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Video: A Conversation with San Francisco Mayor London Breed

Mary Severance March 22, 2019
photo - London Breed and Mark Baldassare in Conversation

As part of our Speaker Series on California’s Future, PPIC invites elected leaders from across the political spectrum to participate in public conversations. The purpose is to give Californians a better understanding of how our leaders are addressing the challenges facing our state.

As a mayoral candidate, London Breed promised to focus on homelessness and affordable housing—two major challenges for San Francisco and for California as a whole. Not surprisingly, these issues took center stage in her conversation with PPIC president Mark Baldassare earlier this week.

“It is no secret that homelessness is one of the biggest challenges that’s facing our city, and that also comes with the need to build more housing,” said Breed. “I’ve been on a mission! I hired a housing delivery director—someone whose sole purpose is to cut back on bureaucratic red tape that gets in the way of building housing.”

Breed stressed the need for new approaches to behavioral health issues that complicate homelessness: “We have to think about this challenge differently and we have to make hard decisions.” For example, she favors strengthening conservatorship laws. She acknowledged that conservatorship for mentally ill adults is “very controversial.” But, she added, “our jails are being used as mental health facilities, and that’s not a solution.” She is also pushing for safe injection sites, which can provide substance abuse treatment when people are ready to seek it. “Treatment on demand is something we have to start looking at.”

The mayor is also committed to trying new strategies in other policy areas, such as police-community relations and education. “I do think we need to take some risks and propose some things that may make people uncomfortable but ultimately may help us to get the kind of results that will . . . make a difference.”

But Breed also emphasized accountability. Explaining why she wants to hire a mental health director, she said, “We’re a little bit all over the place right now and I want us to address those issues, organize things a lot better for the purposes of helping people.” In this and other areas, she said, “I want to see us make the right investments.”

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