Aaron Peskin

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Aaron Peskin
Aaron Peskin.jpg
Aaron Peskin
Member of the
San Francisco Board of Supervisors
from District 3
Assumed office
December 8, 2015
Mayor Ed Lee
Mark Farrell
London Breed
Preceded by Julie Christensen
In office
Mayor Gavin Newsom
Preceded bydistrict created
Succeeded by David Chiu
President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors
In office
Mayor Gavin Newsom
Preceded by Matt Gonzalez
Succeeded by David Chiu
Personal details
Aaron Dan Peskin

(1964-06-17) June 17, 1964 (age 56)
Berkeley, California, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s)Nancy Shanahan
Residence San Francisco, California
Alma mater University of California, Santa Cruz ( BA)
Occupation Politician
ProfessionEnvironmental activist
Website Board of Supervisors
District 3 website

Aaron Dan Peskin (born June 17, 1964) is an American elected official in San Francisco, California. He serves as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors representing Supervisorial District 3, and is currently Dean of the Board. He was elected in 2015, [1] having previously served two terms in 2001–2009.

District 3 includes the neighborhoods of North Beach, Chinatown, Telegraph Hill, North Waterfront, Financial District, Nob Hill, Union Square, Maiden Lane, and part of Russian Hill.

Personal life

Peskin was born and raised in Berkeley. His mother, Tsipora, an emigrant from Israel, taught at UC Berkeley; his father, Harvey, was a professor of psychology at San Francisco State University. Peskin attended UC Santa Cruz. He is married to land-use attorney Nancy Shanahan. [2]

Before entering politics, Peskin was an environmental activist and water-rights negotiator for a non-profit organization which brokered passage and use rights for tribal lands. He first came to public notice as president of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, where he co-led the effort to save the Colombo building from being converted into the Chinatown branch of City College. [3] [4]

He is a member of the South End Rowing Club and an avid outdoorsman, having hiked the John Muir Trail in 2006 and 2007. [5] Peskin can be seen most mornings in his Speedo swimming in the San Francisco Bay. [6] He reassured San Franciscans after the 2007 Cosco Busan oil spill that the water was safe by swimming in the Bay during of a KTVU newscast. [7] Peskins and his wife runs the non-profit Great Basin Land and Water out of their headquarters in North Beach. The organization preserves land in Nevada. [8]

Political career

As Supervisor, he is known mostly for siding with a self-described progressive majority on development issues, often being at odds with the policies of mayors Gavin Newsom and Willie Brown. [9]

In office, Peskin wrote and won approval for 205 ordinances during his first eight years on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, making him the most prolific supervisor of his time. [8]

Peskin was first elected in December 2000, along with other progressive neighborhood activists who had gained their first significant political experience on Tom Ammiano's mayoral campaign. [10]

In 2004, Peskin was unanimously elected President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and was later re-elected by his colleagues for a second two-year term as president in 2005. He also served as a member of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, an agency responsible for regulating development in, on and immediately surrounding the San Francisco Bay.

When he came to the end of his second term in 2008 he supported David Chiu's successful campaign for the District 3 seat on the Board of Supervisors. San Francisco restricts supervisors to a maximum of two consecutive terms. [11] He was then elected chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party Central Committee (DCCC), the local party's governing board. Peskin held this seat until 2012. [12]

In January 2011, he was a candidate for mayor to fill the unexpired term of Gavin Newsom, who resigned to become Lieutenant Governor of California, but Peskin was not chosen by the Board of Supervisors.

On March 30, 2015, Peskin announced that he would be a candidate for his old District 3 Supervisor's seat, challenging appointed incumbent Julie Christensen. While Peskin had previously served San Francisco's maximum of two consecutive terms as a supervisor from 2000 to 2008, the city code is silent on non-consecutive terms. [11] When Christensen used the physics concept “ wormhole”—a connection between two different space-times—to describe the Stockton Street Tunnel connecting Union Square and Chinatown, Peskin's ally Rose Pak allegedly distorted the word “wormhole” to imply that Chinatown is a hole of worms, which successfully triggered the anger of some Chinatown residents. [13] That negative press attributed to Pak's comments in Chinatown created an opportunity for Peskin to pick up much-needed votes in the Chinese community when he ran against Christensen. [14] Peskin ultimately defeated Julie Christensen. In 2019, Peskin proposed to name the Chinatown station of the Central Subway the Rose Pak Subway Station against strong opposition in the Chinese community. [15]

