During a freewheeling discussion Tuesday evening in the Mission District, Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton said he’s focused on vaccinating residents of Bayview-Hunters Point, the neighborhood that he noted has the highest Covid-19 case rate citywide.
“There are so many things we have to tackle, but we have to also be laser-focused on really coming out at the end of this pandemic,” Walton said at the discussion, which was hosted at Manny’s, the cafe, political bookstore and civic engagement hub on 16th and Valencia streets.
The city supervisor oversees District 10, which includes the Bayview Hunters Point, Dogpatch, Potrero Hill and Visitacion Valley neighborhoods. On Jan. 8, his colleagues voted him president of the board.
Walton said his other priorities include creating permanent affordable housing, preventing evictions, working on police accountability and reducing violence — gun violence in particular.
He also spoke of setting up a vehicle triage center in the Bayview — a parking lot with services for residents who live in their vehicles. Bayview Hunters Point, he said, has seen more people living in their vehicles “than we’ve ever seen before.”
The ball is already rolling here: The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing told Mission Local last week that the plan is to have approximately 120 parking spaces. The first of these centers was piloted in 2019 in Ingleside, across from the Balboa Park BART Station.
Walton added that, during his tenure as president, he especially looks forward to pursuing a reparations plan for Black residents. Walton, who himself spent time incarcerated as a young person, has helped to spearhead the closure of San Francisco’s juvenile hall. He aims to have it closed and repurposed by the end of the year, “making sure that we reimagine, re-envision the opportunity for young people who make mistakes to be successful, versus setting them up for the prison pipeline.”
Taking questions from cafe proprietor and event host Manny Yekutiel as well as the audience, Walton spoke about his June spat with the mayor regarding bullying, public trust in the midst of city corruption, and the plan and timeline for reparations in San Francisco. He also doubled down on his much-publicized contention that Golden Gate Park’s JFK Drive should be reopened to cars in the name of racial equity.
The following is a condensed, edited version of the Q&A.
Yekutiel: You very publicly came out against JFK Drive and the Slow Streets. Do you still feel the same way about the either temporary or permanent closure of some streets or parts of the streets to cars, after all of the conversations, and now … a lot more community discussions? Do you feel like that it’s still segregationist, or would you call it “recreational redlining?”
Walton: I’m not against Slow Streets; in fact, I fought for some … I 100 percent feel that the closure of JFK is segregationist, and the fact that you would work hard to keep populations from being able to access one of the most amazing parks in the world is problematic for me.
Yekutiel: I’m taking my MTA [commissioner] hat off, just putting on my hat of someone who’s reading the news and has been going to JFK, and is like, “Wait a second, this is awesome. Why would anyone say this? This is so great.” They might hear (what you’re saying) and say, “Can’t someone just drive to Fulton or drive to MLK and walk a little bit? If they have a bunch of stuff, take the stuff out of the car and walk half a block in?”
Walton: Why aren’t people saying, “What do we do to make sure this space is accessible to everyone?” Why are people not saying when they go out to JFK drive, “You only see certain types of people.” … There are other issues and concerns with shutting down the street: We have emergency responders, whether it’s the Fire Department, Police Department, ambulances that have to get to and from certain areas. For me, it’s not just about the closure of the street. It represents so much more. And, why aren’t people saying, “How can we make sure that everybody has access, and everybody has equitable opportunity to this amazing space?”
Mission Local: In June, you and Mayor London Breed had a back-and-forth about bullying and respect. Is that still a simmering thing, or have things kind of moved on? How has that progressed?
Walton: At the end of the day, folks get passionate about work, and I think part of our role is to make sure that we hold each other accountable, whether there’s the executive branch here in San Francisco, or the legislative branch here in San Francisco, but we’re going to always be clear about making sure that we are respectful to each other. And I think that this current Board of Supervisors is very respectful to department heads and very respectful to the mayor’s team. And we’re going to continue to do that.
Mission Local: So, are things kind of chill right now between your office and the mayor’s?
Walton: Oh, yeah — we’ve done several things together since then. We just had a violence prevention summit together. Yesterday, we continued to work on reparations and the Dream Keeper Initiative. So we’re all working respectfully to move forward because we have work to do in terms of making sure that the city has what it needs, and that’s what we’re gonna get to.
Mission Local: So, mostly moved on then?
Walton: Yeah, definitely.
Audience member: How long had you been thinking about the idea of reparations? What were those early conversations with your colleagues, with the mayor with your constituents like, and where are we currently out with it? Where are the next steps in the timeline?
Walton: We just appointed a 15-member Reparations Committee. They’ve had two meetings, they elected a chair in the first meeting, elected a vice chair in the second meeting. So they’re doing the work. The entire planning phase and the work they’re going to do is going to be about 18 months. And during that, they’ll come up with prioritizing the injustices of what has happened to Black folks in San Francisco, and then coming up with a package in terms of how we’re going to monetize, address those injustices. Let’s just give an example — and I’m not saying this is what’s going to happen in any way, shape, form or fashion — but let’s just say, from an education standpoint, they come up with a way to make sure that every young person that graduates from high school in San Francisco, and they’re black, and they they grew up here, they get to go to any college in San Francisco for free, or any training program for free. And that can be one example. I think they’re going to be some aspects of universal basic income that are going to come out through the reparations plan, but I don’t want to get ahead of the taskforce. That’s why they’re in place.
Yekutiel: About the whole corruption thing — Mohammed Nuru, and the head of Building Inspection [Tom Hui], and Recology, and the mayor, all these accusations and in some cases admittances of ethics violations or corruption — do you think it has shaken San Franciscans’ trust in their government, and how do you think we recover from this?
Walton: Yeah, it has definitely shaken the trust of the public … we’ve done several things so far on this board, in terms of splitting up the Department of Public Works, making sure Recology paid back the money that they owe to the ratepayers for the things that they’ve done, and … people at Recology have lost their jobs, a lot of department heads have lost their jobs to this process … The City Attorney has done investigations on these departments. We’re going to be relentless about holding folks accountable for the misuse of public resources and for what they’ve done with the public trust … But yeah, the public trust has been violated, and the only way we can get it back is to demonstrate that it won’t be tolerated.