Since winning her second term as District 10 Supervisor last November, Malia Cohen has pursued the same policy priority she initially put for-ward four years ago: public safety. She pointed to car break-ins, armed robberies, home invasions, and gun violence as problems that need to be addressed in the district.
“Last year I put in several re-quests. First, I established a request to create a gun violence prevention task force,” Cohen said. Cohen drafted legislation – which was unanimously approved – to establish a thirteen member task force, to be appointed by the Board of Su-pervisors Rules Committee. Cohen also requested that the Legislative Analyst conduct an audit of current violence prevention programs in San Francisco.
“This audit has yielded me a few gems. First, it’s identified where the resources are being spent. Most of the resources are being spent in the Mission, and in the South-of-Market,” Cohen said. The audit also revealed that San Francisco has spent $208 million on violence prevention programs since 2010, yet there were thirteen homicides in the first six weeks of the year, at least nine of which took place in District 10. Co-hen wants adequate police resources allocated to District 10; specifically Bayview and Potrero Hill’s Southern Slope, areas which she said are most adversely affected by violence.
Cohen and her staff have been working on evaluating the impacts of Proposition 47, which reduced the classification of most non-serious and non-violent property and drug crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor. Pas-sage of the measure in 2014 allowed hundreds of inmates, being held on charges such as petty theft or pos-session of small amounts of drugs, to be released from state prisons or to appeal their convictions. Critics of the initiative have expressed concern that it could lead to an increase in crime, and a heightened risk to public safety.
“It’s going to have an impact on us, and I’m trying to understand ex-actly how,” Cohen said. “We need to talk a little bit more about the pros-ecution of these crimes. I’m working with the district attorney’s office and getting his commitment and his as-surance that this is a priority for him, that he is not plea bargaining out, not letting established criminals go into community courts, but that they are being punished for the crimes that they have committed.”
In response to the onslaught of construction in the district, Cohen said she wants development that matches the neighborhoods’ tone and composition. She’d like to discourage developers from proposing projects that are too dense, and is looking for retailers that will complement the community. “One of the things that I hear often is that people would like a pharmacy in the area, a Rite Aid, a Walgreens, or something like that.” While there are Walgreens on Potrero Avenue and on Third Street, the desire for more pharmacies has come from individuals across the district, according to Cohen. As chair of the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee, which oversees legislation related to zoning, planning, and development, Cohen can play a significant role in green-lighting such projects.
On the issue of homelessness, Cohen advocates relaxing the City’s rules governing same-sex shelters. One prominent homeless shelter in the district, Providence Baptist Church at 1601 McKinnon Avenue, like the majority of San Francisco’s homeless shelters, is gender segregated. “A lot of folks on the street are in couples,” Cohen said. “They’re hesitant to go into shelters because they don’t want to be separated from their husband, or wife, or partner, and they don’t want to be separated from their dog if they have one.”
According to Cohen, there are legitimate reasons for gender segregated shelters, but she wants at least once space that would allow couples. “That’s really been the chal-lenge because our City has a policy where there are very few beds for couples. There are family shelters, and then there are male shelters and female shelters,” she said. Cohen isn’t working on legislation to relax gender segregation at Providence or any other shelter.
Cohen supports the proposed Navigation Center, to be located at 16th and Mission streets, which would serve as a triage center, offer-ing services to those most in need. It’s intended to move homeless people into treatment and housing, or guide them towards other resources. Cohen is working with City agencies to en-courage them to prioritize homeless people from District 10 at the facility.
Cohen said she has no plans to run for another office once she’s termed out in four years.