San Francisco just appointed a new mayor to a heckling crowd, and everyone is arguing over who is the real puppet for the tech industry

San Francisco Chronicle

  • Supervisor Mark Farrell has been voted in as San Francisco’s interim mayor.
  • He replaces acting mayor London Breed, who took over the role following Ed Lee’s sudden death.

San Francisco has a new interim mayor – and no one is sure whether to be mad, shocked or just confused.

On Tuesday night, the city’s board of supervisors voted to appoint a former venture capital investor from one of its wealthiest neighborhoods as interim mayor.

The vote to crown Mark Farrell interim mayor provoked an immediate outcry, the latest flare-up of tensions in city politics over the influence of the tech industry.

Farrell replaces London Breed, a San Francisco native who grew up in public housing and was the city’s first woman of color to have the mayor’s job (albeit briefly, as Breed was appointed acting mayor in December after Mayor Ed Lee died in office).

Yet, Farrell’s backers have championed him as a blow to tech industry special interests.

Welcome to San Francisco.

The new mayor isn’t really the new mayor

San Francisco mayor Ed Lee and ex Twitter CEO Dick Costolo

San Francisco mayor Ed Lee and ex Twitter CEO Dick Costolo
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In December 2017, Ed Lee, San Francisco mayor of seven years, died of a heart attack. London Breed, District 5 supervisor, was appointed as acting mayor, and a new special mayoral election will be held in June 2018 to establish Lee’s proper replacement.

Under Lee’s watch, San Francisco became increasingly cozy with the tech industry, giving tax breaks for companies like Twitter to maintain its headquarters in the city.

On Tuesday night, SFGate reports, Breed lost a vote to be named interim mayor 5-4, and supervisor Farrell was since elected to the position with a 6-3 vote from the board of supervisors.

As Mission Local’s Joe Eskenazi wrote, “In short, the left-leaning bloc of the city’s legislative body, at this particular moment in American history, chose to unseat a black woman who worked her way from public housing to City Hall and replace her with a well-off white venture capitalist who graduated from St. Ignatius High and lives in the Marina.”

But there’s more to it than that. London Breed is already district 5 supervisor and president of the board of supervisors, and she’s also running in the election to replace Ed Lee as elected mayor – so her acting as interim mayor would make for a significant concentration of power. Supervisor Aaron Peskin stressed the need for the separation of powers prior to Tuesday’s vote, according to SGGate.

London Breed is also viewed by some as the candidate of choice of the tech industry, which has transformed San Francisco and the surrounding area, with widespread gentrification and sky-high rents and costs pushing some longtime residents out. In December 2017, The San Francisco Examiner published an article alleging that Silicon Valley billionaire Roy Conway supports Breed’s candidacy for mayor and was canvassing for her at Ed Lee’s funeral. Conway did not return a request for comment.

Despite the optics, Farrell’s supporters insist that it’s he who is in fact the bulwark against the tech industry. According to the Chronicle report, supervisor Hillary Ronen decried the “tech moguls and real estate billionaires” who were backing Breed during Tuesday’s vote. Other San Franciscan’s also appeared to subscribe to that view.

So who is the real anti tech mayor?

London Breed and Tech VC Ron Conway

London Breed and Tech VC Ron Conway
Steve Jennings/Getty

As Business Insider reported in December, Breed centered her 2016 supervisor re-election campaign on building and protecting affordable housing, a crucial issue in a city where the median cost of rent has soared to $4,450 a month.

That’s not to say that Breed is inherently opposed to tech or unwilling to collaborate with the industry. Appearing at the 2015 “Crunchies” awards organized by tech blog TechCrunch, Breed said she had “great respect for the tech sector, for the dreamers and entrepreneurs who want to create something new, something innovative.”

Breed did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

After Tuesday’s vote to replace her, she tweeted a conciliatory message. “I have a vision for an inclusive & fair San Francisco, and will keep working every day on the important issues we face: homelessness, housing, & public safety,” Breed wrote.

Her supporters were less cool-headed however. After the vote, the board was heckled by Breed’s supporters who shouted “Shame on you!” and “racist board!” according to CBS SF Bay Area.

As for Farrell, the office of the mayor had two press releases on its site attributed to Farrell on Wednesday. Both appeared to be placeholder posts, filled with what appeared to be Latin “Lorem ipsum” placeholder text:


SF Mayor’s office