As San Francisco's mayoral candidates jockey to win voter approval, we've asked voters what they want the next mayor to fix in their own neighborhoods. We sent a team of reporters to five districts we think represent the diversity of the city. What you'll find here is a way to compare communities and get a pretty good idea of some key issues the next mayor will have to tackle.
Test your assumptions about neighborhoods you think you're familiar with. See how different communities rate their concerns. Listen to what's on people's minds, and weigh in on the heart of the matter.
Dear Mayor ...
We asked residents from around San Francisco what they think the next mayor should focus on. What's important to them? What can be improved at City Hall? What about their own neighborhood?
We put up posters, made phone calls, tapped our Public Insight Network and tweeted a call out to the entire city.
And then, microphones in hand, we walked the streets of five neighborhoods with unique characteristics and rich histories -- The Mission, The Marina and Pacific Heights, The Bayview, The Richmond, and the central neighborhoods of the city -- to talk to residents and see what's on their minds.
These are not results of a scientific study. This is not a poll. This is a conversation with you.
Hover your mouse over each comment below to move the map.
Keep the city clean. Stop the budget cuts. More jobs.Arthur Peterson — Bayview
The cost of living is really starting to catch up a lot of the lower class and lower middle class. So it's starting to hurt for a lot of people.Les Hoshida—Richmond
Sometimes at night it's not that safe to be walking around some of the blocks around here. You run into people that harass you, scare you a little bit. Aden—Fillmore
Whatever tools they have to help the police go about policing themselves, would help. It would do a lot of justice around here. We don't need any more people getting killed around here, especially by the law.Gerald Robinson — Bayview
You hear horror stories about people who apply to ten public schools and don't get any of them.Tracey McGraw—Richmond
Come over here and talk to people.Mark Anthony Jones — Bayview
Keep the schools your kids attend in the neighborhood. I think you would have people invest more in them.Angela Torres—Pacific Heights
We have case management, we have social services, we have congregant meals and other activities. And even [for those basic programs] funding is on the decline.Rachel Ebora—Bernal Heights
Homelessness is a big problem, and when I first moved to the city it was a big turn off. That's part of why I live where I live. Andrew Krebs—Pacific Heights
There are not enough cops.David Bowes—Portola
The city seems like it's split from Twin Peaks to the beach, and from Twin Peaks to Hunters Point. Where you're having a lot of things for people to do on that side, and then on this side it's a little bit limited.Bernard Sandoval — Bayview
A lot people are making a lot of money and a lot of schools are starving, so on the face of it it looks like an unjust situation.Eliott Blatt—Richmond
We need a supermarket, ya know? Laurie Richards—Bayview
Maintaining our recreation opportunities. As a dog owner, I'm a frequent user of the parks and would like to be able to maintain the kind of access I have.Juleen Konkel—Pacific Heights
Sometimes in the nighttime, we hear a lot of gunshots.Hamza Hem—Hayes Valley
More social services, because we have a group of homeless people, including some young women, that I continually see. Jen Fritz — Dogpatch
"Spend less than you bring in."Bill Cheerington—Richmond
I really think the mayor should do something about senior citizens and giving us something to go to and be happy to be at. We don't have any facilities, you know?Juanita Manigo—Fillmore
You still wander around any neighborhood and see any number of people that are out of their minds on drugs or just out of their mind and in obvious need of assistance.Mathew Hartman — Potrero Hill
We have the Richmond District recreation center. They keep eliminating things, and we keep having to sign petitions to keep it going.Fari—Richmond
There's a lot of homophobia. A lot of people who are not tolerant, like they used to be.Kathryn Davis—Bernal Heights
Increase jobs.Shum Yung—Richmond
We can have baseball, football stadiums, and stuff -- why can't we have a park for RVs? Trudy Sykes — Bayview
Be willing to touch on third rail issues, which no one is willing to do.Edward Lortz — Portrero Hill
The aggressiveness of homeless people in the city, I think is getting progressively worse.David Marsh — Dogpatch
The community is infested with drugs and violence so a lot of [young people] just tend to lean on that because it's the easy way out. But if they had a better choice in high school I think they'd have a better future.Maurice Porter — Bayview
Sometimes the roads are bad, there's not enough bike lanes, especially on 3rd street right here in the Dogpatch -- it's like a nightmare to bike up and down it.Jennie Lennick — Dogpatch
It's nice that there are a couple bars and some restaurants are popping up. But there is no close grocery store, I've got to go to 16th. If you don't have a car -- which a lot of people don't -- you've got to take the train up to the Safeway at the ballpark or go to 16th and Portrero. Martin Murphy — Dogpatch
If you're a first-time home buyer, there are credits you can get. Maybe if you're a small business person, there can be some kind of voucher or credit program.Greg Mindell — Dogpatch
My biggest concern is crime and security.Mary Joe — Dogpatch
I've been a victim of petty crime a couple of times.Tim Sinclair — Potrero Hill
Our kids need education. We need a better school system.Eddie Kittrell — Potrero Hill
The programs that they're taking away are always for children.Delia White — Visitacion Valley
One thing I do notice is there's hardly any jobs around for the youngsters, or for people graduating college.Calvin Bishop — Bayview
A lot of broken promises. I would love the mayor to really back up what they say.Dionne Crawford — Visitacion Valley
This city is paying huge sums of money to people for [public sector] jobs. They could never get those types of wages in the private sector, and they shouldn't be getting them in the public sector.David Martin—Dogpatch
Why don't we have police on the trains? You know, we pay a lot to live in this city. It's sad how unsafe you are on Muni.Brennan Fennell—Dogpatch
We have a lot of people who speak for the community but they're not part of the community. They speak for the middle class; they don't speak for the grass roots, for the low, low income people. Charles Grays —Bayview
If we get jobs, we keep more people off the streets, more people stop doing crimes. We just need some more jobs out here for the youngsters.Charles Earl—Bayview
We need a pay toilet here at the 3rd and Palou corridor. I'm tired of people urinating in my garage area.Eugene Vincent—Bayview
You need to have the balls to say 'Okay, we've got to trim the budget back in the city.' We've got to use our money more wisely, leverage our resources, our real estate and our land. We have to preserve our natural resources.Theresa Coleman—Bayview
The area along 3rd Street toward Candlestick Park is being developed into condos. They say that there's supposed to be a certain percentage of those homes set aside for low-income housing, but I have yet to see it.Stephen Alleyne—Bayview
The next mayor should really focus on the needs of the neediest people and the most disenfranchised.Nikku Dhesi —Lives in Bernal, longtime resident of Dogpatch
