SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — London Breed was inaugurated as the first female African-American mayor of San Francisco Wednesday, in a festive ceremony outside City Hall.
Breed, a San Francisco native, is the first black woman to become San Francisco mayor after a neck-and-neck race in the June election with former state Sen. Mark Leno. She will take the reins of a city facing a litany of challenges. Beneath the beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge and a iconic skyline, San Francisco is beset by a growing homeless population, drug users and a housing market soaring beyond affordability for the middle class.
Just last week, organizers cancelled plans to stage a major convention in the city because of fears over security and conventioneers not wanting to run the gauntlet of panhandlers and blight in the streets.
Wednesday morning’s ceremony began with a handful of local entertainment acts, as crowds watched from Polk Street and Civic Center Plaza.
Breed thanked her colleagues and numerous family members before holding a moment of silence for the late Mayor Ed Lee, who passed away unexpectedly in December.
“I grew up a few blocks away from here, as many of you know, but a world away, a young African American girl in public housing,” she said. Breed grew up in public housing in the city’s Western Addition neighborhood, raised by her grandmother.
Highlights of Mayor London Breed’s Inauguration speech:
She has also experienced the mean side of San Francisco’s streets — her sister died of a drug overdose, her brother is in state prison. “The world seemed destined for me for drugs, teenage motherhood, jail or even a violent death because of the gun violence that ravaged our community,” she said.
Crediting her grandmother, her teacher and her mentors, Breed said, “I stand behind this podium today because our community believed in me; because our city services looked out for me … and I am here in the hope that together we can build the next generation of young people who can go from public housing to the mayor’s office.”
Breed said she wants to focus on building more housing and fighting gentrification while maintaining economic opportunities.
“We have failed in building more housing to support the number of job opportunities that have poured into San Francisco, pushing residents who have been here all their lives, out of the city that they call their home,” she said.
When it comes to affordable housing, Breed simply has to recall her own experience. She was a member of the city’s Board Of Supervisors, making $110,000 and couldn’t afford to live on her own.
“It was very challenging,” she said told KPIX 5 of her rental experience. “I’m living on my own now and I was actually in the process of trying to find another roommate but now that I have a salary increase I can take care of the rent on my own.”
The 43-year-old will now earn an annual salary of $335,996. “Affordability is a big issue and that is a big issue with a lot of people, people with families with kids,” she said. “Kids are expensive.”
Breed also said she wants to tackle the mental health system and is a proponent of safe injection sites.
“Our streets are filled with people who unfortunately need our help, who are frankly struggling and dying right in front of our eyes,” Breed said. “I plan to reform our mental health system, because we know people struggling on our streets with mental health and addiction. They are struggling on our streets and it is not ok to just leave them out there to die … our conservatorship laws must change,” she said.
Breed was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2012 and was re-elected in 2016. She was elected by supervisors in 2015 to serve as the board’s president.
Breed previously worked as the executive director of the African American Art & Culture Complex.
Several city officials attended this morning’s ceremony, including the Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Vicki Hennessy, Public Defender Jeff Adachi, City Attorney Dennis Herrera and District Attorney George Gascon.
State Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu were also in attendance, as well and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. Baseball great and former San Francisco Giant Willie Mays also attended.
Breed is set to serve the remainder of Lee’s term, which ends in January 2020.
Several state and city officials attended the inauguration and saw former San Francisco mayor, current state Lt. Gov. and gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom swear Breed in. Breed is the second woman to become mayor of San Francisco. The first was current U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who welcomed Breed to the exclusive club in a video message. “I want to offer my wholehearted congratulations to you London. It wasn’t so long ago London that you and the Benjamin Franklin Middle School band performed for me here at City Hall when I was mayor. Today, after far too long as the only woman mayor of San Francisco, I so welcome you into the club.”
Also in a televised message, former San Francisco District Attorney and state Attorney General and current Sen. Kamala Harris said, “You are a true daughter of San Francisco and it has been extraordinary to watch you rise as a leader and a public servant … I know that your grandmother was one of your greatest inspirations and she raised you not only to take responsibility for your own life but also for the people in our community.”
Reps. Jackie Speier, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, and Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, also delivered televised messages.
As president of the Board of Supervisors, Breed had assumed his office with Lee’s passing. But then her colleagues in the board voted to replace her.
She successfully won the right to serve out Lee’s remaining tenure in a narrow June election win over former State Senator Mark Leno. Now, Breed knows she’ll need everyone onboard if she is to successfully steer San Francisco forward.
“You can’t please everyone. Not everyone is going to like you, not everyone is going to do what you want them to do,” she said.
“And what I noticed about this board, and what made me so proud to be a part of it is, we stand our ground, we do what we think is best and we try to fight for the people we represent.”
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