One of the challenges of living in an urban environment is to ensure good public safety. We all want neighborhoods, parks, and public spaces where our children, families and friends can gather and thrive. This requires a broad range of efforts, including having a robust police force, making pedestrian safety improvements, shoring up the seismic safety of our building stock, and improving our criminal justice system. Safer communities also require investments in education and community building. Scott Wiener work very hard to improve neighborhood safety:
Scott has been a leading voice to ensure that our police department is adequately staffed and that it keeps up with our growing population. Public safety depends on various factors - including housing, education, and employment - but adequate police staffing is an important factor. When a city doesn’t have enough officers, public safety suffers. The San Francisco Police Department is under-staffed, due to years of not funding police academy classes. When Scott took office, he immediately advocated for reinstating police academy classes, and working with the Mayor and his colleagues, they implemented a six year staffing plan to get staffing back up to improved levels. Scott also requested an analysis by our City Controller to determine what optimal police staffing is for San Francisco, based on population growth and also comparisons to peer jurisdictions. The analysis showed that we need hundreds more police officers, and Scott authored a resolution to make it official city policy to achieve that staffing goal. Scott also has held oversight hearings to better understand crime trends, including the recent spikes in property crimes we've experienced in San Francisco.
Scott supports our police officers and understands that officers put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe. Scott also believes that modernizing and reforming approaches to policing will improve public safety and build trust. Scott supports efforts to emphasize deescalation, to expand training around interacting with mental ill people, to require body cameras, to have true civilian oversight and independent investigations, and to take firm steps to build a collaborative relationship between the police and the communities they are sworn to protect. Scott authored a piece after a series of police shootings and shootings of police officers rocked the nation.
As a result of state realignment – under which the state prison system will save money by sending more prisoners to county jail -- San Francisco will seen an increase in the number of prisoners in our jails. Moreover, crimes that used to result in state prison sentences will now result in county jail sentences. To prepare for this new system, it’s important for the San Francisco criminal justice system to have policies and practices in place to ensure that we don’t over-crowd our jails – in other words, to ensure that people who need to go to jail go to jail while those who don’t, don’t. Scott authored legislation, working closely with District Attorney George Gascon, to create a temporary Sentencing Commission, bringing together all stakeholders in the criminal justice system, to formulate these practices.
Under California law, local governments must adopt Community Safety Elements to set broad policies for earthquake preparedness and resilience. Scott sponsored legislation to adopt such a plan for San Francisco. He also sponsored legislation to require owners of vulnerable soft-story apartment buildings to retrofit the buildings so that they do not collapse in an earthquake.
Scott has worked hard to improve the safety and usability of our parks and plazas. He authored legislation to set statutory opening and closing hours for our parks - putting San Francisco in line with every other major city - to address the significant overnight vandalism and dumping our parks experience. Scott obtained funding for additional park security. He also authored legislation to set basic behavior standards in public plazas, to ensure they are usable by everyone.
Harvey Milk Plaza and Jane Warner Plaza, both at Castro and Market, are the Castro’s town squares. They are key assets for the community. Through quirks in the law, they have essentially no rules governing behavior of those using them. As a result, abuse has occurred. Scott authored legislation to impose basic standards, including banning camping, sleeping, and smoking.
San Francisco's streetlights are old, deteriorated, and focused on lighting streets instead of sidewalks. As a result many locations in our city our unnecessarily dark at night, which reduces public safety. Scott held two major oversight hearings to flesh out the maintenance and capital funding challenges facing our streetlight system, and he then authored legislation setting basic maintenance standards and long-term city policy to improve the streetlight system. Scott also successfully advocated for more funding for streetlight maintenance, resulting in a twenty-fold increased.
Particularly as San Francisco grows and our sidewalks become more crowded, we need to be smart and strategic about how we manage these limited spaces, including how we place or don't place objects on our sidewalks. Scott has been very active in ensuring that our city departments make good decisions in this area, since a poorly placed utility box, news rack, or kiosk can cause long-term problems in a neighborhood. Scott’s been particularly active around the issue of utility cabinets on our sidewalks. Utilities have a right under state law to place their cabinets on city sidewalks. He authored legislation that significantly tightens the process by which utilities and that requires utilities, if requested, to allow murals on the cabinets and to pay to install and maintain greenery around them. The legislation also requires the city to hold a hearing annually to determine whether it is technically feasible to place the cabinets underground; if so, utilities will be responsible for undergrounding them.
