Mayor Lee's 2013 State of the City Address


January 28, 2013

College Track, San Francisco

Text of State of the City Address


A year ago, I stood before you and swore my oath of office for a full-term as Mayor, pledging to seize the Year of the Dragon, to focus on jobs and our economic recovery, to make bold decisions for our future, and working together with the Board and with our residents, forge consensus around some of our greatest challenges. To put it plainly, to get things done.

When I took office, our unemployment was still high. We faced a quarter-billion dollar budget deficit, with more deep cuts from Sacramento and Washington looming.

The dismantling of Redevelopment by the State was a potential death knell for affordable housing. And our job-killing payroll tax stymied business growth and confidence.

And so, over the last year, we in this room and many others, worked together, through sometimes difficult moments and disagreements, to take on these serious challenges for our City, some of which have vexed us for years and years.

And I’m very proud and grateful that in 2012, together, through innovation and consensus, we forged a path forward through these challenges and got it done. To the members of the Board, to our City Commissioners, Department Heads and City employees, to our friends in the business, labor, nonprofit and other communities who spent countless hours with us in hearings and negotiations, and most importantly, to the great people of San Francisco who rewarded us with your overwhelming support at the ballot in November, thank you.

Together, we are putting San Francisco back on the right track and building a solid economic foundation for all our residents. We are living today in an extraordinary City in an extraordinary time – a time of astonishing innovation and unlimited promise, with our own people, from every background and orientation, driving that innovation and forging the future right here, right now, not just for San Francisco, but for the whole world.


Just up the street in Mission Bay, at UCSF, and within the labs of our homegrown biotech companies, they’re conducting research and developing medical treatments that will cure diseases and save lives.

From downtown to South of Market to Central Market, we are the proud home of growing companies that are revolutionizing business, design and communications – providing the world with the tools to live untethered, in the Cloud, print in three dimensions or, even, topple dictators with a tweet.

From the Sunset to the Mission to right here in the Bayview, we are witnessing a rebirth of local manufacturing, fashion and artisanal food production that bear the label “Made in San Francisco,” a stamp and mark of craftsmanship coveted by consumers around the world.

San Francisco is back. And the proof?  The 26 cranes across our skyline – thousands of good construction jobs – our own residents back at work, building San Francisco’s future with their hands, their skills and a whole lot of heart – from the Transbay Center to the Central Subway to the new cruise ship terminal, and, very soon, a spectacular new waterfront arena for the Golden State Warriors and world-class concerts and events.

Our unemployment rate today stands among the lowest in California, down to 6.5% in December from 9.6% when I first took office – ladies and gentlemen that means 31,000 more San Franciscans back at work today.

Nearly 11 million square feet of commercial office space was leased last year –the equivalent of 20 Transamerica Buildings – and we have the first new commercial office high rise building in years breaking ground this spring.

We passed a Housing Trust Fund, business tax reform, and bonds to improve our neighborhoods, parks and open spaces. Under the leadership of the Board of Supervisors’ Budget Chair, Carmen Chu, for the first time, we have a balanced two-year budget and a five year financial plan. Our budget reserves are growing.

This Summer, we will welcome the excitement of the 34th America’s Cup sailing on the Bay and the international spotlight that the races will bring.  Our beloved San Francisco Giants swept the World Series and are baseball’s champions. Again.  And in just six days, our incredible San Francisco 49ers will take the field in New Orleans in their first Super Bowl appearance in 18 years, with the whole City and region behind them.

My fellow San Franciscans, I would submit to you, that on these facts alone, the State of our great City and County of San Francisco is vital, resurgent and strong.  This renewed strength of our City, the restored confidence in our future, is also recognized across the nation and around the world.  We are flat out “the Best City in America in 2012,” according to Bloomberg/Business Week.  Lonely Planet called San Francisco “the Best City to Visit in 2013”.  We have the “Best Urban Park System in America in 2012” according to the Trust for Public Land.

We are among the world’s most Innovative Cities, the Smartest Cities, the Most Bicycle Friendly Cities and the Most Walkable Cities. Continuing the environmental leadership begun under our former Mayor and Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, we are the Greenest City in North America, the Cleantech Capital of North America and #1 for Green Jobs in 2012 according to Forbes Magazine. Just last week we were even named the nation’s Best City for Losing Weight.

They say it is better to be born lucky than good, but in the case of San Francisco, I say we are blessed with both. The progress of our City in 2012 is not the product of sheer luck. It was no accident.

Indeed, we are a vital, resurgent and strong City because of the creativity of our people, because of the fiscally responsible direction we have taken, because of the conscious choices we have made to restore investor confidence, and attract new jobs and new businesses to every neighborhood of our City.

We are vital, resurgent and strong because – whether it’s pension reform or business tax reform or funding for housing and infrastructure – on the significant policy issues and major challenges we face, we have worked together these last two years to find and build consensus, and put the people’s priorities ahead of politics and personalities at City Hall.  And on this course, my fellow San Franciscans, I believe with all my heart we must continue.


