Alioto Vows to be the City’s Neighborhood Mayor

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With San Francisco’s special mayoral election to be held June 5, candidates have been running campaigns that focus on differences that set them apart from their rivals. Angela Alioto, a civil rights attorney, former member and president of the Board of Supervisors, distinguishes her candidacy by highlighting her deep City roots.

“People know my words are more than just words,” she said. “They know I will get things done and that I want the City to thrive. My experience as a legislator for eight years, and my understanding of San Francisco as a city, makes me more qualified than my opponents.”

Alioto, who’s the daughter of former mayor Joseph Alioto, was born and raised in San Francisco, and has fond memories of the City dating from her 1950s childhood. Her decision to run for mayor largely stems from a desire to preserve San Francisco’s iconic nature and majesty; qualities threatened, she believes, by congested streets, sidewalks filled with debris, and homelessness. Alioto points to her previous legislative successes while supervisor, such as authoring the Sanctuary City law, helping pass the first medicinal marijuana ordinance, and creating the San Francisco Film and Youth commissions.

Tackling homelessness is a central feature of Alioto’s campaign. In 2004, then Mayor Gavin Newsom’s appointed then Supervisor Alioto to lead a council that hoped to eliminate homelessness within a decade. The goal was to get chronically homeless individuals off the streets and out of tents and shelters and into stable housing.  According to Alioto, the effort transitioned more than 4,850 individuals into permanent, supportive housing with a better than 90 percent retention rate between 2004 and 2009. However, Alioto said a change in City Hall leadership in 2012 derailed the plan.

“It absolutely worked,” Alioto said. “I’m in the race because of the problem with tents and homelessness and I’m the only one who can make a difference in that area. I’ll bring the 10-year plan back because it was working. I’ll bring it back, and there will be a visible change within months.”

Alioto promises to shift the emphasis from temporary housing and shelters to building permanent housing for the homeless. Her plan involves streamlining pathways to housing and mental health services, providing long-term employment opportunities and ensuring funds devoted to the issue are spent effectively.

Alioto doesn’t think legislation introduced by State Senators Scott Wiener and Henry Stern to expand conservatorships to the chronically homeless, those with mental illness and substance use disorders, will make a significant dent in the recurrently homeless population. Speaking from her experience as a civil rights attorney, she said that conservatorships should only be used in severe cases, as the legal procedure can curtail people’s freedom long term.

When asked about the lack of public amenities in the Southside neighborhoods in the face of a steady stream of residential development, Alioto said that rapid job creation beginning in 2012 wasn’t accompanied with adequate planning for how the thousands of new employees and residents would commute or find housing, resulting in traffic congestion and an undersupply of affordable housing. She proposes putting together a coalition of tech industry representatives, government officials and neighborhood groups to discuss solutions to these issues and promised attendance at meetings held by community groups. 

“I would be the neighborhood mayor,” she said.

Alioto wants to bolster public transportation as a way to reduce dependence on cars, and said she’d expand transit in underserved areas, make it more affordable and fast track new infrastructure projects in major corridors.

Although Alioto thinks that development should be co-located with transit stations and routes, she believed failed Senate Bill 827 would’ve devastated neighborhoods, in part because of its lack of restrictions on residential height limits. Alioto sees weakening local zoning as a threat to maintaining the City’s character. Instead, she wants to prioritize building density over increased height limits, as a means to construct 5,000 housing units annually, with an emphasis on homes priced for low and middle-income earners.

In a City renowned for having a small population of children, for Alioto improving community safety is closely tied to making San Francisco a better place for youth and their families. Her focus on security, and outspokenness about the need for greater respect to be paid towards law enforcement, almost certainly played a role in her garnering the San Francisco Police Officers Association’s endorsement.

“The Mayor of San Francisco must have passion and commitment,” wrote Martin Halloran, SFPOA president. “She must understand this great City, its incredible legacy of diversity, and have a strong commitment to San Francisco values. She must understand that compassion must be balanced with common sense when tackling public safety issues and keeping San Franciscans safe and free of crime. Most importantly, she must understand our Police Department and its members and care about public safety. The only candidate who meets these criteria and has the passion, historical perspective, common sense, and unquestioned love for our City is Angela Alioto.”

To combat recent increases in property crime, Alioto proposes installing more security cameras, and adding officers to monitor streets and parks on foot, bicycle and horseback. She called San Francisco’s pulling out of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Anti-Terrorism Task Force, “unacceptable,” citing concern over greater vulnerability to terrorist attacks. The Police Department withdrew from the Task Force last year following outcry over the Trump Administration’s travel ban.

“I’m the only parent in this race; I have children and grandchildren,” Alioto commented. “We have to make rent more affordable, improve the school system and clean up the streets and parks. The parks are dangerous and it’s scary for children. Developers need to pay attention to affordable housing for families.”