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Supervisor Walton Has His Hands Full with District 10 Challenges

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Shamann Walton, District 10 Supervisor

District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton was quick to deliver on at least one campaign promise after he took office last January, announcing in his first week that switchbacks on the T Third Street Muni Metro line would be eliminated. Mayor London Breed helped Walton secure the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority’s promise to end the years-long practice of leaving residents south of 23rd Street stranded without notice on their commute home, rerouting streetcars to other neighborhoods. SFTMA ended T-line service disruptions in April, in time for Walton to claim this accomplishment within his first 100 days as supervisor.

“He was proactive on the T-line. He got Muni to agree to stop that nonsense,” said India Basin resident and general contractor Michael Hamann. “God knows it’s not fixed, but they’re finally listening to people south of the ballpark that they haven’t listened to before.” 

Walton is tackling other District 10 quality of life issues, including those related to illegal dumping and public safety, and paying attention to challenges that affect the District’s youth of color.

Elected to the supervisor position with a background in economic development, in a district in which he spent part of his youth, at a time San Francisco is experiencing dramatic job and population growth combined with steep declines in housing affordability and an accompanying rise in homelessness, Walton arguably has the fullest plate of any of the City’s 11 supervisors. He lists affordable housing, homelessness, and “community safety…tied with transportation” as his highest priorities for District 10.

Walton wants to be accessible to residents and merchants located throughout diverse, sprawling, and topographically challenging District 10. In his first 100 days in office, Walton and his staff – legislative aides Natalie Gee, Percy Burch, and Tracy Gallardo – responded to 206 constituent complaints on matters such as garbage disposal, held two town hall meetings focusing on public safety issues, and had 322 conferences with community groups, residents, and merchants. A town hall meeting on the City’s budget took place at the Potrero Hill Recreation Center in April. Either the Supervisor or his aides are available during “neighborhood office hours” that’re offered in different District locations every Thursday. Constituents can follow him on social media. 

Walton places such a high value on keeping communication channels with constituents open that sources told The View he updates community leaders with texts. 

“I want leaders to know that I work for them and work for our constituents in the District,” Walton told The Potrero View. “I take that seriously and that’s why I stay engaged and represent the community as a whole, not just my views.” 

“We have an ally we can go to,” said Economic Development on Third (EDOT) executive director and Bayview resident Earl Shaddix. “He’s made himself very visible to our corridor. There’s a new energy on Third Street that the merchants are really thankful to see.”

According to Shaddix, a community safety plan Walton and his office helped coordinate with City agencies and merchants was effective in stopping burglaries and vandalism along Third Street last spring. 

“We had a major burglary crime wave going on the Third Street business corridor. He got San Francisco Police Department Chief Bill Scott, Captain Valerie Matthews, Kyra Worthy, ten of the merchants, the HOT team, all into the room and developed a plan. The heavy hitters were all there. Now, there is a working plan in place.” One person was arrested and charged with most of the burglaries, and merchants were relieved that the crimes ended, Shaddix reported. 

Walton is creating a safety plan for each District neighborhood, focusing on coordinating community needs with law enforcement responses. On his first day in office, 89-year-old Yik Oi Huang was brutally beaten in Visitacion Valley. Four days later, two men lost their lives and two others were injured in separate gunfire exchanges on the same night, not far from one another on La Salle Avenue. In response, Walton and his staff held public safety meetings in Vis Valley, Bayview, Potrero Hill and Dogpatch. 

“He’s been accessible, available, and in touch with neighborhood leaders in Dogpatch and Potrero Hill,” Dogpatch Neighborhood Association president Bruce Huie said. “He’s done a fairly good job aligning himself with those supervisors who are adjacent to District 10…Supervisor Matt Haney and Supervisor Hillary Ronen.” 

Walton has occasionally opposed positions advocated by Mayor Breed. He was the sole vote against limited legislation to conserve homeless people with mental illness who are self-destructive, a measure introduced by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman with the Mayor’s strong support. While Walton’s ordinance to close Juvenile Hall passed nearly unanimously in June, the Mayor opposed it, calling to reform the detention facility instead. 

