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Bradford-Bell urges Newsom appoint Bayview representative to Planning Commission

Retiring commissioner says her claws sufficed

Shelley Bradford Bell (center)
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Pat Murphy and Luke Thomas

June 15, 2006, 2:30 p.m.

Retiring Planning Commissioner Shelley Bradford-Bell this afternoon called for her replacement to be a representative of Bayview Hunters Point.

She also noted her claws had been sharp enough for four years service on the commission and had learned from serving with Republicans they aren't all that evil.

Bradford-Bell offered her hopes for the commission during today's 2:00 p.m. Planning Commission meeting.

Her attention now focuses on service growth of the San Francisco Bayview Opera House, where she serves as director development and long range planning.

Text of remarks follow:

Has it really been four years since Willie Brown asked me to take a seat on the Planning Commission?

Planning Commission meetings were known as notoriously combative; the public was fiercely vigilant; and the commissioners who served before me were tough public servants. Filled with reservation, I didn't know if my claws were sharp enough to survive this battleground, but I went forward nonetheless armed with the confidence and support of the mayor, a desire to serve the City of San Francisco, and a commitment to make sure everyone was heard.

When voted President, I felt a huge responsibility to do the best job possible. That meant starting from a position of mutual respect:

-- Respect for the hard work and expertise of a dedicated staff.

-- Respect for my fellow commissioners whose commitment was as critical as my own.

-- Respect for the professionals, i.e., developers, community organizers, Calvin Welch, Sue Hestor; Judy Berkowitz, and Marilyn Amini, the great poet Joe O'Donoghue; to name just a few.

-- But most importantly respect for the public who sometimes did not understand the process; or who were so frightened by the process they were reduced to tears when they spoke. They may never have come before us except that something important in their lives was about to change and it was important enough to them to face their fear.

Everyone's view is equally important and must be heard. My good fortune was to be partnered with 6 incredible people who felt the same way.

When a man of six foot 4 stands before you in tears because his home of 25 years has been Ellis'ed out and he has no idea where to go, then we grasp the importance of affordable housing. We must develop policies that prevent abuse of the process, that allow new development, that streamline the process and make visible the invisible, addressing all citizen's needs as we plan our future City. It is important to hear all the voices: community, staff, developers. We have heard disturbing economic analysis about the future job markets within San Francisco and the expected loss of families in the next 10 years. We cannot move our residents from homelessness to homeownership by expecting them to jump a chasm void of transitional, affordable housing.

People talk about the extraordinary amount of work commissioners put in each week, and while I have since admitted to Matt Gonzalez that I was wrong, wrong, wrong when I said commissioners should not be paid a salary; I don't believe anyone works as hard as our staff, most especially our Commission Secretary Linda Avery. I could not have gotten through this without her. She is an intelligent, elegant, professional that Planning is lucky to have.

Commissioners read case reports, emails, and sometimes take calls or visit project sites. But planning staff does all this too, plus write the recommendations and motions, attend meetings, prepare packages, and a list of other things - for several projects - several projects - at varying and fast approaching deadlines. Planning staff are the cream of City workers-they work in an environment influenced by the politics of the City, the economy, the public sentiment, all the while trying to move projects, through application of the code, the department policies and the input from impacted neighborhoods. Every day, on every project, they deserve our support - they have always had mine.

Yes it sounds so easy, so yes, when we mix in the human element, well, there's the drama. Then we work hardest to hear all sides, to think hardest and deepest about whom we will be affecting with our decision. That's when the job is the hardest. That is when an environment of mutual respect best serves us. That's when having someone like Commissioner Kevin Hughes was so important. We were always afraid to let him speak because we knew it was going to be awhile. Kevin was fair, attentive, kind and I think sometimes he talked a lot because he just wanted to mess with us! If all I got from the past four years was Kevin Hughes friendship then that alone made it worth all the late nights. I want to thank Commissioner Michael Antonini for showing me all Republicans aren't bad! Mike was always supportive of me and completely dedicated to the Commission. He has only missed two or three meetings in four years. And he keeps asking for additional meetings! Well Commissioner Antonini, I'm on your side - more meetings for planning commission!!! And if it were really to happen I know that Mike would be at every single meeting. He's that committed and I leaned on him for support and he would be there. Thank you Mike, I'm proud to have served with you. Before I get lost in this reminiscing let me not forget two people; Lisa Feldstein and Edgar Boyd who were part of the reason we were successful from the beginning. I'm fortunate to have served with my fellow commissioners past and present

My deepest thanks go to Mayor Willie Brown for recognizing my ability to do this job before I did. I'm thankful to have been able to continue to serve under Mayor Newsom's administration as well. I am thankful to the public who felt the issues were important enough for them to write us, call or attend the commission and speak in public comment. Your gift to me was the awareness that by listening we are opened to more: knowledge, perspective, compromise, and resolution.

I will continue to watch the planning process in San Francisco thanks to the dedicated hard work of SFGTV. Our City TV is the greatest. You just don't have this level of access everywhere. From Director Priscilla Watts to now, it has become a vital component of our commitment to open government.

As I watch, I hope to see some of the things I thought should occur. Things like:

-- State of the art Planning Department. Instead of playing catch up with technology, we should always be current. Every year the budget should have money for technology that doesn't get cut out!

-- The commission holding a meeting in each district over the year.

-- Another joint meeting with Board of Appeals. I was so sorry I missed the one we had. Even so, I hope Appeals and Planning do it again it meant a lot to share perspectives.

-- Holding a joint Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission meeting. I still think this is important to do. There is a good relationship between the Supes and the commission and a joint session would give the public an opportunity to address these two bodies in a very unique way.

-- We must think "Transit First" if we are truly a Transit First City. I dream of a designated development area being established as a Transit Model Area. It will have excellent transit services, buses, light rail etc., have wide bike lanes, fewer parking spaces, walkable neighborhoods with parks - I said it was my dream - and good transit will reduce the number of cars and car owners in the area. With the rising prices of gas and parking, public transportation and taxis makes more and more sense.

As I prepare for my final commission meeting next week, I want to express my deepest hope that whoever replaces me represents the needs and residents of Bayview Hunters Point. This community will be watching and to have Bayview in a redevelopment process and not have them represented on the commission would be tragic. I know the Mayor believes in Bayview. I'm confident he will appoint someone who week after week will demonstrate his on-going commitment to full representation of San Francisco's diverse communities.

To serve this great City has been my joy. To serve with these great people has been my blessing. I can only hope I made a difference, for I have been made different by the experience.

Thank you San Francisco.

Commissioner Shelley Bradford Bell




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