It just needs to establish its own character, in a sense. It's still very ... I don't want to say 'sterile,' but it's so new and a lot of it is business-related, commercial-related, that it doesn't really have its own kind of character or kind of feel like other neighborhoods do at this point.Chris Kelly—Mission Bay
It feels a little impersonal now, you know? Erin Nichols—Mission Bay
They need some programs, like anger management classes, 'cause there's a lot of angry people around here.Ivy—Bayview
When I was coming up this neighborhood had every type of merchant, vendor that you can think of. If you wanted to buy furniture, TV, radios, shoe repair, new, old, we had the best meat markets and other type of retail services that really did justice to the neighborhood. And now we have a few liquor stores, no shoe repairs, no TVs, no radios, no furniture. It's desolate.Marvin Robinson—Bayview
What I'd like to see is some support for small businesses that makes it affordable for them to start and really keep their doors open.David Yeager—Dogpatch/Potrero
Transportation is hard in the marina. If you want to go to the Mission or anything it's a cab or four buses.Amy—Pacific Heights
The proposal to extend the trolleys to Fort Mason will bring a lot of people into the area. And we already have, after events, a lot of trash and beer bottles and drunkenness already.John Liberman—Pacific Heights
Focusing on safety, especially at night. I've heard of different attacks and muggings around the parks and areas that aren't very well lit.Julie—Pacific Heights
Take care of the infrastructure and keep our city clean for our visitors, because that is our main income.Mustapha Hakkou—Pacific Heights
"Lower the [cost of] City College, because a lot of people have trouble with financial issues there."Raymond Lee—Pacific Heights
I just find that affordable housing has been very difficult to find, especially for people like myself: going back to school, making a new career, trying to start up my life again. Samuel Guia—Pacific Heights
The number one challenge we face is the payroll tax. It's killing us.Archie Kay—Marina
The school lottery system is a challenge. You don't know where your child will end up, and so there's too much uncertainty there. That's unfortunately forcing us to move outside the city, though we'd stay if we could.Charles—Pacific Heights
I know times are hard, but I hope that if there are cuts made in the city that the Healthy San Francisco scheme is maintained.Gary Wright—Marina
There were like two shootings last night, so I'd like the next mayor to focus on public safety.Jeffrey Gaines—Fillmore
All the homeless on the streets.Lorenzo Butler—Pac Heights
The next mayor should keep our city a great world city. Beauty is very important, as is continuing to redevelop the less useful parts of the city.Marco Esposito—Pac Heights
I'd like to see the next Mayor focus on redistributing city services to the people who actually pay for the services via property tax and sales tax.Michael—Pac Heights
My biggest concern is education. Jennifer Creasman —Richmond
One of the main issues is the Lands End festival that happens in Golden Gate Park. I live two blocks away from the park and I love music myself. But I have two little kids and those three days the festival happens, it's terrible. The kids cannot fall asleep. We can hear the music, it's much too loud.Diana Kenig—Richmond
We'd like to change the tax. The small store has a lot of tax. Cigarette tax, any kind of tax, a lot of tax. So we don't have much income and lot of tax. Angela Chung—Richmond
I'm most concerned with re-employment of our construction work force at union wages and the employment in other fields like education, pre-k, and child care.Rush Sturges—Richmond
More focus on the budget because it's so bad right now. You see cities like Chicago and L.A. and they have fewer public service employees than we do, and they have much larger populations.Paul Carlson—Richmond
The main compliant I personally have, I live on Arguello and Clement, are the bicyclists. They have their own lanes. I've almost been mowed down 4 or 5 times. I'd like to see them licensed and I'd like to see them ticketed for going through numerous red lights. Judy Aspen—Richmond
To have all the government vehicles use natural gas instead of gasoline. Shiu Fan Lee—Richmond
More policemen, more education for youth, more funds for school and education.Helen Zhao—Richmond
We see a lot of businesses around here closing due to the economy.Rodney Evetts—Richmond
I really don't like that San Francisco has become an amusement park for graffiti vandals.Jeff Johnson—Richmond
I am concerned about traffic issues on the arteries, by poor planning and poor design, being dumped into residential streets. Dave Dipple—Richmond
The biggest issue is security.Joe Cherandeau—Richmond
Public safety and taxation are my biggest issues. Mike Clark—Richmond
In the Sunset District they are putting roadblocks in the middle of the street and they are putting $500 trees in. Why now? Maybe sometime when things are a little fat for us. But not now. Cut back.Michael Jackson—Richmond
I am a librarian and I can't even afford to move to a slightly better apartment. I have two kids and there is nothing out there. Mousam Shaikh—Richmond
A big concern for me is for my grandparents and their safety. Doris Chau—Richmond
Homelessness, especially in this park, this green belt at Park Presidio.Robert Kuan—Richmond
"Homelessness, people that are hungry in the city." Matt —Richmond
Recently I found out about a thing called the abandoned vehicle law. And even though my plates are current, and I have current insurance and I drive a fairly nice truck, my truck was towed. I wasn't notified, I was overseas, and I came back to a $790 bill to get my truck out of impoundment.Norwood Scott—Richmond
The city needs to spend more resources managing its money and making sure the budget is balanced, but at the same time don't cut out the little guys in favor of the big guys.David Hertz—Richmond
Stop forcing the stupid neighborhood parking permits everywhere.Aaron Coulter—Richmond
Empty buildings, like the Alexandria Cinema. It's five or six years empty.Greg—Richmond
I really do think that cyclists should be required to take a test, a written test that acknowledges that they know what the rules are.Don Earlenbaugh—Pacific Heights
The Edwardian is going to be converted into a youth center. And I am not happy about it. It's not that it's a NIMBY, 'not in my backyard,' I don't mean that. I think we already have trouble on Lombard, with prostitution and what have you. And I wouldn't think it's a good idea for those kids to be exposed to that at a very vulnerable age.Beatrice Lee—Marina
Fixing the streets.Linda Masotti—Sunset Heights
Stop the central subway project.Joyce McKinney—didn't specify other than district
More school, more cleaning, more safety.Margarita Lopez—Mission
I think it's very nice to have a community organic farm where people can share plots. I think that's one thing to bring the neighborhood together. Vace Shakoori—Mission
This neighborhood is very dirty. I see a lot of crime.Asenaida Escober—Mission
We just moved into the Portola District. It's a good place, but I have concerns about the roads, and safety issues.Melanie—Portola
There's certainly a lot of homeless folks around, but it comes with having a society and environment where people are free to do what they want to. I'd rather have that than be more restricted.Paul Raith—Mission
The parking meter fees are getting ridiculous, the building permits -- all of the fees in the city are ridiculous."Dan Berringer—Richmond
We had someone living in our yard for two or three weeks.Jason Chitwood—Lower Haight
