Noe Valley Voice November 2009

The top four contenders for the job held by Supervisor Bevan Dufty (center) linked arms at a Glen Park Neighborhood Association event in July. Shown (from left) are Scott Wiener, Laura Spanjian, Rebecca Prozan, and Rafael Mandelman. The election will be held in November 2010.
Photo by Bill F. Wilson

They're Off and Running--Four Strong Candidates in the Race to Fill Dufty's Shoes

By Corrie M. Anders

The election to replace Supervisor Bevan Dufty in District 8 won't take place for a year, but the campaigning has already started in earnest.

Four early-bird candidates in the race presented their political and professional credentials to Noe Valley residents last month during a community-sponsored forum at the Upper Noe Recreation Center on Day Street.

The supervisoral hopefuls--two gay men and two lesbians--are familiar names in local political circles: Atty. Rafael Mandelman; Rebecca Prozan, an assistant district attorney; Laura Spanjian, a city government executive; and Scott Wiener, a deputy city attorney.

In their first joint appearance in Noe Valley, they spent 90 minutes addressing a gathering of about 30 residents at the Oct. 22 meeting of Upper Noe Neighbors.

Residents questioned the quartet on a variety of local and citywide issues, including the Board of Supervisors' passage last month of a controversial sanctuary measure. The legislation states that undocumented youths can be turned over to federal immigration authorities for possible deportation only after they have been convicted of a felony. The measure reverses a policy Mayor Gavin Newsom adopted a year ago, which allowed San Francisco police to contact immigration agents immediately after an arrest.

Spanjian and Mandelman said they supported the new legislation. "The presumption of innocence applies to citizens as well as non-citizens," Mandelman argued.

Wiener said he did not support the measure. Prozan, who prosecutes narcotics cases, gave a roundabout answer. When pressed for a direct response as to how she would have voted as a supervisor, she replied, "I don't know."

The candidates also expressed reservations about a City Hall proposal to raise revenues by expanding parking meter hours to midnight and on Sundays in many neighborhoods. Elements of the plan might apply to Noe Valley's commercial corridors.

Both Spanjian and Prozan stressed that the city needed additional revenue. "It's a conundrum," said Spanjian, who sugges ted a compromise of lowering the number of expanded hours that the meters would be in operation.

Wiener flatly said that the meter proposal was too broad. He said it needed to be significantly modified and tailored for individual neighborhoods.

"The last thing we need to do is [hurt] the sales tax" if shoppers avoid commercial areas because of the increased risk of getting a parking ticket. "We're robbing Peter to pay Paul," Wiener said.

Fast Pass Required

In what could have been a gotcha moment, the four candidates were asked to show their Muni fast passes as a commitment to public transportation.

With smiles on their faces, Prozan, Wiener, and Mandelman quickly retrieved their Muni passes. Spanjian, however, said her pass was locked up outside--in her newly acquired Smart Car (a micro-compact fuel miser).

The candidates also responded to inquiries about their position on two issues that have created a buzz in Noe Valley--Whole Foods and the high-tech shuttle bus.

The con tenders expressed dismay over Whole Foods CEO John Mackey's opposition to President Obama's health care initiative. But none thought the newly opened 24th Street Whole Foods should be a boycott target--rather that shoppers should urge Mackey to reconsider his position.

"It's a good addition to the neighborhood in terms of having a walkable supermarket, adding to the vibrancy of the neighborhood, and creating better foot traffic for the neighborhood," Wiener said about Whole Foods, Noe Valley's only full-service grocery.

Wiener, Mandelman, and Spanjian said they support the free shuttle bus services that high-tech companies are providing to employees who work on the Peninsula. The buses have upset some Noe Valley residents, who've complained that the coaches are too big and too noisy to be on certain neighborhood streets.

"I think the shuttle buses are essential for people working on the Peninsula. They are a considerable environmental improvement on having them drive their cars to work," said Mandelman . Instead, "we need to be designing the routes and the stops that are most respectful to the neighborhood."

Prozan, noting that the San Francisco County Transportation Authority is examining whether new shuttle regulations are needed, said she first "wanted to see what the study is."

Either a Prozan or Spanjian victory would give District 8 its first lesbian supervisor. Gay men--starting with Harvey Milk in 1977 on through Dufty, who has served the maximum two four-year terms and is now running for mayor--have held the seat for as long as it has existed.

