Mayor Lee's Proposed Budget Focuses on Reducing Harm on Our Streets While Investing in Neighborhoods

Remarks As Prepared for Delivery by Mayor Edwin M. Lee

Good morning Supervisors.

First, I want to thank you all for your input into the budget process.  I also want to thank our City Controller, Ben Rosenfield and his excellent budget team for all of their hard work this year.  I look forward to working with Harvey Rose and his team along with all of you during the coming weeks to finalize our City’s budget.

When I assumed the great responsibility of this office more than six years ago, we had to put people back to work, restore service reductions, rebuild our roads, create housing and adapt our human services to rapidly shifting realities.

San Francisco has enjoyed unparalleled prosperity during the past six years, with our economy expanding more this decade than any other time in our City’s history. We have added more than 140,000 jobs since I took office and unemployment remains below three percent. New housing is not only stabilizing prices but is also increasing our tax base.  This budget includes historic levels of growth in our property tax base and I want to thank the hard work of our Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu and her team. 

But with this economic growth comes expectations and challenges.  Expectations that everyone should benefit from the City’s prosperity.  Expectations that families should be able to afford the City they call home.  And, most significantly, expectations that our neighborhoods and streets offer an experience that is safe and clean. 

We must deliver results to meet these expectations and solve for the challenges of our shifting realities.

The issues plaguing our streets are undeniable, though not unique to San Francisco.  The surge of opiate abuse and addiction on the streets and in homes across the country has introduced new challenges for communities in America. We are grappling with a national opiate crisis that we must acknowledge as a country. 

To meet this challenge we need commitment, flexibility and adaptation.

The budget I put forward today presents new investments to address the behavioral health issues and heartbreaking evidence of addiction we witness on our streets daily. But let me be clear, public drug use is not acceptable. It is harmful to the people injecting drugs, it is harmful to the people witnessing the abuse and it is harmful to the families and children who walk down our streets and see the discarded needles and human cost of addiction.

And while we know there is no silver bullet to solving addiction, we must continue to help every individual find their way to recovery and wellness.  This includes stopping the individuals who prey on our most vulnerable residents, including those who help perpetuate addiction and crime.

In this budget we will build on the services and resources we know are working, while also deploying new strategies to address the changing issues.  We will have proactive teams on the streets in our hardest hit neighborhoods, intervening to make sure individuals are not using drugs on our sidewalks or leaving harmful paraphernalia behind in public spaces where residents, children and visitors of our City frequent.

We will expand the hours at the Harm Reduction Center and add a 24/7 resource center, so those struggling on the streets have a place where outreach teams can offer services and medical care or even something as simple as a shower and a hot meal.

This year we will open the first Navigation Center for individuals experiencing mental health issues and addiction. Led by the Department of Public Health, this tailored Navigation Center will provide the supportive services individuals need to get on the path to recovery and wellness. We are also creating more conservatorship beds to help the most vulnerable people suffering from severe mental illness on our streets to avoid a revolving door of jail and hospitalization. 

Untreated behavioral health issues are among the most complex issues we face today.  And it takes investments but also the support and help of the entire City to make headway.

It will require us to continue to identify and tackle the root causes that drive people into homelessness, be it behavioral health issues, economic issues or basic breakdown of support. 

We must have compassion, but we must also have common sense.  No person should be living in a tent on our streets or in a filthy, unsanitary and unsafe encampment. That is common sense.

We are stepping up our encampment resolutions teams, to help move individuals out of tents into stable, healthy living conditions -- whether it be a Navigation Center, a shelter bed, supportive housing or the treatment program they need.

Last week, we celebrated the opening of the Dogpatch Navigation Center, which will have 64 new beds and a variety of services for individuals currently in tent encampments.  With this new center and the others in the pipeline, the number of beds at Navigation Centers will increase by 150% by the end of next fiscal year.

We have seen the success of Navigation Centers -- nearly 70% of residents who receive help transition into permanent housing, safe temporary placements or are reunited with family members.  And I have been heartened by the engagement and interest among many of you regarding the issue of tent encampments in your district.

So, today, I am putting forth a challenge to the members of the Board of Supervisors to work with us and help identify sites within your districts suitable for future Navigation Centers.  I have allocated $6 million over the next two years for the creation of a new Navigation Center at a location to be identified by the Board of Supervisors.

I am asking you to work with me, to work with the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, and work with your communities to identify a suitable site to help people out of tent encampments and into stable living conditions.

In addition to Navigation Centers, we will continue to invest in permanent housing exits from homelessness.  Since I took office we have housed more than 5,700 formerly homeless individuals in supportive housing units.  We must continue the same level of commitment and tenacity.  This budget includes funding for 172 new units of supportive housing and $6 million in rental subsidies.

