Q&A: Supervisor Myrna Melgar on Running for Reelection

The sitting District 7 supervisor wants to continue her work on housing, transportation and services for children.

Myrna Melgar is running to keep her seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. | Anne Marie Kristoff/Ingleside Light

District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar is running for reelection on the same campaign of housing, transportation and children services that got her elected in November 2020.

Prior to public office, Melgar held several City Hall positions including director of homeownership programs at the Mayor’s Office of Housing under then San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and was once president of the San Francisco Planning Commission.

“I love my job,” Melgar said. “Sometimes politicians complain about the stress and lack of privacy — and those things are true — but I have to say I’ve loved every minute of it.”

Over the last three years, Melgar has taken the lead on several city legislative measures such as family housing with enabling fourplex development and a courtesy graffiti abatement pilot program.

The El Salvadoran immigrant has also created an ambassadors program to address ongoing safety concerns on the westside.

“Being a supervisor and serving my neighbors, the people that I raised my kids with, the other soccer moms, I feel those community connections very deeply,” Melgar said. “I wanted to do this job because this place gave so much to me and my family and I want to give it back in the best way I know how.”

The Ingleside Light caught up with Melgar to discuss her campaign and more.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Why are you running for supervisor?

There's a bunch of stuff that we've done and there's a bunch of stuff that we haven't been able to do yet so that's why I want another term. There's a bunch of stuff I want to finish. We are going through a period of transition in San Francisco post-Covid but it's more than Covid. There's a lot of things that are changing around us. We have the climate crisis. We have the housing crisis, which is somewhat related.

We are going through a transition in artificial intelligence and that robots are now driving cars. When you have a time of tumultuousness and transition, you need stability in government and leadership.

After being a supervisor for these last few years, what issues are you still seeing that haven’t been addressed?

On the westside, our transportation infrastructure needs so much [and] housing, of course. The Housing Element commits us to building all of this new housing on the westside. My role is to make sure that the infrastructure investments that need to happen to support that growth in population actually happen. I think that that is an uphill battle because they don't pay attention to us, unless, you know, you're always there as a squeaky wheel. I've positioned myself in such a way that they can't ignore me. I'm the chair of the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Transportation Committee. I'm on the Bay Area Air Quality Management Agency board. I'm on the Association of Bay Area Governments board. I'm vice chair of the County Transportation Authority. They can’t ignore me.

What are some of the issues you hear about from your constituents and how do you plan to tackle those concerns?

I'm hearing a lot about safety. We all know that there's been an increase in property crime all over the westside, really all over the city. We've always been a little bit sheltered, even though comparatively our robbery and property crime rates are not as high as say, Lower Nob Hill, SoMa or the Tenderloin. They feel high to people because we've never really experienced that level before. I think one of the things that has changed is the patterns of tourism have shifted. Whereas it used to be that everybody went to Fisherman's Wharf, now people are going to Twin Peaks. They're going to the Moraga Steps and the police presence is not there because it's all at Fisherman's Wharf. We're still waiting for them to come back. I'm trying to work with them to sort of think about the patterns differently and also work with the residents.

I do think that we can do better though in the education of folks and also just changing police presence and with new things like the ambassador program. I'm very proud that we were the first district to roll that out and it's made a big difference.

There’s a bunch of neighborhood-specific things like the Havelock Bridge, like the Kensington Bridge, the Ninth and Judah intersection and Irving Street, so we're working with constituents and all those little neighborhood-specific issues. I think we've been pretty successful.

Participatory budgeting is something that I hear about from residents all the time. They love it. We improved it and it is a lot of work. We're still the only district that does it because it's a lot of work but it is also great. We got it baselined into the budget.

What is your response to your competitors or others saying the city needs more financial transparency and District 7 needs more attention to safety and so on?

I think that they're right. I don't have any disagreement with that. I do think that the city could improve its systems. Obviously there's still people being indicted for corruption. We need to tighten up stuff and I think we are doing that, obviously, because people are being found out and going to jail for stuff that they shouldn't have done. I also think that having opinions is easy. I think the voters of San Francisco are very sophisticated. If you say you want to do this or that do the voters actually think you can pull it off? If you've never done anything like this or have any experience in any of that stuff but you are trying to convince people that you can do it, it's a little bit puzzling to me. I'm a refugee from a war so the democracy thing that we've got going on here is really important to me so if people want to run and get involved, like more power to them.

You’ve been a part of a lot of legislative moves in the city. What’s next on your roster? 

There's a bunch of stuff that we're working on. I am working on legislation to provide more accountability around the money that we spend on children. A few years ago, we passed the Public Enrichment Education Fund, dollars that are spent on children's services. For example, Rec and Park gets millions of this money and they do serve children because kids use playgrounds so they take that money but nobody asks them, how many kids did you serve? How did you serve them? Where did you serve? You know, like all of these like basic accountability things, none of that is there and the school district is one too. That money just goes and we get nothing. They don't say where the money goes. My follow-up legislation is going to be to do what we promised the voters we were going to do five years ago. We just didn't ever do it.

The other thing that I'm working on is universal child care and how that's going to happen. We had a big fight this past year over the budget. Over the child care money, which we won for now, but we still don't have a plan for how we're going to make this promise to the voters of universal child care a reality. And I'm working on the co-op housing legislation.

Why should people vote for you?

I've been really effective as a supervisor and I will continue to do it. I think that I'm accessible. I try to be nice and personable. If somebody wants to talk to me, I'm there. I think that what I like about my role on the board is that I'm the mom. I'm the middle person on the board. I'm unapologetically a progressive but I get along with everyone. I do change my mind when somebody presents evidence so I'm not an ideological person and my colleagues know that about me and so does the mayor. Even though we don't always agree, I think everybody will say, you can talk to her. She will engage. She will be thoughtful and sort of do the work and do a good job. I think in a time right now, what we're going through, we're so polarized, so toxic. The doom loop, San Francisco. You need somebody who can do the work and will talk to different people and listen to people's different point of views and try to come up with something incorporating people's concerns and I think that's me.

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