Mayor Breed's 2022 State of the City Address
Welcome, everyone! Thank you all for joining us here today.
I want to start by thanking all the workers who helped us navigate this latest surge: The nurses, the bus drivers, the police officers, the firefighters, the paramedics, the street cleaners, the educators. Everyone.
Over the last two months so many of you have been working overtime to take care of our City.
And, for that, we thank you.
Sometimes, the devastating impacts of two years of COVID can be hard to see.
This isn’t 1989 when freeways fell. Or 1906 when buildings and neighborhoods burned to the ground.
With COVID, the scars can be less visible – but they are just as real, and they are deep.
We see it in our struggles to simply get through the day, our struggles with mental health – especially in our kids, we see it in their eyes.
We see it in our empty downtown offices; in the for-lease signs in Union Square; in the half-filled hotels.
We see it in those struggling with addiction on our streets.
We cannot sugarcoat it.
We have work to do.
Our recovery will not be quick, or easy.
But it will come. It is coming. San Francisco is coming back.
And as we look ahead to the decisions about where to take this City, we need to listen to our residents.
Last month, the voters of this City sent a very clear message.
They sent a message that we must do better by our children.
But they also sent a message that while big ideas are important – those ideas must be built on a solid foundation. On the basics.
Basics – like a well-run school system that puts kids first.
Basics – like a government that delivers essential services.
Basics – like accountability and competence.
During our COVID response, we delivered on the basics.
Government, community, and residents all came together to protect our collective health. To save lives.
We protected our hospitals and nursing homes. We quickly and efficiently popped up infrastructure like testing and vaccination sites. We delivered food to our seniors.
We did the basics – and we did them well.
But we also showed we could deliver on bigger ideas.
We transformed our streets with new outdoor dining.
We launched guaranteed income programs to help artists and others impacted by the pandemic.
And experimented with creating more safe, open spaces to allow people to gather outdoors.
Now, those COVID experiments are transforming our City.
We made our Shared Spaces program for restaurants permanent, we have six ongoing Guaranteed Income programs with more to come, and, in Golden Gate Park, JFK Drive is on its way to being a permanent car-free space.
That’s who we can be. A City that works hard to deliver on the basics while pushing the big, transformative ideas.
That’s how we kept people healthy and safe for the last two years.
However, right now, we are dealing with another kind of challenge.
Right now, too many people across this City don’t feel safe.
Asian seniors are fearful of leaving their homes.
Tenderloin families are being victimized by drug dealers, disruptive behavior, and violence.
Bayview families living with random gunfire.
Homeowners are fortifying their garages after yet another break-in.
Small business owners are sweeping up broken glass and painting over graffiti on a regular basis.
These are complicated problems, with twisted roots that reach well below surface-level solutions.
But, again, we have the tools to deliver both the basics and the big ideas.
First, we need law enforcement.
To keep people safe. To make arrests. To hold people accountable. And to support victims.
But right now, police staffing is at crisis levels, with just over 1,630 police officers. That’s over 250 fewer officers than we had three years ago, and 540 officers below what we need according to our city’s independent analysis based on our growing population.
We simply do not have the police staffing to meet the needs of a major city, especially as we welcome workers and visitors back.
Fixing this starts with filling our Police Academy classes.
And to those who say we don’t need the police – again, I say, listen to the residents.
They are speaking louder than ever.
No, not for a return to the past, like when I was growing up, and there was often a deep mistrust between the community and the police.
Even then, we needed the police. We needed them to cease the gunfire. We needed them to protect victims of violence. We just needed them to help us live our lives—not undermine us.
Today, we are in a different place. While we have more work to do, our police department has embraced reform over the last five years leading to fewer use-of-force incidents and police shootings, and a rapidly diversifying Police Department.
We’ve also made progress on big ideas, like providing solid alternatives to policing through our Street Crisis Response Team, which didn’t exist two years ago, and is now out on the streets 24/7 responding to calls to help those struggling with mental illness.
We have Community Ambassadors program, consisting of retired police officers, in our Downtown and tourist areas, and our multiracial Community Guardians team patrolling our neighborhoods.
And we continue to make historic investments in our Dream Keeper Initiative and Opportunities for All.
These are programs that recognize the root causes of crime are driven by poverty. By decades of disinvestment and systemic racism. These are programs that will heal our communities with housing, mental health, education, job training, and economic empowerment.