Protecting Our Unique Culture
San Francisco has a a unique culture defined in significant part by our city's amazing arts, music, nightlife, and outdoor festival scene. This culture is part of the city's heart. Yet for many years, City Hall policymakers treated these cultural events as a problem to be managed rather than part of who we are as a city.
Since taking office, Scott Wiener been a tenacious advocate for recognizing the cultural and economic contributions arts, music, nightlife, and outdoor events contribute to San Francisco:
One of Scott’s first acts in office was to request that our City Economist conduct an economic impact study on our nighttime economy. The study showed that nightlife is a $4.2 billion industry, employing over 50,000 people and contributing over $50 million in tax revenue annually. This study has proven to be an invaluable tool in helping guide policy discussions around nightlife and ensuring that we embrace this sector.
Scott then requested an economic impacts study for outdoor events. Our city's street fairs and festivals are key parts of our culture and economy. They bring our streets to life and build community. Yet, the city hasn't done a great job fostering these outdoor events. Instead the city has placed numerous obstacles, financial and otherwise, in front of these fairs, making some of them non-viable and threatening others. The study showed that outdoor events contribute over $1 billion to San Francisco's economy. With this data, we can determine what policy changes are needed to ensure we are keeping these festivals strong.
Scott authored legislation creating new permits for live music in public spaces and to allow art galleries, cafes, restaurants, and other establishments to host DJs during the day and early evening, under a limited live performance permit. The legislation also increases the Entertainment Commission’s enforcement power and effectiveness, ensuring broad-based and responsible nightlife and music.
San Francisco and the Bay Area are active 24 hours a day, yet it's remarkably hard to get around late night and early morning. Scott believes our transit systems need to have more late night service, including moving toward 24-hour BART. Scott authored legislation to require a planning process for improved late night transportation. Scott worked with a group of experts and advocates and crafted a plan that is currently being implemented. Already, as a result of this plan, we've seen improved overnight bus service in San Francisco and regionally.
Scott fights to protect and improve nightlife in San Francisco. Scott particularly fights for our LGBT nightlife spaces, which are critically important community spaces. Scott helped Heklina open Oasis nightclub and helped the owners of the Eagle get that venue open. Scott landmarked Twin Peaks Tavern, the first gay bar visible from the street. Scott recently wrote about why LGBT nightlife spaces matter, to the community and to him personally.
Helping Small Businesses Thrive
Small business is the backbone of our economy, employing most workers. Yet, we don't always make it easy for these economic engines. Scott Wiener and I've worked to reduce governmental hurdles to their success:
Scott authored legislation that simplified San Francisco’s overly complex and byzantine permit process for food and drink establishments. We previously had 13 different permit categories, resulting in bizarre situations where an establishment was allowed to serve a bagel cold but was prohibited from toasting it or could serve ice cream in a cup but not a cone. Scott’s legislation reduced the classifications from 13 to 3 and eliminated these irrational rules.
Some of our most unique local neighborhood businesses are second-hand stores, for example, vintage clothing stores, used book stores, used record stores, and antique shops. However, San Francisco made it expensive and almost impossible to hold the required second-hand dealer permit. Such a business had to pay a $1,500 fee, get fingerprinted and photographed at the Hall of Justice, and keep records of every single sale, including the name and description of the buyer. This law treated these businesses as if they were the worst kind of pawn shop or criminal enterprise. Scott’s legislation repealed the permit requirement entirely for most businesses, and for those businesses that sell goods more likely to have been stolen (e.g., cell phones, jewelry), Scott’s legislation simplified the process and reduced the permit fee.
