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Monday News Roundup: Breed’s ‘State of the City’, Lowell Admissions Debate Continues

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Hey San Francisco,

I’m here to give you last week’s news, and one item from over the weekend stands out: Stuart got hitched! Congratulations Stuart, enjoy the ride.

There’s a lot of other stuff to catch up on, so let’s get right to it…

State of the city 

Mayor Breed delivered her annual state of the city address on Wednesday. In it, Breed addressed: 

  • Keeping “Covid experiments” (like outdoor dining spaces, guaranteed income programs, and a car-free JFK Drive) beyond the pandemic. On Thursday, the boards of the SFMTA and Rec and Parks Department formally approved their recommendation to keep JFK Drive car-free. Mayor Breed touted the plan on Twitter.
  • Adding more police officers to a department that’s at a “crisis level” in terms of staffing. 
  • Building more housing for “future generations… to be able to afford to live here” and to cut down on homelessness. (Last week, San Francisco’s first experiment to house people in tiny homes opened in a lot previously used as a city-sponsored tent village.)
  • Improving conditions in the Tenderloin. 
  • And, not focusing on the “noise about what’s happening in our city.” 
    • “On social media you see one video take off, as if it’s telling the whole truth about who we are,” Breed said. “I know it’s challenging with all that noise to really understand what’s happening. But today I really want to talk about what’s possible–hope. Hope for a better future for our city.” 

You can watch Breed’s full speech here.

SFPD officer found not guilty 

On Monday, a jury found SFPD officer Terrance Stangel not guilty on three counts of assault and battery in what’s believed to be the city’s first case against an officer for allegedly using excessive force while on duty.

The charges resulted from a 2019 incident in which officer Stangel, responding to a 911 domestic violence call, struck a man, Dacari Spiers, several times with his baton. Spiers, who was never charged for any crimes that night against his then-girlfriend Breonna Richard, suffered a broken leg and wrist.

The landmark case was one of the first tests for District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s pledge to hold police officers accountable for misconduct. 

  • In a statement on Monday, Boudin said: “We respect the jury process, although we remain disappointed that police accountability remains so elusive and difficult to achieve.” 
  • Stangel’s defense attorney Nicole Pifari called the case politically motivated and said in a statement: “We are thankful that the jury was able to see through the dishonesty of the DA’s office in this case and see it for what it was—unjust and unsupported.” 

Currently, as the Chronicle’s Megan Cassidy notes, Boudin’s office is prosecuting five other SFPD officers in excessive force cases, but none have reached the jury stage yet. 

On the same day, John Hamasaki, an outspoken law enforcement critic, announced that he will step down from his role on the city’s Police Commission when his term expires next month. “While I believe that we have done some good work, we have failed at changing the culture,” Hamasaki said on Twitter. The board of supervisors will choose Hamasaki’s successor, per the Chronicle.

Is Lowell’s new admission policy irreversible?

On Friday, Mayor Breed announced her chosen replacements for the three recently-ousted SFUSD school board members. 

The new school board members will soon be tested by decisions about San Francisco’s premier public high school, Lowell. Lowell has been the source of much controversy ever since the SFUSD school board voted in February 2021 to permanently replace the school’s merit-based admission policy with lottery-based admission, which is what other SF public schools use to select students.

The Chronicle’s Jill Tucker reported last week that the “three new board members say they want an open and deliberative process to consider restoring some kind of merit-based admissions at Lowell” and that the “San Francisco Unified School District is expected to reopen the debate this spring.”

But a couple weeks ago, Mission Local’s Joe Eskenazi reported that SFUSD has publicly admitted Lowell’s old merit-based admission policy was “incompatible with California law” and, therefore, can’t be reinstated.

If you, like me, are having trouble keeping track of all the recent events with both Lowell and SFUSD, The New Yorker published an in-depth story about Lowell and the public school system in San Francisco that’s worth a read. It places Lowell’s situation within the broader context of the school board recall, the new contract with the teacher’s union, and the district’s budget shortfall.

Here’s what else happened last week…

  • 💉As of Friday, San Francisco no longer requires proof of vaccination (or a negative Covid test) to enter bars, restaurants, or places “where elevated breathing occurs,” like gyms. (Chronicle)
  • 🍵 Entrance to the Japanese Tea Garden and Conservatory of Flowers will soon be free for all San Francisco residents. Previously, the local rate was $7 for people under 65. (SF Standard
  • 🚝 Whether it’s high gas prices or people returning to the office (or both), ridership on BART is rising. BART said on Wednesday, exits at Embarcadero and Montgomery stations were up 15-20% compared to February levels. And across all stations on Wednesday, BART saw 125,534 station exits, which was the highest ridership it’s had in a single day since the start of the pandemic. (SFist
  • 🗺️ Last week, the city released a preliminary redrawing of its supervisor districts, which drew sharp criticism from some local politicians. Of particular concern was the proposed boundaries for District 8, which, as its current supervisor Rafael Mandelman told 48hills, would create “a much straighter and more conservative district.” (48hills / Chronicle
  • 💸 Since January, hundreds of SFUSD teachers and staff members have been “underpaid, mis-paid, or not paid at all,” Mission Local’s Joe Eskenazi reports. The issues stem from the district’s faulty rollout of its new payroll system. (Mission Local
  • 🚒 On Thursday, San Francisco’s newest fire station opened on the Embarcadero at Pier 22 ½, and… it floats! Apparently, Fireboat Station 35 is the only floating fire station in Western Hemisphere. And, as the Chronicle’s Chase DiFeliciantonio writes, in a major earthquake it could serve as a “last bastion from which to dispatch rescuers and life-saving equipment.” (Chronicle

That’s all for this week, see you next week for another update on all things SF. And remember, if you want quick, local news bits like this delivered right to you each weekday, click here to sign up for The SF Minute. It’s free!

– Natalie

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Natalie Mead

Natalie Mead

Natalie began her career at a tech company, but she has since seen the light and absconded with enough free t-shirts to last a lifetime. Now, she writes for The SF Minute and a smattering of other local news outlets.

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