The battle for the forgotten district

The future of San Francisco will be written in District 10. Who's ready to be the next supervisor?

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The Bayview's attractive to developers, but some fear the price will be the community's diversity and affordability.
PHOTO BY JUDITH CALSON

sarah@sfbg.com

This November, when voters in District 10 — the largest, sunniest, and most diverse of the city's 11 supervisorial districts — replace termed out Sup. Sophie Maxwell, they'll be making a selection that could have pivotal implications for the entire city.

That's because the next supervisor from southeast San Francisco inherits a district that is home to some of the city's biggest environmental and public health challenges, as well as the most potential for development that will determine what kind of city San Francisco becomes.

District 10 is where you'll find the most polluted and most underdeveloped lands in San Francisco, areas that could either be transformed into models of a sustainability or, in the words of Tony Kelly, the president of Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association, "be turned into a toxic Foster City."

District 10 is where the slaughterhouses, tanneries, and glue factories set up shop and used the bay as a dumping ground. It's where the smokestacks of coal and oil fired power plants polluted the air. It's where the Navy filled the Bay, built a shipyard at Hunters Point and loaded parts of the first atomic bomb onto the USS Indianapolis in 1945.

District 10 is where the bottom fell out of this industrial economy in 1974, when the Navy left, taking with it people's jobs, pay, and hopes for a home of their own and a better future, particularly for what was then a predominantly African American population.

And District 10 is ground zero for plans that will triple the population and double the number of homes — homes that likely will only be "affordable" to Google executives and retirees from Marin, forever changing the face of San Francisco's southeast sector. Critics fear that will accelerate what has been a steady exodus of black residents, replaced by megadeveloper Lennar's vision for a new D10.

It's against this dark history and difficult present that a wide open field of more than a dozen candidates are vying to replace Maxwell, who came to power in 2000 and has had a mixed voting record in her decade on the board. Sometimes, Maxwell was the eighth vote that let the progressive majority on the Board override Mayor Gavin Newsom's veto and pass trailblazing legislation. Other times, she was the swing vote that allowed the moderate minority to carry Newsom's water.

So, in addition to D10's many internal challenges, this seat could determine the political balance of power on the Board of Supervisors, placing all the more importance on voters in this long-marginalized part of town.

 

DISTRICT OF DISCONTENT

Eric Smith, a biodiesel activist who has thrown his hat in the D10 ring, says that there is a lot of frustration in the air, and looking at the problems the district is facing, it's hardly surprising that it has what nearly every candidate agrees is a fractured political culture.

"The Bayview, the Hunters Point Shipyard's toxic Superfund site, the homicide rate, unemployment, poor public transportation, dwindling services and community resources have made D10 one of the city's largest melting pots of discontent," Smith said.

Smith's words were spoken while the Elections Department was verifying signatures earlier this month on a second failed effort to qualify a petition to recall Maxwell.

Bayview resident and D10 candidate Marie Franklin didn't support the attempt to recall Maxwell, but she understood it as "a frustration movement."

"People are sinking in the sand, we've already lost so many of them, and they felt Sophie wasn't doing anything for them," said Franklin, who praised Maxwell for helping get Franklin's apartment building complex renovated — a job that was completed 18 months ago, at a cost of $65 million, creating 500 local jobs.