Newly elected San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s duties are just beginning. “History maker” now precedes her name as she takes the oath on Wednesday during a swearing-in ceremony on the steps of City Hall as the city’s first black female mayor.
Relieved that her campaign is complete, Breed is more than ready to put her time and energy into running San Francisco and she is ready for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors’ move to the area.
“I am so excited about the Warriors playing right here in the city and county of San Francisco,” Breed told The Undefeated. “Not only do I expect them to keep winning championships, because I can’t wait to have that parade here, I really want them to be a part of the community. We have so many young people in our city, and sometimes they live in communities like the one that I grew up in.”
Breed, 43, grew up in Plaza East public housing in the Western Addition area of San Francisco, about 15 minutes from downtown. Growing up in a crime-filled environment, she saw her share of the city’s problems. So the community relations aspect from the Warriors is important.
“I will say that they’ve already started doing that. Before the arena was even approved, they were actively engaged in the community I grew up in. They rehabilitated a gymnasium that I grew up going to, and so they’ve done some work already.”
Breed wants that work to continue, and she hopes to further integrate the team into the city.
“I want to make a real connection between this team and our communities,” Breed said. “That is really what I’m expecting, in addition to the championship. I want the players and the team, the people who are part of the team and the franchise, to be more actively engaged in many of our disadvantaged communities, to provide opportunities for internships, to make sure that there are not just appearances but they’re investing in our schools, in our playgrounds, in everything that’s here in San Francisco.”
The community connection is even more important after the city’s football team moved 40 miles away to Santa Clara in 2014. Breed grew up a 49ers fan.
“Unfortunately, we lost the San Francisco 49ers,” she said. “I have been a die-hard 49ers fan as long as I can remember, and we still have the San Francisco Giants, and now this incredible team filled with All-Star players and incredible leadership is not only going to play here in San Francisco but to have an arena where for games, concerts and opportunities for incredible jobs for communities that oftentimes are neglected in our city.”
Breed also pledges to address health care needs, including mental health, homelessness, drugs and high cost of living (median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $3,460 a month). She is passionate about creating opportunities for impoverished minority families to succeed, and she expects community leaders as well as head coach Steve Kerr and the Warriors to embrace her goals.
“I think that part of what I’m hoping to do in moving San Francisco forward is not just doing this job on my own,” she said. “It’s going to involve getting more people actively engaged … so we can address many of these challenging problems. We want to make sure we’re dealing with issues around homelessness and people who are struggling with mental illness and addiction. We want to build more housing, and build more housing faster.”
Breed succeeds Mayor Ed Lee, whose unexpected death in December 2017 sparked a special election in June. She most recently served as president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for more than three years. She never knew her journey would lead her to this point.
“I just didn’t think something like this was ever possible for someone like me,” Breed said. “It just was not something that I even thought about. I didn’t know what I really wanted to do in life. I was exposed to so much. My environment was a challenging environment, and so the kinds of things that I was exposed to at an early age, I just thought those things were normal. The drugs, the prostitution, the crime, the violence, that was really my normal. I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
She says the bulk of her passion stems from her upbringing.
“Growing up going to funerals of your friends on a regular basis, watching your family go in and out of jail, losing family members and friends and loved ones … I want to make sure my passion has everything to do with making sure we don’t continue to repeat the cycle.”
She is grateful for her grandmother who raised her, teachers and a strong sense of community and people who encouraged her educational endeavors.
“That really was the key to my ability to do whatever it is that I wanted to do with my education, and going to college, and really focusing on trying to do something to help the community,” Breed said. “All of that has helped, I think, lay the stage for what I am now, which is the mayor of the city and county of San Francisco. It’s really exciting.”
Breed earned a bachelor’s degree in 1997 from the University of California, Davis and later graduated with a master’s degree in public health from the University of San Francisco. She interned for Mayor Willie Brown shortly after college. In 2002, she became the executive director of the African American Art & Culture Complex, where she played an integral role in renovating their building. Breed was named to the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency Commission in 2004. In 2010, Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed her to the San Francisco Fire Commission. She was supervisor for San Francisco’s District 5, the same district where she was raised, and was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2013. She served as president of the board from 2015 to 2018.
Now a role model and example for girls who aspire to reach their highest potential, Breed advises young women to be open to new things and to keep a positive attitude.
“I think that part of it is you have to do what feels right for you, but at the same time for me there was also survival. When I was in college I needed money, and so I worked at a bank, I worked cleaning up houses, I baby-sat. I did whatever it took to make sure I had enough money to be able to take care of myself while I figured out exactly what I wanted to do. The reason why I was able to get one of my first jobs had everything to do with my attitude. Just be open to the possibility of anything, and who knows what you might find.”
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