About Us

Contact Us


District 6: Doing it right

By Betsey Culp

District 6 has got to be the most happenin’ place in all the city.

When Our Mayor steps up to the bully pulpit in City Hall, that’s District 6.

When J. T. Snow steps up to the plate at PacBell Park, that’s District 6.

When Delbert McClinton steps up to the mike at Slim’s, that’s District 6.

When Ken Garcia gets dunked at the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation’s annual splash bash, when the Armory gets picketed by Mission neighborhood activists, when ground gets broken by Mission Bay developers — that’s District 6, too.

And what an odd district it is. Mission Bay and Treasure Island are mere twinkles in their developers’ eyes. South Beach is a neighborhood waiting to happen, while South of Market is in transition from rags to riches. Hayes Valley/Lower Polk is an old neighborhood where alley cottages and highrises make room for green space. The Tenderloin is an old neighborhood where green space is scarce and simple existence can be exhausting.

When the residents of this happenin’ place try to make something happen at City Hall, they find themselves out in the cold. Individual supervisors — especially Leland Yee — take up individual issues and lend a hand. But District 6 has had no incumbent who is officially attuned to the district’s needs. Until now.

Perhaps because it has been unrepresented for so long, perhaps because its abundance of nonprofits and neighborhood organizations breeds activists, or perhaps just because it’s a happenin’ place, District 6 has compiled a roster of 17 candidates for its one supervisorial seat. The figure is modest compared to the campaign’s exuberant beginnings. On July 20 the Department of Elections reported that 30 hardy souls had announced their intention to run, and optimistic observers predicted the number would swell to 40 or more by the filing deadline.

Some, like former baseball player John Selleck, barely got their feet wet. Others, like Tenderloin residents and activists Bruce Windrem and Robert O’Malley, hung on until the witching date of July 27, when the need for $500 or 2,000 signatures proved daunting. (The same requirement nearly undid contractor and mayor recaller Jim Reid, who had to fight challenges to the addresses of several homeless signators in court before receiving official approval to run.)

The remaining seventeen men and women formed an astonishing group of campaigners. Two had held major city offices in the past — Beryl Magilavy was the founding head of the Department of the Environment; Carol Ruth Silver was a supervisor in the 1970s and 1980s. Several — especially Joe Blue, Denise D’Anne, Chris Daly, Chris Dittenhafer, Dennis Isner, Garrett Jenkins, and Hank Wilson — had made names for themselves as local activists. Reid ran for mayor last year. But the remaining seven — Harold Brown, Gilbert Criswell, James Leo Dunn, Brenton Holland, Davy Jones, Joan Roughgarden, and Marc Salomon — were relative newcomers to the city’s political processes.

No matter. The District 6 School of Electioneering provided a crash course that turned out seventeen articulate, informed candidates.

Night after night, week after week, the District 6 Seventeen appeared in neighborhood forums, pitching their pet programs. Former engineer Dunn spun visions of tunnels to house homeless people and carry water from the Sierra. Ecologist Roughgarden sketched out a plaza on Piers 48 and 50, filled with artists’ cooperatives and farmers’ markets, around a magnificent Statue of Diversity. Magilavy called for an independent public auditor to keep an eye on City Hall. Silver outlined a plan allowing tenants to purchase their apartments. Whether out of natural reserve or calculated caution, mayoral endorsee Dittenhafer generally sat silent unless asked a specific question.

In early appearances, either individually or as a group, inexperienced candidates faced equally inexperienced audiences. In neighborhoods like the Tenderloin, where flamboyant self-presentation is often the preferred mode of interaction, meetings sometimes came to a bumpy conclusion as irate participants stormed from the room.

But practice soothes the savage breast. By the time of a recent forum sponsored jointly by a couple of strange bedfellows, the SOMA Residents Association and the San Francisco Late Night Coalition, candidates and questioners alike had polished up their act. Brown and Salomon, the self-appointed Greek chorus, kept the discussion focused with a series of one-liners. (On a different occasion, former firefighter and teacher Brown dangled the hope of a free parking space downtown before prospective youth mentors. Salomon, a dot.commer, drew on “the traditions of the Catholic Cardinal and the British Judicial Wig” to propose that lobbyists wear red clown noses when they’re on duty.) 