“History tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing,” as our President reminded us last week in his own inauguration, speaking of our freedom.  The same is true of our commitment to continuing the path of progress we are on today.

Though the worst of the economic crisis may be behind us, and more prosperous times ahead, we must not – we cannot – relent from our commitment to fiscal prudence with the taxpayers’ money. We must not turn back from the path of reform. We must not be distracted from our fundamental responsibilities to guarantee public safety and essential services. And we must not retreat from making smart investments in our people, in our neighborhoods, and in our infrastructure.

Now I know that some may be tempted, in better times, to abandon the hard work of reform for the easy grab of headlines – to stray from the people’s priorities, towards the provocative and the polarizing instead.  That is the wrong path for San Francisco. We’ve been there before, and we know it doesn’t lead to more jobs, better schools, more housing or safer streets.

Let us instead work until the vitality and resurgence so many of us see and feel in our City today reaches every one of our residents. As I said last year in my inauguration, San Francisco must be a City for the 100% – a place of hope and opportunity for all.

There are so many bright lights in San Francisco today, but we will not be blind to those who still feel left behind or are anxious about their future. We will not abandon those who still feel unsafe in their own home, or turn a blind eye to those who have no home.  We can be a City stronger still. And so today I pledge myself, my entire Administration, and challenge each of us to double down on our efforts in 2013 to reform and invest for the future – to together turn the big challenges that remain before us into opportunities, once again through consensus, the San Francisco way.


As you all know, my focus as Mayor this last year above almost all else has been helping businesses and entrepreneurs create jobs for our residents through our 17-Point Economic Plan. We may see the signs of economic recovery all around us, but at the heart of our continued success is still jobs.  Nothing in life lifts us up, keeps us out of trouble, or strengthens our families, like the dignity of a job and the pride of a paycheck.

And working together with the Board of Supervisors, with business, organized labor and the nonprofit sectors, I’m very proud that in just one year we have turned a great deal of that 17-Point economic plan into real economic action for our City.

San Francisco today is once again a job-engine for California, with more than 26,000 new jobs created in our City between June 2011 and June 2012 alone.

We have truly become the Innovation Capital of the World, home to more than 1,800 tech companies with more than 42,000 employees and growing every day, up 50% since I’ve been Mayor. And we have formed strong public-private partnerships with our tech community to engage these bright minds and give back to our City through organizations like and Code for America.

And because of the choices we made together, we have given renewed confidence to leading high technology companies like Salesforce, Yelp, Zynga, Twitter, Square, Autodesk, Riverbed, Airbnb and so many more to stay and grow in our City. We’re even attracting growing companies like PAC-12 Enterprises and Pinterest to pull up stakes and move to the new gravitational center of Silicon Valley – San Francisco.

A recent study by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute found that for every one job created in the high tech sector, more than four additional jobs were created outside of tech in the local goods and services sectors.  Because far from focusing on merely one sector, we are building a diversified and broad-based economic foundation for our City to extend the economic recovery to all our residents.

One of the things I’m most proud of – which I know many on the Board of Supervisors share – is the fact that we are making things once again in San Francisco – providing jobs for thousands of people from every background in our local manufacturing sector.

Through the outstanding work of SFMade and the tireless leadership of Kate Sofis and her Board, and with continuing support from our Office of Economic and Workforce Development, local manufacturing jobs increased 12.5 percent in 2012 – outpacing the job growth of most other sectors after literally decades of decline.

To we are putting people back to work in the 435 companies that are headquartered and manufacture their products in our City today – companies like McCroskey Mattresses, Heath Ceramics, Dodo Case, Rickshaw Bags, 18 Rabbits Granola, TCHO Chocolates and so many other bakers and confectioners.

We are creating jobs through our environmental leadership as well, once again thank you Lieutenant Governor Newsom, proving you can grow the economy and protect our environment and climate at the same time, through our best-in-the nation recycling and waste diversion rates, our commitment to electric vehicles, strongest-in-the-nation green building standards, and continuing efforts to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to meet our climate action goals.

In 2012, we also launched CleanTechSF, a public-private partnership to support and attract new companies and entrepreneurs to join the 208 cleantech and green-tech companies already in our City.  And ten years later, a vision for Mission Bay proposed by Mayor Brown and fostered by Mayor Newsom is a reality: 129 biotech and life science companies call our City home.
As a world-class City, we must direct our economic focus globally as well as locally. Through ChinaSF, we have attracted 15 companies from China to open offices and headquarters in San Francisco, with more to come. And we are working now to expand this model of public-private partnerships to increase our economic ties to India, the rest of Asia and Latin America.

Tourism and business travel remain our number one industries, supporting more than 71,000 local jobs and bringing $8.4 billion to our local economy in 2011. A record 44.5 million passengers passed through San Francisco International Airport in 2012, up 8.6 percent last year, with even more expected in 2013.

