Annika Hom, Lydia Chávez, Joe Eskenazi and Eleni Balakrishnan. Illustration by Molly Oleson.

Annika Hom, Reporter:

As my formidable bosses repeatedly remind us, the best pieces dig deep and pull apart complex, difficult questions. Few pieces demonstrate that better than Joe Eskenazi’s column on San Francisco school board member Alison Collins, in which I felt he hit all the marks: his standard and sharp political analysis, inclusion of the affected community’s voices and, most importantly, courageous dissection of the complications with her Tweets. Unlike almost every other piece that simplified this scandal, Eskenazi spelled out the racism both the Black and Asian communities face, with much-needed context and nuance. Doing so requires courage; something disappointingly absent from other journalists and media outlets who dared not broach the story at all. 

Fortunately, that courage and critical thinking isn’t exclusive to Eskenazi. I loved Lydia Chávez’s hyper-attention to the city’s Covid-19 response, showing time and again how the community often served its people better than city officials espousing success. Importantly, Eleni Balakrishnan wrote about the rape allegations levied against a Mission leader and how the neighborhood’s nonprofits addressed these

And, most significantly, I celebrate our coverage of the people who make this neighborhood. Clara-Sophia Daly beautifully memorialized Yolanda López, and highlighted the plight of day laborers.

Yolanda López, depicted on a mural in San Francisco by Jessica Sabogal. During her time as an illustrator for the newspaper Basta Ya!, she received guidance from the Black Panther Newspaper.

Eleni Balakrishnan, Reporter:

I joined Mission Local halfway through 2021, but even in such a short time, our team has produced some incredible stories: Breaking important news, exposing corruption and highlighting the lives and experiences of people in our city who are often overlooked. 

Annika Hom’s reporting on San Francisco’s housing world always helps me stay up to speed, and her story about one company’s treatment of its tenants in subsidized housing was a horrifying reminder of the impacts when the powerful go unchecked. And this story about fentanyl in our community also stuck with me, not only for the information it conveyed, but the sensitivity with which Clara-Sophia Daly wrote it. 

When it comes to understanding and analyzing this city’s politics, Joe Eskenazi is unmatched. I especially enjoyed following his series on rampant city corruption, which tied together so many city figures, including building inspectors, a city administrator and the mayor — all with his distinctive sense of humor.  

I had been following Julian Mark’s work before I arrived at Mission Local, and though we didn’t overlap in the newsroom, his coverage of the police department in stories like this set a high bar for me.

Police approach a homeless denizen of Willow Street during a June 10 sweep of the vicinity. From a video shot by Kelley Cutler

Beth Winegarner, Copy Editor:

As Mission Local’s copy editor, I read almost every word that appears on this site ⁠— with considerable attention to detail. I’m grateful for the quality of our reporting, but that makes it difficult to narrow down my favorite articles of the year. There are definitely worse problems to have. 

Of course, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic dominated our coverage in 2021. I appreciated Mark Rabine’s tireless data updates, as well as Mission Local’s attention to the bigger picture. Two of my favorite articles spotlighted women leaders at the core of local pandemic response: Lydia Chávez’s “The Covid-19 warriors at UCSF are often female, always fierce and unusually diverse,” and Annika Hom’s “Susana, Susy, and salud: a mother-daughter team make Covid-19 wellness their Mission.” Others reflected on the pandemic’s effect on their lives, as in Naomi Marcus’ “I miss crying during Zumba classes in the Mission” and Julian Mark’s “Love survived — even thrived — in the time of Covid-19.”

Meanwhile, San Francisco’s other social and political struggles carried on. Joe Eskenazi continued to cover city corruption impeccably, as evidenced in this perplexing article: “City of San Francisco’s settlement with Walter Wong includes $387K worth of garbage can parts.” Just as perplexing is our “Garbage odyssey: San Francisco’s bizarre, costly quest for the perfect trash can,” which Chávez wrote in September. Clara-Sophia Daly’s article “‘Fentanyl is where the devil dwells’: notes from 16th and Mission as overdose deaths spike” shook me deeply, while Eskenazi’s “The loss of SF Weekly — gradually, then suddenly — is incalculable” made me terribly sad, as a former contributor to the Weekly

Mission Local also excels at capturing life in the Mission and around San Francisco. Some of my favorites in this category include “‘People’ We Meet: A girl and her tortoise,” by Yujie Zhou, and the return of Benjamin Wachs’ bar-hopping column, Distillations. I also enjoyed two peeks into somewhat-hidden parts of SF culture: “Where to buy and sell rare Latinx books and ephemera in the Mission” by Alan Chazaro and “Little Red Book: The pocket-sized parallel universe for Chinese locals” by Zhou. 