We can't even consider living here other than renting: we cannot afford to buy. So as a new family, affordable housing is a huge issue. Lisa McCormick—Bernal Heights
The two pressing issues in this area are the homeless problem and parking.Josh Rice—Pac Heights
It is endemic in San Francisco politics that basic services lose out to special interest groups.Chris Rafael—Richmond
Perhaps if people would be ready to pay more property tax it would be easier for everybody to have a better city.Alain Bourgade—Pacific Heights
Bring more unity. Let us see our similarities.Eleisha Thomas—Mission
There are some significant problems with the schools that need to be really addressed. It's really frightening to me to live some place where the kinds of jobs people need to be ready for they're not going to be able to do.Bonnie Fluke—Bernal Heights
Maintain everything in this neighborhood.Michael Ho—Richmond
Just clean the streets up. Katherine Stefani—Pacific Heights
Jobs, jobs, jobs.James Hannah—Western Addition
Confiscate guns. Sandy and Iheem—Bayview
The Richmond Alexandria Theater is a big issue for us. It's a real eyesore.Tom Scharffenberger—Richmond
There's a few businesses that are about to come in -- we're about to have a Bi Rite up here, there's talk of Four Barrel Coffee moving up the street, which is great on some level but it also seems like it's just a replica of the Mission moving up here which I think will further increase rent prices and continue to displace people. Chris Swim—I guess you call it NOPA
We need a dictator here in San Francisco for about a year or two, and then we'll go back to being free and liberal and easy.Ross Long—Pacific Heights
There's a lot of shooting that goes on in this neighborhood. People never know when a bullet has their name on them, so to speak.Joe Freeman—Fillmore
I have two grandsons. I worry because you never know, these drive bys and for no reason, mistaken identity and the next thing you know your child or your grandchild is dead.Jennie Patton—Mission
I understand trying to bring up some of the schools that aren't academically up to par, but doing it at the expense of people just to make quotas is a little frustrating.Chris Bolanzi—Richmond
People can't afford to live here, can't afford to eat here.Dave Jones—Mission
I don't even want to go and pick up my friend at BART because of homeless people lying around. It's really uncomfortable for me.Marlene Cowan—Marina
The only thing I would like from the mayor is to be honest.Donald Navarrete—Bernal Heights
They cut a section of the 38 bus line, and I wish they would restore it.Fanny—Richmond
Cleaning up the Panhandle would be great. Anne Hauk—NOPA
Cesar Chavez corridor could be improved: it's difficult to travel except in a vehicle. There's no public transit along that line and bicycling is difficult along that line.Daniel Fineman—Potrero Hill
Public education, although neither one of my children actually go to public schools.Howard Carol—Richmond
What's important is that people are not displaced. Now more high tech people are coming in and rents are going up again. The whole San Francisco situation for renters is really bleak.Carol Jean Wiznowski—Western Addition
We need some stop signs here, particularly on Cortland.Marie Malveaux—Bernal Heights
The traffic. People drive too fast in the street. It's so dangerous for the kids, even for us grown-ups.Ana Gomez—Portola Valley
It's unfortunate that all this youth and money has moved in and pushed that element out. It's kinda strange it is kind of a dichotomy between the hipster influx and all the people who lived here before.Max Sylvester—Mission
I really love being here, I really love the diversity and all it has to offer. I would love to see improved cleanliness of some of the streets and alleys.Molly Watson—Mission
I'd mainly like to be able to use bikes on BART during peak hours.Josh—Mission
The homeless mess up the street at night. They pee and they throw garbage and they break beer bottles.Rose Hunter—Mission
I love my city for the grand diversity it offers, as well as the fun exciting activities that happen every weekend. And although it's incredibly pricey to live here, I realize that it's well worth it for what the city offers me.Monique Jaquez—Bernal Heights
When I was younger San Francisco was affordable. Now, especially in Bernal Heights, it's more affluent.Alma DiStefano—Bernal Heights
We just moved into the Portola District. It's a good place, but I have concerns about the roads, and safety issues.Melanie—Portola
I don't think [the mayoral candidates] are really for the middle class anymore. It seems to be a pretty nice life for really rich people.Catherine Blair—Bernal Heights
I would like the mayor to rework some of the more devastated projects and give people a sense of being cared for. It's our social right, it's our American Dream, and it shouldn't just be for the people on the top of the hill.Heather Young—Bernal Heights
Something that worries me bout Bernal Heights is the prices of homes are increasing as everywhere. And that's pushing out the working class or people of color.Maureen Persico—Bernal Heights
I understand the city has to have some parking meters. But $2 an hour?Shrutadev Kaufman—Mission
Be here.Alexis Aguirre—Portola
I don't want to see a whole lot of changes, just simple things like I like speed humps to slow the traffic down.Bernard Harte—Bernal Heights
I think there's going to be a division between the rich and the poor unless something is done structure-wise to raise the standards of living for the people who are not in the tech industry.John Pike —Portola
Funding for schools is really important, and funding public utilities like libraries and parks.Richard Bradford—Bernal Heights
It's the economy. It's jobs, which has a direct correlation to violent crime which has a direct correlation to homelessness.Scott Phillips—Bernal Heights
I'd like to see a small business friendly administration in city hall that also protects the residents and neighborhoods.Michael Orrfelt—Bernal Heights
It's a big city. Although it's small, it's very dense. I think we need to have little community outposts, little mini city halls where things get done in your neighborhood e.Paul Hernandez—Bernal Heights
This neighborhood is improving every month, so just don't get in the way of positive motion.Kathy Sabatino—Bernal Heights
Housing is a big problem because most people can't stay here -- they can't afford it.Salvador Crespo—Mission
Clean up the junk.Sophany Lang—Richmond
Getting people off the streets.Jason—Castro
Finding employment for youth.Monica Guerra—Sunset
Commit to keeping rent control, a housing program that San Franciscans have relied on for decades.Ron Feiertag—94108
Support for our branch library move and reconstruction, along with rennovation of the Joe DiMaggio Playground.Rebecca Taggart—North Beach
Less focus on special interest groups.Eric Kauschen—Sunset
Put an end to the reign of Willie Brown!Patrick Connors—Hayes Valley
The one thing I find very annoying is parking restrictions and actually getting parking tickets. We moved here about six months ago and we've had five tickets and they've all been located outside where we live. So basically we've had tickets for parking over somebody's drive, a ticket for not turning the steering wheel on a hill. Barry Cronin—Buena Vista Park
Affordable housing is a big issue because in my complex, there are a lot of senior citizens who, actually, their purchasing power has been constantly eroded.David Tse—Western Addition
The children need a curfew and also jobs for children, to keep them out of crime.Maria Samuel—Fillmore
Keep beautifying our parks for kids. Golden Gate Park by the carousel is fabulous, and there's a couple of new parks sprouting up or getting redone in the area that I'm really happy about. Pamela Vitug —NOPA
