OPINION When Guardian Editor Steven T. Jones asked me to respond to his recent columns ("Chiu becomes City Hall's go-to guy for solving tough problems", 7/23/13; "Chiu: Centrist Compromiser, Effective Legislator, or Both," 7/30/13), I reflected on how our Board of Supervisors' 2013 accomplishments exemplifies the lessons and rewards of working together.
After several decades of intense fights between TIC owners and tenants, I asked both sides to sit down, share perspectives, and brainstorm beyond the impasse. To our surprise, when TIC owners shared their struggles and offered to pay a fee to condo convert, tenant advocates agreed to finally support conversions as long as their core principle of preventing evictions — which I strongly shared — was addressed.
After a decade of failed CEQA reform attempts, the pundits predicted an epic battle between developers and neighbors this year. The breakthrough for unanimous support occurred when both sides acknowledged to me that real neighborhood input and predictability in the planning process are not mutually exclusive, and progressive leaders wanted to ensure that pedestrian, bike, affordable housing, and public projects are not delayed.
After years of controversy, CPMC/Sutter and the coalition of dozens of community-based organizations deadlocked over how to rebuild the Cathedral Hill and St. Luke's hospital campuses. After exposing financial documents challenging the original proposal, I worked with colleagues for six months at a mediation table that refashioned a CPMC plan to rebuild those 21st century hospitals the right way.
While each story is unique, what all of these accomplishments — along with recently balanced budgets, business tax reform, and pension reform — have in common is hard work and extreme patience by dedicated San Franciscans seeking creative solutions.
As Board President, my job is to build consensus among our diverse supervisors and deliver results. When I first came to City Hall, I asked my colleagues to move beyond past politics that had magnified differences. I am proud that today's Board has the highest approval ratings in a decade, as we do more together working through our differences.
At the negotiation table, it's essential to stand firm on core values. My vision for San Francisco has been of a city that protects tenants and families; creates good jobs across the economic spectrum; offers high quality public services with Muni, our schools, and our parks; and embraces our diversity, our immigrants, our seniors, and those who have been historically disenfranchised.
When we can't always find creative win-wins, it's still important to fight for what's right. I've taken my political lumps championing the right of noncitizen parents to vote in school board elections, standing up for workers requesting family-friendly workplaces, and taking on a Yellow Pages industry dumping millions of phone books on our streets.
When I hear criticisms of "compromise," I reflect that the most important federal legislation in recent years — from the Civil Rights Act to the Affordable Care Act, Wall Street reform to comprehensive immigration reform — were also criticized as "compromises." Critics often forget the big picture: by incorporating different views, reforms actually get done, and if we wait forever for the perfect policy, people will suffer.
San Franciscans are at our best when we unite around shared values — from marriage equality to universal health care to environmental protections. We still have plenty of challenges: housing affordability, struggling workforces, family flight, public transit.