Mayor Lee's 2015 State of the City Address








January 15, 2015

San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market, San Francisco

Text of State of the City Address

An Affordability and Shared Prosperity Agenda for San Francisco

My fellow San Franciscans, a year ago, we gathered not too far from here at the reborn Hunters Point Shipyard to celebrate the construction of new middle class homes for families in our City.

I set forth an ambitious and inclusive vision for 2014 – a vision that stayed the course on job creation and fiscal responsibility – the same course that led us out of the Great Recession, with its double-digit unemployment, cuts to public services, and endless budget red-ink.

And we set forth a course to confront the growing affordability crisis facing our City, directly, and from every angle: on income inequality, transportation, education, and most importantly, housing.

In 2014, working with you, the members of the Board of Supervisors, and with the community, I am very proud of the progress we made on that path, together.

So to you, and to the voters of San Francisco, I say thank you.

Let me start with the Minimum Wage. Some of you know…I grew up washing dishes in my father’s restaurant. I know first-hand how hard working families struggle to get by.

Well, in November, we passed Proposition J. And on May first of this year – International Workers Day – appropriately enough, working San Franciscans will be getting a raise … to 15 dollars an hour by 2018, the highest minimum wage in America.

And mark my word, the rest of the nation will follow our lead.

Thank you Supervisor Kim. And to Mike Casey and our friends in Labor, thank you. To the nonprofit and business communities for coming together to pass Proposition J, thank you all.

We also passed Proposition A, the 500 million dollar transportation bond to invest in our roads, bike lanes, pedestrian safety and public transit. Thank you Supervisor Tang and Supervisor Wiener for your continued leadership to improve our City’s roads and transit system.

On education, we took unprecedented steps to secure and increase our investments in San Francisco’s children and families. Yes, we passed Prop C, the reauthorization of the Children’s Fund and Public Education Enrichment Funds.

Thank you Supervisors Yee, Kim and Avalos, Superintendent Carranza, Hydra Mendoza and the entire Board of Education, and to my good friend Phil Halperin, as well as the coalition of organizations that carried us to overwhelming public support.

And on the number one priority for our City today – housing – the voters overwhelmingly backed Proposition K, and endorsed our ambitious plan to build and rehabilitate 30,000 homes by 2020, with at least one-third available at below-market rates and more than half affordable to our City’s struggling middle class.

And in just one year, we’ve already made measurable and dramatic progress towards those housing goals, building and rehabilitating 4,000 new homes in our City. Friends, that’s double the housing we built in 2013. It’s triple what we built in 2012. And we will do even better in the year to come.

And we took bold steps to protect renters. We funded $13.2 million in this year’s budget to help tenants prevent and fight eviction, and because of our efforts, with the Board and with tenant advocates and organizations, Ellis Act eviction petitions in San Francisco were down 58 percent last year. We’ve got much more work to do, but together we’re starting to make progress on housing.

And as long as I’m Mayor, we’ll never take our eye off the ball when it comes to creating and keeping for our people – jobs in health care and technology, food service and local manufacturing like those created right here at the new Wholesale Produce Market, or just up the street at Pier 70.

Just four years ago, the need to attract jobs and investment in our City and kickstart the economy was urgent. We had a crisis in joblessness.

Well, unemployment today is down to 4.4 percent from 9.4 percent when I first took office. In San Francisco, did you know we created 76,400 new jobs since 2011, the top-performing city in the nation for job growth.

You see, there’s no greater income gap than the one between those that have a job, and those that don’t. And I’m very proud that as a result of our policies people in San Francisco are working again, economic opportunity is back, and we’ve given people a paycheck to support themselves and their families.

Ladies and gentlemen, thanks to you, and thanks to the people of this great City … the State of our City is strong and getting stronger.

It is a unique moment in our history. The City is buzzing with energy and pride, and not just because the Warriors have the best record in the NBA, or our Giants are World Champions, again, and again, and again!

Ideas conceived in incubators and laboratories from Mission Bay to the Bayview, from South of Market to Central Market, have spurred unprecedented economic opportunity and prosperity for our City.

Our neighborhoods bustle again with young families and thriving small businesses.

Our skyline transforms with new residential and commercial towers. Five new hospitals are under construction today, soon to be joined by the new Central Subway, an expanded Moscone center, a new arena for the Golden State Warriors, a new Southeast waste water treatment plant, and new neighborhoods along the Central Waterfront for thousands of residents, and employing thousands of construction workers.

