London Breed ready to prove herself after unlikely rise to San Francisco Board of Supervisors 

click to enlarge “Everyone has tried to tackle it. But hey, have you ever had a resident come from public housing to be on the Board of Supervisors with this much power to really impact and change things? I have lived with the roaches. I lived with the free food. I lived with the conditions. I know what it feels like.” — London Breed - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • “Everyone has tried to tackle it. But hey, have you ever had a resident come from public housing to be on the Board of Supervisors with this much power to really impact and change things? I have lived with the roaches. I lived with the free food. I lived with the conditions. I know what it feels like.” — London Breed

The charismatic and outspoken London Breed, 38, is bringing passion and a breadth of experience from a tough childhood in the Western Addition to City Hall, where she wants to connect residents to meaningful jobs at flashy tech companies and reform public housing policies.  

In November, Breed decisively won the District 5 race and will represent the Fillmore and Haight-Ashbury neighborhoods on the Board of Supervisors when she is sworn in to office Jan. 8.

Breed’s path to the board might be the least likely. She grew up in the Plaza East public housing site. Her older brother sold and used drugs and is now in jail. Her sister died from an overdose.

“My brother was out there selling drugs and making money that way and I was working for the mayor’s youth employment and training program,” Breed said.

She uses her poignant life experiences as inspiration.

“It’s why I think in my mind everything that I do, especially here, it’s all about prevention,” Breed said during a recent interview at the African American Arts and Culture Complex on Fulton Street in the Western Addition. “How do I stop this from happening?”

As The City reels from another leadership dustup at its public housing agency — Housing Authority
chief Henry Alvarez is facing employment discrimination lawsuits — Breed said she can improve operations, even though the daunting task has eluded city leaders for decades.

“Everyone has tried to tackle it,” she said. “But hey, have you ever had a resident come from public housing to be on the Board of Supervisors with this much power to really impact and change things? I have lived with the roaches. I lived with the free food. I lived with the conditions. I know what it feels like.”

Another priority is to transform the Western Addition’s job center and help her constituents obtain work.

“Jobs at Twitter,” Breed said. “And some of the technology jobs that exist. The Warriors, and not just the construction opportunities.”

After working for the Treasure Island Development Authority under then-Mayor Willie Brown, Breed was appointed in 2002 to lead the African American Arts and Culture Complex, where last year she earned $108,592, according to tax filings. In 2005, former Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed her to the now-defunct Redevelopment Agency Commission.

But because The City’s left-leaning faction treats allegiances with Brown as unholy, Breed went out of her way during the election to distance herself from her longtime ally. Breed ended up trouncing incumbent Supervisor Christina Olague, whom Mayor Ed Lee appointed in January to San Francisco’s most left-leaning district.

She also became the first candidate to unseat a mayoral appointee in a supervisorial race.

Breed has been quick to bat down suggestions that she’s beholden to anyone. And she bristled at the suggestion that progressives in her district would lambaste her for voting for the moderate Supervisor Scott Wiener as board president.

“Is this important to them in the bigger scheme of things? Probably not,” Breed said.

She said she “doesn’t deal in ideology” and seemed to dismiss the need to cater to San Francisco’s ideological cliques.

“I am not in this to have people like me,” Breed said. “I am in this to do what I need to do to be effective for the people.”

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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