That’s why we must all join in support of the next phase of expansion for the Moscone Convention Center, which the Board of Supervisors Budget Committee takes up this week, so we can compete once again with San Diego, Las Vegas and other major cities for the world’s largest conventions and trade shows.

But our economic progress is not just taking shape along our “Innovation Corridor” from South of Market to Mission Bay, or in our downtown, or Union Square – you can also see it in our vibrant neighborhoods and commercial corridors.


Perhaps nowhere is the revitalization of a neighborhood more apparent, more promising, and more deserving of our continued attention, than in the Central Market and the Tenderloin.  In 2011 – not even two years ago – together we made the then-controversial choice to offer a temporary break from our payroll tax to pioneering employers who agreed to move in and create new jobs in this long-neglected heart of our City, which has stubbornly resisted attempts to revitalize its streets and fill entire blocks of vacant buildings – year after year, Mayor after Mayor.

The results in that two years time have been nothing short of astonishing, with ten companies claiming 1 million square feet of vacant office space, room for 5,700 jobs. And behold, now we are seeing the proof of the wisdom of our hard choices – major, growing companies like Square and Dolby choosing to move into Central Market even without benefitting from the Payroll Tax Exclusion. And with these new jobs are coming thousands of new homes, including new affordable housing.

I understand that with these changes sometimes come tensions, and I know that we must deal with the serious challenges that remain in public safety and street behavior. Last Friday, the first class of our new Police Academy graduated – 43 new police officers will soon hit the streets – with 20% of them deployed out of Southern Station, which is responsible for patrolling Central Market. And in a few weeks, we will finally open the Sixth Street Substation, or Central Market Safety Hub. Soon you will see new police officers in the neighborhood and community ambassadors and members of several public safety agencies occupying the hub regularly.


And we are seeing that promise return in commercial corridors across the City through our small and neighborhood businesses, the quiet engines of job creation who deserve every measure of support from City Hall. That’s why in 2012, as part of our economic plan, we launched the Invest in Neighborhoods initiative to give small businesses access to capital, activate streetscapes and public spaces, help fill vacant storefronts and provide customized assistance and incentives to 25 targeted commercial corridors in every part of our City.

We’re seeing the results of this initiative already, with people like Eskender here with us this morning, who with help from city loans opened the delicious Radio Africa Kitchen nearby on Third Street. Or Jaclyn Carpenter of Ideal Restoration on Evans, who is working with us to hire returning veterans into her growing company. And through the help of our Jobs Squad, also launched last year, Mr. Bing Xu Chen of Happy Bakery and others were able to quickly relocate and reopen their businesses following that devastating fire on Ocean Avenue in Supervisor Yee’s district last August.

We shouldn’t make it hard for people and entrepreneurs to create jobs in our City. We should make it easier. That’s why soon we’ll launch the first phase of an online tool to simplify and navigate the process of opening a business in San Francisco. And it’s why I was proud to sign Supervisor Wiener’s commonsense legislation last year consolidating the types of food establishments in our Planning Code from 13 down to 3. I’ve challenged my Department Heads, and I urge the Board of Supervisors, to continue looking for similar opportunities that will make government more responsive to the needs of small businesspeople.

And small businesses, manufacturers, technology, restaurants and our entire economy will benefit from a major step we took together in 2012. We tackled one of the hardest and most complicated issues we could face – the one where many said we would never reach consensus - reforming our business tax structure. We developed and passed a landmark measure to phase out our payroll tax and replace it with a gross receipts tax. Now our collective challenge must be to continue working together to implement this reform fairly and transparently.

We must also live up to our commitment that the new revenue generated from Prop E – an estimated $28.5 million this year – is re-invested in housing, infrastructure, small business and economic development.


And we are putting thousands of San Franciscans back to work on construction projects that are transforming our City. And we are building in areas planned and zoned for growth. We’re proving that the San Francisco of Mission Bay and the Transbay Tower on the Eastside really can co-exist with the San Francisco of stately old Victorians, Chinatown alleyways, Telegraph Hill bungalows and quiet Westside neighborhoods.

Infrastructure, as most of you know, is near and dear to my heart. As City Administrator, I drafted our City’s first Ten-Year Capital plan – a blueprint to upgrade our infrastructure and guide our investments.  And in the last five years, our voters have approved nearly $2 billion in General Obligation bonds for everything from parks to paving our streets to retrofitting our fire stations and our water supply to be ready for the next major earthquake.

In the coming weeks, I will partner with Supervisor Wiener and President Chiu to introduce an earthquake safety program to get the most vulnerable residential buildings retrofitted, including financial incentives and assistance.  The rebuild of San Francisco General Hospital – the largest general obligation bond in our history - is well underway, on time and on budget. And, just last month, we broke ground at the North Beach Library project, the last library in the Branch Library Improvement Program. Next month, in this very community, we will open the new Bayview Branch Library.

