Ahsha Safai, future SF supervisor?
May 8, 2008 10:33 PM
Potholes, graffiti, garbage cleanup…they might not be hot-button topics, but they're what Ahsha Safai, who is running for the San Francisco board of supervisors, wants to tackle.
During his campaign stop at SF State on May 6, Safai said, "As much as the headlines are about skyscrapers downtown, the skyline, Hunter's Point shipyard, 40 percent affordable housing—very rarely when you're talking to people at the local level on a daily basis do you hear those concerns."
"They're talking to you about the little local issues: trash cans, sidewalks, the graffiti, the dirt, the trash, parking. Oh my gosh, mention parking and people go absolutely berserk. So it might not be the most sexy issues to deal with, but they're real issues that affect our lives on a daily basis."
Safai, who is 35 years old, is running for District 11, which encompasses Cayuga Terrace, Crocker-Amazon, Excelsior, Mission Terrace, Ocean View, Outer Mission, Merced Heights and Ingleside.
Safai is seeking to replace current supervisor Gerardo Sandoval, who will be running for Superior Court Judge as his second term expires. Safai might be competing with John Avalos, Adrian Bermudez, Cecilia Chung, Emily Drennen, Eli Horn, Randall Knox and Julio Ramos, all of whom have filed a declaration of intent with the department of elections.
Safai is an Iranian-American—his mother is American and his father is Iranian. His parents met in Texas, shortly before enrolling in the University of Texas, where his father studied architecture and his mother studied sociology. After graduation, his parents lived in the United States for 15 years and then they moved to Tehran, Iran, where Safai was born.
Safai said that Ahsha, his first name, which is pronounced as ‘Asha’, is a blend of his father’s name, Ata Safai, and his mother’s name, Marsha McDonald.
Ahsha lived in Tehran until he was 5 years old, when due to the 1979 Iranian revolution, he moved to Cambridge, Mass.
He got interested in politics when he was about 18, when he started working on a political campaign for city councilor Bill Walsh “doing things like going door-to-door, and shadowing [Walsh] at city council meetings.”
After Safai graduated from Northeastern University with a dual degree in African American studies and political science, he worked for Massachusetts state Sen. Marc Montigni. Afterwards he moved to Washington, where he worked in the White House in the Office of Intergovernmental affairs.
In 1995 he returned to Cambridge, and worked on Clinton’s re-election campaign. A few years later, in 1998, he went to MIT for his master’s degree in city planning with a focus on housing, community and economic development.
Once he graduated, he moved to San Francisco where he worked for the Housing Authority, on Gavin Newsom’s campaign, in the Mayor’s Office of Community Development and in the Department of Public Works. He also worked for the Mission Language Vocational School.
Safai said that he built a community youth center called the Mayor Willie Brown Youth Center. He worked on legislation to help immigrant families remain in public housing and on a program that replaced old, energy inefficient refrigerators in public housing.
At the mayor’s Office of Community Development, he took part in creating a program called San Francisco Shines. It gave financial incentives to small business for re-doing the façades of their businesses. He also created a $4 million dollar loan program for a childcare center in district 11 and helped start a program called Clean Corridors, which provided job training to young men and women. In addition to that, he raised money for elementary and middle schools.
Safai said he’s interested in taking part of the land use committee, the neighborhood services committee or the budget committee.
He said that if he becomes supervisor, he wants to create a program that would allow homeowners to borrow money for seismic retrofits.
“Everyone talking about is it’s not a matter if we’re going to have an earthquake in San Francisco, it's a matter of when. The city has the ability to take on debt. The city has the ability to go out and get large sums of money at a very low interest rate. What I would like to see it do if I was supervisor is (...) create a loan fund that each person individually could tap into based on the amount of work that needs to happen on their home, that then could be placed on their property tax bill and spread out over a course of time to be paid down. ”
He also said, “What we have done for the last few decades is say that public health is a big priority. So about a third of our budget goes into public health. There’s a lot of other things that don’t get prioritized and lose out. A third of [San Francisco’s six] billion dollar budget goes into public health. That’s a phenomenal thing; however that means we have a lot of potholes in the city, a lot of broken sidewalks, a lot of areas in San Francisco that don’t have trees, there’s a lot of dirt and trash.”
“So we need to be creative about how we raise additional revenues,” Safai said.
“I think one of the new revenue sources that the city could afford to look at again is called the property transfer tax. Every time I sell a property to someone else, the seller pays a fee," he said. "So for about a million dollars, the city extracts a fee of about seven or eight thousand dollars. I think you could adjust that a few tenths of a percent up, it’s not going to kill deals. People are not going say ‘I’m not going to sell this property’.
The election will be held on November 4, 2008.
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