The Ingleside Light spoke with District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar and District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí about the issues that they have tackled citywide and in their districts since the start of their terms in January.
More than 100 days have passed since District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar and District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí took office. The Ingleside Light spoke with both legislators about their first 100 days of their terms and the issues that they have tackled so far.
Since taking office, Melgar said she and her four staffers concentrated on the needs and concerns of constituents related to the COVID-19 pandemic, continuing former Supervisor Norman Yee’s projects and checking on seniors to ensure they had food and transportation.
One of the first pieces of legislation Melgar introduced along with District 9 Hillary Ronen was an ordinance to create the Students & Families Recovery with Inclusive and Successful Enrichment working group, which was enacted last month. The working group will advise city officials on how to help the San Francisco Unified School District recover after the pandemic and to help students with educational loss after spending over a year learning online at home.
Melgar said it was a “rare moment” where the mayor, school district, teachers union and parents were on the same page about helping students after having heated discussions in the last several months over when schools ought to reopen.
Melgar held a hearing last month at the board’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee on Medi-Cal reimbursements that could be used for mental health care, particularly for youth. Melgar pointed to an article from the California Health Report in 2019 that found the city was not applying for administrative reimbursements in 2018.
“This is another area where, because of the pandemic and the closure of schools, we’ve heard that a lot of young people are suffering from depression and mental health issues,” Melgar said. “We need to make sure that they’re appropriately resourced.”
On the topic of public transit, Melgar introduced a resolution urging the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to create a plan to expedite the return of bus and rail lines that have not yet returned since March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic public health orders shut down the city. Two weeks ago, Melgar and Mayor London Breed announced K Ingleside rail service will return on May 15, much sooner than was originally planned bby SFMTA.
She said there were two important reasons why it was critical for the K-line to return as the city continues to make progress in reopening. One of the reasons was to support businesses that rely on customers who take Muni.
“A lot of the restaurants and the retailers on Ocean Avenue and West Portal depend on people coming on Muni,” Melgar said. “They kept telling me that they were just so stressed and that the lack of the light rail was really impacting their businesses.”
The second reason to accelerate the K-line’s return was for the possibility of some City College of San Francisco students returning to in-person in the fall who may need to rely on Muni to get to the campus, Melgar said. She also does not want to see a “traffic nightmare” if students are allowed to return and rail service is not available.
In District 11, Safaí has been able to get the city to open COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites, including opening a new vaccination site at 50 Broad St. for residents over the age of 18 for the Ocean View, Merced Heights and Ingleside neighborhoods.
Safaí was also able to pass a resolution passed by the board urging the city to support high school senior activities, including the possibility of providing resources for graduation ceremonies. Graduation ceremonies were suspended last year because of the pandemic.
City officials announced this week that high school seniors graduating in June will be able to celebrate in-person outdoors at Kezer Stadium and at the McAteer High School campus with safety and health protocols in place.
“It’s important for families and communities and for the kids and so we wanted to give them something that hopefully would end this entire year that’s been so stressful on everyone,” Safaí said.
In another piece of legislation authored by Safaí and passed by the board last year, the supervisor Tuesday called on hearing from the San Francisco Police Department to report back on the city’s stunt driving legislation. The legislation allows the officers to impound vehicles of motorists involved in car sideshows.
“We’ve seen a little bit of an uptick,” Safaí said. “It was a major, major drop off for a while but then within the last month or month and a half, we’ve seen an increase in the sideshows again in the district.”
Safaí is also working with the mayor’s office on legislation to make the city’s Shared Spaces program permanent. He joined Breed in a press conference last month in support of the program.
“We think it’s one of the, one of the positive benefits that has come out of this pandemic,” Safaí said. “From an urban planning point of view, I think it adds so much character and life to our commercial court so I’m very supportive of it.”
On the heated debate over whether to make John F. Kennedy Drive car-free, Safaí said the approach has to be right before any final decisions are made.
“I think that the way to approach making significant changes that will impact thousands if not millions of people over a course of time, is you have to have a real in depth conversation and study,” he said.
He added the city needs to look at who may become impacted by the closure, including communities of color, low-income residents and persons with disabilities.
“If you’re going to have a discussion about shutting down roads, you have to look at the context of all the roads in the city park and all the institutions — and this can’t be an emotional conversation,” Safaí said. It has to be “data driven.”
The Ingleside Light will continue to have conversations with both supervisors to check in on legislation they are working on and neighborhood issues within each district.
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