We should have things for families, to make sure that our streets are safe for kids to walk and ride bikes and things like that through our neighborhood.Damon Todd—NOPA
Maybe five years or six years ago [NOPA] was not that safe like today. But NOPA is changing a lot and I like it.Martha Sevilla—Alamo Square/NOPA
More participation with the merchants and long-term residents having a voice. Jason Hopkins—Fillmore/Western Addition
We need some guarantee that the law is going to work for this community, and we need guarantees that public safety will be the top priority.Daniel Landry—Fillmore/Western Addition
It's not convenient to live in Hayes Valley. How many pairs of shoes can you buy? How many restaurants can you go to that aren't overpriced?Sal—Fillmore
Parking is a big problem. And now they're talking about the bikes taking one lane, and that will add more problems to the parking issue. When they take the lane out it will be a huge problem, especially for merchants.Salim Nasser—Divisadero
The building over there on Turk and Fillmore is a sore spot. That used to be the old Market Street railway line, where the old 31 used to get in. And now it's horrible. We've had meetings and meetings about that building and nothing is being done so far as I know.Wanda Coleman—Western Addition
Residential parking.N Felton Cogell—Western Addition
Recently we've been hearing a lot of gunshots in the neighborhood. I never hear police cars or sirens after so I don't know if the police or authorities are really looking into that.Pablo Russek—Fillmore
The homeless situation, because it's quite acute, it's quite serious and it's quite demoralizing.NH—Western Addition
I think giving tax breaks to businesses to maybe move into mid-Market or encourage growth that way. Stu Thompson—Alamo Square
I wish there were more people keeping their kids in school. There seems to be a lot of kids just skipping school and just hanging out on the corner.Rachel Aierstuck—Alamo Square
Attract more businesses within the city. I'd like to see a revitalization of the mid-Market area. Get it enticing where businesses want to relocate to that area.Aldo Gomez—Lower Haight
There is a problem with people from other neighborhoods coming in and parking and taking the bus or walking back to their neighborhood and leaving their car for a week or couple days. Jessica Banks—Hayes Valley
If New York City can get their s*it together, and that city is crazy, then SF can do it too. Jon Allen—NOPA
The police force has been getting better.Brandon Dorsch—NOPA, I guess
Somebody that's not behind curtains all the time.Steven Wood—Alamo Square
Make this a circumcision-free zone. Brian Levitt—NOPA
Create a bike pathway that connects the panhandle to a very popular bike route called the wiggle.Dan Nguyen-Tan—NOPA
Approaching the feds to get money for Muni would be good.Phil Lollar—NOPA
Asking for shared sacrifice from public sector employees to take on more responsibility for paying more money into their pensions.Shawn Allen—NOPA
Try to solve the parking situation and lower the prices of the tickets.Vidal—NOPA
I would like to see the public school lottery eliminated, because every parent should know that the school their child is going to is a good school no matter where they live.Ruth Leach Stevens—Haight Ashbury
I would just like to just see more of the social programs in this neighborhood be restructured, and a little more police presence out on the streets.James Pawlish —Haight Ashbury
I am against the Sit/Lie law because I think it is oppressive and spoils the ambiance of the neighborhood. Plus I think it is discriminatory, because it is really based on what you look likeDavid Wills—Haight Ashbury
If a candidate could direct more money toward social programs to help homeless people in the city and every neighborhood, that would probably stand out the most to me.Kelsey Nabors—Lower Haight
The parking meters are extremely expensive. And then, there seems to be an increase in meter maids, and the price of tickets have gone up, so that has been difficult. But also the problem is just the lack of parking spots. Genevieve Perkins—NOPA
Seniors and less abled people need to be able to ride public transportation. We need to think of ways to be able to make that safe for them, because a lot of people do get injured on the bus.Gary Delury—Western Addition
A balanced budget. We have a lot of things on our plate, and sometimes there is just not enough leadership to balance the budget in a city with such diverse interests.Steven Willinger—lower Haight
The condition of the roads in San Francisco. We just feel like it wrecks our car every time we take out and drive just a few miles in the citySteve Aitkins—NOPA
Experts indicate that the Hayward fault is overdue and that the next mayor will likely be the one to deal with a major seismic event.Charles Marsteller—Civic Center
More population density.Pablo Diaz-Gutierrez—SoMa
Commit to a 0% increase in paved surface area of Golden Gate Park.Michael Woods—TenderNob
I'd like to see the new mayor make sure that rents are kept low.Russel Robles—Bernal Heights
"I spent a weekend in NYC and it was cleaner and felt safer than here in SF. Streets here are filthy, there are miles of graffiti and the roads are terrible." Mona Marks—Mission
San Francisco needs to distinguish itself as an international leader for great ideas, creative thinking and innovation.Andrew Wood—Mission
Employ best-practices budget management, as is done in successful corporations.Jan Blum—Russian Hill
People double park and you have to go around them.Raymond — Richmond
There have been more and more homeless people in the neighborhood. There needs to be more services for them. Some of them are pretty aggressive.Joycelyn Koyama—Richmond
Where Broken Promises Cloud Future Hopes
By Joshua Johnson
It has been called San Francisco's forgotten district--the gritty industrial neighborhood known as Bayview-Hunters Point. For decades, residents and small businesses here in the city's southeast corner have struggled as others have prospered. As the mayor's race unfolds, the Bayview is demanding what it's always demanded: opportunity.
That demand is being voiced amid a major population shift. Twenty years ago, blacks in Bayview-Hunters Point outnumbered Asians, the next biggest group, by nearly three to one. In last year's census, Asians slightly outnumber blacks in the area.
But much more has changed than the neighborhood's racial and ethnic makeup.
Bayview native Marvin Robinson remembers the black-owned businesses that thrived decades ago. It's a far cry from that now, he says, with people hanging around idly at all hours in the heart of the neighborhood at Third Street and Oakdale Avenue.
Bayview at a Glance
Home to Candlestick Park, The Bayview hugs the bay to the east alongside shipyards, warehouses, and family homes.
"We need a supermarket, ya know?"
— Laurie Richards
The Bayview District is Most Concerned About ...
- economic development and a lack of jobs
- public safety and a strained relationship with police
- social services for people in need and neighborhood projects, such as libraries
The Bayview's black population is in a steep decline. In 1990, African-Americans made up 62.5 percent of the district's population. The 2010 census finds Asian-Americans are now the biggest single group in the Bayview, with 32.6 percent; African-Americans are second at 32.2, with sizeable contingents of whites and Latinos reportedly drawn to the district by low housing prices.
The Bayview has the largest proportion of children in the city, with nearly one in four residents age 17 and under.
