District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener. Photo by Christine Mai-Duc.

Mission Local sat down recently with District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener to talk about issues affecting San Franciscans and Mission residents. This interview is the first in a series of biweekly conversations between Mission Local and the supervisor. Readers with questions can send them to MissionLocal@gmail.com.

Mission Local: You recently introduced legislation on pedestrian safety. Why is walkability important to the average citizen?

Scott Wiener: Having walkable neighborhoods, people get to know their neighbors. It increases public safety if people are out on the streets. It’s good for the environment and you get exercise.

We want to make sure that people can walk in not just a safe way, but a comfortable way. So having shorter crossing distances at intersections; having bulb-outs [enlarged sidewalk corners], where you have better eye contact between turning cars and pedestrians so they’re more likely to see each other; [and] having plazas, so we have good public spaces where people can gather and hang out.

Guerrero Street is a mess when it comes to pedestrian safety. Guerrero has really fast traffic. It’s challenging for pedestrians, and we need to take every opportunity to upgrade it.

Right now we are in the process of working on every single curb corner in the city to upgrade them for those yellow ADA ramps. We need to make sure as we’re doing that, we’re saying, OK, should we rebuild it with the exact same dimensions, or should we consider bulbing out?

I’m very focused on trying to find the funding to upgrade the intersection [of 18th Street and Dolores] because it’s incredibly heavy pedestrian traffic there on any nice day in Dolores Park. That intersection needs to be bulbed out and to have better, more visible crosswalks.

ML: Many San Franciscans consider you to be politically conservative on some topics, such as sit/lie legislation and the Harvey Milk Plaza legislation you got passed last year that prohibited camping there. Do you agree with the characterization that you have a conservative side?

SW: I think I’m a good liberal Democrat. People love putting firm labels on you in San Francisco. The fact is that if you look at my views, I try to make the right decision for whatever the problem is.

On nightlife I’m probably the most lefty member of the board. Also on a lot of budget issues around health and human services, I’m extremely supportive of that funding. But I think public spaces need to be usable by everyone. When people turn public spaces into their own personal living room or bedroom and start camping out there, it makes it not usable by everyone.

ML: What are your thoughts on how to address problems of homelessness in San Francisco?

SW: I think there are two components — [on the one hand, to] provide access to services, whether it’s mental health, drug rehabilitation, housing or job training. On the other side, there have to be standards of behavior … in the public realm. You can’t just set up camping sites anywhere. You can’t urinate and defecate anywhere you want.

ML: What are your thoughts on alcohol permit restrictions in the Mission?

SW: I’ve been very vocal in not supporting the Mission alcohol restrictions because I think they are so draconian and have undermined really good new businesses and existing ones — like the Roxie Theater. So I think in some contexts we have to be very careful of moratoriums and dramatic restrictions that can have very unintended consequences.

ML: How would you envision changing those restrictions?

SW: I would like to repeal the entire thing. David [Campos] does not agree with that. We’ve agreed we’d like to co-sponsor something. One of the things we’re looking at is internal transferability, so that licenses can be transferred within the district.

So right now if you’re a big supermarket or full-service restaurant, you’re exempt from it. But for everyone one else — if Valencia Whole Foods wanted to sell organic beef and wine, they’re out of luck right now. [Internal transferability] would allow them to purchase a liquor license from another location within the district and bring it into their establishment.

ML: How did you become known as the guy behind the nudity ban that passed last year, when you were not even that passionate about the issue?

SW: I’ve never had an issue with public nudity, and we’ve always had some public nudity in the Castro. But right around the time I took office, it started becoming this seven-day-a-week thing. A few guys started hanging out there, and word got out, and we had guys driving in from Walnut Creek and Santa Rosa because they couldn’t get naked were they were. So they would drive in, take off their clothes, leave it in their car and stand out at Castro and Market. There were days when there were like 12 or 14 of them there. It was really uncomfortable for a lot of people; it’s a major transit hub, and we have three elementary schools within a few blocks of there.

I kept waiting and thinking it was going to run its course. During that 20-month period, there were people who were absolutely beating me up, saying why aren’t you doing anything about this?

I met with some of the naked guys and I told them that they had turned public opinion against public nudity, and that the stuff at the plaza needed to end. It became clear there was no way that was going to happen. That’s when I introduced the legislation. Despite what some people said, the legislation had majority support among gay men in the Castro.

ML: You’ve also been characterized in the media as a straight arrow, and not outgoing but more reserved. Do you agree with that? 

SW: I’m not like the life of the party. I’m not the crazy guy at the party that’s entertaining everyone. I wouldn’t say I’m shy, but I am somewhat reserved. Part of me is an introvert. But I’m not as boring as has been portrayed. Let’s put it that way.

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  1. Pretty softball interview. Why didn’t you ask Scottie about his attempt to pass legislation to allow Board of Supes to overturn voter initiatives, his ties with builders association, etc.