Scott authored legislation to relax some extreme restrictions on food trucks in San Francisco. San Francisco has a well-deserved reputation for being on the cutting edge of food trends. One such trend is the food truck movement. Food trucks provide interesting food choices, usually at affordable prices, and provide entrepreneurial opportunities for people wanting to start businesses. San Francisco had several rules that inhibited food trucks, including a requirement that they be at least 1,500 feet from high schools and middle schools and a zoning rule that prohibited them on many hospital and university campuses. Scott’s legislation reduced these restrictions and created more flexibility in where food trucks can locate. The legislation also attempts to balance the needs of food truck operators with those of brick-and-mortar restaurants, with limitations on how close a food truck can be to a restaurant. Scott has worked very closely with the school district, restaurant groups, and food truck groups on the legislation, and passed it after two years of negotiation.
The Mission is a thriving neighborhood with many different food and drink offerings. Several decades ago, the Board of Supervisors put into place severe alcohol restrictions to combat alcohol blight. Under the law of unintended consequences, these controls began to have significant negative and unintended consequences and prevented interesting new and existing businesses from thriving. Scott co-authored legislation to relax these controls so that they can meet the original intent without unintended consequences.
Income inequality has reached astonishing levels, and government has a responsibility to help address this problem, one that threatens our middle class and our broad-based democracy. Scott Wiener strongly supports policies to bolster our middle class, including an increased minimum wage, expanded paid sick leave and paid family leave, and universal access to affordable health care and child care.
Scott authored first-in-the-country legislation to require fully paid (100% wage replacement) parental leave for new parents after childbirth or adoption, applying to both parents. California pays 55% of a new parent's salary, under the state disability system, for up to six weeks. For many workers, taking a nearly 50% pay cut to bond with a new child isn't economically feasible. In order to end the situation where parents have to choose between bonding with a new child and putting food on the table, Scott's legislation requires the employer to pay the remaining 45% of salary for six weeks. Scott's legislation will make it much easier for new parents to bond with their children. Scott will work in the State Senate to expand access to paid family leave for all Californians.
San Francisco requires that contractors who work with the city in specific areas pay their workers the prevailing area wage as opposed to poverty wages. The prevailing wage legislation had a number of loopholes that were being abused, so Scott authored multiple pieces of legislation to close those loopholes.
Scott sponsored legislation to require better reporting by parking garages of their employment patterns, in order to encourage better wages.
Our employee shuttle system helps many San Francisco residents get to work. The Municipal Transportation Agency is working closely with shuttle operators to ensure they are using our streets and bus stops without disrupting Muni. MTA issues permits to these operators to use bus stops. Scott authored a resolution urging MTA, in issuing these permits, to consider whether the shuttle operator has achieved labor harmony with its drivers, to ensure that these workers are treated fairly and also to minimize the risk of labor disruptions that impact Muni operations.
Supporting Our Furry Friends
The Bay Area is a region of animal lovers, and Scott Wiener consistently support our furry friends and their guardians:
Scott authored two resolutions putting San Francisco on record opposing GGNRA’s proposed dramatic restrictions on dog access at Fort Funston, Ocean Beach, Crissy Field, Montara, Stinson Beach, and other federal coastal properties. These restrictions, in addition to ignoring the needs of many users of these parks, would also result in over-crowding of dogs in city parks. Scott has a lot of respect for the GGNRA and its work - much of which he supports - but these proposed restrictions go too far.
Scott authored legislation that, for the first time, established a permit and basic rules for professional dogwalkers who use city parks to conduct their businesses. Previously, there were no rules at all. Other cities around the country had already done this, and given the number of dogwalkers in the city, it was time for San Francisco to follow suit. The legislation limits the number of dogs that a dogwalker can walk at one time in city parks, requires the dogwalker to obtain basic training and to have liability insurance, and requires the dogwalker to have one leash per dog on his or her person even if in an off-leash area. The legislation had broad support, including from professional dogwalker associations and the SPCA.
Animal Care & Control is San Francisco’s safety net animal agency. It runs a shelter – which accepts any and all surrendered animals – and is charged with enforcing animal welfare and safety laws. AC&C is chronically under-funded and short-staffed. Scott has worked to improve the agency's budget and staffing levels.