Bayview unemployment rate: 14 percent (compared to: Treasure Island; 16 percent; Chinatown: 15 percent; Presidio: 3 percent)
Poverty rate: 18 percent (compared to: Chinatown 31 percent, Downtown/Civic Center 25 percent; San Francisco citywide: 11 percent; Seacliff: 2 percent)
"Look at the (Third Street) corridor," Robinson says. "You see quite a few people standing around, but you don't see the fruitful shopping that you would see in other districts at 12 noon on a Saturday."
After a career in radio and the recording industry, Robinson opened a convenience store across from this plaza. It's near the site of a fatal police-involved shooting that sparked protests back in July. Anger over the shooting, and over a legacy of general neglect in the Bayview, erupted days later at a chaotic town hall meeting.
"They (local leaders) don't represent us!" said one resident, shouting above the fray. "They don't bring no jobs out here. They don't bring any opportunities."
Jobs are desperately needed in Bayview-Hunter's Point, an area that was the scene of several land-development schemes, then heavy industry, from the city's Gold Rush days through the 1960s. The Hunter brothers, for whom Hunters Point is named, tried and failed to create a new town there, South San Francisco. The district was later home to a race track, meatpackers, tanneries, breweries, railyards, machine shops, dry docks, and shipbuilders, among others. The Navy took over dock and shipyard operations in 1940 and the federal government hired thousands of blacks from the South to work there.
But that industrial era passed. The butchers left town. The Navy's Hunters Point Shipyard and related operations closed, leaving radioactive waste and other toxic material behind. And thousands of black Bayview residents were left unemployed.
The community's virtual segregation in an isolated corner of San Francisco has also worked to suppress opportunity. That latent racism stood out to author James Baldwin as he toured the Bayview with a KQED film crew in 1963.
"Every white person in San Francisco pretends they haven't got a Negro problem," Baldwin said. "Everywhere I've been in this country, you talk to a white person who says race relations are excellent. And I've yet to find a single Negro in this country who agrees with that." The result: an area marked by poverty and economic stagnation. "We have 40 years (of city redevelopment efforts) and the Third Street corridor is basically the same," says Marvin Robinson. "After the shipyard closed down and Butchertown moved to the southern part of California, we have been just the way we are now. So, I haven't heard any good news. Some false promises."
And where opportunity disappears, crime and gangs find opportunities of their own. Just ask some of the families who live here.
"It's not safe," says 11-year-old Iheem, who lives near Third and Oakdale with his mother. "It's a bad environment and (there are) always killings."
Iheem says if he were the mayor and he could do anything, he'd confiscate the guns. "Because some people don't know how to use them right," he says. "They use it for dumb stuff, except for using it for self-defense."
Crime in the district is down this year in nearly every major category. Still, the crime rate here is high--too high for Iheem's mother, Sandy, who says she just wants to move away.
"I feel scared for my kids every day, all day," she says. "I don't want to be like certain mothers, when my child gets shot (then I'd) scream and holler and then end up with a drink in my hand."
So why isn't Bayview-Hunters Point better for kids, and better for business?
San Francisco has built new housing, extended Muni light-rail service down Third Street, fixed up the community center and the Bayview Opera House, San Francisco's oldest theater. Fresh and Easy has opened a new supermarket on Third. But there are still many empty, gated storefronts, the remnants of small businesses that held on as long as they could. Without jobs, people in the Bayview find it hard to shop at the new market, buy the new houses or even ride Muni.
Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents Bayview-Hunters Point, agrees that there's enough blame to go around for the area's present condition. But Cohen says Third Street is slowly getting better, starting from the north end at UC-San Francisco's Mission Bay campus. She wants the next mayor to encourage this growth and push it south.
"We're talking about land along Third Street that, as a kid, when I was growing up you saw prostitutes and drug dealers just hanging out," Cohen says. "There was no light, there was no life, and now there is light and life growing. You see these buildings coming up very, very quickly."
In the city's far southeast corner, developers from Lennar will build a 700-acre mixed-use complex over the old Navy shipyard and at Candlestick Point. The Navy will clean up decades-old radioactive waste. A special federal grant will help give residents of the Alice Griffith housing project new homes before destroying the old ones. Tenant leader Lavelle Shaw celebrated the grant at a recent ceremony but insisted that the residents' needs come ahead of the developers'.
"We want to make sure that everything goes with the tenant's involvement," Shaw said to applause from residents. "Tenant involvement, and jobs for my residents!"
For the moment it seems new jobs and new opportunities are coming, but residents are skeptical. They've seen grandiose visions before, but they've never seen them come to fruition. Lennar's deal with the city has a so-called "good faith goal" to hire half the construction staff from San Francisco, with Bayview-Hunters Point residents first in line. The plan estimates creating 10,000 permanent and construction jobs as a result.
Finding a Place for Families in City Mosaic
By Kelly Wilkinson
Jane Zimmerman leads a small parade down McAllister Street to the corner laundromat. Along with three bags stuffed with laundry, she's keeping an eye on her four-year-old daughter and year-and-a-half-old son.
Zimmerman's kids collect the quarters that clatter out of the coin machine, and her daughter uses a stepladder to insert them into industrial-sized front-loaders. For the kids, it's an adventure. For their mom, not so much.
"I remember when our washing machine would break when I was a kid and my mom would have to take us to the laundromat," Zimmerman says. "We thought it was so fun and I'm sure she was just like, 'Arghhh!' "
It's not a scene that evokes City Hall or the mayor's race. But Zimmerman and her family are part of a more and more common drama in the city. They've lived in their $1,800-dollar-a-month apartment, with no laundry on site, for more than a decade. In the meantime, rents in their neighborhood--NOPA, north of the Golden Gate Park Panhandle--have skyrocketed.
Buying a home feels out of reach for them, and they have lots of company there. City housing data shows that only 11 percent of all San Francisco households can afford the $603,000 median price of a single-family home.
Zimmerman says she's at a loss to imagine what any mayor could do to change her situation: "I've never thought of it from a policy level because for us it's been more just straight affordability."
Central SF at a Glance
Central San Francisco refers to an area similar to that of the city's supervisorial district five. It consists of several neighborhoods: Western Addition, Haight/Ashbury, the Fillmore district and the newly coined NOPA or North of the Pan Handle area.
"Sometimes in the nighttime, we hear a lot of gunshots."
— Hamza Hem
Central SF is Most Concerned About ...
- crime and violence
- a lack of parking
- pervasiveness of the homeless
Families with children cling to a foothold in an affordable neighborhood that has seen housing prices soar as it becomes a magnet for a younger, hipper population. Here, as in the rest of the city, schools and affordable housing are a key issue.
