New San Francisco mayor went from the projects to City HallJune 14, 2018 10:18pm

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco's incoming mayor knows the yawning gap between rich and poor firsthand, having been raised by her grandmother in the city's drug- and violence-riddled projects.

It is now the job of London Breed — the first black woman elected mayor of the city — to unite a wealthy but conflicted San Francisco, where the high-tech economy has sent the median price of a home soaring to $1.3 million and where homeless tents and human waste fester on sidewalks.

People who know her say the 43-year-old Breed has the grit, drive and deep love for her hometown to tackle its problems.

"I know where she comes from. I know where she is currently," said high school classmate Adonne Loggins. "It's not an easy way to come up. A lot of people fall by the wayside, and she didn't. That's a tribute to her character and her willingness to fight."

Breed, currently president of the 11-member Board of Supervisors, was declared the winner Wednesday of last week's eight-way mayoral election. The Democrat takes office next month.

She is only the second woman to become mayor of San Francisco. The first was Dianne Feinstein, now senator.

San Francisco, with a population of 870,000, is about 6 percent black, one of the smallest percentages among major U.S. cities.

In her first official speech as mayor-elect on Thursday, Breed fondly recalled people telling her to go to college when she didn't know what that was.

"If it wasn't for a community that believed in me and supported me and raised me and did what was necessary to make sure that I was a success, I would not be here," she said to several hundred people at Rosa Parks Elementary School. "But the problem is, I am the exception and not the norm, and as mayor I want to change what is normal in this city."

Breed wants the technology sector to work with youngsters so that they have a real shot at sharing in the city's immense wealth. She wants to build more housing more quickly and supports the use of legal conservatorships to get mentally ill people and drug users off the street and into treatment.

She has also promised to end long-term homeless tent camps within a year of taking office.

Breed has a broad smile, a blunt way of speaking and a down-to-earth demeanor. She is a big foodie who lives in a rent-controlled apartment in the city's fashionably dilapidated Lower Haight neighborhood, blocks from the traditionally black Western Addition and Fillmore neighborhoods where she grew up.

She unwinds at night by washing dishes by hand — no dishwasher in her unit — and re-hashing her day with friends by phone. Like many other residents of the city, she has been unable to afford a house. That may change; as mayor, she will be paid $335,996 a year.

Breed was raised by her grandmother Comelia Brown, a house cleaner who told a young London to make her bed, clean the kitchen and not even think about skipping school if she wanted to continue living in her house.

She drank powdered milk, and Christmas toys came from the firefighters' annual giveaway. Her grandmother died in 2016 after a long struggle with dementia.

"I gave my grandma a really hard time. And can I tell you? She never gave up on me," she said Thursday.

A brother ended up in prison, and a younger sister died of a drug overdose in 2006, but Breed earned a bachelor's degree from the University of California at Davis and then a master's in public administration from the University of San Francisco.

Loggins, a classmate at Galileo High, recalls an outspoken, stubborn girl active in school politics and the black student union who was itching to improve the system. She was voted the girl in her senior class most likely to succeed.

Breed got her start in politics in the mid-1990s as an intern for then-Mayor Willie Brown, writing proclamations and answering mail.

"I was living in public housing," she recalled in a recent interview at one of her favorite Mexican restaurants. "The ability to get stuff done by saying you're calling from the mayor's office was amazing."

For more than a decade, she headed the African American Art & Culture Complex, beefing up programs for at-risk youth and the elderly. She encouraged a police presence there, not just because of the potential for violence but also because she wanted the youngsters to develop good relationships with police, she said.

In 2012, she decided to challenge the supervisor for her district, appalled that then-Mayor Ed Lee had appointed someone Breed felt was out of touch with the community. Most of the city's power brokers, including Lee and Brown, told her to stay out, she recalled.

"A lot of people told her it would be an uphill battle, it would be a difficult race to win," said Debbie Mesloh, president of the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. "She said she was going to go to every house and walk every neighborhood, and she did."

She won, but not before taking heat for an expletive-laden rant about how she wasn't controlled by anyone, including her mentor, Brown. The rant cost her Feinstein's endorsement.

Friends and colleagues say Breed has since smoothed the rough edges, but the idea that she is beholden to others, including the business sector that supported her mayoral run, rankles.

"I'm not the old guard," she said. "I make my own decisions and I do what I feel is the right thing to do, and I stand by the decisions that I make."

Amelia Ashley-Ward, publisher of the San Francisco Sun-Reporter, called Breed an example to "every young girl everywhere who wants to be something."

"They just need to stand up and fight for what they want to be, and, yes, be stubborn and hard-headed sometimes," Ashley-Ward said.

___

This story has been corrected to change quote in paragraph 9 to "what is normal in this city," instead of "what is wrong with this city."

Page 1 of 1

More Stories Like This

In this June 7, 2018 photo, Prosecutor candidates, Thiru Vignarajah, Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby and Ivan Bates, from left, speak during a debate in the first three-way debate held at the University of Baltimore, in Baltimore. Even without a single conviction, the 38-year-old Mosby is aggressively trumpeting her major role in the Gray case, which came in the midst of a nationwide outcry over policing and race. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun via AP)
Baltimore's tough-talking prosecutor a formidable candidate
Mayor learns more than 200 separated migrant children in NYCNew York City's mayor says he was surprised to learn a children's center in Harlem is caring for 239 migrant children separated from their parents by federal immigration officials
Darwin Micheal Mejia, right, holds hands with his mother, Beata Mariana de Jesus Mejia-Mejia, during a news conference following their reunion at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Friday, June 22, 2018, in Linthicum, Md. The Justice Department agreed to release Mejia-Mejia's son after she sued the U.S. government in order to be reunited following their separation at the U.S. border. She has filed for political asylum in the U.S. following a trek from Guatemala. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
For immigrants, still no word on when they will be reunited
Lawsuit: Green-card holders face bias in US military policyA civil liberties group is suing the Trump administration over a policy that requires green-card holders to pass a background check before they can start military service
A person walks into the entrance of the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 in Staunton, Va. Immigrant children as young as 14 housed at the juvenile detention center say they were beaten while handcuffed and locked up for long periods in solitary confinement, left nude and shivering in concrete cells. The abuse claims are detailed in federal court filings that include a half-dozen sworn statements from Latino teens jailed there for months or years. (AP Photo/Zachary Wajsgras)
Governor orders probe of abuse claims by immigrant children
In this booking photo released Wednesday, June 20, 2018, by the Alameda County Sheriff's Office is Herman Levi Little, 75. Little was arrested last week and charged with trying to kill a 39-year-old man who rented a lower unit in the Berkeley, Calif., duplex Little owned. It's the third such violent incident between landlord and tenants in Northern California in recent weeks. (Alameda County Sheriff's Office via AP)
Northern California landlord charged with shooting tenant
This component is currently unavailable.
AdChoices

Related Searches

Related Searches

AdChoices