A woman with glasses and a landscape in teh background.
Kate Sofis, photo courtesy SFMade.

Mission Local has learned that Kate Sofis, who officially stepped down as San Francisco’s head of San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development this week, has already found a new roost: Her former colleagues at OEWD were informed by the mayor’s office today at an all-hands meeting that Sofis has been appointed the managing director of the War Memorial and Performing Arts Center, the complex that houses the San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Ballet.

A mayor’s office representative told OEWD staff that Sofis would be “staying within the city family and moving to War Memorial,” Mission Local is told.

The War Memorial director position has an annual salary range between $188,448 and $240,448. Sofis will head the city department and direct its 70 employees and 100 part-timers. 

Sofis does not appear to meet the minimum qualifications for this role, which require at least five years “managing the operations of a performing arts venue.” Sofis has none, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Those minimum qualifications may just be recommendations, however: The War Memorial Board of Trustees, an 11-member board of mayoral appointees that governs the complex, has full hiring and firing power over the director position. While civil service roles have strict qualification requirements, board-appointed ones do not.

Neither the mayor’s office nor Sofis have responded to requests for comment.

The War Memorial complex includes the War Memorial Opera House, the Harold L. Zellerbach Rehearsal Hall, the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, and other performing arts venues across the street from City Hall.

Filling Sofis’ position atop OEWD will be Sarah Dennis-Phillips, presently a senior director at the development firm Tishman-Speyer, and formerly deputy director of development for Mayor London Breed. Breed also appointed Dennis-Phillips to the city’s Inclusionary Housing Advisory Board in September, a body that advises the Board of Supervisors on affordable housing rates in private developments.

The appointment is a quick turnaround for Sofis, who just last week began saying her goodbyes at OEWD, where she served as executive director for two years. 

The reason for her departure is unclear, but she faced two lawsuits alleging conflicts of interest stemming from her former nonprofit, the manufacturing group SFMade. 

The lawsuits, one in California Superior Court and the other in federal court, were filed by another manufacturing nonprofit, Humanmade, which alleged that Sofis “repeatedly abused [her] insider position to enrich SFMade and its affiliates,” among other complaints. 

SFMade declined to comment on the lawsuits.

Sofis previously failed to file disclosure forms showing that she had dealings with Amazon while serving as executive director of SFMade — and then quietly negotiated to bring an Amazon delivery hub into San Francisco as head of OEWD.

A committee of the War Memorial board voted today in a closed session on their recommendation for the managing director position, choosing between three candidates. That recommendation has been advanced to the full Board of Trustees, which could formally ratify Sofis’ position on June 21.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the Board of Supervisors would ratify Sofis’ position. It is the War Memorial Board of Trustees that has that power.

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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.

Joe was born in Sweden, where the Chilean half of his family received asylum after fleeing Pinochet, and spent his early childhood in Chile; he moved to Oakland when he was eight. He attended Stanford University for political science and worked at Mission Local as a reporter after graduating. He then spent time in advocacy as a partner for the strategic communications firm The Worker Agency. He rejoined Mission Local as an editor in 2023.

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  1. War Memorial boss Tom Horn probably freaked when he heard about this appointment. He has been the total diplomat, playing nice in the sandbox for years with arts ignoramus Mayor Breed. Breed’s zero appointment of Sofis is the capper.

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  2. Darryl1
    5 minutes ago

    This is a half-story.
    It’s infuriating that Sofis is now leading one of the most prestigious arts centers on the West Coast, without qualifications for the job and with scandal flurrying around her. We need ask why City Hall is appointing an unqualified person from among qualified candidates not involved in SF politics, and whether there is something else compeling the appointment.
    She seems a pawn in a much bigger “City Hall Family” power play, and an example of a mid-level government official living off scraps that the Family hands out to those willing to play along.
    And if she is just a pawn, she’ll prove again that she hasn’t an original idea or solution to implement.

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  3. May I ask — will someone be asking Breed & Sofis what exactly are her credentials to lead do many vital art agencies?

    Does she even listen to opera? Can she name something Puccini wrote – or Wagner? There are so many passionate opera & classical music lovers in SF, the community deserves someone with a verifiable interest to lead the War Memorial.

    It should not go unnoticed that we have yet another overpaid city official who desperately lacks minimum quals…go team…

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