Census estimates show an increase in the number of young children in the area, from 4 percent to 5 percent of the total over the past decade. The area has the city's largest proportion of people aged 18-34 years old, 37 percent (citywide average: 29 percent).
The census estimates that 33 percent of households here are family households (citywide average: 44 percent), an increase from 27 percent in 2000. But the percentage of area households with children remains unchanged at 11 percent.
Newly energized parent activists, though, want the next mayor to go to bat for families on everything from affordable housing to cleaner parks.
"Historically families have not been prioritized at the city government level," says Michelle Parker, the president of the San Francisco Parent Political Action Committee.
The city does have a department that helps children and families. It spends millions each year on a wide range of initiatives, from early childcare to after-school programs. Still, Parker is convinced that elected officials aren't paying enough attention to families.
"They wait and see who comes knocking on their door," she says. "And there have not been any parents organized in a group thus far to do that, because parents are busy."
But Parker's got a plan. If parents are going to compete with the many other constituencies vying for City Hall's attention and resources, they need to speak up. Using a new database that lists open positions on all city boards and commissions, she's recruiting parent volunteers.
"You can't just look at somebody and say they're a parent," Parker says. "It's just not been one of the boxes they check. And when you look at who's governing the city, the Board of Supervisors, there's very few parents sitting on that board."
Parker says the current pack of mayoral candidates is actually paying attention. Some are asking for help in crafting their platforms on schools and families.
But other parents aren't satisfied.
Colby Zintl, a mother of three kids who lives in the city's Inner Sunset neighborhood, says schools are a make-or-break issue.
"The other day I got a phone call in the evening that was obviously a poll call asking what issues were important to me as it relates to the mayor's race," she says, ticking through all the choices she was supposed to pick from in that phone call. "Transportation and Muni, jobs, homelessness, crime. And what struck me was that schools was not one of the issues that was listed."
High-quality education is a priority for Zintl--she moved her son to three different elementary schools to find the right fit--and it ought to be for the next mayor, she says. Unlike some cities, like Chicago or Boston, the mayor in San Francisco does not have authority over the schools. But Zintl says the mayor can help without meddling in district policy.
"There are multi-million dollar companies in San Francisco, and with a relatively small investment, we could do magic" in the city's school district, she says. "I mean, I think money's not the only solution but it could go a long way in helping."
Parents themselves have been helping. A group called Parents for Public Schools has been working hard to improve the image of city schoolsÐand kindergarten enrollment has rebounded after years of decline.
Schools and the affordability of housing may be the biggest concerns for families in the city. And they're whopper topics. But moms like Birgess Angelus say there are also smaller fixes the city could take onÐlike making it easier to get around on Muni with a stroller.
"We have to pick up the whole stroller and as you can see, the stroller is kind of intense."
Muni policy says moms like Angelus are supposed to take their kids out of their strollers, and then collapse the strollers, to ride buses and streetcars. That's an obvious hassle. A couple of years ago, a Muni advisory council did consider allowing kids in strollers on board, but it didn't move forward with that idea. Now the agency is studying the idea of letting kids ride for free.
Parents say there are plenty of other everyday improvements that would make the city less of a challenge for families. Take park bathrooms: Parents say once their kids are out of diapers, they choose which park to visit based on which bathrooms are the closest, and cleanest.
Michelle Parker from SF Parent PAC says the city needs to evolve in how it sees parents--just as she evolved when she became a mother.
"I didn't pay much attention to politics, I don't think I paid much attention to who my neighbors were," she says. "It didn't matter that much to me how safe my neighborhood was because I was an adult and I could handle it. But then when I have children who are walking down the street and I see something I don't want them touching, then I care about how clean my streets are, I care about how safe it is because I want my children to feel safe as we're walking back to our house."
Parker says it's that shift in perspective which makes parents become deeply invested in the city.
"When you have a family, it feels like a place that you really live," she says. "It's your nest. You pay attention."
Displaced and Priced Out ... Again
by Peter Jon Shuler
Marta Sanchez is the fifth-generation owner of Casa Sanchez in the Mission. She remembers coming to the 24th Street restaurant after school as a kid and standing on a box to work the cash register.
Casa Sanchez is a cultural and culinary landmark, and an essential campaign stop for San Francisco mayoral hopefuls. But Sanchez worries about the changing character of her neighborhood. And she wants the next mayor to tackle a resurgence of gentrification in a part of the city that has seen a dramatic decline in the number of Latinos and families living there.
"You can't get a studio for less than $1,500," says Sanchez. "We see the people that grew up here falling through the cracks and getting neglected. So it would be nice to have someone pay attention to them."
The shifting demographic tide in the Mission is not a brand-new story. The district has seen changes before, having been a working-class Irish-American district through the middle of the 20th century, then changing with an influx of immigrants from Mexico. In the 1980s, emigration from Central America added to the area's ethnic complexity. And since the beginning of the dot-com bubble, the Mission has become home to young tech workers, professionals, and others drawn by its affordability and attractive cultural landscape. The current surge of hiring in high tech and biotech appears to be making rents jump again, with one recent city survey estimating the going rate for a two-bedroom unit in the Mission at $3,100.
The Mission at a Glance
The Mission district is a wide, relatively flat, and an atypically sunny swath of land on the southern part of the city.
"People can't afford to live here, can't afford to eat here."
— Dave Jones
The Mission is Most Concerned About ...
- improving public safety
- a more efficient City Hall
- increasing social services
The city's main Latino bastion is confronting change. The district is experiencing an influx of young, Anglo resident drawn by its relative affordability in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country.
The Mission's Latino population has dropped from 52 percent in 1990 to 41 percent in 2010. That decline is most pronounced in the area bounded by South Van Ness, Cesar Chavez, 17th Street, and U.S. 101, where Latino numbers declined 24 percent in the last decade.
Median rent in the Mission in 1990 ranged from $408 to $638, depending on census tract. The 2000 range: $593 to $938. For 2010: $711 to $1386.
That issue is a top priority for Supervisor David Campos, whose District 9 also includes Bernal Heights and part of the Portola district. Campos says creating affordable housing for working families is a major challenge, and one where local government has fallen short.
"There have been a number of affordable housing projects that have been developed," he says. "But not enough."
The changing population of the Mission might be most obvious in the area where Latinos have historically enjoyed a big majority--a rectangle stretching from 17th Street on the north to Cesar Chavez Street on the south, and from between South Van Ness Avenue on the west to U.S. 101 on the east. This district of less than a square mile was 63 percent Latino in 2000. The 2010 census shows that figure has fallen to 48 percent. In a neighborhood of about 23,000 people, the Latino population fell by 3,600 in just a decade.
One face of the change is eviction--and some evictions have gained near legendary status.