Often, though, Walton and Breed on are the same side of an issue. In May, Mayor Breed announced her proposed $12.2 billion budget for fiscal years 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 at Sunnydale Developments. She’d joined Walton in a meeting with Sunnydale residents a few days earlier to talk about securing $150 million of a $600 million bond to revitalize public housing. As a child Walton lived in public housing in Bayview and Potrero Hill.

“He’s had meetings in the Bayview and meetings here in Potrero, so people can attend meetings here,” said Uzuri Pease-Greene, a community organizer who lives in the Potrero Annex-Terrace Housing complex. “I look at that as a plus.” 

Pease-Greene ran for the District 10 seat last fall. She knows Walton from his work as Economic Opportunity Council of San Francisco director more than a decade ago. After Walton became executive director of Young Community Developers in 2010, she believes community development efforts shifted to Bayview. That’s changing now.

“He actually listened,” said Pease-Greene, who has received text messages from Walton seeking feedback on budget talks. “Shamann has reached out to folks here on Potrero.”

During Walton’s first year in office debate has continued over the implications of the 2018 revelation that falsified test data may have been relied on to determine radioactive contamination levels at the Hunters Point Shipyard. Walton has been meeting with Shipyard residents, the United States Navy, the City’s Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and the San Francisco and California Departments of Public Health to discuss Shipyard retesting and remediation. 

“District 10 is going through extraordinary development,” said J.R. Eppler, Potrero Boosters president. “We’re addressing the issues that go with that development in terms of infrastructure in this formerly industrial part of the City. That means open space, transit, other city services like schools, libraries and community centers, and the issues of working with developers to ensure that projects work well in this part of town. Along with that comes the issues of gentrification and displacement, which we experience in Potrero Hill, but that’s a keen issue in the Bayview and Visitacion Valley.” 

“I think Supervisor Walton is both blessed and cursed to have arrived here at the crux of so many developments, with the Bayview and Hunters Point getting ready to grow exponentially,” said Hamman, who serves as treasurer for the India Basin Neighborhood Association, an area with less than 1,000 residents that’s expected to grow by ten times or more over the next ten years. “It’s going to change your daily experience from waking up in the morning to the sound of birds, to waking up to the sound of people walking on the sidewalk. The population growth associated with that development is going to be enormous. Supervisor Walton’s at the helm of a ship that’s just entering these waters. In a great many ways, he gets to put his stamp on what the Bayview’s going to look like in the next 50 or 60 years. Gentrification and displacement, but also appropriateness of design, and the need to make the total greater than the sum of the parts. That, I think, is the challenge of land use planning in our neighborhood.” 

“I think Supervisor Walton is going to be a great supervisor,” Hamann, a founding member of EDOT, Southern Waterfront Advisory Committee member, and former Bayview Hunters Point Citizen’s Advisory Committee chair, continued. “The problem with that job is, there’s a great learning curve. Especially in District 10. It’s like three or four different towns, with different histories, different needs, different expectations. Dogpatch is new and growing, Potrero Hill is a more mature neighborhood. These neighborhoods have a totally different set of problems and expectations.” 

“In terms of housing as a whole, we will always focus on affordable housing first and getting the most affordability we can, above and beyond the 25 percent minimum requirement,” Walton said, adding that he’s pushing for “30 percent affordability, and talking about most projects having 40 percent and above. We’re having interesting conversations with developers on how we achieve that. My idea of affordable housing is one-third of income spent on rent. There are cases where we will have mixed (average median income) AMI ranges; 30 percent AMI, up to 80 or 100 percent. It depends where the housing is going. We have to be mindful that because San Francisco is so expensive, we have to build housing for working families to afford to live here…” and make sure that “…housing benefits community, and it fits with the culture and character of community. Height has to be comparable to other buildings. I’m not supportive of 300-foot towers along our waterfront when that’s not the existing height that you see. We’re building the most affordable units as it is. We’re doing more than our fair share. Talk to other districts about building high.”

Asked how Third Street will look in another eight years, Walton answered, “Third Street will be more vibrant. We’ll hopefully see a bus line to compliment the T. We’re focused on building housing along our commercial corridors and small site opportunities. We want Bayview to be a destination place for all of San Francisco.” 

