The Most Important Organizations and Figures in San Francisco Politics Today (2022)

The Most Important Organizations and Figures in San Francisco Politics Today (1)

There was a moment in 2011 when progressives thought that all hope was lost in San Francisco. That was the day when the Board of Supervisors “turned.” “There has been a significant change in City Hall … progressives no longer control the Board of Supervisors,” supervisor David Campos lamented after the dust had settled and the Board suddenly looked much friendlier to tech and much more suspicious of the coalition of LGBT, environmental, Latino and working-class interests that defined the progressive struggles in years prior.

At the time, progressives and activists mourned the death of the “old” San Francisco, the forward-thinking activist city that birthed the antiwar and gay-rights movements. It seemed at the time that a further shift to the right was inevitable, and that the monied, more moderate newcomers would only further shun the progressives.

But the epitaph for San Francisco’s progressives was written too soon. Now, only a few short years later, we’re back to an even split in city council between mods and progs. Still, there’s a great deal of uncertainty over who will rule the future when it comes to civic politics. Certainly, with the labor movement far from its peak and a dwindling number of queer proletarians and working-class people of color, organizing ain’t what it used to be. Whether there will ever be another Harvey Milk or Chuck Ayala remains to be seen and depends heavily on what happens in the next decade — and whether we’re actually in a bubble or if $3,000/month studios are the new normal.

There are many potential futures for SF right now: will grassroots organizing groups keep San Francisco on the vanguard of the American Left? Will a rising technocratic elite slowly chip away at the protectionist and neighborhood-centric laws that have kept our city from becoming bulldozed to make way for a neo-Seoul à la Cloud Atlas? Will Silicon Valley stage a giant robot coup, implant us all with brain-indexing chips and appoint Zuck our new monarch? Regardless of which of these scenarios becomes reality, these are the San Francisco figures to keep your eyes on in the years to come.

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Scott Weiner

District 8 Supervisor

Scott Weiner has been mum about it, but he’s behaving like he’s hungry for a political rise. He has a particularly Clintonesque history of advocating for politically safe quality-of-life issues, like his eponymous anti-wiener campaign to rid the city of casual nudity. Priggish crusades like this tend to infuriate a few politically insignificant people (read: the poor or middle class) and thrill rich property owners — the kind of people who can fund, you know, mayoral or gubernatorial campaigns.

So despite a local reputation as a puritanical square, he has made some strategic public moves that hint at an awareness of his own self-image and perhaps a desire for a national audience. The country listened when he announced publicly that he was taking Truvada, a daily pill that can prevent HIV infection. It sounds cynical, but this was, at least in part, a strategic move. Not only was it the first time that a politician had made such an announcement, but it played well with national LGBT political leaders and organizations. Barring some Leland Yee–type scandal, it’s likely we’ll see big, fat “Weiner for Mayor” billboards blanketing the city come 2019.

Mia “Tu Mutch” Satya

Activist and Organizer

Unlike the establishment politicians who populate much of this list, Mia Satya very much worked her way up from the bottom. After being forced to come out by her parents at the age of 17, Mia fled her unsupportive family and sought refuge in San Francisco because of its reputation as a haven for queers and transfolk. But the move wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine: for two years she struggled with homelessness, a formative experience that transformed her into a fierce advocate for homeless rights and affordable housing. Only a few years later, Mia’s work as an activist has taken her across the country. After being the victim of a hate crime, Mia toured the United States, speaking out against hate, and was honored with a Justice Award from San Francisco district attorney George Gascón.

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Mia sat on the San Francisco Youth Commission for two years, and her work was instrumental in renewing the Children’s Fund (worth over $100 million a year). Likewise, she has served on — as she put it­ — “over 10 city committees in 6 city departments” and has made it clear that she is interested in running for office (and with her résumé, connections, visibility and life experience, she probably won’t have too much trouble). Currently, Mia is grassroots-fundraising to attend a leadership training program for future political leaders. As she notes, there are only three trans elected officials in the United States, and it is entirely possible she could be the fourth. Additionally, she recently launched All Out, a training program that seeks to cultivate new LGBTQ political leaders.

Aaron Peskin

New District 3 Supervisor

Peskin’s election was the most major recent victory in the longstanding progressive-versus-centrist war. As a civic leader, Peskin is renowned for being able to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. In a Chronicle headline that ran immediately after his election, a political consultant praised Peskin as someone who did not just “talk on a soapbox” but who could “deliver results.” In politics-speak, he is the kind of seasoned politician who knows how to work with stakeholders to actually pass bills.

