Our DMO of the Month Moves His City Forward
As cities transition into the next century, they dredge up conflict along with progress. While new businesses and growing communities bring new life to a city, they introduce the problems of gentrification and cultural amelioration.How do we move our cities forward without leaving residents behind? Edwin Lee of San Francisco is one mayor attempting to resolve these issues and bring his city into a new era. Mayor Lee's efforts have steadied a San Francisco struggling with development and identity, and we are proud to name him DMO of the Month for August.
San Francisco is a hub for both start-ups and established titans in the tech industry.Boasting the headquarters for Dropbox,Twitter, Yelp, and over 1,800 others, the city owes part of this success to Mayor Lee’s provision of tax incentives to companies like Twitter early in his first term. Lee is proving to be a tech savvy mayor himself, working with groups like Code for America to turn programming minds towards civic solutions, and starting an Entrepreneurship in Residence Program where young innovators partner with local government. He has come out in support of net neutrality, and developed open information portals like DataSF that create a transparent lens between the public and their leaders. With the growing technology sector comprising 8% of employment in San Francisco, citywide unemployment is down to just 4.4%, compared to 7.3% unemployment statewide. These industry giants and new innovators are undoubtedly a boon to the city, and their increased presence is thanks to Mayor Lee’s efforts to create a welcoming environment where they can develop and grow.
This influx of young residents with high paying tech jobs has revived San Francisco’s perennial discussion on expansion and affordable housing. Higher income rates have led to higher housing prices, driving out longtime residents. Mayor Lee is well equipped to advocate for these community members, having started his career as a lawyer representing low income tenants in the city’s Chinatown neighborhood. He has presented an ambitious plan to add 30,000 new housing units in the city by 2020, addressing a housing shortage that has been prominent since the 1970s.
Some residents still feel apprehensive and left behind by the changing trends in demographics and income. Mayor Lee has countered these sentiments by reinvesting in neighborhood businesses, supporting the minimum wage increase to $10.74 an hour, and enacting legislation promoting local hiring practices. He has also set goals to protect residents from eviction and simplify bureaucracy that impedes housing development. Edwin Lee has created the Small Sites Program, focused on managing affordability and keeping low income residents in their homes. Retaining the local population and culture as new changes emerge is essential for the long term livability of any city.
Named the Greenest City in America by the Green City Index, San Francisco works hard to preserve both its environment and its culture of conservation. The city has reduced carbon emissions by 12%, and has achieved 80% landfill diversion under Mayor Lee, instead directing waste to reuse, recycling, and composting. The city’s commitment to clean energy is embodied by the GoSolarSF project, which will provide $10 million over the next two years to help San Franciscans install solar panels on their property.
Mayor Lee has overseen San Francisco’s disaster planning efforts, bringing every department together to coordinate response and recovery for the next major emergency. He has also entered into public-private partnerships with sharing economy coalition BayShare, inviting the group to join the San Francisco Disaster Council. Through the BayShare partnership, companies like Lyft will transport emergency personnel to affected areas, and Airbnb participants will open their homes to the displaced. Whether he is enabling the city to mitigate the impact of large scale emergencies or helping residents install solar panels at home, Mayor Lee is preserving San Francisco’s unique commitment to the environment.
A booming tech industry and an influx of young transplants keep San Francisco well-positioned for future success. In the shadow of these achievements are very real confrontations around affordability, housing, and culture. Mayor Edwin Lee looks to partner with everyone from his city, advancing the economy while keeping the culture intact. He’s worked hard to accommodate the needs of 21st Century industries while fighting to keep lower income residents from getting forgotten in the shuffle. A deft ability to coordinate these interests is why Mayor Lee is our DMO of the Month for August. DMO looks forward to what San Francisco does next, both in how it prepares for the future and accommodates the needs of all its residents.
Edwin Lee was elected in 2011, and is San Francisco’s first Asian American mayor. Lee’s public tenure began in 1989 conducting whistleblower investigations as the Deputy Director of Employment Relations. He has since served as San Francisco's Director of the Human Rights Commission, Director of City Purchasing, and Director of the Department of Public Works. Before his entrance into the public sector, Mayor Lee was a lawyer for the San Francisco Asian Law Caucus. He sits on the Board of Asian Pacific American Municipal Officials at NLC, and Chairs the US Conference of Mayors Technology and Innovation Task Force.