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    Report from City Hall

    By Supervisor Rafael Mandelman–

    Happy February, Bay Times readers! As a former columnist for this fine publication, it is a special treat to be able to report back on some of what my office has accomplished in our first few months under the dome and our plans for the year ahead. 

    There Goes the Gayborhood?

    It is a tremendous honor to represent a district with such a rich queer history. This past November we marked the 40th anniversary of the assassinations of Milk and Moscone. In addition to commemorating the lives of those two great men, the anniversary presented an opportunity for our community to reflect on what we have gained and lost over those four decades.  Today LGBT people have political representation and protections under law that Milk and his contemporaries could only dream of.

    At the same time, historically queer neighborhoods like the Castro have been hit hard by gentrification and displacement, causing many to wonder if there will even be any gayborhoods in our future. The most recent Housing Balance Report shows District 8 with the second-highest rate of no-fault evictions citywide.

    Building and preserving affordable housing is one of my top priorities, so that the people who helped to make today’s San Francisco can continue to live here and don’t get priced out. Recently I joined Mayor Breed at a ceremony to rededicate 90 affordable housing units at 25 Sanchez Street, rehabilitated as part of the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program. And at 95 Laguna, 79 LGBTQ-welcoming affordable senior housing units will be opening in April at the Marcy Adelman and Jeanette Gurevitch Openhouse Community. These are desperately needed units, and I am committed to pushing for thousands more in our district and tens of thousands more citywide.

    Championing Small Business

    The Castro is also facing tremendous challenges with retail vacancies and the closure of longtime beloved small businesses. Part of the problem of filling vacancies in Upper Market may be that there are more planning and zoning hurdles for businesses trying to open there than for businesses in Hayes Valley, Valencia or other commercial corridors.

    To help solve this, our office is developing a package of zoning changes for Upper Market that will make it easier to fill a storefront in the neighborhood—especially for restaurants, arts organizations and nonprofits. This should help more businesses to join a growing list of new arrivals to the neighborhood like Fig and Thistle, Gai, Stag and Manor and Pho 335.

    Celebrating Queer Culture

    I have also been working with neighborhood leaders to establish the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District. Cultural Districts are a tool to help neighborhoods honor and preserve the people, small businesses and cultural assets that make them unique and vibrant. The Castro LGBTQ Cultural District will help the neighborhood access new city funds to invest in arts and culture initiatives, assist LGBTQ owned and serving small businesses and nonprofits, and share the rich history of our neighborhood.

    One of the best parts of my job is getting to honor longstanding creators and culture-makers in the LGBTQ community. The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band marched with Harvey Milk and represented our city at multiple presidential inaugurations, and this past December, I introduced an ordinance to make them the official band of San Francisco. Our office was ecstatic to learn that the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus was able to secure a permanent home in District 8, at the former Baha’i Temple, a gorgeous Art Deco building at 170 Valencia Street. For the Chorus to use the property as they intend, however, requires a rezoning, a project my office was happy to take up.

    Pushing for Homelessness Solutions

    Every day I and my office receive calls, texts and emails from District 8 residents concerned about one or another aspect of homelessness. Whether requesting help with an encampment outside their door, seeking help for a seriously ill individual decompensating in plain sight, or simply expressing concern for the impact of a growing street population on the vitality of neighborhood businesses, my constituents are agreed that the status quo on our streets is unacceptable. I have been working every day since I was sworn in to improve the city’s response to the neighborhood impacts of homelessness, as well as to improve the city’s overall response to the mental health and addiction crises contributing to the city’s homelessness challenges.

    Working with the Mayor’s office, I introduced legislation this past November to modestly expand our conservatorship program, following up on Senator Scott Wiener’s SB1045 legislation. Since then, we have been meeting with advocates and city departments to fine-tune the details. These conservatorships will only apply to some of the highest users of city services. They are historically the most vulnerable and also the most difficult to get into care. Even if we are only able to move a few of these folks indoors, however, that will be an improvement on the status quo.  Meanwhile, I will continue to push relentlessly for additional resources and legal tools to get folks the care that they need.

    The challenges confronting the city are significant, but I am grateful every day that the voters of District 8 have entrusted me to represent them in finding solutions to those challenges. 

    Supervisor Rafael Mandelman represents District 8 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

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