Thank you to the hardworking men and women of the building and construction trades – the laborers, the plumbers, operating engineers, machinists and teamsters and electric workers. All the trades – for being our partners in rebuilding our City.

My friends, these are times to be proud of our City and our people. These are times to approach our future with confidence and optimism.

And yet we must acknowledge too many of our residents have not yet fully shared in the growing success of our City.

For too many young families and longtime residents alike, I understand these times of prosperity are also times of anxiety.

They’re worried about affording to stay here. They’re worried about their children’s ability to raise a family here. They’re worried about the character of San Francisco.

Friends, this is San Francisco, and as long as I’m Mayor, we won’t leave anyone behind.

Turning that anxiety into optimism, turning that despair into hope, that’s my job. It’s why I get up early every day and go to work as your Mayor.

And so I pledge to you that this year, I will keep working night and day to see that our rising prosperity benefits every San Francisco resident, to make sure that San Francisco remains a City where everyone belongs.

And I ask you to join me. Today, I set forth a course for this year and for the future – a path forward that builds on the foundation of a strong economy and fiscal prudence that has led us to this very point – a path that continues to address with all my energy, my focus, and the resources of this City – our housing and affordability crisis.

I am directing my Administration, through my new Affordability Directives, to focus our resources and efforts to confront these challenges head-on.

In a matter of moments, the Affordability Directives will be published on my website. Please go to prosperity which outlines how we will tackle these issues.

This is my work plan. The values and priorities that inform it are why I entered public service in the first place, advocating for tenant and immigrant rights in Chinatown.

Through these five Affordability Directives, we can – together – ensure that San Francisco remains a City where everyone belongs.

Women’s Empowerment.

Let’s start with the most pressing, and the most important – housing.

We may be setting records for new housing construction, but we must still work to stabilize people in their own homes, in their own neighborhoods, and prevent displacement because of speculative evictions.

We’ll accomplish this through expanded eviction defense support and programs to help tenants buy their own rent-controlled buildings.

We all know home ownership is out of reach of too many San Franciscans. So starting this year, and over the next 10 years, we will increase by $100 million the down payment assistance program, helping up to 1,500 families buy a first home in San Francisco, after our employee pension system votes on this. Thank you for your early leadership on this, Supervisor Malia Cohen, and to the Retirement Board as well.

And my top State legislative priority once again is to partner with Senator Leno and now Assemblyman David Chiu to reform the Ellis Act in Sacramento to end speculator evictions in our City.

In 2012, we worked together to put forward the Housing Trust Fund – $1.3 billion for new affordable housing. That was then unprecedented, and thank you to the large coalition that supported that measure.

But we need to do more to help our middle class and our poorest residents who are trapped in dilapidated public housing.

So let’s come together again for this November’s ballot to put forward general obligation bond measure to help fund new and rehabilitated housing for working families and our poorest residents – without raising property taxes on homeowners in our City.

But Government can’t solve our housing crisis alone. The private and philanthropic sectors must help us confront this too.

So this year, I will propose a new investment fund – let’s call it an accelerator fund for housing - that attracts private and philanthropic dollars for middle-class housing, affordable housing and a rebuild of our public housing sites, alongside bond and other matching public funds.

After too many decades of underbuilding and too many years of neglect on housing, we made some good progress in 2014, but there’s much more to do.

I look forward to working with the members of the Board of Supervisors and with the entire spectrum of housing advocates and leaders to succeed with these important measures and housing priorities this year.

I also want to ensure families stay in San Francisco. They need more than housing. They need high-quality education for their children. We need to continue to invest in education, which is my second directive.

Thanks to our hard work and the voters’ approval of Proposition C … this year we will invest the funds necessary to finally clear the waitlist for all 4-year olds who need preschool.

Members of the Board of Supervisors, Superintendent Richard Carranza, members of the Board of Education, let’s do this together. Let’s clear that waitlist. Let’s add the slots for more than 4,000 families over the next five years.  That will allow San Francisco to finally say, we do have universal preschool for all four year olds – the best in the nation.

But let’s not stop there. Let’s work together to create universal summer programming and universal after school for all Kindergarten through 8th grade students, regardless of income. More time in school and activities are better for kids, and better for parents.