Thank you Luis Herrera, Librarian of the Year in 2012, for making our libraries a truly accessible resource for our families in San Francisco. Under the innovative leadership of Recreation & Parks and so many wonderful parks advocates, San Francisco’s parks are among the best in the nation, with even more improvements on tap thanks to $195 million from Prop B last year, including Golden Gate Park, Lake Merced, McLaren Park, and parks along our waterfront.

And thanks again to the voters, we are finally addressing the backlog of repairing and replacing our crumbling streets. DPW will pave its 100th street this week under that bond.

The Transit Center District Plan approved in September and anchored by the new Transbay Center, will provide 27,000 jobs, more than 4,000 new homes, 1,000 new hotel rooms, and 12 acres of new open space, with the Transit Tower, the tallest building west of the Mississippi, at its centerpiece.  Along the waterfront, mixed use developments like historic Pier 70 and the Mission Rock development with the San Francisco Giants at Seawall Lot 337 will create vibrant new neighborhoods and public open space.

And, in less than five years, we will welcome back the Golden State Warriors. A crumbling pier used only for parking cars will be retrofitted and transformed into a spectacular new arena for sports, entertainment and conventions, bringing people closer to the waterfront and creating good-paying construction jobs for City residents and year-round union jobs.

It will be one of the most transit-accessible arenas in the nation, a short walk along the waterfront from BART and Muni, ferries, and Caltrain.  These kinds of opportunities – attracting an NBA franchise to relocate to our City and privately finance and build a spectacular new facility on the waterfront – come once in a lifetime.

As elected officials, we have an obligation to always put the interests of our City first, to work with communities, and ensure that we ultimately support the best project possible, in the best location.  And in the last six months, I think we’ve seen that the Golden State Warriors and their leadership – owners Peter Guber and Joe Lacob and President Rick Welts – have been fantastic partners to the City and to the community – accessible, transparent and attentive to the City team and to the needs and concerns of the neighbors.

This is a partnership meant to last. And I very much look forward to working with them, with the members of the Board and with communities across our City over the next year to ensure we do this right and seize this extraordinary opportunity.  And, you can see our economic recovery not just by what we are building, but in the flourishing of our arts and cultural institutions, our vibrant nightlife and the major international events we attract.

Very soon the new Exploratorium will open on Pier 15 to ignite the curiosity of children young and old in a spectacular waterfront space. Last week many of us celebrated the opening of the beautiful new SFJazz Center. The stunning expansion of the SFMOMA to house the Fisher Collection will break ground this year. And in Central Market, the arts and theater are a key driver of the neighborhood revitalization there, from street art to smaller venues like the Luggage Store Gallery and A.C.T.s Costume Shop Theater to PianoFight’s new Taylor street complex and A.C.T.’s planned reopening of the long-shuttered Strand Theater.

And we’re proving that no City in America can do big events like we can, whether it’s an industry event like Oracle Open World, Dreamforce, or the unveiling of the latest Apple product, crowd-pleasers like the great Warren Hellman’s Hardly Strictly Blue Grass or Fleet Week, or sports-focused events like the Kraft “Fight Hunger” Bowl, the 2013 World Baseball Classic, the 2013 Schwab Cup, and, of course, the America’s Cup this Summer.  With all of your help, in May of this year, San Francisco will also be named the official Host City of Super Bowl 50, to be held in 2016.


But friends, what still motivates me to work harder every day are the 30,900 San Franciscans who are still unemployed, who are not yet sharing in our vital, resurgent and strong San Francisco.  When I became interim Mayor in 2011, successfully implementing our landmark local hire ordinance was one of my top priorities. And I’m proud that working with the building trades unions and the community, we have consistently met and even exceeded our goals of placing San Franciscans into jobs on City-funded projects.

Last summer we provided more than 5,000 summer jobs and paid internship opportunities to young people, in partnership with the United Way of the Bay Area. We were also awarded $8 million in US Department of Labor grants to launch TechSF. This will train and place veterans, disconnected youth, and others into technology industry careers. The first 80 TechSF participants graduate this Summer – and I can’t wait to attend their graduation.
In a diverse economy, not everyone can or wants to work in technology. In the last two years, we have placed 804 San Francisco residents in jobs in construction, health care, green jobs, and hospitality through our sector Academies, and working with our workforce nonprofits like JVS, Larkin Street Youth Services, Young Community Developers and others, we need to expand them.

Next week I am looking forward to attending the graduation ceremony of our Health Care Academy to train and place residents in skilled jobs within our growing $16.7 billion local health care industry, which contributes more than 104,000 good-paying jobs to our City in hospitals, research institutes, universities and medical firms.
And finally, to fully ensure that our economic recovery reaches every single San Franciscan, we must join with President Obama and our Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and shout from the mountaintops in support of comprehensive immigration reform for our country this year. We are a City of immigrants, some undocumented.

