SF Mayor London Breed on the State of Downtown, What's Next at City Hall

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A close-up photo of San Francisco Mayor London Breed.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed attends a rally in front of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Aug. 23, 2023. (Juliana Yamada/KQED)

A growing number of Americans think San Francisco is unsafe.

Mayor London Breed — who’s up for reelection next year — has recently been working hard to change those perceptions through several revitalization projects that target the city’s downtown and her stance on holding people accountable who break the law by increasing the police department’s budget.

In regards to vacancies downtown, Breed recently told business leaders at a meeting at the SF Chamber of Commerce last Monday that office-use in the area has risen by more than 40% since last July. She also spoke at an opening ceremony for the new Ikea on Market Street, an area of the city that’s seen a major drop in retail. Her administration further unveiled a wave of pop-up businesses set up inside downtown storefronts.

This week, Breed spoke to KQED’s Rachael Vasquez about various planned projects aimed at revitalizing San Francisco’s downtown, her thoughts on former land-use commissioner Alex Ludlum’s abrupt resignation, and which proposals residents will see movement on in the coming weeks at City Hall.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Rachael Vasquez: A lot of downtown office leases and subleases will be expiring in the months and years ahead. What is your plan to fill that office space if current tenants don’t renew?

Mayor London Breed: In my State of the City in February, I announced a downtown economic recovery plan, and I just recently gave a six-month update to talk about many of the things that we have already done. For example, First Year Free is a program that has helped almost 5,000 new small businesses start in San Francisco all over the city. We’ve also activated and done a lot of vibrancy projects, arts and culture and activation in the downtown corridor. We’ve invested money along the Powell Street corridor, for example, for build-out and support to get people interested in opening businesses and looking at downtown as a real possibility.

We learned a commissioner that you appointed organized a tour to show people the city’s open-air drug markets and empty office buildings. Alex Ludlum, the city’s land-use commissioner, has since resigned. What was your reaction to learning Ludlum was behind that event?

Well, I think that, unfortunately, there was a lot of frustration from the commissioner, but it just wasn’t the right way to go about expressing that frustration.

Do you think Ludlum was adding to the negative narrative about the city?

I can’t speak to that because I think that it sparked a conversation that people were having. I think what he did, and what his intentions were, were two different things. But at the same time, I think that the press has played a role more so than anything else in elevating these kinds of things in the wrong way. I’d like to see there be a lot more elevation of the almost 10,000 people that I’ve helped to exit homelessness since I’ve been in office.

The Board of Supervisors reconvenes after its summer break next week. What proposals will we see movement on at City Hall in the coming weeks?

I don’t want to get into the specifics around my policies until I actually introduce them. But we’re pushing for change around housing and the ability to build housing a lot faster. And we will continue from a law enforcement perspective to work with the state and federal officials on some of the work we’ve already been doing to combat the open-air drug dealing and using. We will be making some hard decisions around what we’re spending our dollars on. We also plan to take a number of these matters to voters, either in the March election or November of next year.