It’s why we fought so hard to save City College – an effort that resulted in yesterday’s excellent news that it will stay open another two years, while we continue to work with the new Board of Trustees on the path to reform. Thank you Senator Leno, Chancellor Brice Harris, Chancellor Art Tyler, and City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

Transportation is my third directive. Because of the passage of last year’s $500 million transportation bond, we will make our streets safer for pedestrians and bikers, and make sure our Muni system is safer and more reliable.

We’ll accelerate our commitment to Vision Zero – to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries for all road users, whether you walk, bike, drive or ride the bus.

And in addition to these bond investments, we will keep working to make Muni more reliable. Earlier this week I announced 40 new Light Rail vehicles for Muni, increasing the fleet to 215 cars – the most in our City’s history.

And finally, a transportation system that’s more reliable must also be affordable.

Last year, thanks to Google and the MTC, we funded free Muni for low-income young people in our City for two years.

And next week, I call upon the MTA to expand free Muni to low-income seniors and people with disabilities. Today, I also call upon the private sector to step up again to help fund this vital transit service for our City’s most vulnerable, low-income residents.

My fourth affordability directive aims to ensure women receive the opportunities they have worked for and deserve, but are too often denied.

This is personal for me. I’ve had strong and successful women around me my entire life. In my own family, my mother, my sisters, my wife Anita and my daughters Tania and Brianna remind me every day I have a personal responsibility to keep San Francisco at the forefront of gender equity and equality.

San Francisco has elected inspiring national leaders, mentors to me like Senator Dianne Feinstein, Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Attorney General Kamala Harris, State Controller Betty Yee, and Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma.

Locally, we have strong women role models – President London Breed, Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu, Supervisor Jane Kim, Katy Tang, Malia Cohen, our newest Supervisor from District Three, Julie Christensen, and our newest partner from just across the Bay, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Libby, thank you for taking the time to join us this morning, I look forward to working together for the entire Bay Area.

And now, for the first time ever, a female editor-in-chief for the San Francisco Chronicle, Audrey Cooper.

If we are going to meet the challenge of gender equality for the next generation, we need workplace policies that empower women.

In San Francisco, we’ve made progress. Half of our City’s workforce are women, and they equal men in our management and professional careers. Outstanding women run major City departments – like our City Administrator, our Fire Chief and Public Health Director.

But we can and must do better in areas like information technology, public safety and skilled crafts—great jobs with good salaries, but which are not traditionally thought of as “women’s careers.” 
This year at my direction, my Administration will identify and eliminate barriers that prevent women from achieving equity in City jobs with good salaries and career paths. The public sector must lead the way.

And today, I call upon our City’s private sector companies to do the same, especially our technology sector, where gender parity and diversity are still lacking profoundly.

San Francisco leads the nation on family-friendly policies, with guaranteed paid leave, health insurance, and retirement benefits to working parents. In 2014, I was proud to sign then-President Chiu’s legislation establishing the right of all employees to request family-friendly work arrangements. Women shouldn’t have to choose between having a great career and having a family.

And when they go home, no woman should ever live in fear of violence.

As your Mayor, I’ve been proud to stand strongly against domestic violence and human trafficking, wherever it occurs, and say “NO MORE….NADA MAS.”

Our District Attorney George Gascon has done great work on this too, so thank you DA Gascon.

And whether at work or at home, I believe there’s more we can do to maintain our national leadership on policies for women. So this year, with Mayor Schaaf, we will convene a Bay Area Women’s Empowerment & Opportunity Summit to propose legislation, as well as public and private sector initiatives, to improve economic and social opportunities for women in our City and region.

As a perfect example, I know Supervisor Tang is leading a conversation about STEM education for young girls in San Francisco, and I look forward to supporting her efforts.

I hope you’ll join me in this Summit.

My fifth and final Directive for this year is the one that I have been working on my entire adult life – breaking the crippling cycle that leaves too many people on our streets, and traps too many of our people in poverty.

Let me be the first to say – despite helping thousands of people into supportive housing and services these past four years, it’s shameful how many people still sleep on our streets.

We have to do more, and better.

Just this week we announced we are reopening the Housing Authority waitlist to provide apartments for a number of homeless families.

Last year, we finally passed Laura’s Law. And I say thank you to Supervisor Mark Farrell.

