Interview

Meet District 7 Supervisor Candidate John Farrell

Will Carruthers / Ingleside-Excelsior Light

Will Carruthers: Tell me a bit about your background.

John Farrell: Fifth generation San Franciscan, grew up in the district, been married 28 years, have two daughters, three dogs, two are rescues. Went to Saint Ignatius, went to USF for my BS in Finance, went to Golden Gate University for my MBA. I have the qualifications, the experience and dedication to make a difference. For the City I was the assistant assessor in the Budget and Special Projects office, I was a Mayor’s budget analyst, I was a senior analyst for Harvey Rose, I was a finance director for Treasure Island, senior management assistant to the Port and I was a park director at Midtown Terrace for three years. I specialized in streamlining and identifying new revenue sources, I have a track record of bringing millions to The City. Over the last three years I have written articles in The Westside Observer on issues facing our city. I’ve been a real estate broker for thirty years. Over the past ten years I’ve helped families with affordable housing, in foreclosure and displaced tenants.

WC: In what role have you helped people with affordable housing?

JF: Well basically I’ve worked with a lot of families that have been foreclosed on. I’ve helped them relocate into other places. I’ve helped them also… I’ve worked with banks, so I’ve worked on foreclosures. I’ve helped a lot of displaced tenants. A lot of times tenants aren’t aware that the owners of the homes are foreclosed on and they find out went it’s late and it’s already foreclosed on and they need to be helped to move to other locations. I’ve helped many families in that situation. I’ve helped a lot of families with affordable housing and with Below Market Rate units. I’ve helped them work on getting those. So I’ve helped many dozens of families over the years.

WC: As a real estate broker?

JF: Yeah, as a real estate broker.

WC: Why are you running now? Why did you come into the race in June?

JF: Again, I grew up in the district, I raised my family here, I care deeply about our neighborhoods and our city, I have the qualifications, the experience and the dedication to make a difference and I believe in giving back. That’s my foundation.

My family has been in public service for close to a century, my grandfather was a Muni driver, my father was the City Controller under Joe Alioto, my Uncle Jack was a Sergeant in the police department.

I don’t believe I got in the race late. Basically, my whole life has been in the district working for the neighborhoods, fighting on neighborhood issues and a lot of people out here that I’ve worked with know me.

I mean, if they didn’t know me… like a lot of the other candidates aren’t as known and it’s better if you get in early to get your name recognition and so forth. I don’t know everybody, I’ve still got to get out there.

WC: Now on to some of the issues. What do you think about Supervisor Norman Yee’s participatory budgeting policy?

JF: Well, I think it’s good to get the community involved in funding certain projects but that’s what the budget is for. So any viable project should be on the table during the whole budget process. See, right now they submit a number of projects and whoever gets the most votes wins. But if they’re viable projects, they should be fought for during the whole budget process and fought for  at that time.

WC: Would you continue participatory budgeting if you became supervisor?

JF: I’d have to see what the constituents said. I work for the constituents of District 7’s response would be. If they’re for it then yes, I would continue it.

WC: What do you think about homelessness in District 7 and what would you do about it?

JF: Well, we have to have a compassionate approach to make sure that homeless are given the assistance they need and taken off the streets especially the mentally ill. A lot need trained counseling. I’d work closely with the new Department of Homelessness and Supportive Services to ensure that certain programs that are needed are addressed. During the budget process, like I said, I’d identify budget sources that aren’t currently being addressed. I’d make departments accountable and cut waste where applicable. We also have to look at basically the city contracts with nonprofit agencies who currently provide homeless services and see what kind of job they’re doing and are they meeting the city obligations. So right now there’s a small amount of homeless, not like other parts of the city but you want to make sure those are taken care of before it gets out of hand.

WC: What are some of the things you’d want to accomplish on the Board of Supervisors?

JF: Well, the first thing I’d do is stand up for our neighborhood values and make sure they’re being addressed. Things like safety, affordability, preserving the character of our neighborhoods, protecting the environment. City Hall has to be made accountable. I know the workings of City Hall and know that things have got to change. I have the endorsement of former supervisors Tony Hall and Quentin Kopp.

WC: What do you think about transportation in District 7? What are some of the things you think could be improved?

JC: There are two main corridors in District 7: West Portal and Ocean Avenue. Both are vital to the community. We need to work with the merchants to make sure that their concerns are addressed. We have to ensure that our streets are clean and safe. We have to make sure that they are safe for pedestrians and bicyclists. We all know Muni is under funded and has its issues. We need to make sure that as we grow that Muni is safe and efficient and we have to make sure of that especially in those corridors that I mentioned. Especially the Ocean Avenue corridor because that’s a high risk corridor for pedestrian injuries.

WC: So what do you think about the M-Ocean View tunnel?

JF: Oh, I’m totally for putting the M underground. I think it’s fabulous. It’s supposed to be taking 18,000 people, it’s going to go to Park Merced and also Daly City BART. It’s essential as we grow, it’s essential.

WC: How do you think putting the trains underground would change the nature of West Portal?

