an emergency in February of 2020, and then with our partners around the Bay, issued the first shutdown order in the country.

My Administration then:

Marshaled the Departments of Emergency Management, Public Health, and staff from throughout city government to mobilize and turn our convention center into a COVID command center.

We cut through the bureaucratic red tape to set up testing sites, community hubs, and vaccination sites around the city.

City workers fanned out to tend to our most vulnerable residents.

And as nursing homes across the country saw ballooning death rates, we protected our seniors, at Laguna Honda and elsewhere.

We were one of the first cities in the country to reach an 80% vaccination rate.

And as deaths climbed across the US and around the world,

San Francisco saw the lowest Covid death rate of any large city in the country.

People want to say our civic government is dysfunctional. We can’t collaborate, can’t get the hard things done.

Tell that to the thousands of San Franciscans who are alive today because of the work we did.

Our city faced a storm unlike any seen in a hundred years, and through hard work, collaboration, ingenuity, and the simple decency of our people, we orchestrated the most successful response in the country.

As Covid waned and vaccinations rose, we entered what I consider the second phase of my tenure: the recovery.

The pandemic had led to a massive shift in how our economy functions, almost overnight.

“Work from home” exposed a weakness in the economy of big cities – especially tech-forward San Francisco–

We were too dependent on fields that CAN work from home.

Our downtown had never been designed as a neighborhood with many homes and round-the-clock residents.

Downtown was office – and office was hit hard.

Simultaneously, the pandemic had constrained our efforts to house the homeless.

Then, the murder of George Floyd, and the ensuing national reckoning, devastated police recruitment and staffing here in San Francisco and around the country, even as they brought to light the systemic racism many of us have known for far too long.

The Department of Justice has called the police staffing shortage a national “crisis.”

These are national challenges, exacerbated by local conditions.

So what’d we do?

We got to work.

On public safety,

We diverted non-emergency 911 calls to free up officers while providing better overall responses for those struggling on our streets.

I appointed a former hate crimes prosecutor as our new District Attorney, and Brooke Jenkins began prosecuting crimes!

We launched retail theft blitz operations.

We used bait cars and plainclothes officers to disrupt auto break-ins.

To shut down drug markets in the Tenderloin and South of Market, we coordinated every public safety agency you can name – local, state, and federal.

Sheriff Paul Miyamoto deployed deputies to conduct warrant sweeps.

I appealed to Governor Newsom, and he stepped up by sending the California Highway Patrol and National Guard investigators.

President Biden and Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi delivered the US Attorney and Drug Enforcement Agency to interrupt the sale and trafficking of fentanyl.

And these efforts have paid off.

We doubled the number of drug arrests in 2023.

Retail theft and car break-ins plummeted.

Our homicide arrest rate was 85% in 2023 – 25 points higher than the national average.

And now our crime rate is the lowest it’s been in 10 YEARS!

Yes, these figures are accurate.

They coincide directly with the arrival of CHP, National Guard, US Attorney’s Office, DEA, stepped up SFPD stings, and DA Jenkins’ increase in prosecutions.

Now, I do recognize that some people don’t FEEL the lower crime rate yet.

And if you, or someone you know, is the victim of crime, all the stats in the world don’t matter.

I understand that, and I hear your concerns.

That’s exactly why we’re not letting up.

We will roll out 400 automated license plate cameras at 100 intersections across the city this month.

Thanks to voters for approving Proposition E on Tuesday, we will be:

Installing new Public Safety Cameras in high-crime areas;

Deploying Drones for auto thefts, car break-ins, and other crimes; and Changing Police Department rules so our sworn officers are out in the field, not behind a desk.

And, yes, we are adding more police officers.

Thanks to our efforts, San Francisco is now the best-paid major city in the region for starting police officers.

Retention is improving. Officers are transferring here.

We have the most Police Academy applicants in more than 5 years.

And the next Academy class will be the largest since before the pandemic, with 50 cadets.

With all of that, we will add 200 more officers in the next year, and get to full police staffing in three years.

At the same time, we are not sacrificing our reform work.

The San Francisco Police Department is on track to reach all 272 Department of Justice reforms by April of this year.

Thank you to those who led these efforts, including our Police Chief Bill Scott.

Of course, we can’t talk about public safety without talking about our other health crisis: fentanyl.

This is a national tragedy happening in cities large and small, areas urban and rural. It’s awful and it's heartbreaking.

And while I am stepping up enforcement of our laws – because that’s what our residents deserve and that’s what our city needs – I remain absolutely committed to saving lives.

Our approach is about Accountability, Resources, and New Pathways.

This means arresting and prosecuting dealers, and when necessary, arresting users who are a danger to themselves.

It means expanding existing treatment options and creating new ones, like abstinence-based treatment.

Yes, offering people services is critical, but, frankly, we must compel some people into treatment.

We will have an additional tool to do so thanks to the voters who passed Proposition F on Tuesday.

And I have directed the Human Services Agency to create an action plan for Prop F’s implementation.

If we can provide cash assistance to more than 5,000 people, then we can screen recipients for substance use disorder and get them into treatment.