Since the creation of the Department of Homeless and Supportive Housing almost a year ago, we have worked hard to meet homeless individuals where they are and to address their individual needs. This budget also includes additional funding to expand programs tailored to the specific needs of different populations experiencing homelessness -- families, youth, LBGTQ and veterans.

For families experiencing homelessness, we will be adding nearly $2 million to open a new family shelter and $3 million in rapid re-housing subsidies to help families pay the rent and get back on their feet.  Additionally, we have allocated $2 million to expand our City’s homeless childcare program, ensuring that every eligible child under the age of five receives free quality childcare.

And extra investments are being made for our transitional aged youth.  This budget includes funding to add drop-in hours and rental subsidies for these vulnerable young adults, many of whom seek refuge in San Francisco to live a life of openness and inclusion.  Funds will be added for youth outreach teams, which will help move these young adults off the streets and into homes and supportive services.

By the end of this year, we have vowed to end chronic veterans’ homelessness, and by 2019, we will find housing for 800 families experiencing homelessness.  This budget sets the blueprint for these ambitious tasks.  It also arrives with plenty of fiscal challenges.  We face an uncertain future.


The last six months has shown how much we, San Francisco, can accomplish when we work together towards positive solutions that protect our residents from the discriminatory and heartless policies of the new White House.

The Federal Administration recently released the draft budget for the upcoming fiscal year and it could not be more different than the budget I present to you today.

The federal budget calls for reductions in housing and social safety nets programs.  Our budget expands services for those most in need and ensures we continue to have a thriving nonprofit sector in San Francisco. 

The federal budget seeks to strip away health coverage from Americans who cannot afford it.  Our budget expands mental health services and medical care for those in need.

The federal budget increases ICE officers and other immigration enforcement resources.  Our budget seeks to keep families together by funding legal services and rapid response for our immigrant community.

The federal budget seeks to reduce the availability of food to low-income citizens, our budget increases funding for home-delivered meals.

And while tax reform plans benefit the richest Americans and do little for the country’s vulnerable communities, our budget funds Free City College for all San Franciscans.

In the city of St. Francis, we will not let misguided policies emanating from Washington D.C. drive our agenda.

But the risk to our City's financial stability is still great – especially in relation to the Affordable Care Act.  There are real life local effects to policies developed in Washington, but some of the largest reductions we are grappling with come from Sacramento.

The State support for the In-Home Supportive Services program, which enables 22,000 elderly and disabled San Franciscans to live independently in their homes, has plummeted in the most recent State budget.  To ensure continuity of this vital program, this budget covers a loss of $21 million in revenue over the next two years to ensure no one loses the help they need to live independently in their homes and communities.

We are also backfilling $1 million in state cuts to foster care youth legal assistance and cuts to state CALWorks program.

The budget I am putting forth for the upcoming two fiscal years reflects the uncertainty of the future.  Over the next two years I have added two additional reserves — the Affordable Care Act Reserve and the State and Federal Impact Reserve. It is imperative in this time of strength that we prepare for the challenges ahead.

This budget will show how we can meet the expectations of our residents while being fiscally disciplined.  We can make strategic investments today and prepare for the uncertainty of the future.

We will continue to support the investments we have made during the last six years and work to ensure the sustainability of those programs and services.

This budget will fund historic levels of infrastructure investments over the next two years, ensuring our neighborhood roads are paved, our libraries are open, our local parks are cared for, and our community centers are accessible for our youth and their families.

This budget invests the capital dollars in projects that meet the need and the opportunities of this City, creating more than 4,440 jobs and investing more than $530 million in our neighborhoods.

We are quadrupling the efforts of the Fix-It Teams, a pilot program started last year that focuses on quality of life concerns in our neighborhood corridors, from trees to street encampments, graffiti to potholes, poor street lighting to unsightly news racks.

In 2017, its efforts will expand to 20 specific corridors, representing every supervisorial and police district in San Francisco.  To complement the expansion of the Fix-It program, we are increasing the street cleaning budget by $3.5 million over the next two years.  We will have a renewed focus on cleaning those streets plagued by tent encampments and dirty needles as well as specific neighborhood issues. 

Through continued funding, we will reach the City Charter mandated police staffing levels. This enables us to fully meet our community policing goals and focus on reducing neighborhood crimes.  Because we all know safe streets and vibrant communities take a multi-department, multi-pronged approach.

This budget not only represents an investment in our communities—it represents an investment in our future.  We still have so much left to accomplish together over the next two and a half years. And I have no intention of slowing down, in fact, I intend on sprinting to the finish.

In the months ahead I look forward to working with you, Supervisors, to forge thoughtful, compassionate, common sense approaches to these complicated issues and challenges.

This is a time of great uncertainty and turmoil at the national level. But we will not be timid. We will not be ambivalent. We will remain confident. We will remain resolute.  We are saying strongly and proudly, San Francisco is a City that cares about all of its residents, and this budget reflects our commitment to every single person who calls this great City home. 

Thank you.