They are fathers and mothers, daughters and sons who work hard and contribute much to the fabric of our City, but also live with trepidation on a daily basis. It’s time to let them come out of the shadows of our society. We must demand that Congress pass the DREAM Act to create a pathway to citizenship for immigrant youth on track to college or military service. And we must demand a pathway to citizenship and legal participation in our society for every American and every San Franciscan.

And this San Francisco of the 21st century also requires a vision and a plan to move our residents, our workers, our families and our visitors around our City reliably, efficiently and affordably. I’m talking about our public transit system. I’m talking about all the different systems that move people around our City – often efficiently, sometimes not – Muni, BART, Caltrain, and one day, High Speed Rail.

I know it’s frustrating to push your way onto an overcrowded train or watch an overloaded bus go by. And I understand the anxiety that comes with being late to work, late to pick up your kids or late to school because you were on time, but your bus wasn’t.  I am very pleased to report that positive changes are underway, and with the full support and leadership of the MTA Board of Directors, the nation’s 7th largest public transit agency is once again focused on operations and investing in infrastructure, in maintenance and in safety.

This year, Muni riders will see 62 new hybrid buses hit the streets - the first new buses in six years. 60 new electric trolley buses are on the way, and 80 buses and 150 light-rail vehicles will be refurbished and overhauled. We will see more taxis on our streets and technology that makes it easier for you to get one.

Last year, the MTA adopted a two-year budget with nearly $250 million a year for state-of-good-repair investments and with no reductions in service, and no fare increases. Last year we secured a $942 million grant from the federal government – one of the largest federal grants we have ever received – to complete the long-planned Central Subway. This Spring, crews will start the 12-month underground journey of tunnel boring machines from South of Market to North Beach.
We are now wrapping up environmental review to finally bring dedicated Bus Rapid Transit to Van Ness Avenue and, following that, along Geary Boulevard, to the relief of Supervisor Mar’s Richmond District constituents who ride the 38-Geary, one of the nation’s busiest bus lines

And as a job center for the entire Bay Area, we must work together regionally to electrify and extend Caltrain to downtown, and explore long-term, sustainable funding for BART expansions within the City.

But, it’s not just about buses and trains. Bike ridership has grown 71 percent since 2006 and you can see the progress we’re making, after years of delay, implementing our bike plan. In 2013, we’ll finally welcome bicycle sharing to our City too. We’re focusing on pedestrian safety to ensure everyone, including people with disabilities, can be safe walking and moving on the streets and sidewalks.

And we’re embracing alternate forms of transportation through the new “Sharing Economy,” with carsharing provided by companies like City Carshare, Zipcar, Getaround and Relay Rides and electric scooter-sharing from SCOOT. And a growing number of San Franciscans look to their smartphones every day to summon a taxi, an Uber sedan, or participate in innovative rideshare services like Sidecar and Lyft.
Planning, building and maintaining reliable public transportation in our City are among the most critical challenges we face. Our Muni system and our streets, not to mention our regional BART and Caltrain systems, are in dire need of a comprehensive, coordinated vision and long-term funding strategies to meet the transportation demands not just for today, but for our future.

That’s why I propose that this year, we take an approach to transportation in our City similar to the one we took the last two years with pension reform, housing and payroll tax reform.  In a nutshell, we invited all the key experts and leaders to join City staff in a room and said “we’re going to keep at this until we can agree on solutions we can all get behind that will make a real difference.” And it worked.  I say let’s take that approach with our transportation challenges too.

We already have a lot of plans and reports that all draw similar conclusions – we need to modernize our system by investing in and reorienting the service we offer to better match up with 21st century patterns of where people live, work, and shop.

And so, along with Board President Chiu, we will convene in February, a San Francisco Transportation 2030 Task Force. Working with respected transportation leaders like Gabe Metcalf of SPUR and the financial expertise of our Controller’s Office, we will invite representatives from all our regional transportation agencies, key stakeholder groups and our technology community to the table. I’m also very grateful that Supervisor Wiener, who has brought so much thoughtful work and passion to transportation issues, has agreed to join in this effort too.

Their task: report back to me, the Board President and the SFMTA Chairman Tom Nolan, with a coordinated set of priorities and actionable recommendations that – by executive order, by ordinance or at the ballot – will maintain the condition of our streets and make Muni and the other transportation systems in our City work the way we need them to.

Now I know that some consider Muni as “Third Rail of San Francisco Politics.”  But friends, on this, as on the other great challenges we have tackled, we cannot let politics be our guide. Truly great cities have great public transportation systems – Paris, New York, London, Tokyo. I say San Francisco is pretty great and deserves one too.  No, we’re not going to fix our transportation challenges overnight, or even in a year. Achieving a world-class public transportation system is a constant journey forward, not a destination. But let’s approach our transportation challenges the San Francisco way once again, through consensus and common sense, and let us take up the hard work and take the first step of that journey now.