Notably, Peskin’s election might affect future legislation about short-term vacation rentals in the city, regulation that he favors but that his predecessor did not. In this sense, Peskin’s victory might be more dangerous than the defeated Proposition F for Airbnb, which, in case you hadn’t heard, is a large corporation that profits off evicting San Franciscans by converting viable housing into permanent vacation shacks.

San Francisco Rising Alliance

Working-Class Communities-of-Color Organizing Group

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Even if you think you haven’t heard of SF Rising, you almost certainly know their work. That’s because, as the vanguard of many different allied activist voices in the city, SF Rising’s organizing efforts have had a direct impact in many recent progressive political victories. Proposition N in 2010, which raised property taxes on “ultra-luxury” home sales, was a noteworthy victory for SF Rising; likewise, SF Rising Action Fund organized for Aaron Peskin’s November victory, the reelection campaign of Eric Mar in 2012 and Propositions F and I in 2015.

SF Rising has become a force because they are so strategic. In addition to targeting specific issues and politicians, SF Rising uses what they call “integrated voter engagement” that spans years, a strategy that includes canvassing and phone-banking. Director Mario Yedidia credits their “voter contact work,” which, he said, “has a dynamic relationship with the community organizing [that] our member groups do each day with working-class communities of color.”

Jane Kim

District 6 Supervisor

Jane Kim, who worked her way up from the San Francisco Board of Education to her current seat as the supervisor of District 6, has a reputation for being a savvy politician who’s unafraid to stick her neck out. Proposition D on this year’s ballot, forged as a compromise between her and the Giants, was a complex measure that would force the Giants’ megadevelopment in Mission Rock to include more affordable housing and take into consideration neighbors’ blocked views. By the way, it passed easily — about 75% of the city voted yes.

Kim is a bit more chimerical than the supes of days past: she’s willing to compromise and openly admits it. Her home district encompasses the Tenderloin, Treasure Island and SOMA — and she’s shown her sensitivity to her constituents, many of whom are poorer than the average San Franciscan, while at the same time being popular within the city at large. As such, she’s been floated as another potential future mayoral candidate.

Ron Conway

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Angel Investor, a.k.a. “Very Rich Guy”

Though he doesn’t get as much press as the notoriously reviled Koch Brothers, Conway is our local equivalent. If Ed Lee is Darth Vader, our easily swayed, morally dazed commissar, Conway is the Galactic Emperor, his cloaked hologram speaking down to Lee from some undisclosed location, filling his mayoral ears with instructions on how to rule San Francisco. (Indeed, Conway was the major donor and fundraiser for the Ed Lee campaign for mayor.)

Conway fulfills a political cliché that is as American as apple pie: the rich white guy who thinks he knows better than anyone else how things should be run, least of all those pesky voters and their silly democracy. As such, he is in a protected class that includes misunderstood scamp Mark Zuckerberg and sugar-phobic egoist Michael Bloomberg.

Community Tenants Association

Advocacy Group

Probably because of their lack of an English-language website, the Community Tenants Association (CTA) is the most important organizing group you’ve never heard of. For almost 30 years, CTA has been advocating for the housing rights of monolingual Chinatown residents. A 2014 KALW article profiles some of CTA’s membership, including Lee Ming Dang, who lives in a 49-square-foot room with her husband and two children and burst into tears as the KALW reporter interviewed her, opening up about her family’s struggles to survive in San Francisco.

Thankfully, CTA has given political clout to people like Lee Ming Dang, and through organizing they have succeeded in saving thousands of tenants from eviction while providing resources (including free citizenship classes) for CTA members. Former CTA leader Bao Yan Chan, who passed away in 2006, went to Washington, DC, herself to convince the feds of the importance of building a subway through Chinatown. In case you were wondering, she was successful — the tunneling is finished, and the Central Subway should be open by 2019.

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Photo courtesy of Prayitno.

FAQs

Who are the elected officials of San Francisco? ›

Elected Officers
  • Manohar Raju. Public Defender.
  • Brooke Jenkins. District Attorney.
  • Paul Miyamoto. Sheriff.
  • José Cisneros. Treasurer.
  • Joaquín Torres. Assessor-Recorder.
  • David Chiu. San Francisco City Attorney.

Who is in charge of San Francisco? ›

London Breed

Who makes the laws in San Francisco? ›

The legislative body is composed of the 11-member Board of Supervisors which acts as both a board of supervisors and a city council, with "[a]ll rights and powers of a City and County which are not vested in another officer or entity" by the charter.

Does San Francisco have a city council? ›

The city of San Francisco utilizes a strong mayor and city council system. In this form of municipal government, the city council serves as the city's primary legislative body and the mayor serves as the city's chief executive.

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