  2. Finally, someone on the Board of Supervisors who is a pragmatist and thinks with their head.

    I don’t support Scott in the nudity ban, but it was a contentious issue and he was caught in the middle between ideologues. Being San Francisco, the ban will simply be another law that goes unenforced until someone complains continually about it.

    Scott would make a wonderful mayor. I think he would listen to all sides and then make sensible decisions accordingly.

      1. Likewise. This guy is like the anti-Campos – wish he could come clean up my part of the Mission a bit, even just stopping the daily public urination would really improve the quality of life around here.

  3. I’m not a fan of Supervisor Wiener. He was waaaay out of line for shoving that nudity ban down everyone’s throats, and he did something else that wasn’t even discussed in this interview: he promoted the legislation passed by the Board of Sups that lowered the number of square feet in a space required for it to be legal housing…and he did this in the name of helping create affordable housing, but somehow nothing in the legislation requires developers to limit the cost per square foot on this so-called “affordable housing.” So, in other words, now as soon as these micro-units are built and on the market, people can expect to pay $1500-1800 (estimated, based on SF Chronicle articles on the subject) for a 210 sq. ft. unit!! And supposedly these tiny spaces will be considered reasonable housing for 2 occupants!!! That’s ridiculous!!! Overcrowding is already an issue in this city, and simply lying back and letting greedy developers do an end-run around the previously-existing legal apartment size without actually guaranteeing REAL affordable housing is offensive and insulting to the people of San Francisco who are in desperate need of lower rents, not smaller, more cramped spaces!! This legislation led by Supervisor Wiener proves he’s in the pocket of the big developers in San Francisco, and doesn’t actually give a fig about the people who live here. Also, if he’s so intent on making his neighborhood useable for ALL people, why doesn’t he do something about all the meth-heads who congregate in front of the Walgreens at all times of day and night, harassing anyone trying to go into the store, blocking the sidewalk, and camping out in the doorways around the Castro, spreading filth and leaving detritus. At least the nudists left people alone. Their only crime was being nude, which last I checked, doesn’t actually harm anyone (except, perhaps, offend Mr. Wiener’s delicate sensibilities?)!

  4. I like Sup. Wiener. I’ll echo what someone else said: he has struck me as a real pragmatist. Hope he stays on the board for a while.

  5. The effort to improve the intersection of 18th and Dolores is admirable, but not because of so many people going to the park on a nice weekend. Mission High is right there, Everett Middle School is two blocks away — and those kids are using the intersection every day, rain or shine. The intersection didn’t even have pedestrian control lights until about 3 years ago! And it’s not “think of the children,” it’s “think of the people who live here.” We could use a supervisor who is more concerned with those of us who live here, students included, and not so much how to make it nicer for those visiting.

    1. When the do that fixing of 18th and Dolores, can they put real drains there, since the whole park drains to that intersection when it rains

  6. Can you slow down South Van Ness which is by far the fastest street in the Mission with major accidents regularly occurring ? Never mind..you don’t handle that part of the Mission.

  7. Lifting the alcohol moratorium coupled with the propped expansion of alcohol service until 400am will turn the Mission into a nightmare of noise,drunks, even more than and violence. I don’t think it will have a positive outcome.

    1. I’ve actually seen the opposite happen domestically and overseas. The later closing time leads to people gradually leaving as opposed to a mass drunk exodus at 1:30 (more typical bar closing time). This has been proven to work.

  8. Scott Wiener is such a great supervisor. Unlike most them, he looks at SF as a whole, not just at District 8. He is very pragmatic as the many issuees, most of them quality of life, that need to be addressed & resolved. Living in District 9, it would be great to have someone like Mr. Wiener instead of David Campos. At least we would not have to deal with the trash/ criminal behavior on a daily basis.

  9. Not the toughest of interviews but overall fair.

    I think that he’s trying to be fair and to balance all of the opposing views that he gets and to make the best decisions he can. I don’t agree with all of his decisions and the laws he proposed but I’d rather have his thoughtful approach than have another Chris Daley and his one trick pony.

  10. Softball interview. Larry King would be impressed.

    Why didn’t you ask him about the out of control city budget, 7.2 BILLION and growing, and why he keeps pushing bond measures for short term park and street maintenance, the cost of which be left for future tax payers who wont reap the benefits.

  11. SW meet with the nudists, I was one of them, told us he would work with us, and then turned around an introduced the legislation ONE WEEK later. That is not what I call “working with us.”
    BTW, all of the “out of town” nudists began coming to the plaza after SW passed the towel legislation, which sent up a rocket telling everyone, hey, it’s okay to be naked in the Castro. So, SW was just as much a part of creating the problem.

  12. Wiener has an underserved reputation as a pragmatist, even though he goes out of his way to “reform” things that don’t need reforming, like CEQA and our initiative rights. Still waiting for him to provide some examples of why those need reform.

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