Editor’s note: This is a regular series of conversations with District 9 Supervisor David Campos addressing issues and events in the Mission. If you have questions for Campos, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mission Local: The Mission is going through a lot of changes. Business owners and residents are worried about gentrification and displacement. In your opinion, how is the neighborhood changing, and how do you address these concerns?
David Campos: The big questions are: ‘What are we doing to deal with some of the gentrification and to help some of these businesses remain in this neighborhood? And for some of these residents who are finding it a lot more difficult to stay in San Francisco, how do we help them stay here?’ I don’t know that we have an answer right now.
I think that there are a number of things that have to be done. I think one of them is to help businesses understand some of the programs that are available to them, whether it’s city programs that help them financially or federal programs that help them financially. I also think that we need to make an investment financially as a city in helping these businesses stay. I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but I think we should explore and we should discuss.
ML: How do you see your role in helping keep a balance between small and large companies in the neighborhood, as well as a variety of types of businesses?
DC: We make a point to welcome new businesses that are coming in, but we also make a point to make sure that we are supporting small businesses — helping them navigate city bureaucracy, helping them with how they want to grow. I think my job is to continue talking to small businesses to see how we can support them. I think there is some responsibility that we have to place on the larger corporations to make sure if they’re coming into the city that they’re also contributing to the city and that they’re helping out.
ML: In what ways do you see bigger corporations come in and help out the city?
DC: One of the things that I point out is that within the Mission we have some of the lowest-performing schools in the city. I’d love to see some of these companies become more involved in the community to help local schools.
Another thing is, how do we create job opportunities for residents? How do we make sure that we are creating a path for people who live in our neighborhood to eventually work in these companies? We had a hearing about this a couple of months ago to talk about what it is that we’re doing to help young people get jobs in the tech industry. There are some efforts, but we’re not doing enough.
ML: Mission Local covered the newly launched Invest In Neighborhoods Initiative aimed at improving the Lower 24th Street commercial corridor, among others in the city. Community members are interested in a legislative effort that would protect businesses from predatory real estate agents to address the issue of displacement. Is that a possibility?
DC: The challenge is that ultimately state laws place limitations on what we can do locally and there is very little, if anything, that we can do locally in terms of passing laws that do that. One possibility is to figure out ways to change state laws.
But I think what we have tried to do, if you look at corridors like 24th Street, is set aside money specifically for planning for the corridor to look at the kinds of issues that merchants and residents have; to improve lighting; to improve the cleanliness of the street; deal with public safety. That was sort of a community-driven process.
The mayor’s new initiative is building on the work that we have already done in that corridor. So, we need to do more of that, but we also need to make sure that it’s community-driven and it’s not imposed on the community and that the community has a role to play in what it looks like.
ML: Are there any other ways that the city can help businesses from being displaced?
DC: Besides trying to support them by helping them navigate the city bureaucracy and supporting them through benefits of the local state and federal programs, trying to promote the corridor, and trying to promote the neighborhood, we try to work with individuals where we have helped them negotiate individual leases that have become problematic.
We are not able to legally do more beyond that, but we’re open to a discussion if people have any ideas. We have also talked about planning measures that could be put in place to protect some of these businesses. There have been talks about putting zoning restrictions on 24th Street or Valencia Street. So, that’s something that we have also explored.
ML: You have recently extended help to some businesses in the district facing trouble, most notably the bar Esta Noche and Virginia Ramos, better known as the “Tamale Lady.” How do you decide what neighborhood businesses you offer your personal help to?
DC: We help whoever reaches out to us, and we hear from members of the community about businesses who might be in trouble. We try to keep our ear to the ground. In each one of these cases we heard from individuals in the community that these businesses were suffering, and we got involved. There are a couple of other businesses where we have done the same thing. We try to see what’s happening in the community and respond to it.
ML: Do you think that this might send a message that some businesses may be more important than others in your eyes? Are you concerned about that?
