Ahsha Safai’s inauguration as District 11 Supervisor had the feeling of a healing ceremony after a close and expensive election in November concluded his ten-year quest for a seat at the board.
City Hall’s South Light Court was full of neighborhood activists, politicians and labor leaders, as Safai celebrated his close victory over Kimberly Alvarenga, eight years after he lost a close race against outgoing Supervisor John Avalos.
“I kept on thinking that I was going to get a phone call saying, ‘We actually found another 500 votes. Sorry, you lost by 73 votes,’” Safai said.
The ceremony featured introductions of the many politicians who Safai credited with helping his career including three San Francisco mayors who Safai worked for: Lieutenant-Governor Gavin Newsom, former Mayor Willie Brown, and Mayor Ed Lee.
“Ahsha has given me his story and I am enthusiastic about it because he’s going to lend a very strong voice for families in San Francisco, and that’s absolutely needed,” Lee said in a speech before Safai was sworn in.
Lee also spoke about issues he plans to work on with the new supervisor.
“I’m excited to walk those corridors in the Outer Mission, when we observe the vacancies or the storefronts that ought to have better visibility, when we get to Mission and Geneva we’re going to do an even better job of making sure that it’s the safest Vision Zero intersection in the city,” Lee said.
Safai stood on stage with his wife and children as Newsom swore him into office.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this guy — It has been ten damn years that he has been running for this office!,” Newsom said, in a short speech after the ceremony. “From his time at the housing authority to the work he’s done at [the Department of Public Works], the work he’s done at [the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development], there are few people who are more prepared to truly hit the ground running.”
In his speech, Safai stuck to the rhetoric of District 11.
“If we took District 11 out of San Francisco, it truly would be a tale of two cities,” Safai said, promising to focus on issues such as improving parking, slowing traffic, providing more reliable bus service, planting 500 street trees a year, and converting the numerous empty storefronts on the lower Mission Street into free workspaces for artists.
Safai also thanked another former boss: Mohammed Nuru, director of the Department of Public Works.
“We want a little more attention from DPW,” Safai said.
After the ceremony, district resident and activist Linda Litehiser was hopeful that Safai’s connections will make him more likely to get things done than his predecessor, John Avalos, who Litehiser felt spent too much time tangling with Mayor Ed Lee.
In the case of District 11, there’s a persistent feeling that even the basic things in District 11 — the parks, the litter, and the commercial corridors — don’t get the attention that the assets in other districts get.
Safai ended his speech with a call to action, and a reach across the aisle.
“Let’s make District 11 shine,” Safai said.
As applause broke out, Safai returned to the microphone.
“Supervisor Aaron Peskin, thank you for keeping your word and staying neutral,” Safai said. “I look forward to working with you.”