Sandra Lee Fewer, District 1’s newest supervisor, has some big topics on her mind going into the new year: affordable housing, long-term solutions for homelessness, and a transit system that better connects the Richmond to the rest of the city. But before having conversations at City Hall, her first order of business is to have them in the neighborhood.
“For the first couple of months, I’m going to get out and meet a lot of people, and hear what they have to say,” says Fewer, a fourth-generation San Franciscan who's lived in the neighborhood for 50 years.
Despite her long tenure in the Richmond, Fewer said there is still much to learn, especially from non-English-speaking demographics, younger generations, and those who supported her nine opponents in the D1 race.
"I learned a lot from all of the District 1 candidates," she says. "Many of them represent parts of the Richmond District that are unheard."
The open race in District 1 ultimately came down to two front-runners: the progressive Fewer, a longtime member of the School Board, and the moderate Marjan Philhour, a political consultant. After 10 rounds of ranked-choice votes were tallied, Fewer emerged the victor, with 52.8 percent of the vote to Philhour’s 47.2 percent.
Fewer commends her opponent’s drive. “For someone who has three young children—and works very hard in her own profession as a political consultant—it takes courage to say ‘I’m going to run.’ And she ran a very strong campaign.”
Affordable housing: a top priority for D1
Fewer tells Hoodline that the biggest concern she heard while campaigning was the increasing unaffordability of housing. “Many people who had never worried about being evicted are now afraid of losing their homes,” she says. For the Richmond, which has a large population of families and seniors, this is especially worrisome.
In her Medium post "Prioritizing Affordability for the Richmond," Fewer outlines the issues facing the neighborhood and the solutions she will pursue as Supervisor, including funding for tenant counseling services and the use of surplus public lands for affordable housing.
She emphasizes the importance of building new housing developments—in the right places. “I’m looking at sites right now where we can possibly do that," she tells us. "Some people have spoken out, saying that we don’t need development in the Richmond. But we do need to invest in a denser Richmond District to create affordable housing, support our small businesses, and keep the vibrancy of the neighborhood.”
Fewer says she will focus on making these decisions with the community's help. "Like many, I’m offended when developers from outside of San Francisco come in and say 'This is what your neighborhood should be.'" She stresses that plans should be discussed at the neighborhood level, so that the right areas for development can be established.
Looking beyond BRT
Transportation, another hot topic in the Richmond, is also high on Fewer's list. The transportation conversation in District 1 has been dominated by the Geary BRT, but for Fewer, that only addresses part of the problem.
“[The BRT] connects us to downtown, but it will still take an hour to get to the Mission or City College,” she said. The same goes for Mission Bay, District 10, and Bayview/Hunter’s Point, where jobs are increasing but public transit connections from the Richmond remain lengthy and/or complicated.
Fewer wants to create a Transportation Master Plan that will address these points, incorporating Transportation Equity policies to ensure that any upgrades serve existing residents and small businesses.
And in a neighborhood with more families, garages, and cars than most, Fewer wants to partner with underutilized private parking lots to alleviate parking issues in commercial areas of the Richmond.
Above all, Fewer tells us that her top priority is “taking care of the neighborhood.” Apart from bigger subjects like housing and transit, that includes everyday issues like street cleanliness, park maintenance, and connecting with small business owners.
"I’ve lived here a long time, and I see the deep affection that many people have for the Richmond. [I want to drive change] that is conducive to the majority of the people living here. I want to hold people accountable for the character of our neighborhood while we grow."
A mom in City Hall
The election of Fewer and District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen has ended the five-year “mom drought” on the Board of Supervisors. We asked Fewer what she will bring to the table as a mother of three.
“As mothers, we look to the next generation. We know we’re building something not just for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren. And we can empathize with the struggle of raising a family in San Francisco.” Plus, she adds, women—especially mothers—are excellent multi-taskers and listeners.
Fewer says she's thrilled that Proposition A, a bond to repair and rehabilitate SFUSD buildings, passed by an overwhelming majority. A former PTA president and member of the School Board, she believes that improved public education will help solve many of San Francisco’s overarching problems.
“I think homelessness is always going to be an issue until we can get to the root causes of it,” says Fewer, denouncing the passage of Prop Q as a “band-aid” approach.
“Free City College is part of the long-term solution. There are many two-year programs [at City College] that you can make a living wage out of," she said. "A lot of the jobs that people have lost are not coming back, so we need to invest in a stable pathway to self-dependency.”
We also asked Fewer what she enjoys doing in her spare time. “To relax, I like to color," she said. "I love that there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Probably no one but my closest friends know that!"
She adds that she and her husband, a former San Francisco police officer, both meditate. "It’s a way for me to de-stress, and the great thing about meditation is that you can do it anywhere.”
We also asked her favorite part of living in the Richmond. “I enjoy that it’s so walkable, and livable. I love the small businesses, and that I’m friends with my neighbors. Our neighborhood is really down-home, and it allows everyone here to be comfortable with who they are.”
Sandra Lee Fewer will be sworn into office on January 8th, 2017, at the Golden Gate Park Senior Center. Members of the community are invited to join for the swearing-in ceremony (4:15pm) and reception (4:30pm).