Let’s be the national model: For reform, for alternatives, AND for safety.
That’s the San Francisco we can be.
There’s a lot of noise about what’s happening in our City.
You see it in the headlines, often in the right-wing media. They love to talk about San Francisco.
You see it on social media. You see one video take off as if it tells the whole truth.
I know it’s challenging with all that noise to understand what’s actually happening.
It’s easy to fixate on the problems – and I am definitely focused on them. But today I want to talk about what’s possible – hope. Hope for a better future.
That’s what I see right here on this Waterfront.
People all over the world know the story of our famous Waterfront.
From the Golden Gate Bridge and Crissy Field, to Fisherman’s Wharf where crabbers sell right off the boat, down along the Embarcadero to our iconic Ferry Building that welcomes commuters from across the Bay and visitors from all over the world, under the Bay Bridge to the ballpark where Barry Bonds and Buster Posey became legends.
Today the story stretches south to Mission Bay, where Steph and Klay play in a beautiful new home built by the hands of our local workforce.
What’s happening, right here, as we emerge from this pandemic, is a sign of hope for San Francisco.
Grandfather and the Waterfront
Now, I want to take you back for a moment.
I talk a lot about my grandmother and what she did for me. How her spirit embodied what this City is capable of doing for people.
But today I want to talk about my grandfather Willie Brown.
No, not that Willie Brown.
My grandfather Willie Brown was a World War II veteran. When word of good jobs reached the Jim Crow south, he, along with so many others, moved their families west.
Not because they believed that racism wouldn’t follow.
But because of what this City represented – a better opportunity.
My grandfather found a Union job as a longshoreman, working alongside a generation of workers building ships and repairing machinery.
And they were good-paying jobs that led to the development of predominantly Black working-class neighborhoods in the Bayview, the Fillmore, and Lakeview.
But the truth is, this City and this neighborhood, here where we are today all the way south to Hunter’s Point, has always represented an opportunity for those seeking a better future.
Our waterfront has been a beacon to newcomers and immigrants for nearly two centuries.
That is the spirit of where we stand today. A place where hope grows out of hard work.
Look all around us – today’s waterfront is still a beacon: for jobs, for housing, for economic opportunity.
In this area, in the coming years, 7,000 homes will be built as part of just three waterfront projects alone, here at Mission Rock, at Pier 70 and at the Potrero Power Station.
These will be diverse neighborhoods with new housing at all income levels – including 2,000 affordable homes.
Those are coming on the heels of the nearly 6,000 homes that have been built in the Mission Bay in just the last 20 years!
New neighborhoods. New parks and open spaces all along the waterfront and throughout the Dogpatch. New offices and storefronts.
This doesn’t happen in a city that is dying. It happens in a city that is growing and thriving.
And as we grow, we are building affordable homes for people who live right here in the Southeast – thanks to our neighborhood preference policy.
And we are creating jobs for the people who live next door in Sunnydale and Potrero and Bayview – thanks to CityBuild and local hire.
In September we announced that we are doubling the size of CityBuild – training twice as many people to get good-paying, union jobs.
These aren’t just statistics. These are people.
Let me give you an example.
Right here at Mission Rock, thanks to our Women and Families First Initiative and partnership with the Giants and CityBuild, we trained our first all-woman construction class—and provided support for child care.
I attended the graduation here at Mission Rock Academy and seeing those women made me proud.
But hearing their stories … that’s why I do this job.
Today, we have three women here from that class and they all started in different places.
Anna was a nanny and a caregiver.
Malisha was doing temp work.
Zakiya Willis worked part-time with Rec Park and was enrolled in community college.
All of them wanted something more.
Anna wanted to learn how people worked together to create big things.
Malisha wanted to be able to provide for her daughter, and make her proud.
Zakiya remembers attending Rooftop Elementary School in Twin Peaks and looking out at the view wondering how she could be part of that big, beautiful city below.
Now, all three of them are building what’s behind me. With good Union jobs and bright futures. And they are here with us today – stand up for a minute ladies.
Someday, Malisha’s daughter is going to stand where we are today, look up at these buildings and say, my mom and her friends built that.
See, we aren’t just building homes and offices here on the Waterfront – we are building lives.
That’s what’s happening in San Francisco.
The Waterfront has so many stories. It has stories about Environmental Justice.
The Potrero Power Plant once stood just about a mile south from here. A gas-powered plant polluting the air that the residents of the Southeast were breathing.