Precita Eyes, founded by Luis and Susan Kelk Cervantes, has created spectacular murals that have become one of the Mission's best-known and most vibrant features.
But that legacy wasn't enough to keep the Cervantes clan in their home. Just after Luis Cervantes died in 2005, a new owner took possession of the building where the family lived. His son, Suaro Luis Cervantes, 32, says the family had lived in a storefront flat that had never been rezoned as a residence.
The new owners "looked at us as squatters," says Cervantes. "So after 35 years of living in that storefront, we were kicked out."
The family's old home, near Precita Park, still shows signs of their presence. The boarded-up windows are painted with red velvet curtains. The front door is painted with the legend, "Home Sweet Home Since 1970."
Sara Shortt, the executive director of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, says such evictions are just one way the city is losing affordable housing faster than it can be replaced.
"When people are evicted out of rent-controlled units," says Shortt, "They're losing their affordable housing options themselves." In addition she says, "We're losing very precious units from our affordable housing stock forever."
So who's taking the place of people like the Cervantes family in the community? It's those who can afford the accelerating run-up in rents.
At a recent weekday open house for a one-bedroom apartment at Mission and Valencia streets, 41-year-old builder Bryan Bastian says apartment hunting in the current environment is frustrating.
"There are so many people that supply and demand are way off balance," he says.
As an example, Bastian describes responding to an ad just after it was posted on Craig'slist the previous Thursday: "We got an e-mail back on Friday and the gentleman had gotten 200 responses from his ad."
Still, Bastian thought he had a good chance for the Valencia Street unit. He had filled out all the forms on Saturday, and his finances and credit were impeccable. So he was totally unprepared for the results.
"We found out on Sunday that he had an offer that exceeded the rental value by $200 a month," he says. "And that applicant also offered four months up front."
Bastian's story is becoming increasingly common. And longtime Mission residents are afraid apartment bidding wars will lead to a new round of evictions and tenant displacement. They say making sure that families who want to live in the neighborhood are able to do so is one of the biggest tasks facing the new mayor.
Guarding the Status Quo
By Stephanie Martin
In August 2007, Gap founders Doris and Donald Fisher summoned the press to the old military parade ground on the Presidio's Main Post. Donald Fisher, who died two years later, at the time pronounced that this would be the spot to house the couple's extensive art collection.
"Museums are not big enough to house it," said Donald Fisher, "and so we felt that the only way we could do it is to build a building of our own, and this is an ideal place."
The Fishers may have believed the location was ideal. Mayor Gavin Newsom and many others liked the plan, too. But neighbors and Presidio preservationists balked at the museum's modern design and potential parking and traffic problems it might bring. Cow Hollow resident Lori Brooke led her neighbors in a successful effort to stop the project.
The area surrounding the Presidio is a beautiful and "quite wonderful" place to live, Brooke says. But she says it won't stay that way if development goes unchecked. Which is why for the past seven years, this professional web consultant and mother of two young girls has devoted any extra time in her already busy life to serve as president of the Cow Hollow Neighborhood Association.
Pacific Heights at a Glance
Pacific Heights is a steep ridge on the northern part of the San Francisco peninsula, and is home to some of the largest houses in the city.
"Homelessness is a big problem, and when I first moved to the city it was a big turn off. That's part of why I live where I live."
— Andrew Krebs
Top Concerns for Pacific Heights are ...
- keeping the city clean
- homelessness across the city
- the quality of public education and SF's school-assignment system
Quality of Life
Residents want to maintain the quality of life experienced in the most affluent corner of the city. Concerns include development at the Presidio, maintaining the health and character of the Lombard Avenue commercial corridor, and dealing with infrastructure like overhead utility lines.
The 2010 census found that four out of five area residents are white, a proportion unchanged since 2000. Other groups: Asian, 13 percent; other/multiple race, 5 percent; black, 1 percent. The district recorded the biggest jump in population of young children (4 years and under), doubling in the past decade from 3 to 6 percent of the area total.
The census estimates per capita income for the district at $88,540, double the figure for the city as a whole. Estimated media sales price for a single family home is $4.5 million (citywide average: $615,000) and $875,000 for a condominium (citywide: $652,000).
Two out of three employed residents report working in higher-paying managerial and professional jobs.
"Yeah, there's times when I'm wondering about when they're going to impose term limits," jokes her husband, John Brooke. He says despite the long hours and lack of compensation, he supports his wife's passion for Cow Hollow and the other parts of the city's District 2.
"It's a nice family neighborhood," he says. "It's a great location, close to the Presidio, the Marina Green, Chestnut Street, Union Street. This works really well for us, and we love it."
The district's prime location and its highly educated, affluent population help make District 2 the most expensive part of the city. The median sales price of a single-family home here is estimated at $4.5 million. And though most of the district's residents are renters, rents aren't cheap, either. An average two-bedroom apartment runs about $3,700 a month. So it may come as no surprise that residents who can afford it often feel a need to preserve the lifestyle they're paying for.
On a rainy Thursday morning, Lori Brooke drives through the neighborhood to point out a few examples of persistent neighborhood concerns. First, an otherwise picturesque Cow Hollow street with well-preserved Victorian homes is obscured by utility lines.
"Strewn," Brooke says, "like a spider web down the street."
She describes the growth of lines belonging to Comcast and other service providers as similar to a "slow mold" that most people don't notice--until it's too far gone for an easy fix.
"So if you're not paying attention, she says, "you can miss a lot. But if you're looking for it, you start to see that it's not only just wires but even the equipment boxes."
Brooke sees the Lombard Street commercial corridor as another trouble spot. She points out a blighted motel that's long been known as a magnet for crime. Across the street is perhaps the most contentious issue the next mayor will have to grapple with in this neighborhood: the former Edward II Inn.
"It's definitely not contributing to the neighborhood in what it was before," says Brooke. The hotel has been shuttered for the last year and a half. It used to be a bed and breakfast that brought tourists and their dollars into the neighborhood. The city is trying to turn the property into transitional housing for foster youth.
Although Brooke says she supports the basic idea behind the project, she and other neighbors are fighting it. Lombard Street, she says, is not a healthy place for vulnerable, low-income youth because of crime in the immediate area and the lack of appropriate services and activities in the neighborhood. She adds that the project will do nothing to help local merchants and restaurants regain the business they lost when the Edward II shut down.
District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell says neighbors are angry about what they perceive as a lack of transparency about the project.
"The first time the neighborhood heard about it was when the city had already purchased the building, says Farrell. "You know, to me that's just the wrong approach."
Farrell says he's not against putting affordable housing into San Francisco's more affluent neighborhoods. However, he says, the city needs to get input from local residents.