During one segment of the SOMARA forum, candidates directed questions toward each other. Some, particularly those aimed at Dittenhafer and apparent frontrunner Daly, were gently hostile, like a snowball surrounding a rock. But many seemed designed to allow a candidate to articulate a position that one of the opponents particularly liked. In fact, “opponent” may be the wrong word here. How does one describe a group of competitors who end a bout with hugs and congratulatory laughter?

Perhaps Michael Nulty, president of the Alliance for a Better District 6, is correct in his assessment of this year’s election. Nulty points out that even though only one candidate will win in November, the district will have acquired sixteen other experienced politicians whose services are needed closer to home. The camaraderie and mutual assistance displayed by many of these candidates can contribute to a powerful grassroots network that will serve the underserved district well.

By a quirk of fate, it may be the Tenderloin that leads the district into a new political era. Long known for its low voter turnouts, the neighborhood is waking up, beginning to express a frustration with both the establishment at City Hall and the newer establishment of nonprofits inside its own borders. Many of the candidates, like North of Market Planning Coalition president Jenkins, cut their teeth on TL issues. And if information opens doors, the Tenderloin is gaining a large dose of fresh air. During the past year, the San Francisco Study Center’s Geoff Link began to publish a print newspaper — the Central City Extra  — which appears monthly and is dedicated to this neighborhood’s concerns. During the same period, a somewhat haphazard electronic newspaper produced by journalist Patrick Murphy  — the District 6 Sentinel [later the San Francisco Sentinel, at www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/] — swung into regular action and transformed itself into a much-consulted source of political news and gossip.

But before the Age of Aquarius can dawn, the election must take place and someone must win. It’s inconceivable in this district that there won’t be a run-off. It’s next to impossible, however, to even guess which candidates will make it that far, much less to predict who will win.

What is clear, from the direction the campaign roadshow has taken, is that a conservative has no place here. In the debates, even moderates like small businessmen Dittenhafer and Jones speak of seeking new solutions to problems of homelessness, affordable housing, and tenants’ rights and ensuring the welfare of their neighborhoods in the face of runaway development. At the other end of the spectrum, the rhetoric fairly reeks of muckracking. Here’s Mission Agenda coordinator Daly: “City Hall has been corrupted by the sickening influence of the special interests and their large campaign contributions.” And Green Party member Salomon: “The root of the crises that face District 6 is the corruption of representative democracy that's been sharpened under the current administration.” 

Whatever the outcome in November, the rumblings of this district are bound to reach the corridors of City Hall.

Let them rumble:

Joseph Blue, candidate for supervisor, District 6

Accountability is everything.

You could call him “Mr. Clean,” the tall, energetic San Francisco resident who organized his West of Twin Peaks neighbors into a hands-on, don’t-take-no-for-an-answer citizen force that has grown and spread citywide as the Adopt-a-Muni Committee.

Harold Brown, candidate for supervisor, District 6

We’ve passed the point of diminishing returns in this city. I’m asking people for a miracle: we need to take eight supervisors’ seats away from Willie.

Gilbert Criswell, candidate for supervisor, District 6

I have worked as a journalist for a District 6 newspaper with citywide distribution. A leader that knows how to listen to the people, I have the ability to develop functional and constructive legislation that will protect the people of San Francisco.

Denise D’Anne, candidate for supervisor, District 6

After a night out on the town, only the morning will reveal the true state of one’s health. The hangover will reveal that there is no one to serve the coffee at Starbucks. There will be no one to serve breakfast at a favorite café. There will be no one to do laundry or dry cleaning, to paint one’s apartment, to clean house, to make hotel beds, and even to entertain us.

Chris Daly, candidate for supervisor, District 6

San Francisco is the place we call home, not a playground for greedy developers and real estate speculators looking to make a quick buck. This campaign isn’t about business as usual. It’s about saving the soul of San Francisco.