And we have the services they need, including 15 free clinics across San Francisco that can administer buprenorphine on Day 1.

We are delivering on our goal of adding 400 new treatment beds.

And if Governor Newsom’s Prop 1 passes, we have a real opportunity to add hundreds more.

We’re not waiting.

We’re doing the work now, with Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, so when the state opens the pipeline for new beds, San Francisco is first in line.

That brings me to homelessness, which also remains a key focus of our recovery.

Since I’ve been Mayor, we’ve helped over 15,000 individuals exit homelessness.

We were the only county in the Bay Area to see unsheltered homelessness go down in the last Point in Time count cycle.

We did it by increasing our shelter capacity by 66%,

And increasing housing for the formerly homeless by 50%.

My Office of Innovation, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, is developing new accountability tools to better coordinate data, track the outcomes and hold non-profits we fund accountable.

Our encampment teams are bringing people indoors and bringing down the tents…

despite attempts by the courts, and by some advocates, to obstruct our efforts– which City Attorney David Chiu has fought hard,

We’ve helped more than 1,500 people into shelter from encampments just last year alone.

The number of tents on our streets is down 37% in the last six months – at the lowest levels its been since before 2018.

The other day a gentleman asked me,

“How can we help so many homeless people but still have thousands more?”

Well, we know people fall into homelessness for many reasons, and that we have programs preventing homelessness for San Franciscans every day.

But we also know, we keep housing people, and people keep coming here from other places.

The advocates, and some elected officials, want you to believe San Francisco is not a destination.

They want you to believe people don’t come here for drugs or other reasons.

We all know that’s not true.

Of those arrested for public drug use in the Tenderloin and South of Market over the last year, only half were San Francisco residents. HALF.

I’ve had enough of it. And the voters clearly have too.

So we are not letting up.

We are continuing to add new housing, and new shelters.

We are setting a new goal of 1000 people a year for Homeward Bound, the program that provides unhoused people a ticket back to their home city.

And we have a new tool for those struggling with mental illness and addiction.

For decades state law has prevented us from compelling them into treatment, even when their families begged us to do so.

The people who are truly suffering … you see them walking into traffic, or screaming at nothing in particular … the people who desperately need help …

I have fought to change our state conservatorship laws for years, and finally we succeeded.

Now, we are implementing the changes faster than any other county in the state.

So far this year we’ve increased the number of people submitted for conservatorship by 170% compared to last year.

That is how we make change. That is how we save lives.

And, of course, there’s the pandemic-related issue felt most acutely here in San Francisco –

our downtown recovery.

I have always believed we need to start with a question, and it’s not:

“How do we make downtown the way it was?”

but rather…

“What do we want our downtown of the future to be?”

In 2022 and 2023, we worked with trade groups, business owners, builders, neighbors, and city departments to create the Roadmap to Downtown San Francisco's Future, a comprehensive plan for a dynamic, resilient Downtown with residents, nightlife, and businesses, a neighborhood that keeps going around the clock – Downtown 24/7.

The first year of our Roadmap focused on stabilizing: filling storefronts through our Vacant to Vibrant program, creating attractions, and delivering tax incentives.

We are recruiting new business and continuing to see new leases signed – led by AI, which alone is projected to add 12 million square feet of office space by 2030.

And it won’t be AI alone.

This is one of the most beautiful urban environments in the world, with an unrivaled pool of talent, of builders and dreamers, and the largest collection of deployable capital in the country.

But Downtown can’t just be about jobs.

We also need more people to live and study here.

So our new initiative: 30 by 30 – 30,000 more residents and students downtown by 2030.

To do that, first we need to create more housing downtown.

We’ve already passed local laws to remove and reduce fees and barriers for office conversions.

Our first office conversion is actually happening now – 34 new homes at the Warfield building that would not be happening if we hadn’t stepped in.

And more are coming.

Now, we are working on state law changes with Senator Scott Wiener to spur conversions and speed up housing production Downtown.

So that’s housing – but 30 by 30 is also about bringing in students. A lot of them.

We are working with thought leaders, business folks, and educational institutions to make Downtown a hub, a Center of Excellence.

We’ve invited the University of California and Historically Black Colleges & Universities to join us, and some are coming as early as this summer.

We’re working with other universities, and our existing anchors, UC Law, USF and San Francisco State University.

Imagine that!

Students, professors, researchers, and employees walking from dorm room to classroom, from startup to conference space, from the Ferry Building to City Hall … cross-pollinating ideas, cross-pollinating companies.

We will be leading the way in AI, climate tech and biotech and things we haven’t even yet imagined.

Housing, students, innovation – that’s our future!

Tearing out the bike lanes on Market Street – going backwards – will not move us forward, and it won’t magically revive Downtown,

But 30,000 more people living and going to school Downtown will.

Downtown has always been the economic engine that funds the services we care about.

And its post-pandemic difficulties are the driving reason for the deficit we face this year, we no longer have the luxury to penalize, we need to incentivize

So let me make two things clear:

One: the Board of Supervisors and I will close this deficit.

And we will NOT weaken our public safety to do so.