The makeup of this part of town has changed little over the last decade. Lori Brooke knows that some outsiders might view her and her neighbors in the wealthiest, whitest part of the city as self-serving. She's heard the comments. " 'Get over yourself,' 'Just deal with it,' or 'Come on, it's time for change,' " are outsiders' common retorts to neighborhood concerns.
Brooke concedes that the neighborhood's relations with the city as a whole are "a balance."
But she believes that neighborhood character is something worth fighting for--for the good of the city.
"I haven't been here in a while," she muses as she drives past the Presidio's Main Post. "Wow, it's green! It looks very nice."
Brooke still takes solace in the fact that, thanks to the neighborhood outcry, the historic Army base looks much as it did four years ago, when the Fishers announced their plans. And two places on the site that Brooke and her neighbors feared would be demolished--the Presidio bowling alley and the YMCA--still stand, open for residents to enjoy.
Staying Open for Business
By Cy Musiker
Geary Boulevard, in the heart of the Richmond District, is one of San Francisco's busiest merchant corridors, dense with shops, restaurants, and small businesses, many owned by immigrants from Russia, China and Southeast Asia.
It looks prosperous, until you notice all the signs saying "For Lease." Local merchants and neighborhood activists say that's something that the next mayor needs to do something about.
"This ice cream store," says David Lee, pointing to a local shop, "They only lasted a few months. They're out of business already."
Lee knows this neighborhood well because he juggles three jobs: he sells insurance from an office here on Geary, he directs the Chinese American Voters Education Committee, and he lectures on political science at San Francisco State University.
Lee says a lot of Richmond merchants feel San Francisco is anti-business. "The regulations, the cost of doing business here, is too high and they can't make it. And it's really sad, because the Geary merchants were a vibrant part of this neighborhood for many years, and this used to be a major shopping area of the city. To see all the vacancies now on Geary is really heartbreaking."
The Richmond at a Glance
Predominately residential, the Richmond District makes up most of the northwestern part of San Francisco, flanked by Golden Gate Park on the south and the Pacific Ocean on the west.
"We see a lot of businesses around here closing due to the economy."
— Rodney Evetts
Top Concerns for the Richmond District are ...
- the quality of public schools and the school-assignment system
- public safety
- economic development and job creation
One of the city's principal Asian-American districts is also characterized by two of its most extensive neighborhood commercial strips: Geary Boulevard and Clement Street. The area's welfare depends on small business, and owners say they struggle with the city's high fees and regulatory demands.
The area's racial ethnic composition remains largely unchanged over the past decade: about half white and 40 percent Asian.
Census data shows that San Francisco is home to about 110,000 businesses. The vast majority, nearly three-fourths, are single-person enterprises. Of the city's roughly 30,000 businesses that do hire employees, about 73 percent have nine or fewer workers. The percentage of small enterprises is even higher in the Richmond's two primary ZIP codes -- 81 percent of the area's 1,897 enterprises employ fewer than 10 people.
Small businesses in the Outer Richmond have been very hard hit, with the number of workers down by 30 percent and gross payrolls off by 40 percent between 2005 and 2009.
U.S. Census statistics back up Lee's take on what's happening in the area. The number of people working in small businesses fell by 30 percent between 2005 and 2009.
The high cost of running a small business in San Francisco, and their importance to the city's health, is a major topic of conversation for shopkeepers in the Richmond and beyond. They say big companies like Twitter grab the headlines and the tax breaks. But small businesses--and there are more than 100,000 in San Francisco--employ half the workers and contribute just over half of San Francisco's tax base.
It's not just David Lee who feels City Hall doesn't give small business owners the respect they deserve. Clement Street, known as "New Chinatown," is the Richmond's other merchant corridor. Angela Chung, who owns a grocery and liquor store there, says she pays far too much in taxes and fees.
"We have cigarette tax, other taxes, and we don't have much income so I think small business is not good in San Francisco," says Chung.
Jesse Fink owns Toy Boat, a dessert cafe on Clement, and he's president of the Clement Street Merchants Association. "My business tax has gone up from 20 years ago," he says. "From 40 dollars a year, now it's about 800 dollars a year. I don't know what more I'm getting."
Fink and other small business owners admit they're not very good at lobbying City Hall; they're too busy running their businesses. But since small businesses create so many jobs, Fink wants to know why the city doesn't reach out to them. "I don't feel the city and I are partners in what we do."
Scott Hauge advocates for small businesses in San Francisco and Sacramento as president of the group Small Business California. "What makes it so difficult for small businesses is we always find ourselves in the position of reacting. We'd just like to work with people on the development of whatever policy that's going to affect us."
Hauge says running a business in San Francisco is much more expensive than in other cities. He cites a Board of Supervisors study done eight years ago, and gives an example based on a business grossing $750,000 a year.
"The cost in San Francisco was $5,400, the cost in Oakland $930, and the cost in San Jose was $276."
Hauge notes that was before the city raised the minimum wage, mandated paid sick leave, and passed a first-in-the-nation law requiring employers to contribute to every worker's health care costs. Hauge says those are worthy ends that many businesses support. But he says the city developed the policies without regard for their impact.
He cites as an example Supervisor David Campos' new ordinance to close a loophole in San Francisco universal health insurance mandate. "This is the kind of thing that drives business crazy," he says, complaining that the measure was written without consulting the city's business community. Supervisors passed the measure, which could cost San Francisco businesses $50 million a year. Mayor Ed Lee has proposed a less costly alternative and is expected to veto Campos' measure.
Hauge acknowledges the city is trying harder to accommodate small businesses.
Toy Boat owner Jesse Fink agrees.
"I don't find that they're hostile to small business," he says. "There's a small business commission that keeps getting more and more active, so I feel like the city is trying."
Supervisor Eric Mar represents the Richmond District and is a friend of Fink's.
"I think we need to look at economic conditions, and maybe waive or reduce fees more for smaller businesses," Mar says over lunch at the Toy Boat. "They're the backbone of our economy in terms of jobs and also even just thriving neighborhoods."
Regina Dick-Endrizzi runs the San Francisco's Office of Small Business and insists that government is responsive to business concerns.
"I think the city is listening," she says, and lists a number of successful efforts by her office and the city's small business commission to ease the burden on family businesses. She cites a new weights and measures fee tailored to minimize small business costs, a cheaper permit for cafes offering live performances, and help tapping federal stimulus funds. But Dick-Endrizzi says supervisors could do a better job collaborating with local merchants when they develop policies that affect them.
David Heller, president of the Geary Boulevard Merchants Association and owner of a skin care salon, says if the next mayor wants to create jobs, he or she needs to sit down with the small business community to find out what's needed to make that happen.
In the current campaign, most of the mayoral candidates are touting small business friendly platforms. That makes Hauge hopeful that help is on the way.
"No one is against small business," he says, "We're mom and apple pie."