Chris Dittenhafer, candidate for supervisor, District 6

I believe the future of San Francisco is in District 6. We have the opportunity to develop a planned new community that integrates effective transit, affordable housing, quality commercial districts, cultural forums, and safe neighborhoods. We must fight for neighborhood scrutiny of zoning and planning decisions and protect the integrity of our communities.

James Leo Dunn, candidate for supervisor, District 6

Everybody deserves a place to lay his head. My solution for shelter is for the homeless to dig a tunnel under Taylor to Fishermans Wharf, where they can live until they find a job and a place.

Brenton Holland, candidate for supervisor, District 6

Look at the Hibernia Bank [at 1 Jones Street] and how the city took care of it. That’s what the city is doing to us.

Dennis Isner, candidate for supervisor, District 6

It’s something I really have trouble with, the way City Hall ignores the positions of the voters. It begs the question, “Who are you answering to?” My campaign is about putting people before politics.

Garrett Jenkins, candidate for supervisor, District 6

There are many who are saying that the democratic process has disappeared in San Francisco. The reason for such sentiment is that most people know and understand not only that their three-minute input into the process is insufficient, but that the outcome has already been predetermined.

Davy Jones, candidate for supervisor, District 6

My campaign is about improving the quality of life. I am new to politics but not new to the concerns of San Franciscans. The System is broken. Voters are tired of the same old choice; tired of false promises; tired of unsubstantiated high rents and arbitrary evictions; tired of homeless, drug-addicted drunks sleeping on the streets and forcibly squatting doorsteps; tired of unattended traffic gridlock.

Beryl Magilavy, candidate for supervisor, District 6

The most pressing issue in District 6 and citywide is the city’s housing crisis. Current abuses to the planning rules, such as approval of “live-work space” that is really residential and “research and development” or “business services” that are really dot.com offices must be stopped, with the passage of Proposition L. After that, we must create a strategic plan for more housing through a comprehensive, citywide planning process, focused on preserving and increasing affordable housing.

Jim Reid, candidate for supervisor, District 6

I stayed in our homeless shelters during my run for mayor and would build a shelter system that provides for the needs of the seventeen different categories of homeless people. If Brown had lunch with Joe O’Donoghue, they could have a plan to build 10,000 affordable housing units by the end of the meal and start construction in 30 days.

Joan Roughgarden, candidate for supervisor, District 6

Promoting neighborhood means something different throughout the district. In South Beach, much of SOMA, and Treasure Island, it means building up neighborhoods, often where few people formerly lived. In Tenderloin and the 6th Street corridor, it means combating poverty and improving safety and hygiene. In Hayes Valley, the Mission, and Potrero Hill it means protecting mature communities from displacement by gentrification. And in Mission Bay, the site of the next decade's most dramatic growth in San Francisco, it means integrating the UCSF campus now being constructed into the city, accommodating the biotech companies certain to spring up nearby, and finding a way to derive new health services from these assets.

Marc Salomon, candidate for supervisor, District 6

Ballot argument haiku (Yes on L)

planning? soft money!
housing before offices
lofts begone! L Yes!

developers lies
clearcut neighborhoods away
displace greed, L Yes!

Carol Ruth Silver, candidate for supervisor, District 6

As a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, I had the honor of representing this city is tough times, including at the time of the homophobic murder of my friend and colleague Supervisor Harvey Milk, and Mayor George Moscone. (Only recently came the revelation that the murderer Dan White had also targeted Carol Ruth Silver and Willie Brown.)

Experience counts. So does being tough and smart.

Hank Wilson, candidate for supervisor, District 6

I want a better world. My attitude and what drives my activism is that “we can do better.” It doesn’t mean that we spend more money. But we can do things better, fine-tuning programs and working with people on new ideas. The soul of San Francisco is at stake when we have a record number of homeless dying on the street in the midst of a booming economy.

Pretty disgusting, isn’t it?