Now, this year, in addition to implementing Laura’s Law for the most severely mentally ill, we will bring a stepped-up commitment on homelessness with 500 new supportive housing units, and a focus on mobile medicine for those still living on the streets. We’ll also be opening up a first-of-its-kind Navigation Center to better move people off the streets and into housing and services.

And answering the challenge from President Obama, I want San Francisco to be the first City in California to end chronic homelessness for veterans.

And working with Supervisors Campos and Wiener, we will fully fund a special shelter for our LGBT homeless population.

But friends, ending poverty in our City doesn’t just mean spending more money. We already make record investments in job training and our social safety net. That won’t change.

But it’s not progress if we keep people trapped in public housing, trapped in joblessness and trapped in despair.

We know the outcome of that – we saw a terrible example just last weekend with the tragic murder of four young men.

No, my friends, a real commitment to ending poverty means interrupting the transfer from parent to child, from generation to generation. It means better outcomes, and giving people pathways up and out to a better life for themselves and for their family.

Nicole Banks embodies what I’m talking about.

But we must make Nicole’s story the NORM, NOT THE EXCEPTION.

We know who the most vulnerable families and individuals are. We already work with them or provide them services one way or another.

And so this year we will launch what I’m calling PROJECT 500 – a laser-like focus of intensive resources, wrap-around services and case management across City departments and nonprofit providers for at least 500 of the most at-risk families, to give them meaningful pathways up and out of poverty and disrupt its intergenerational transfer.

My fellow San Franciscans, there is no greater moral imperative for our City than to invest today’s prosperity to break the cycle of poverty for too many of our fellow San Franciscans.

This is what calls me to public service as Mayor.

And in this time of plenty, this must also call our partners in the private sector to service too. Government can’t go it alone.

In the last two years, we have seen great examples of successful companies and business leaders step forward and give back to our City – in time, money and volunteers, to health care, arts, and education, housing and homelessness.

People like Marc & Lynne Benioff from Salesforce. Lloyd Dean of Dignity Health. Daniel Lurie of Tipping Point. The Fisher Family. Charles Schwab. Ron Conway of Laurene Powell Jobs, Mimi Haas, and others. And great companies like Google, Wells Fargo, the Gap, Bernard Tyson and Kaiser Permanente and so many more.

These people and companies demonstrate the meaning of shared prosperity. They understand their responsibility to make sure San Francisco remains a City where everyone belongs.

To them I say “thank you.” You set the example for others to follow. And I know they will. I think it’s only just the beginning of a new era of civic-minded local companies and philanthropy.

These Affordability Directives will be available for the City to see at This is your government’s work plan, and I expect to be held accountable.

My fellow San Franciscans, now, more than ever, we must work to ensure that everyone shares in the City’s prosperity, that this is a City where everyone belongs.

The change we see – exciting to many, scary to some – can be good, as long as we manage it responsibly and stay true to our values: generosity, inclusiveness and hope.

From our earliest days, these values have defined San Francisco. They attracted many of us here in the first place, including me. They make San Francisco a place where anything is possible, no matter who you are.

A place where a little girl growing up in Public Housing at Plaza East named London Breed can grow up to be the President of the Board of Supervisors.

A place where tenacity and persistence can propel a neighborhood activist named Julie Christensen, who fought for her own neighborhood from outside City Hall, can now fight for her district from within, marshaling the support and resources to get it done.

A place where a 20-something law school graduate named Ed Lee can protest and march and generally cause a ruckus for low-income tenants and immigrants, and one day become Mayor.

This is Nicole Banks’s San Francisco. A place where everyone belongs, no matter your race, your gender, your income, your sexual orientation or your immigration status.

More than most places, we try to live the words of Maya Angelou who said, “we can learn to see each other, and see ourselves in each other, and recognize that human beings are more alike than we are unalike.”

We are one city, where all lives matter, a beacon in a world too often torn apart by differences, whether on the streets of Ferguson, or a newsroom in Paris.

My fellow San Franciscans, the state of our City is strong, and the changes we’re experiencing can make us stronger.

With our strong economic foundation, we have a special opportunity to change this City for the better, to see that San Francisco is affordable for families, and ensure that every San Franciscan shares in our City’s rising prosperity.

This is my mission. This is my passion. This is our San Francisco.

Thank you.