After seven rounds of voting and nearly an hour of exasperating political theater, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors chose newly elected District 3 Supervisor David Chiu as its president. A voluble cheer erupted in the North Light Court at City Hall, the overflow room where more than three hundred people crowded around a television monitor.
Supervisor Chiu, the son of immigrant Chinese parents, is the first Chinese-American president of the Board of Supervisors, and will preside over the first "majority minority" board in San Francisco. His district, which includes Fisherman’s Wharf and parts of the downtown business district, will be the epicenter of the fight over congestion pricing. It will also host Sunday Streets this summer and play a significant role in the pilot zone for SFPark.
Supervisor Chiu lives car-free, utilizing a car-share service when a vehicle is needed, and regularly extols the benefits of mass transit and cycling. In his campaign, he said he would support measures to reduce the number of private automobile trips and increase the mode share of transit and cycling even if it means making driving and parking more difficult.
Livable Streets advocates were understandably thrilled with the outcome.
"David is somebody who understands sustainable transportation and understands how we need to prioritize walking, biking and transit," said San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) Executive Director Leah Shahum. "He’s a regular bicyclist himself–he’s not one of those guys who just says he rides–I’ve encountered him on a bike, in his suit, with his briefcase, on his way to work. He will bring a breath of fresh air to the board."
The vote saw the five moderates on the board steadfast in their support for Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, while the progressive wing leaned first toward Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, then shifted to Chiu when it was clear Mirkarimi wouldn’t get the required six of eleven votes. Ironically, it was Mirkarimi who cast the deciding yea for Chiu, a fact he was quick to point out in an interview later in his offices. Laughing, he dubbed himself "The Decider."
When asked about what the city’s transportation priorities should be even moderates who voted for Supervisor Maxwell struck a promising tone on transportation policy. Supervisor Bevan Dufty said his priorities were increased funding for transit, especially the J-line, and community plans to widen sidewalks and improve pedestrian amenities on Castro Street and at the Duboce and Church transit hub. Supervisor Maxwell said she was very excited to see the continuation of Sunday Streets in 2009.
Photos: Matthew Roth