JF: Well, when you plan for the future, this is where you have to look at the city as a whole and what’s the city’s game plan on addressing a population of 1,000,000. I mean, that’s when you look at the whole city, because that has an effect on police, fire, when you add the fact that San Francisco State is going to be adding more housing for their students, you have Park Merced adding 1,000 more units but that’s not taking into account other things that might come up over the years. So, like I was saying, West Portal is a viable corridor. You’ll probably get more traffic, more businesses, you won’t see any vacant stores, you’ll have a beat cop, work for merchants, make sure that the streets are clean and make sure our Muni stops are safe. Because when you look at these people getting off of the trains and you look at the bicyclists, you just have to make sure muni is efficient.

WC: So that seems like one of your themes in the Westside Observer. Financial responsibility while the city’s population is growing and planning for the city’s growth. What are some of the other facets of planning for the future?

JF: The main thing is to have a plan. That’s the problem with the bonus density program. The City is always in a reactive mode instead of a proactive mode. We know we have this coming up. How does this affect our fire, our safety? Is there a plan out there? No. If you see the history of the city, the last ten years or so, there’s no plan. It’s always, wait until something happens. Then you jump in on it. I mean, I’m for accountability, cutting waste, ensuring that the taxpayers get their fair share.

WC: What are your thoughts on the Affordable Housing Density Bonus program?

JF: I’m for density if it’s providing affordable housing, but the AHBP, like I was saying, was based on a reactive mode which didn’t take into consideration a lot of neighborhood input. What it does is it adds like one or two story commercial properties and allows you to build two or three more for affordable housing. Now the thing is they’ve allowed it on all commercial strips throughout the city. What might work in one commercial strip might not work in another. My whole thing was, they should have had the neighborhood input more to make this more viable. Like right now, Java at the Beach is part of the program. That doesn’t make sense. Of course it works on West Portal and Ocean Avenue but there are certain things they throw in there that make it not viable in my opinion because one size doesn’t fit all.

WC: So you think it would work on Ocean Avenue and West Portal?

JF: Yeah, I think it would. It’s an opportunity to do that. Those are areas where it could be needed, yes. And by doing that you’re not affecting the character of the single-family homes.

WC: So that’s what you’re talking about when you say “preserving character?” Because, obviously, District 7 will need accept some amount of population growth.

JF: Yes.

WC: If elected, how would you work with the Mayor?

JF: Well, I would work closely with the Mayor. Basically I’d have an open door policy with the Mayor. We’d have open communication to always be able to express our concerns. My final decision would be based on what’s best for our constituents and the city. That’s basically my thought on working with the other supervisors. Whether we are on the same page or not, I respect when someone’s justified in their beliefs but I work for District 7 residents.

WC: What are some of the things that would make West Portal a good commercial corridor and how you could improve West Portal?

JF: Well, we kind of went over it before, basically you want to work with the merchants to make sure their concerns are met, you want to make sure the streets are safe and clean, you want to make sure we have policing – a police presence is important – and also for ensuring the safety of pedestrians and bikers because you have a presence there that means there won’t be as many people double parked and you’ll have somebody keeping an eye on those issues. Basically we want to make sure that the Muni is safe and efficient because it’s important for these corridors to have that.

WC: Do you hear about about a lack of police presence in West Portal right now?

JF: Right now in District 7 there’s a lot of residential and car break-ins. Now, i’ve had a lot of friends and people who visit say “boy, you have a very safe area because I never see police.” Just the presence helps. The police now when the high number of break-ins happen, they should get the police presence there. I know there are other issues, but police presence is a big part of it.

WC: One of your Westside Observer stories was about the proposed navigation center on West Portal. How did you think that Supervisor Yee handled that?

JF: I think basically the Director of Real Estate came out and said here are viable locations for Navigation Centers and he listed West Portal. It should have never been on the list because it doesn’t have the square footage, it doesn’t meet the criteria for a Navigation Center. So Supervisor Yee basically said, “It’s not meant for West Portal.” I support exactly that. It was not for West Portal. If there is another place where it could be, it should be considered but it has to into account neighborhood considerations, ramifications in the neighborhood—basically everything.

WC: How do you think Ocean Avenue is doing and what do you think could be done to improve it as a commercial corridor?

JF: Basically the same thing. Ocean Avenue has grown tremendously over the past ten years. It’s active, it’s vibrant. I was there yesterday. Basically the same thing. You want to make sure that you work with the merchants. You want to make sure the streets are clean. The same thing as every commercial strip. You want to make sure there’s a police presence and make sure it’s safe. I mean, that’s a high injury corridor. So you want to make sure Muni is efficient and safe for bikers and pedestrians and do whatever we can do to make that happen.

WC: How are you going to win?

JF: A lot of people know me from City Hall when I worked there, a lot of people know me from the Westside Observer, a lot of people know me as a neighbor, a parent and a friend. Those who know me, know that I care deeply about the City and that I have the qualifications, the experience and the dedication to make a difference, which sets me apart from the other candidates.

WC: You don’t think they have the dedication?

JF: No, the qualifications and experiences they don’t have. But that’s for the voter to decide. What sets me apart is also all that I’ve done for the neighborhoods over the years. Even though I’ve worked on neighborhood issues for most of my life I’m still going to work hard to knock on doors, to go listen to the neighbor’s concerns and let people know, I work for you and I won’t let them.

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