DC: No. I think that every business has something to offer, and we try to be helpful to everyone we can. So, we certainly don’t believe in having a preference for one business or the other. We get involved and try to help where the need is.
ML: Encantada Gallery is also closing on Valencia Street. Are you involved in helping the owner?
DC: I have spoken to the owner. We have also spoken to the 24th Street Merchants Association, which has been helping her find a new place. Our preference would have been to stay where they were, but we have no control over the lease in this case.
ML: Each year, district supervisors each get approximately $100,000 for discretionary spending. How do you plan to use the funds in the district?
DC: What we have been trying to focus on has been the gun buyback program, and it’s been challenging because the city really doesn’t have a process in place. We’re also providing additional funding to DPW to help clean some of the streets. We want to focus the bulk of that money on keeping the neighborhood safe and keeping the neighborhood clean.
ML: It was announced that City College of San Francisco will lose its accreditation next year. How is your office involved in the effort to keep the college from closing?
DC: We have very close communication with the City College, not only the elected officials there, but the leadership at City College. We also are very involved with the students.
At the Mission Campus we have 8,500 students. We now know how important the college is to the community, not only because of the students that are enrolled but also the number of programs it offers to the community — whether it’s language programs or training for various professions. It plays a very important role in the community. We have made a public statement about the need to save City College. We have gone to a number of meetings. I have spoken to the interim chancellor about the importance of this. We also just co-sponsored a hearing request by the Board of Supervisors for a status report on where things are. It would be a great tragedy for City College to close.
ML: What effect do you think it would have on the Mission District if the Mission campus were to close?
DC: I think City College opens doors for so many people. That’s how people get an education. It’s the fuel that they use to achieve the American dream. If City College were not available to thousands of people, I think it would be thousands of people that would not have the same opportunities they have today. I think it would be a really sad thing to see. We have a booming technology industry in San Francisco. City College is a way that many of these young people can access jobs in this industry. Without this knowledge you’re closing the door of opportunity around certain jobs. I believe that it would be hard to imagine San Francisco without City College. It would be hard to imagine the Mission without the Mission Campus.
ML: You’ve recently taken to Twitter to talk about some issues, including the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. Can you expand on your thoughts on the verdict?
This is a sad day for our country. I'm sorry Trayvon that the system failed you and your family.
— David Campos (@DavidCamposSF) July 14, 2013
DC: I think that it’s been very difficult for many of us to see what happened, where you have a young man that was unarmed killed without any consequences in terms of holding the individual legally accountable for that action. I wanted to make sure that I indicated [on Twitter] my disagreement with that verdict.
At the same time, I think it’s important for people to come together and to make sure that whatever feelings they have are expressed in peaceful way. I think that this is an opportunity for us, as a community, to have more discussion about how we come together and I think out of challenge comes opportunity, and out of this challenge comes the opportunity to have more discussion about how we, as a society, make sure that everyone gets equal treatment. How do we ensure that there is no profiling and that there is no discrimination, and that we can have disagreement?
ML: What was your reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA and Prop 8?
DC: I was excited and so thrilled as a gay man to see that the LGBT community received, finally, equal treatment under the law by the U.S. Supreme Court, and it’s sad that we’re making some advancements in some areas, then we have something like what happened with Trayvon Martin. It wasn’t just Trayvon Martin. Around the same time that the Supreme Court made this ruling on DOMA and same sex-marriage they also issued a pretty bad ruling around voting rights. So, it’s a mixed bag, but I try to remain optimistic. I think that in the end history is on the side of justice and equality.
ML: Were you present for any of the weddings that took place at City Hall just a few days after the ruling?
DC: Yes. It was very moving. One of the great things about working at City Hall on a given day is that there are a number of weddings taking place. It’s a beautiful thing to see, and I’m very proud of the fact that it all started in San Francisco. Just today as I was going into a meeting, I passed by a same-sex couple that was getting married in front of Harvey Milk’s bust outside the chambers of the board, and it was great.