Walton wants the City to continue to support façade improvement programs as a means to drive foot traffic along Third Street. “I’m laser focused on providing the resources so they can improve how they look in the field and support good business. We’re trying to get more resources into programs that fund improvements for our business through the budget process, and to get more funding for the economic development nonprofits to administer the program that provides that support.” 

He told The View that he wants a major grocery store to move into the Duc Loi Supermarket location at 5900 Third Street but wouldn’t disclose details on his efforts to accomplish that goal.

Mayor Breed pointed to “cutting red tape, barriers, and bureaucracy” to get housing built faster. Walton thinks doing so will speed things up, adding that citizen advisory groups should be included in the planning process. 

“When we look at affordable housing and housing carved out for educators, I am in support of finding quicker ways, but in no way, shape, or fashion does that mean we don’t have conversations with the community,” Walton said. “But when community is excited, we want to move it faster than we have been. Not by eliminating community input, but there’s a lot of red tape with a project even when people are excited about it.”

Soon after taking office, Walton introduced legislation to expand mandatory local hiring requirements from municipally contracted construction trades to the cannabis, hospitality, technology and healthcare industries, a policy with which Pease-Greene agreed.

“People should be able to work in their community and have some input on what they make in their community,” Pease-Greene said. “You should be able to incorporate it to have people prosper in their community.”

Hamman said that for Walton to advocate effectively for parks, he’ll need working knowledge of the different design processes at play throughout the District; some open spaces fall under Port of San Francisco purview; others are governed through the City’s planning process. Walton said he’s preparing himself for this challenge by meeting with constituents and Recreation and Parks Department staff. He’s reviewing renovation plans for Esprit, Crane Cove, and India Basin parks, among others. 

“All will have their own flavor and design, that reflect different needs and what a good design looks like for that neighborhood,” said Walton, who sees his role as ensuring that the Recreation and Parks Department and San Francisco Parks Alliance are responsive to community requests.

Dogpatch residents want Walton to mediate conflicts over land use at the corner of 23rd and Iowa streets. The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank has a long-term agreement with the California Department of Transportation for a parking lot at the location. Dogpatch residents support Food Bank expansion but prefer that the sunny parcel become a public park. 

“I’ve been working with the Food Bank and the Dogpatch and Potrero Hill community to try and figure out a solution,” Walton said. “That continues to be a work in progress, until we get everybody on the same page and excited about what to do.” 

Bayview has the second highest population of homeless individuals in San Francisco, after the Tenderloin. A number of facilities in District 10 provide food and shelter for those in need, including a 128-bed navigation center at 125 Bayshore Boulevard; another at 600 25th Street with 68 beds. Homeless people can find shelter, services, and meals at Providence Baptist Church and Mother Brown’s Dining Room in Bayview, amongst other places. 

Gwendolyn Westbrook is chief executive officer of the United Council of Human Services, the organization that runs Mother Brown’s. She feeds 250 people two meals daily; 48 individuals a night sleep in chairs because the City hasn’t permitted beds at the facility. Westbrook said that the HOT team doesn’t respond to calls. 

“They just don’t come to Bayview. There are definitely more homeless people and younger people who are homeless, who’ve aged out of foster care,” Westbrook said. “This is the worst it’s ever been. I’m going to fight for people in the Bayview to get the beds.”

“We definitely want to prioritize the homeless in our District being given access to those navigation centers,” Walton said. “We’re working on getting a shelter facility that could work with Mother Brown’s and Providence to set up a place where we can get more beds and shelter services.”

Walton co-sponsored legislation with Supervisors Vallie Brown and Asha Safai to require the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing to establish a Safe Overnight Parking Pilot Program to provide vehicularly homeless persons a place to park and sleep in their vehicles overnight, along with case management and other services, which the Board of Supervisors approved last month. 

 “There are vacant lots in the Bayview that could be set up with restroom facilities, services, social workers provided to them in a more concentrated locale,” Hamann suggested.

 “Sites are being surveyed right now,” Walton said. “I don’t have a location where we’re going to put people who live in vehicles yet, so we’re focusing on making that happen.” 

To prevent homelessness, Walton, a renter himself, wants the City to continue to fund tenant protection services. 

