Name: David Chiu
Neighborhood: Polk Street
Years In SF: 17
Current Gig: Representing San Francisco's District Three, Chiu was recently reelected to his third consecutive term as president of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors. The Boston native and Harvard Law graduate is the first person in history to have successfully run for three terms in a row.
We managed to grab Chiu between meetings to talk about his experiences in the city, the biggest issues facing San Franciscans, his failed mayoral run and his potential candidacy for the California State Assembly.
What's your earliest memory of San Francisco? Between college and graduate school, I had my first visit to California. The moment I set foot in San Francisco I fell in love with the city. I decided I needed to spend some portion of my life in this great city.
What drew you to the neighborhood where you live now? On that particular trip, I visited the neighborhoods that the entire world knows about: Telegraph Hill with Coit Tower, Chinatown and North Beach, Russian Hill, the cable cars. That was in 1992. Twenty-one years later, I wake up every morning excited to represent the very neighborhoods I fell in love with years ago.
Here's my problem. My district has the highest number of restaurants in the city and our city has the highest number of restaurants in the world. As you can imagine, I spend a lot of time at a lot of restaurants. So it's really hard for me to pick and choose.
Do you have a favorite place town? The top of Coit Tower.
As you start your third term as Board President, what are the biggest issues facing San Franciscans? I think moving forward, reversing the flight of families from the city, building a transportation system that is reliable and convenient. I think making sure that our people are safe, get a good education and get good entry-level jobs. Making sure that San Francisco remains a city for everyone and not just the very wealthy and the very poor.
You've been the president of the board since you started at the supervisor. What's the key to being effective at your job? Over my first years as board president, I've really worked to move beyond the past dysfunctionality of City Hall and encourage more collaboration, civility and cooperation. In the past, just because the mayor or some supervisors took one position, other supervisors would reflexively take a different position. I believe that we're not voted into office to take positions, but to get things done.
In recent months there's been a construction boom in the city. How do you see that changing the face of San Francisco? All of us have been acutely aware of the incredible demand for housing. We've made important recent decisions to build more housing at different levels of affordability. This November we passed a trust fund to build more affordable housing. We've green-lighted significant projects all over the city.
You ran for mayor in 2011. Did that process change the way you view San Francisco or politics in general? Running for mayor was an amazing, incredible experience. I had the opportunity to visit every nook and cranny in the city, every neighborhood that represents the incredible diversity of what San Francisco is all about...Whether you are a tech entrepreneur, a first generation immigrant or any one of the hundreds of thousands of stories that got us here, this city really embodies the spirit of innovation, or shared progressive values, of diversity.
You're a regular San Francisco bike rider. (Also you raced Chewbacca that one time.) Have you always been a cyclist, or was that something that you picked up living in the city? I've been riding bikes since I was a little kid. When I first moved to the city, biking was a lonely experience; things have changed significantly in recent years with more ridership on our streets. But I think we have a long way to go so that pedestrians, drivers and cyclists all feel comfortable on our streets.
There have been rumors of you mulling a run for the Assembly. Is that something you're actually considering? I’m 100 percent focused on my current job, and am very excited about all of the issues we’re going to tackle this year. While I appreciate the many people who have encouraged me to run, I will think about that down the road.