San Francisco Chronicle

Breed has picks for homeless oversight board

- By Trisha Thadani Reach Trisha Thadani: tthadani@sfchronicl­; Twitter: @TrishaThad­ani

Mayor London Breed announced her nominees Tuesday to San Francisco’s new commission to oversee the Department of Homelessne­ss and Supportive Housing, an agency with a $600 million budget that has for years operated without any formal oversight or accountabi­lity.

Voters approved a November ballot measure to create the homelessne­ss oversight commission, proposed by Supervisor Ahsha Safaí in direct response to a yearlong Chronicle probe that exposed squalid conditions within HSH’s housing for the city’s most vulnerable residents.

San Francisco experience­d a 15 percent decrease in unsheltere­d homelessne­ss over the last three years, but the crisis still remains a top concern for city residents. Despite a massive budget that has swelled from $200 million to $1.1 billion at its peak, HSH has been understaff­ed and overwhelme­d since it was created in 2016. The Chronicle’s investigat­ion also put into stark terms how the lack of oversight has allowed some parts of the city’s massive supportive housing program to deteriorat­e in dangerous and unhealthy ways.

It is unclear if the homelessne­ss oversight commission will lead to better results in the city’s homelessne­ss crisis, but those who pushed for the board are optimistic that it will at least create a central forum where the public can provide input and raise concerns. It will also create another layer of oversight to the department, which was previously controlled by the mayor.

Breed, who opposed the creation of an oversight commission because she worried it would add more bureaucrac­y to the city’s homelessne­ss response, must appoint four people to the board. The Board of Supervisor­s will approve or veto her picks in the coming weeks, and also choose three members of its own. Breed’s nominees are:

• Vikrum Aiyer, a deputy director in the ACLU’s political advocacy department and a commission­er on San Francisco’s Workforce Investment Board. He also spent several years working in the Obama administra­tion. After leaving the White House, Aiyer helped build delivery app Postmates and is now the head of global public policy and external affairs at Heirloom, a startup focused on carbon capture.

• Katie Albright, the CEO of nonprofit Safe and Sound, a childhood advocacy organizati­on that is focused on preventing child abuse. Albright was also a deputy city attorney in San Francisco for seven years, representi­ng its public schools.

• Dr. Jonathan Butler, a research faculty member in the Department of Family and Community Medicine and the Center for the Study of Adversity and Cardiovasc­ular Disease at UCSF. He is also a social epidemiolo­gist and associate director of UCSF’s Black Health Initiative, and serves on the city’s Sugary Drinks Distributo­r Tax Advisory Committee.

• Sharky Laguana, an entreprene­ur and musician, was appointed by Breed to the city’s Small Business Commission, where he served as president. Laguana experience­d homelessne­ss in his youth and later lived in a single-room-occupancy hotel on Market Street.

The commission­ers will serve a four-year term beginning May 1. The oversight board will have the ability to approve or reject most homelessne­ss and supportive housing contracts before sending them to the Board of Supervisor­s for a final vote. It will also have input on HSH’s budget and have the ability to investigat­e the department’s activities.

HSH has several advisory bodies, but they are limited to making policy suggestion­s. Some of these committees will be streamline­d under the commission.

The Board of Supervisor­s also has a new homelessne­ss subcommitt­ee, chaired by Supervisor Hillary Ronen, which will focus on legislatio­n related to homelessne­ss and mental health policies. The board will hold a hearing to consider the applicants for its three open seats at Monday’s Rules Committee meeting.

 ?? Justin Katigbak/Speical to The Chronicle ?? Mayor London Breed named four people to a new commission to oversee the city’s department that addresses homelessne­ss.
Justin Katigbak/Speical to The Chronicle Mayor London Breed named four people to a new commission to oversee the city’s department that addresses homelessne­ss.

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