Asthma. Heart disease. We know the history.
But thanks to two generations of community activists, and to our former elected leaders — City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell and Mayor Willie Brown — that story changed. That power plant was shut down.
And now, a new story. A whole new neighborhood is being built there with new parks, new streets, new homes. A stretch of this waterfront will be opened up to the public for the first time in over 150 years.
Where smoke once spewed, children will play.
That’s what’s happening in San Francisco.
Some love the chatter about businesses abandoning our City, leaving California. And yes, we have our challenges ahead … but again, look around.
Historic investments in our City right here.
Just down 16th Street is the Exchange. A commercial office building purchased just last year for over One Billion Dollars.
Large companies are renewing and expanding leases not just here in Mission Bay, but in Downtown and South of Market.
And right now, this month, so many companies are returning to the office. Because they are invested in this City.
That is not a story about commerce fleeing this City – this is a story about confidence in what lies ahead.
Will it be different than it was? Of course.
But this Waterfront today is different than it once was, too. In fact, it’s better.
Look behind me at what’s being built right here at Mission Rock. One of these buildings is affordable housing, another is dedicated to life sciences, and the third is the future headquarters of Visa. On what used to be a parking lot.
That’s the nature of cities. We endure and we adapt.
San Francisco today is not San Francisco 100 years ago, or even 50 years ago.
We maintain our values and we grow stronger by learning from the past, not simply repeating it.
Our culture of innovation lives here on the Waterfront. It lives with UCSF and its world-class research that helped us navigate the pandemic.
The reason the first Omicron case in the country was identified in San Francisco wasn’t because we were the first to get it – it’s because our researchers at UCSF were the first to find it.
That’s the work happening here. The Biotech companies making groundbreaking discoveries every day are right here in San Francisco.
The Waterfront is also for families. Look at Crane Cove Park, the San Francisco Bay Trail, and India Basin. Here at Mission Rock, there will soon be a new park for kids to play.
Soon, the Central Subway will better connect this Waterfront and the Bayview with Downtown and Chinatown. Strengthening the connections between long divided communities. That’s what I want to see.
Housing. Jobs. Environmental Justice. Investments. Innovation. Parks and Transportation.
That’s what’s happening in San Francisco. And that is the work we must do all over this City.
Right now, across this state, cities are wrestling with the need for more housing. Far too many are fighting new state laws, looking for ways to block new housing.
In San Francisco, we should be a leader on housing.
We should be the city California looks to and says – “Let’s do it that way. Let’s be like San Francisco.”
Two years ago, I set a goal of building at least 5,000 new homes per year.
In 2020, we built 4,400.
In 2021, we built 4,600.
A start, but not nearly good enough.
Right now, the only kinds of housing being built are large projects like Mission Rock, Pier 70 and the Power Station.
But families and working people need housing of all sizes, including small and mid-size apartments. And not just in the Southeast. Not just in SoMa. But in neighborhoods across the entire City.
To do that, we need to break down the obstructionism that blocks housing at every turn.
I’ve tried inside City Hall. We’ve made some progress, incremental progress. But on the big ideas, like my Housing Charter Amendment, we’ve been blocked.
So we are going to the voters. Change will have to come from outside City Hall – and I am confident that it will.
Because over and over again, I’ve heard from our residents – they want to cut the bureaucracy, and build more housing.
San Francisco has already shown we can lead – we do it every day with our ambitious work on climate change.
When the United States set a goal of net zero emissions by 2050 and California set a goal of 2045, what did we do?
We set our goal for 2040. That’s how we lead. And with our Climate Action Plan, we know how to get there. That’s who we are.
But Climate policy isn’t just about environmental programs. Climate policy is also about housing and transportation.
Getting people out of their cars, creating dense walkable neighborhoods like the ones we are building right here on the Waterfront – that is climate action.
Completing our Bus Rapid Transit project on Van Ness this month—finally!— as well as dozens of Quick Build projects to move buses faster and create protected bike lanes all across this City over the last three years – that is climate action.
San Francisco can also be the economic leader our state needs us to be. But we have to work at it.
For too long, we took our economic success for granted. We assumed that the offices would be filled, that the conventions would all come to town, and that the taxes would stream in.
I’ve been talking to business leaders here and across the country. They love this City. They want to invest here and grow. They want San Francisco to succeed.