Close-Up on Candidates

Here are short portraits of the four frontrunners in the race to take Dufty's place on the Board of Supervisors next year. Each wants to represent District 8, which, in addition to Noe Valley, includes Glen Park, the Castro District, parts of the Inner Mission, Diamond Heights, Twin Peaks, Buena Vista, Corona Heights, and Duboce Triangle.

Rafael Mandelman, a San Francisco native, is an attorney wi th the McDonough Holland & Allen law firm in Oakland. He turned 36 with a birthday bash Oct. 17 at Bliss Bar on 24th Street, and since 2002 has lived on 20th Street across from Dolores Park. He is single.

Mandelman has been infatuated with politics since working as an intern on the Board of Supervisors while a student at Lick-Wilmerding High School. He has been involved in local politics since graduating 10 years ago from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law.

Mandelman, a self-described "leftie, a bleeding heart liberal," is serving his second term as president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club and is a former president of the Noe Valley Democratic Club.

"A lot of people have the feeling that city government doesn't work all that well in a lot of ways," he said in a Voice interview explaining why he wanted to become supervisor. "We have some serious challenges, and that's what I want to work on."

Mandelman, who kicked off his candidacy the earliest of the four in mid-June, has th e endorsement of former supervisor Harry Britt.

Rebecca Prozan, 38, an assistant district attorney in San Francisco since 2004, grew up in Hillsborough, Calif. She resides on Castro Street with her wife, Julia Adams, and their dog, a shiba inu named Mika.

The Golden Gate University law school graduate, who officially announced her candidacy Oct. 20, has worked as a special assistant to Mayor Willie Brown and as a legislative aide to Supervisor Bevan Dufty. She also has served on a number of local government bodies.

Prozan was a convention delegate for President Barack Obama. A grassroots organizer, she has worked for many years in the inner sanctums of local political organizations, including the San Francisco Young Democrats (as president), the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, and the California Democratic Party's LGBT Caucus.

Prozan's supporters include District Attorney Kamala D. Harris.

"The city faces a lot of challenges, and I feel I have the energy, the experience, and the where withal to deliver to the district," Prozan said.

Laura Spanjian, 38, has served as an assistant general manager for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission since 2004. The second-generation Armenian American grew up in San Mateo, the oldest of three children.

Spanjian, an attorney who previously lived for several years in Noe Valley, currently resides on Guerrero Street with partner Susan Christian and their standard poodle, Willa. She has degrees from UCLA and Stanford University.

Spanjian announced her candidacy Oct. 3 at Noe Courts at 24th and Douglass streets. Spanjian cut her political teeth at City Hall as a legislative assistant to former Supervisor Leslie Katz, and her 17-year city government career has included an executive stint with Muni.

She served as campaign manager for Susan Leal's 2003 unsuccessful bid for mayor and for Sen. Joe Simitian's 2004 winning run for the California State Senate. She has had leadership roles in a dozen or so local political and gay organizations.

That effort has helped Spanjian pick up endorsements from Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, Sheriff Mike Hennessey, and former supervisors Roberta Achtenberg and Leslie Katz.

"I will be independent of the warring factions that have taken over the Board of Supervisors to get things done," said Spanjian. Residents "want the board to stop fighting and accomplish things for the city."

Scott Wiener, 39, launched his supervisoral campaign July 7 outside the San Francisco Ethics Commission near City Hall. Wiener, an attorney, left private practice in 2002 for a position as Deputy City Attorney in San Francisco.

Wiener, who was born in Philadelphia, moved to San Francisco in 1997. The 17th Street resident has lived in the Castro District for nearly 13 years and is president of the Eureka Valley Promotion Association, the neighborhood association for the Castro/Upper Market area.

A community organizer, Wiener is a past chair of the Democratic County Central Committee and former co-chair of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club.

His supporters include Mayor Gavin Newsom, Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, former Luxembourg Ambassador James Hormel, and the Rev. Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani, the married couple who lead Glide Memorial United Methodist Church.

"For me, being a district supervisor is the perfect intersection between neighborhood activism and government in terms of getting things done for the community," he said.

Editor's Note: We recently learned that William Hemenger, a Diamond Heights resident, also has filed to run for supervisor in District 8. The November 2010 election may attract additional candidates over the next nine months. Want to throw your hat in the ring? The deadline for filing is Aug. 6, 2010.

Post-Issue Editor's Note: The print edition of this story erroneously stated that Supervisor Bevan Dufty has endorsed Laura Spanjian and Scott Wiener. Dufty has not officially endorsed any candidate in the District 8 race.