Joe Eskenazi, Managing Editor:

During the pandemic, time feels as if it has coagulated like a doped-up cyclist’s blood. As such, going through every Mission Local story for the year 2021, the articles from the early months of the year felt like they were aeons ago. I was surprised that some of these stories were from this year. I would’ve been surprised if you told me they were from last year. 

The one consistent element in this inconsistent time was Mark Rabine’s Covid tracker. If 90 percent of success is just showing up, Rabine showed up big this year. These articles were comprehensive, witty and necessary. 

It was a rough year after all, and many of our best articles were about those who didn’t see it out. Clara-Sophia Daly had a breakout 2021, and turned in deep and moving obituaries for larger-than-life figures like Q.R. Hand and Yolanda López. Kate Selig, a young journalistic five-tool player, introduced us to Jackie Rieber, who lived and died on Bartlett Street and kept it neat and clean. 

This was a year of transition at Mission Local as we lost Julian Mark to a little-known East Coast paper called the Washington Post (but not before turning in more hard-nosed police reporting, including this story about the cops trying to talk a woman out of filing a report after she was attacked by a deranged, knife-wielding man). But we were lucky to get Eleni Balakrishnan; this story about police taking days to respond to a $40,000 theft at a local nonprofit was a particularly memorable one.  

Annika Hom has developed into Mission Local’s innings-eating starter. Her land-use column, Developments in Development, evinces the sense of humor and positive energy we know off the page. But this is also a sharp column that explains this city’s bewildering processes. This article on dysfunctionality within the Mayor’s Office of Housing, resulting in affordable housing units sitting vacant in the midst of a housing crisis, is necessary reading for anyone who feels compelled to complain about housing in this city. 

We were lucky to have David Mamaril Horowitz covering rideshares — and actually inducing our transportation overlords to drop a dodgy practice diverting money from drivers following a much-read article

We’ve been lucky, during a pandemic, to have Anlan Cheney, who has a master’s in public health. We’ve been lucky, during the city’s ongoing wave of corruption scandals, to have a graphics and data whiz like Will Jarrett. And we’re lucky to have Yujie Zhou, who has been able to tell the stories of the Mission’s monolingual Chinese speakers. Her recent article about the bakery run by a Chinese immigrant, and the cavalcades of Latinxs who beat a path to his doorstep in the Mission to buy French rolls, was one of my favorites this year. 

Next year promises to be eventful. The City provides. We’re ready.  

Image and chart by Will Jarrett

Lydia Chávez, Executive Editor:

There were so many good stories this year ⁠— good, and important. I feel like everyone who worked here, for a short or a longer period, had hits. First off, a big thank you to our pinch hitter on editing, Sandra Salmans, who will always step in, take a look at copy and make it better. My hat’s off to you!

Some of my favorite stories: the Report Card series that focused on the impacts of distance learning. It was overseen by Sindya Bhanoo, illustrated by Molly Oleson and edited into videos by Helene Goupil. It was creative, revealing and offered a different way to experience what others were going through. Annika Hom did the same by profiling Susana and Susy Rojas, a mother and daughter team working in the effort to test and then vaccinate the city’s Latinx population. 

I’m always interested in reading about people we don’t normally hear from, so I especially liked Eleni Balakrishnan’s trend piece on Indian grocery stores and restaurants, and Yujie Zhou’s recent pieces on the Asian community, including this one on how many who survived Mao’s Great Leap Forward experienced the pandemic differently. These are also examples of the direct benefits of having a staff that reflects the diversity of the city. 

The list of Joe Eskenazi’s stories is long and deep. My favorites: his takedown of the Board of Education’s decision to leave historians out of its process to rename schools, the close look at one job posting at the Department of Building Inspection and the nuanced recent piece on Mayor London Breed’s crackdown

The most important story we published this year was definitely the start of Joe’s ongoing series on the careless retrofitting of more than 4,000 multi-unit buildings in the city. His stories on city corruption became so extensive that Will Jarrett knitted them into a brilliant interactive. There’s a quiz for you at the end of the interactive as well. 

Daily journalism doesn’t get much better and it still astounds me that it is happening right here at Mission Local. 

Illustration by Molly Oleson
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Managing Editor/Columnist. Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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  1. The recent articles about SF Park Ranger Santiago, the Broadmoor PD, and the Walter Wong scandal are ample proof that community-based journalism is more important than ever.

  2. Best local newspaper. I pay for the New York Times, Washington Post and Mission Local. All value propositions. Thank you.

  3. Great reporting all around. Thanks, Mission Local, for another year of wonderful articles.

    I, too, have greatly appreciated Mark Rabine’s excellent Covid Tracker– the best regular analysis I’ve seen of what’s happening with Covid in SF.