An equal challenge for our future is the availability of housing, yes, in spite of all we have done and are doing – for people of every income, especially low and middle income San Franciscans and families.

I know something about this topic – I’ve worked on it and fought to make our City more affordable for tenants and immigrants.

And though some may wish otherwise, we cannot defy the law of supply of demand within our City limits. Rent and the cost of housing are too high, in part because, quite simply, we haven’t built enough new housing. But last year we began to make some progress.

In November, voters passed the Housing Trust Fund, a 1.5 billion dollar stream of funding over the next 30 years for affordable housing and assistance for first-time home buyers, including – thank you Supervisor Farrell - for our first-responders.

Today, there are more than 4,000 new housing units under construction, more than 20 times the total new housing built in all of 2011.

But that’s the just the beginning, with 42,000 new housing units planned and approved for construction in the next several years, more than any time in our history since the 1906 Great Earthquake and Fire, including Hunters Point, which could break ground as early as this year, and thousands of new units of housing at Parkmerced, Treasure Island, in Central Market and downtown.

Certainly, we can’t just build our way to affordability, but every new home helps meet demand and takes the strain off our rent-controlled units.


But all this will do little to help our very poorest residents in need of heavily subsidized housing. But what we’re doing now with our public housing system isn’t working either.

Supervisor Cohen knows this because she sees and works on it with residents every day. Well if we can’t mend that structure, we should end it. But not without a new vision to replace it. And that’s what I want to talk about this morning.

Despite what you’ve read recently, there really ARE a few bright spots in our public housing – employees who care, residents who keep their chin up and take pride in their homes, strategies that are already proving successful for a few, ripe to be scaled up if we make the commitment.
Appropriately, we call it HOPE SF. HOPE SF is a 21st Century model of public-private partnerships that integrate people of all ages, classes, and ethnicities into one thriving community. The financial model is integrated as well: federal funding, local money, and private investment.

No more “poverty housing” that traps generation after generation in socially, racially and economically isolated complexes. There’s nothing San Francisco about that, and we shouldn’t tolerate it. With HOPE SF today, we’re completely rebuilding the Alice Griffith community.

Just two weeks ago we welcomed the first residents back to the rebuilt Hunters View community. It’s time to fundamentally re-envision the way we provide housing to the lowest-income San Franciscans.

For weeks now, I have been in active discussions with HUD’s senior leadership here and in Washington about how to get off the treadmill of troubled lists and repair backlogs that will be never get fully funded.

Last week, I met with HUD Secretary Donovan in Washington, and he agreed to partner with us to create a new strategy for public housing. Effective immediately, I have asked our City Administrator Naomi Kelly and Olson Lee, the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing, to partner directly with HUD and Housing Authority staff to develop a set of recommendations by July 1st to re-envision public housing, building and expanding on the model of HOPE SF.

Supervisor Breed, who grew up in public housing and knows first-hand the frustrations residents feel, has agreed to join this effort.

We will engage residents, community leaders, nonprofit housing partners, and private sector development experts. I am open to every one of their recommendations to re-invent the governance and management of public housing, up to and including replacing the Housing Authority as we know it with a new model.

Every San Franciscan deserves a safe, clean place to call home. We have not fulfilled this commitment. But I believe we can improve the condition of public housing and live up to our obligations to our lowest-income residents if we build on what’s working through HOPE SF and collaborate with HUD and our partners in the nonprofit and private sectors.


And on our streets, there are still too many people without any place to call home.  Like you, I see them every day – people who came here to escape discrimination or abuse at home, or who can’t escape substance abuse or mental health challenges, and too many homeless families.

Last Thursday night I joined the many volunteers participating in our annual Homeless Count, and like Mayor Newsom before me and most San Franciscans, I’m simply not satisfied with our progress.

Over the last nine years, 10,000 San Franciscans have left the streets or shelter system for permanent housing and services. And over the last seven years, through our Homeward Bound program, we have reunited 7,000 people with families and loved ones in more stable situations in their home communities.

Last year, for the first time in many years, there were no budget cuts to human services or public health, and I was proud to approve a $3 million add-back for emergency shelter and housing subsidies.

But further progress isn’t just about money. It’s about better linkages, further reform and innovation. Last year I invited former Supervisor Dufty to join my Administration, to work with our outstanding Director of Public Health Barbara Garcia and Trent Rhorer, our Director of Human Services, to apply his energy and commitment to bold ideas to homelessness.

After years of regular Project Homeless Connects, we now have Everyday Connect to provide a year-round bundle of services – not just every few months.

We are undertaking shelter reform to modernize our shelter reservation system through 311 and online portals so no shelter bed goes empty as long as people are on our streets.