Two: I have a clear vision for Downtown’s future and my administration will make it happen.

Our vision of Downtown is a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood with transit, bars, restaurants and venues where people live, work, study, and play.

We are through the valley of Covid.

We’ve endured the slings and arrows of its recovery.


On housing, we are changing our reputation as the city of “No” to the city of yes!

yes to Reducing fees,

yes to Eliminating barriers,

And yes to any idea that overcomes obstruction,

And builds the new homes we desperately need.

Though there is one housing “No” I will commit to – any piece of anti-housing legislation that comes across my desk, I will veto.

Every single one.

We have a state mandate to meet – so let’s…

Build out projects like the Power Station, where we broke ground last year, and Treasure Island, where just this week we re-launched a new phase of housing.

Let’s work with our Land Use Chair Supervisor Myrna Melgar to keep advancing pro-housing laws through the Board, and let’s bring 30,000 residents and students to Downtown.

If we do that, more people in more neighborhoods will be able to afford to live here.

San Francisco will remain the city of yes, for our children, and their children.

And it’s not just a vision – our work is delivering change.

Crime is at record lows.

San Francisco is the AI capital of the world, the birthplace of the next economic boom.

The LA Times reports that in 2022, San Francisco venture firms raised five times as much funding as all the companies in Florida and Texas COMBINED.

Our small business reforms, like First Year Free championed by Supervisor Hillary Ronen, are filling storefronts across the city.

We are a national leader in early childcare and education:

Doubling the number of kids getting care and subsidies since 2018,

And paying our educators a real wage that recognizes them for the work they do.

We just hosted leaders from around the world for APEC, the biggest global stage for San Francisco since the signing of the United Nations Charter in 1945.

Our parks are the best in the world, and we’ve massively expanded outdoor public areas, from JFK Drive to India Basin coming to our southern waterfront.

Muni is leading the Bay Area’s transit recovery, carrying more riders than all the other regional transit operators combined.

We are on pace to hit our goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.

We are launching a WNBA franchise, hosting the NBA All-Star Game, the Super Bowl, and the FIFA World Cup.

I envision a San Francisco of walkable, safe, thriving neighborhoods with great schools and a strong economy, where people get the help they need and where everyone is welcome.

I want to thank the voters for supporting this vision on Tuesday, by backing Propositions A, C, E, F, and G–and the strong rejection of Prop. B.

Thank you, Supervisors Joel Engardio and Matt Dorsey, for your work on algebra and police staffing.

Congratulations to Scott Wiener, Matt Haney, and Catherine Stefani on your impressive victories.

As well as to all those newcomers who bravely stepped forward to run for County Committee.

And let me say something to those in the press claiming Tuesday’s election means “San Francisco is not a progressive city anymore.”

Building homes and adding treatment beds is progressive.

Wanting good public education and an effective police force–valuing the safety of our seniors in Chinatown and the Bayview, our immigrant and working families in the Tenderloin –is progressive.

We are a progressive, diverse city–living together, celebrating each other:

LGBTQ, AAPI, Black, Latino, Palestinian and Jewish,

That has not changed and it will not change.

So, I don’t know about you, but I am tired of the negativity.

I’m tired of the people who talk about San Francisco as if our troubles are inevitable and our successes a fluke.

Our successes are not a fluke, and they’re not fleeting.

They’re the product of years of hard work, collaboration, investment, creativity, and perseverance.

They’re the output of thousands of people, in government and out, who believe in service not cynicism.

So I want to say something to those—inside San Francisco and out—who traffic in negativity to sell ads, to advance right wing causes, to tear others down, or simply to stoke fear for their political convenience.

I want to say this on behalf of the real people you have been disparaging.

On behalf of the nurses, gardeners, janitors, counselors and commissioners, engineers and emergency workers, teachers and transit operators who dedicate themselves to our city;

On behalf of our firefighters, 911 dispatchers, sheriff’s deputies and police officers who do lifesaving work under difficult circ*mstances;

On behalf of the startup founders and engineers who are reimagining our local economy,

On behalf of the small business owners, the bartenders, and artists,

On behalf of the women here, who let women everywhere know that we trust them to make their own decisions, and offer them safe haven when they do;

On behalf of the YIMBY housing advocates who started a movement here that has taken root around the country,

On behalf of the transgender activists and their families—chosen or otherwise—who’ve made San Francisco an outpost of hope in a country of worrying hate;

On behalf of the city I’ve called home my entire life, which I am proud to serve every single day

I offer these words from our 26th president, Teddy Roosevelt.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong woman stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the woman who is actually in the arena who strives valiantly; who spends herself in a worthy cause.”

To those outside the arena watching from the sidelines who offer only criticism.

I have a message for you, San Francisco is not wearing the shackles of your negativity any longer.

To the public servants who’ve been here during the city’s most difficult time, doing the work all along, thank you.

We will continue to move our city forward to a city of yes!

No longer will we allow others to define who we are. Because we know who we are.

We are a city on the rise.

We are a dragon taking flight.

Now let’s soar San Francisco, Let’s Soar!

State of the City | San Francisco (2024)


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