Walton supports Mental Health SF, a proposed ballot measure that’d compel the City to build a new treatment center that’d offer free, round-the-clock, mental health and substance abuse services to any San Franciscan, with or without insurance. Breed opposes the initiative as potentially prompting “massive expenses” and being untenable. 

Illegal dumping, a disproportionate amount of which occurs in District 10, costs the City $10 million annually in labor for cleanup workers; about $8 million paid to Recology and $2 million to Department of Public Works employees. Last spring, Walton held a Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee hearing to investigate the scope of illegal dumping in District 10 and long-term plans to reduce it. According to DPW’s Rachel Gordon, construction contractors trying to avoid disposal fees for debris and industrial waste are by far the main cause of illegal dumping in the District; household refuse contributes to a lesser extent. Walton’s working on legislation to increase fines for illegal dumping, remove business licenses, and confiscate vehicles that’re caught dumping. 

In June, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a law Walton introduced to prohibit the sale, manufacture and distribution of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, on City property. Co-authored by City Attorney Dennis Herrera, the legislation was partly in response to e-cigarette company JUUL Labs subleasing space at Pier 70. The ban will go into effect six months after its signed by the Mayor. Voters may have a chance to weigh in on the prohibition; JUUL plans to offer a ballot measure that’d eliminate local authority over tobacco control, including the flavored tobacco ban previously passed by voters.

Following a heated discussion between Walton and Allen Nance, chief probation officer for the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department, the Board voted 10 to one to pass Walton’s ordinance to close Juvenile Hall by 2021. Supervisor Catherine Stefani cast the dissenting vote. A jubilant contingent from Young Women’s Freedom Center who’d advocated facility closure filled the board chamber to cheer and take pictures with Walton and co-authors Haney and Ronen following the vote. As a result of the legislation San Francisco will become one of the nation’s first major cities to close a detention center where youth await court hearings. 

The ordinance calls for expanding community-based alternatives to detention and creating a smaller, non-institutional, rehabilitative center for those who must be detained. A 12-person working group will be convened, including City officials, juvenile justice experts and community members, to design alternatives to youth incarceration. Monies allocated to Juvenile Hall will be redirected to mental health support and academic assistance initiatives for youths in the justice system.

Walton, whose life experiences include election to the San Francisco Unified School District’s Board of Education, where he served a term as president, and time spent in Juvenile Hall as a teenager while attending Vallejo Junior High School, firmly believes that closing the underutilized and costly facility will end a pipeline to prison that disproportionately affects District 10 youth, redirect efforts to rehabilitation, and improve the chances for success for young people of color. For him, he’s said, closing Juvenile Hall is personal. 

In April, Walton was sworn in as a member of the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which oversees Caltrain, adding to his transportation-related responsibilities that includes a seat on the Golden Gate Transit Regional Board. Walton will continue to advocate for SFTMA to provide more frequent transit that connects isolated neighborhoods where senior housing is on steep hills, and working households need to get to jobs. Commuting from Bayview to City Hall by public transit can take more than an hour each way; he usually drives to get to his office. He said that SFMTA has already conducted enough assessment studies that demonstrate the need for more and faster service. 

“I live in the southeast sector of San Francisco. Much as I would love to take public transportation, we have more work to do. We need more express buses. I live within an eight-minute walk of the T-line and even when it’s running on time, it’s one hour to get from Bayview to the Civic Center on the T. Then for getting to meetings around my District after work, I need a car. I will BART a lot when I’m maneuvering Downtown. BART moves faster. It’s typically on time,” Walton said. 

“There’s definitely concerns about certain areas in Potrero Hill and hilly areas for seniors,” he added. “The reality is, there’s not enough surface transit that moves with speed from inner areas of our communities to transit hubs. Not enough express lines moving people fast to BART. I’m working on that in the Bayview, areas like Candlestick Point and other isolated areas, to get an express running out there. We don’t have enough bus lines that go inside community that provide lines for getting people to work fast enough. I want to focus on getting the service here. The population has grown and will continue to grow.” 

Do citywide issues take precedence over neighborhood issues, The View asked? “I believe we are focused on being as accessible as possible to people in our district. But there’s overlap on certain things,” Walton concluded. “Ultimately, I will prioritize our District over citywide needs.” 

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