Scott worked with the SPCA to draft a resolution encouraging San Franciscans not to purchase dogs that had been bred in puppy mills, given the inhumane treatment of dogs in those mills.
Scott authored a resolution to support state legislation to crack down on the illegal ivory/rhino horn trade. This trade incentivizes the mass-slaughter of elephants and rhinos, driving them toward extinction. San Francisco is a major ivory center, and we need to end this.
Along with lead author Supervisor Katy Tang, Scott sponsored legislation to ban the use of exotic animals – e.g., elephants, tigers – for entertainment purposes in San Francisco. These animals, while being trained and transported, are physically abused. For example, the notorious “elephant hook” stabs the elephant in order to force it to comply with commands.
Improving Government Efficiency
We should continuously look for ways to improve the way government works. Scott authored various pieces of legislation in that spirit.
When the City awards public contracts it is important the contractor receiving the bid can meet San Francisco standards regarding safety and performance. Our current system awards contracts based on the lowest-bid. To that effect, little is done ensure that companies who receive these contracts meet the standards necessary to complete the project in a safely, effectively, and in a timely way.
Scott has introduced legislation aimed at ensuring that taxpayers receive the best value from public contracts. Although bid price remains a significant factor determining best value, a low bid followed by poor performance can result issues of safety, a greater nuisance to the public, and higher overall costs. The legislation reforms this process by authorizing the creation of a selection methodology and criteria that focuses on Safety Record, Past Performance, Labor Compliance, Financial Condition, Management Competence, and Relevant Experience.
In the age of electronic voting systems, it's important for the system and results to be transparent and verifiable. Open source data is a key aspect of this goal. Working with election transparency advocates, Scott authored a resolution putting San Francisco on record supporting open source voting systems and triggering an analysis of how our city can move toward such a system.
We pass many laws in San Francisco, and over time, our codes accumulate provisions that are outdated. Scott authored legislation to repeal a number of outdated police code provisions, for example, the ban on tying a dog to a tree or light pole even when you’re just running in to get a cup of coffee, the ban on selling food inside a bar (e.g., the Tamale Lady), and required fees for carrying luggage in specific areas of the city.
Scott authored Prop D, which consolidated the elections of City Attorney and Treasurer, previously a stand-alone off-year election with poor turnout, with the Mayoral election, which has much higher turnout. Thus, more people will participate in electing our City Attorney and Treasurer, and the general fund will save $4.2 million each time this low-turnout election doesn’t occur.
It’s likely that adult cannabis use will be legalized by California voters in November 2016. That broad legalization will raise many issues for local jurisdictions to address in terms of regulation, zoning, small business, enforcement, taxation, parks, and so forth. To prepare for the possibility of legalization, Scott authored legislation to establish a blue ribbon task force comprised of a broad cross-section of the community, including the cannabis industry, cannabis consumers, the business community, the hospitality industry, public health, nightlife, and labor advocates, and various city departments. The task force is currently studying the proposed legalization measure, looking at what other states have done, and considering what is best for San Francisco. The task force will make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors so that we can be prepared for legalization and not scramble to enact a measure after the fact.
When Scott was first elected to office, San Francisco’s process for CEQA, including CEQA appeals, was convoluted and allowed for eleventh-hour appeals that delayed projects without advancing CEQA’s goals. Indeed, appeals were sometimes filed in the middle of construction. Scott authored legislation that streamlined and improved our CEQA process, require that CEQA challenges be filed earlier rather than later, and will provide more predictability.
Scott authored legislation that closed a loophole that had allowed people to game the system for selection of the official proponent and opponent arguments for ballot measures. When more than one person submits a proposed official argument, a lottery is held to select the official argument. People were allowed to submit as many proposed arguments as they wanted, which would swamp the lottery and effectively game it. Moreover, in one circumstance, the campaign manager for the “yes” side submitted a bogus “no” argument 25 times over, won the lottery, and thus fraudulently got himself appointed as the official opponent of the ballot measure. The legislation limits people to submission of one official proponent or opponent argument and requires them to certify under penalty of perjury that they don’t have an official role with the opposing campaign.