District 5 Budget Recap

Dean Preston
5 min readSep 2, 2020


Last week, the Board of Supervisors moved forward with a revised budget that lays out our city’s spending plan for the new two fiscal years. It was my first budget process since taking office in December, and I wanted to share an update.

The budget passed by the Budget and Finance Committee represents a significant increase in funding for groups that have historically been left out of the budget process. In addition, our office was able to win significant investments in the Tenant Right to Counsel program (a free lawyer for anyone facing eviction!), badly-needed small business relief, and funding for homeless services.

Another critical and important piece of this budget supports our most undervalued, underpaid and often overworked essential workers. Many of these critical workers are on the front lines working long hours and risk COVID-19. I am proud that my colleagues used a chunk of the reserves to deliver fair wages and necessary protections for these workers, while still leaving $750 million in the remaining reserves for use if needed during the challenging and unsure times ahead.

San Franciscans are in real economic pain during this unprecedented time and it makes sense for the city to utilize some of our reserves to protect our most vulnerable and essential workers. In addition, in order to make sure we have the revenue we need to support those most vulnerable, I hope San Franciscans will vote and support the progressive revenue ballot measures this November that will bring hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue at a time when our city desperately needs the revenue.

I’m proud of the work that of the Board of Supervisors, led by Budget Chair Sandra Lee Fewer, the partnership with the Budget and Legislative Analyst Office, Controller’s Office, service providers, labor leaders, and community advocates relentlessly undertook over the past months and weeks to not only restore many of the proposed cuts, but to increase investments in programs that will help the city and our residents get through this pandemic and onto a path to recovery.

The Board made significant and positive changes to the Mayor’s Proposed Budget, but I want to be clear: we still have a long way to go. The budget is a statement of values and our budget overspends on policing and underspends on those most vulnerable. We came up short as a City in our response to the widespread demands that we reimagine public safety and defund the police. The Board expanded on the Mayor’s $18 million SFPD cut by further reducing the police budget. We made cuts to police overtime and committed to cutting Academy classes, laying the groundwork for future staffing cuts, a sharp difference from past budgets that increase police funding. The African American community deserves every dollar and more from those cuts. But in my view, they were not enough. They will save some money, but they won’t transform how we approach policing and public safety in San Francisco. We have work to do.

When it comes to delivering for District 5, the work my office put in paid off. Here are some highlights:

Expanding Tenant Right to Counsel:

The Tenant Right to Counsel program is one of the most efficient and effective ways to prevent displacement and keep tenants in their homes, and I was proud to lead the fight to create this program with Prop F in 2018. The initial budget from the Mayor showed over a $1 million reduction in funding to this program, but thanks to the unified front from my office, my colleagues and our allies, we were able to not only prevent cuts, but we successfully got an additional $1.5 million for the next two years, to make sure tenants facing eviction have access to legal help.

Funding for Homeless Families and Transitional Aged Youth

As the homelessness crisis has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, we focused major budget advocacy on homelessness in the district and citywide. We were proud to be a leading force in winning significant housing subsidies to get transitional aged youth, especially in the Haight, into emergency and permanent housing. We also won a badly-needed future replacement for our emergency family shelter, which had been shuttered during the pandemic.

I am also thankful to my colleagues who fought to provide funding for Mental Health SF, and the Gross Receipts Tax headed to the ballot next year is set to inject $350 million of much-needed support for unhoused folks using a housing-first model.

Stepping up for Small Businesses:

We know that our neighborhood small businesses were facing tough times even before the pandemic hit, and that in the months since shelter in place, the situation has gone from difficult to dire. Our district funding wins reflect a commitment to supporting small businesses.

Our office created a $100,000 District 5 Small Business Assistance program to offer financial support to businesses that have suffered smashed windows, secured funding for regular cleaning in every neighborhood commercial corridor in District 5, and knowing how central Japan Center and small businesses are to Japantown, we funded a new Japantown Visitor Center Kiosk at the request of community groups.

Focusing on Black and Brown Communities:

We were proud to be a part of a budget that prioritizes the needs of black and brown communities who too often are left behind in the budget process. This is reflected not only in citywide funding, but was a priority for our office to secure in District 5.

We secured funding to support community outreach, youth workforce development, and COVID-testing and response, and received funding to create a mural for San Francisco’s first black firefighter on Earl Gage Jr. Street, formerly Willow Street, where our office partnered with SF Black Firefighters to successfully rename this year.

Funding for Arts and Education:

Families and children are struggling to adapt to a new reality when it comes to education in a COVID environment. In response, we championed additional resources to help parents and families, with a focus on underserved communities.

We advocated for a literacy program for K-5 children in the Western Addition, funded additional community-based after school programs, and along with our colleagues secured $4 million dollars for Hub funding to provide social services and support services for our youth.

Defunding the Police

The struggle continues as all over the country, city streets remain packed with protests demanding that the unjust killings of African American people by police have actual real-world consequences, and that public safety be reimagined by reallocating money to alternatives to armed police. This year, we just barely began the work by slashing funding from police academies and overtime and are redirecting it directly to the black community. We also started a process of allocating funding to police alternatives. There is much more work to be done to meaningfully change a racist system that preys off poor and working class communities of color. We’ll be standing with those who are loudly demanding more. It’s crucial to do more to invest in our communities of color, healthcare, housing, education, mental health, free transit, universal childcare, and more effective alternatives to the police.

I want to thank all of the community groups and neighborhood advocates who worked with my office to shape the budget proposal, and again want to thank my colleagues on the Board for their collaboration in creating a budget that we can take pride in, even as we acknowledge the work ahead.