I’m proud to support Supervisor Cohen’s effort – aided by a federal grant – to build a new 100-bed shelter here in the Bayview, and Supervisor Campos’ efforts to create a 24-bed shelter for the needs of our LGBT homeless. And under a federal lifeline program that Supervisor Dufty so passionately advocated for, many homeless people will now receive cell phones so they can connect back with society, services and caseworkers in a meaningful way.

Significantly, on January 1st, we restructured and strengthened our street outreach capability – providing our successful Homeless Outreach Teams 24 hours a day. In just a few weeks, we’ve seen remarkable results, with 50 percent more homeless people accessing services over even the previous month.

And, thanks to a close partnership with HUD, the Veteran’s Administration and Swords to Plowshares, San Francisco has made enormous strides in reducing homelessness among veterans. We launched a successful 100 day campaign to house homeless veterans using HUD vouchers, we will officially open Veterans Commons in a few short days – permanent housing for 75 Veterans with onsite supportive services, and we have more than 70 units of veterans housing scheduled to open in 2013.

And there’s a hard truth we must acknowledge, however controversial. For some, social services won’t solve the problem. Like Judge Feinstein and District Attorney Gascon, I’m disappointed that our promising efforts to save the lives of chronic inebriates through the Chronic Offender Court were cut short, I think against the interests of those who still suffer on our streets.

But we won’t give up on similar efforts, and we’ll be back to try this another way. And let’s finally call the question. It’s time to implement San Francisco’s version of the so-called Laura’s Law, to help the severely mentally ill who we see too often on our streets.

These folks are a danger to themselves and to others, and we must work with their families and with the judicial system to prescribe medical treatment plans and, through case-management, monitoring and follow-up, put them on a path towards stability.

For two years now since I’ve been Mayor, we’ve been piloting exactly this model with our Department of Public Health through what we call the Community Independence Initiative. And guess what, it’s working. Preliminary results show great success helping people achieve and maintain greater stability.

This year, we will end the pilot program and make the San Francisco version of Laura’s Law permanent. It’s about public health and public safety.


And despite a year where we experienced some very troubling homicides in our City, San Francisco remains one of the safest big cities in America, with homicides in 2012 still at levels not seen since the 1960s.

But one homicide really is one too many.

I know I stirred up quite a hornet’s nest last year when I, frustrated like all of you by a rash of homicides and shootings in this very community, suggested we needed to try something different, shake up our efforts with the police and with the community to stop this violence.

And while I regret the anxiety and misunderstanding it may have caused, I don’t regret the dialogue it sparked, and where it got us together, and that’s the IPO strategy we’re using today – Interrupt, Predict and Organize.
Since we launched the IPO, we’ve seen some measurable results, with no homicides in the month of August for the first time in 30 years, and homicides and gun violence down over the first part of the year citywide.

Thank you Chief Suhr and to all of our police officers, thank you Pastor Bryant and to our faith leaders, thank you to our residents and communities for rallying together in crisis to be the “O” – organizing – we need to save young men’s lives.

And we can be safer still. For the first time in years, we have a six-year hiring plan to get more officers on our streets. And in the wake of the heartbreaking tragedy in Newtown, I look forward to signing into law very soon the nation’s first ban on possession of hollow-point ammunition, introduced by Supervisor Cohen. These bullets have no place on our streets. And we must support President Obama’s and Senator Feinstein’s comprehensive efforts to reform our gun laws.

And there is another type of violent crime that is just as corrosive to our communities, but where often no weapon at all is involved, and that is the crime of domestic violence and abuse, which still affect too many women and families in our City.

We will not let the events of 2012 set back our City’s international leadership on preventing and reporting domestic violence and abuse, and I pledge to continue working with the Commission on the Status of Women and our partners in the community to bring our IPO model to the issue of domestic violence, so that our programs remain national models that protect women, children and partners and save lives.

I’m also proud that under the leadership of the Adult and Juvenile Probation Departments, working with my office, the Police, Sheriff’s Department and other City Departments, San Francisco in 2012 has responded to the challenges of Realignment by the State - reducing our incarceration rate and integrating non-violent parolees back into society and productive lives.


And just as we can be a safer City, we must continue our efforts to be a healthier City. In less than one year, many of our uninsured adults will receive health insurance, thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, thank you President Obama and Leader Pelosi once again.
We are well positioned for this monumental transition because of our longstanding health access program, Healthy San Francisco, and the new national law will further extend health insurance to some 35,000 San Franciscans. I have tasked our Department of Public Health and Human Services Agency to collaborate on outreach efforts and work with our State and Federal partners to ensure a seamless transition.

And just as we’ve reformed health care nationally to deliver quality care and control costs, we must take additional steps to do it with our City employee retiree health care system.

We’ve done good work together on pension reform, but our work isn’t done. We must address the challenge of our $4.4 billion unfunded retiree health care liability. We’re beginning to make progress through changes brought by former Supervisor Elsbernd, but we must develop a more responsible approach while maintaining our commitment to providing health care for our retired City employees. 

