Mayor Ed Lee proudly proclaimed on Monday that San Francisco is in an economic boom time, but he also acknowledged work ahead by laying out an ambitious list of new projects, initiatives and changes for the rest of his term.
Fueled by a technology sector that has doubled in size to 42,000 jobs at 1,800 companies during his two years in office, The City is “back on track,” the mayor proclaimed.
Lee was appointed by the Board of Supervisors in January 2011 to replace current Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and he gave inauguration remarks in 2011 and 2012. Monday’s hourlong address at an education nonprofit in the Bayview district was his first State of the City speech.
After an introduction by Laurene Powell Jobs, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ widow and a funder of College Track, where the speech was held, the mayor launched into The City’s unprecedented growth in the tech and tourism industries, local business and housing construction.
Many of the issues that Lee spoke of, including the 26,000 jobs created during his first year as mayor, harked back to the 17-point economic plan that Lee unveiled during his campaign for mayor.
“Nothing in life lifts us up like the dignity of a job and the pride of a paycheck,” he said. “Together, we’re putting San Francisco back on track.”
Along with praise for what has been done, Lee pointed to goals for the rest of his term, which ends in 2016.
He promised to persuade the NFL to allow the 49ers to host Super Bowl L in 2016. He also asked for support in rebuilding the Moscone Center convention hall, because, “We must compete once again with San Diego and Las Vegas for the world’s biggest conventions and events.” He said — twice — that the Warriors’ return to San Francisco, in a still-on-the-drawing-board arena to be built on crumbling piers, is an eventual reality.
And he pledged that the 4,000 new housing units currently under construction and the 42,000 units approved for building — the biggest boom in new residential construction since the 1906 earthquake and fire, the mayor said — will help solve the “supply-and-demand” pickle that keeps The City’s rents “too darn high,” he said.
Lee also promised to open up tech job opportunities for city natives and transplants alike. Summer will produce the first graduates of The City’s $8 million TechSF program, with job placements, and the mayor pledged an additional $50 million for The City’s public schools and $25 million to institute universal preschool.
Lee also said contentious issues, including the rebuild of California Pacific Medical Center, will be priorities.
The mayor’s mention of other politicians, including Newsom and at-times political rival Supervisor John Avalos, were for praise — except for the slight political jab against Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, whom the mayor did not mention by name.
“We will not let the events of 2012 set back our leadership” on supporting victims of domestic violence, Lee said.
Past mayors have pledged to improve San Francisco’s aging, dangerous and otherwise embarrassing public housing sites, but Mayor Ed Lee indicated on Monday he would like to do much more.
A major reboot might be in store for the San Francisco Housing Authority, which has served as an embarrassment for Lee. Plagued by lawsuits that allege bullying and racial discrimination, agency Director Henry Alvarez has asked to go on a leave of absence starting Feb. 4. The authority’s bad finances have earned it a “troubled” rating from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development — one of only two housing authorities in California to end up on that list.
“What we’re doing now with our public housing system isn’t working,” Lee said during his State of the City address Monday. “If we can’t mend that structure, we should end it.”
One alternative to public housing built, owned and maintained by The City is the public-private partnerships currently responsible for rebuilding housing projects in the Bayview district. Under Hope SF, developers such as The John Stewart Co. are replacing old public housing with mixed-income developments.
By July 1, federal and city officials will issue recommendations that would reboot the authority to operate on a model closer to Hope SF, Lee said.
Meanwhile, Alvarez’s contract ends June 13. He will not seek a renewal, said authority spokeswoman Rose Dennis.