When I put out the call to businesses about committing to bring workers back into the office, so many answered. They are investing and returning.
And what I’ve heard most from business leaders, just as I’ve heard from residents and small business owners, is that we need to continue to improve the conditions on our streets.
Our work in the Tenderloin has attracted a lot of attention, and inspired a lot of debate.
But the main takeaway is that we cannot continue to accept things as they were.
The families and small businesses of the Tenderloin deserve better, those on the street deserve better, and the people of this City deserve better.
Since 2018, we have added more safe shelter space in
San Francisco than we had at any time in the previous 20 years.
Two years ago, we set an ambitious goal of adding fifteen hundred new units of permanent supportive housing.
Not only are we on pace to meet that goal, but we are going to exceed it by 70 percent.
That means over 2500 new units of permanent supportive housing.
That’s by far the largest influx of new housing for homelessness this City has ever seen.
Now, we must focus on doing the work to fill those homes faster.
We have made real progress in moving people from our temporary, shelter-in-place hotels to permanent housing, with over 1,000 people from those hotels not back on the street, but safely housed.
And to address the challenges of mental health and addiction, we are adding hundreds of treatment beds.
Working with community partners, we will launch an Overdose Prevention Program and the first drug sobering center in our City’s history.
But it can’t just be about spending the resources – we have to balance it with accountability.
I’m done arguing if it’s okay for people to remain on the streets when we have a place for them to go. Because it’s not.
And to be honest, there are some folks who cannot – or will not – do what’s safe for themselves and for others. And so our state laws need to change.
I’m working with other Mayors across California, and members of the Legislature, to reform our mental health laws to better serve San Francisco and the entire state.
And finally, going back to where we started today, we have to do better for families in this City. We have to get back to putting our kids first.
Soon, I will announce the new members of the Board of Education.
As part of this decision, which is really one of the hardest I’ve ever had to make, I’ve been meeting with families to hear what they want for their children. What they need from our schools.
It was heartbreaking hearing their stories.
Kids who had once been vibrant and eager learners, now withdrawn. The learning loss, the mental health challenges.
Our public school kids getting left behind, even as the private schools began to rebound.
No single appointment to an elected body is going to fix that.
It’s going to take work, years of work.
That’s why we recently announced our Children and Family Recovery Plan – a long-term strategy to improve access to the services we do have and expand the programs that are working to make a difference for families.
Because when we better serve our young people, we build a brighter future.
For two years, we’ve had to think about our lives and our City in a totally different way.
Getting back won’t be easy. This shift won’t be immediate. But we are moving forward.
We have lifted indoor mask mandates. And today we announced we are ending vaccine mandates for our businesses.
It’s time to open up our eyes.
To see not just the challenges we face, but the opportunities before us.
To feel the pride in what our City has done, and can do.
It’s up to each of us to harness that pride and be motivated by it to make decisions in City Hall. To take action in our community. To tell our stories.
Just the other day, we got an email from a visitor named Brittni, who had a layover here at SFO, and she wanted to explore the city.
Her friends had seen the news. They told her San Francisco wasn’t a safe place to be alone. But Brittni came and you know what she said – that her friends were wrong.
She met two of our Welcome Ambassadors – Terrance and Joel – who helped her choose the best cable car routes, where to eat, and how to get to the Golden Gate Bridge.
They helped give her an experience that inspired her and left a lasting memory. They helped her create her own, true story of San Francisco.
That’s who we can be – a City that tells our own story.
We are a city that reaches into our own communities to connect people to incredible opportunities.
We are a city that proudly draws dreamers and seekers.
People come for love. They come for opportunity.
They come to escape their past. They come to build a better future.
They come to make a difference in their lives—and in the world.
They come, even briefly, for a moment of magic.
They come because when voting rights are under attack across this country, we are delivering every single voter in this City a ballot with return paid postage.
They come because we would never, ever accept a law like “Don’t say gay”. In this City, we not only say gay – we sing it loud and proud all year long.
They come because when abortion rights are under attack, San Francisco says, we not only protect women’s rights, but with a woman mayor, a woman Speaker, and a woman Vice-President, we put women in charge.
So, next time someone asks you what’s happening in San Francisco, you tell them that.
You tell them this city will rise to meet our challenges day after day, relentless in our effort and unyielding in our values.
That’s who we are.
Loud. Proud. Hopeful. And Resilient San Francisco.