I want to thank Supervisor Farrell for his leadership on this issue and know that together, with our partners in labor, we will address this important issue the San Francisco way, through consensus once again.

And finally, we must rebuild our California Pacific Medical Center and St. Luke’s Hospital in the Mission, critical health delivery and emergency medical centers for our City, as well as major employers. Members of the Board have taken a strong leadership role working with my office and with CPMC to bring a revised proposal back to the Board of Supervisors that delivers community benefits, jobs and most importantly, critical health care facilities and medical care for our City.


And that brings me to why we are here today at College Track – education. Every week, I hear from business leaders that their number one priority is education. They are creating thousands of jobs, and they would like nothing better than to hire San Franciscans, but they often struggle to find candidates.

And it’s clear to me that at the end of the day, despite all the accomplishments and signs of economic recovery, the only way our City will continue to be strong is if we set our children on a path to success by supporting and improving our public schools.

In many cities, they choose to address their public education challenges by picking fights and pointing fingers. But once again, not in San Francisco. We choose to build partnerships that deliver measurable progress, and together we strive for excellence in our public schools, not excuses.

Last week I met with our education leaders – the first time in anyone’s memory that we all came together – the Mayor, Superintendent Carranza, Chancellor Scott-Skillman, Chancellor Desmond-Hellman, Father Privett and President Wong. And we all agree that technology, equipping our kids early with an expectation for college and setting them up to succeed in the 21st century economy are the keys to success.
And, we are making progress, especially at our public school district. San Francisco Unified continues to be the highest performing urban school district in the State. Test scores are at an all-time high, truancy is down, graduation rates are up and we have seen double digit performance gains by our African-American and Latino students in the last five years.

Through our Kindergarten to College program, we are one of the only cities in the country to establish college savings accounts for every kindergarten student and create a college-going culture early in life. These results are being recognized by State and Federal agencies. Just last month, we received a $30 million federal grant to bring technology, financial literacy and job training to students in our Mission neighborhood.
These gains are possible because of the reforms underway, the partnerships in place and our common commitment. But for our kids to succeed in the 21st century economy, that’s still not good enough. We must do more.
That’s why this year I will propose in my budget to provide our School District with more resources than at any other time in our City’s history - nearly $50 million for our public schools and $25 million for universal pre-school. Because like most parents, I view education as an investment, not an expense.
And increasingly, I believe, we must focus our investments on our middle schools – the fork in the road for many kids, and for many families in our City with kids in public schools, the point at which they decide whether to stay in San Francisco, or go.
Our middle schools offer one of our best points for intervention. You’re going to hear me talk about this a lot this year, because I want our middle schoolers who find themselves at this crossroads in life to choose the road to success, achievement and self-worth, not the road that leads to trouble, or down a path where they fall further behind.
And as the 1 in 3 San Franciscans who went there know, we must continue our efforts to reform and save City College and preserve its accreditation – it’s too important to our City’s social and economic future, and central to our efforts to equip our kids with the skills to compete and win in the 21st Century economy.
I have offered all our expertise to help Chancellor Scott Skillman and the City College Trustees make the hard choices needed to reform this incredibly important institution.

I want to thank the Chancellor and Special Trustee Robert Agrella for their candor and for their commitment to working with us and working with the State to put City College back on track and remain an institution that provides hope and an affordable opportunity for college to every San Francisco young person.
Because, hope and opportunity, after all, are really at the heart of the place – the idea – that is San Francisco. Many of us came here from somewhere else, or our parents did, or their parents before them. And whether it was Guangzhou or Guadalajara, County Cork or a rural County in Texas, what brought us here was that sense of hope that San Francisco, more than most places, offered greater opportunities to build a different and better life.

A place where we’re judged by what we accomplish and create, not by where we were born, what language we first learned to speak, or whom we love. We are a City that celebrates and rewards the pioneer, the innovator, the groundbreaker and the risk-taker – Harry Bridges, Fred Korematsu, Harvey Milk, Gordon Lau, Dianne Feinstein, Willie Brown, Nancy Pelosi and so many more.

We’ve known our share of adversity – earthquake, fire, discrimination, the scourge of AIDS and times of severe economic hardship. But we’re also pretty darned resilient, and we’re not afraid to fail when we’re challenging the status quo or doing what we know is right.

And most importantly, we know that none of us succeed alone – in school, in business, in life. We know, as Michelle Obama said so well this past Summer, that “when you walk through that door of opportunity, you don’t slam it shut. You reach back, and help someone else walk through that door behind you.”

My fellow San Franciscans, I know there is no limit to the success and potential of this extraordinary City if we keep the door of opportunity open to every San Franciscan. And if we work together, put the people’s priorities ahead of politics, and commit ourselves to unleashing their extraordinary talents and innovation, then I don’t have a single doubt that San Francisco will be forever strong, for us and for future generations.