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    Supervisor Rafael Mandelman Looks Back on 2020 and Shares Plans for Future

    By Supervisor Rafael Mandelman–

    (Editor’s Note: With this piece we welcome back the voice of Rafael Mandelman, who for several years was a popular San Francisco Bay Times columnist. While he stepped back from the column and other projects to assume his present role as Supervisor of District 8, we always welcome his words in the paper. Thanks to his team, especially Legislative Aide Tom Temprano, for making letters like this possible.)

    Hello, San Francisco Bay Times Readers,

    2020 is nearly over, and I am sure that all of us are happy to see it go. We have grappled with a global pandemic, unprecedented wildfires up and down the West Coast, orange skies in San Francisco, a national uprising against systemic racism and police violence, and the most consequential election of our lifetimes—and there are still a couple of weeks left in the year.

    As I write this, we are rapidly approaching 300,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States, and California and San Francisco are experiencing a surge of the virus. San Franciscans can be proud of our relative success in containing COVID and, thus far, avoiding the sort of mass casualties seen elsewhere. Sadly, the same public health orders that have saved so many hundreds of lives have wrought devastation on our already challenged small business community.  The Castro has seen a number of beloved neighborhood businesses close during the pandemic, and more such closures seem inevitable.

    But there were some bright spots in 2020 and I want to share some highlights that my office worked on that I think will be of interest to Bay Times readers:

    • After seeing some of the highest levels of displacement of LGBTQ seniors and long-time residents from District 8, the City acquired 1939 Market Street to pave the way for the creation of LGBTQ-welcoming senior housing so that queer seniors at high risk of eviction can remain in the neighborhood.
    • To tackle our climate crisis, I passed legislation to ban natural gas—which accounts for 40% of San Francisco’s greenhouse gas emissions—in new construction.
    • Nearly four decades after San Francisco closed the bathhouses, I passed legislation to undo the ban; I also authored and passed a resolution calling on the FDA to end the Federal ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood.
    • To address the crisis on our streets I introduced legislation to require the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing to open a network of temporary safe sleeping sites, with enough capacity to ensure that, on any given night, any unhoused person who is unable to access a shelter bed, housing unit, or hotel room can at least be offered a stay at such a site.

    I am proud of the work my office has done this year, and, looking forward to 2021, it is clear we have quite a bit of work ahead of us.

    San Francisco will remain at the forefront of the public health response to the pandemic as we push to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible in the new year. We must also help those hardest hit by the pandemic, including finding ways to provide additional tax and fee relief to the small businesses that will drive our economic recovery.

    In the Castro, I am hopeful that the recently passed Proposition H, which removes cumbersome Planning requirements for many new businesses, combined with our investment in a Castro Corridor Manager and new funding to support our Shared Spaces program, will help accelerate the revival of the neighborhood. Conversations with the Castro Cultural District and Castro Merchants about how we can make the neighborhood a more welcoming place for people of color and trans people—including increasing opportunities for entrepreneurship and supporting events centering these communities—give me hope that we may even end up with a more diverse and vibrant neighborhood than prior to the pandemic.

    I will also be working to ensure that some of the mental health investments that I have championed over the last couple years, including Street Crisis Response Teams, meth sobering centers and drug and behavioral health treatment beds, come online in the coming year to provide care for those suffering on our streets and relief for neighbors and businesses.

    Here’s to hoping that everyone has a safe and healthy holiday season and that we can all see each other in person in 2021!

    Rafael Mandelman serves on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors representing District 8.

    Published on December 17, 2020