Housing and development

Since his first days in office, Peskin has been known as a "neighborhood preservationist" ( SF Weekly), opposing and preventing many development projects in San Francisco. [9] He has defended the California Environmental Quality Act against widespread criticism that it had (as summarized by the San Francisco Chronicle) "become a cudgel used by NIMBYs to block any project they don’t like", with San Francisco's CEQA appeals process being especially onerous. [16] Peskin described it as a "remarkably helpful law" that had protected the city from several bad projects, while acknowledging that the process was "messy and time-consuming." [16]

In 2003, Peskin instigated an eminent domain seizure of a triangular plot of private property at 701 Lombard Street. He did so in conjunction with the Telegraph Hill Dwellers when it became clear that the lot could be considered for open space and turned into a park. The parties attempting to develop the lot commercially called this an abuse of government power. [17] The lot was approved to be converted into the new site for the North Beach branch of the San Francisco Public Library in 2011 and was completed in 2014. [18]

In 2005, he prevented the conversion of hotel rooms by several San Francisco hotels into condominiums. At the time, Peskin said that "turning 226 hotel rooms into 60 luxury, multimillion-dollar condominium units isn't addressing the housing needs of San Francisco". The legislation was ultimately passed with support from housing advocates and hotel workers. [19]

In 2006, he sponsored legislation to curb the Ellis Act, a state law that allows property owners to evict tenants by going out of the rental business, by prohibiting landlords who instigate an eviction under the Ellis Act from participating in the city's condominium conversion lottery. The Ellis Act has led to many tenancy-in-common conversions of apartment buildings in San Francisco by tenants who desire to own property, and real estate promoters seeking to make ownership opportunities available (and thereby earning fees and profits). [20]

Peskin has been endorsed by the San Francisco Tenants Union, the Affordable Housing Alliance, and the Community Tenants Association. [21] In his 2015 reelection campaign, he advocated extending San Francisco's rent control to buildings constructed after 1979 (which would necessitate changes in state law). [22] On the other hand, he has also been endorsed by the San Francisco Apartment Association, an advocacy group for rental building owners and property managers, of which he is a member as a landlord himself. [22]

Peskin opposes the Treasure Island Development project (which over two decades is planned to create 7,000 to 8,000 housing units, 25 percent of which affordable,[ clarification needed] alongside commercial, retail, office and public spaces) and led a group called "Citizens for a Sustainable Treasure Island" in lawsuits against the city of San Francisco and developer, out of concern that its impact on environment and traffic had not been properly reviewed. [23] The courts rejected the complaint by Peskin and his group, with the California Supreme Court declining an appeal in October 2014. [23]

Peskin introduced legislation in March 2017 which would bar contractors for work on city projects if they bid for a contract to construct the proposed US-Mexico border wall. [24]

Environment and landmarks

In 2001, Peskin spearheaded a plan to prevent the San Francisco Airport from filling in a 200-square-meter (2,200 sq ft) section of the San Francisco Bay. His proposed cuts to the airport project were passed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors, which cut funding of field studies for environmental impacts of proposed runways nearly in half, from $11.2 million to $6.2 million.

In 2008, Peskin created the Landmarks Preservation Board, a commission to oversee the protection and preservation of historic sites in San Francisco. [25]

While not in office, Peskin partnered with the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society to file the Waterfront Watch Suit, which called for a process for review of Pier 29 rehabilitation work, a reduction of air emissions at Pier 27, and an agreement not to place a Jumbotron on the water in Aquatic Park Lagoon. [26]


In 2007, Peskin authored a charter amendment to increase San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) funding and implement agency reforms. [27] The measure, Prop A, received over 55 percent of the vote.[ citation needed]

During his time as Supervisor of District 3 (2001–2009), Peskin supported the New Jefferson Street Project. The Project was a plan to create the first pedestrian priority street to accompany the high volume of tourist traffic into Fisherman’s Wharf. [28]

In July 2020, Peskin and supervisor Shamann Walton opted to not introduce a $108 million sales tax measure into the November 2020 ballots to finance Caltrain, which has seen a 95% reduction in ridership due to the COVID-19 pandemic in California. Ride fares account for 70% of the service's operating budget. The supervisors cite the lack of shared authority on the Joint Powers Board over the train line's management, which is currently operated by the SamTrans, and the regressive nature of the sales tax to fund operations for a service whose customer base has a mean income of $120,000 as pain points to supporting the measure. However, Peskin mentioned that the measure can still be introduced by the mayor or other supervisors if they wanted to. [29] [30] The supervisors later changed their minds when Caltrain pledged to make changes to its structure, making it more independent from SamTrans. [31]

Reproductive healthcare buffer zone

In 2003, Peskin passed legislation to establish a 100-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, requiring protesters to acquire consent before approaching people who are seeking access to those facilities. According to Peskin, the bill was designed to “protect all patients, especially those who are too intimidated by protesters to confront them and ask them to go away." [32]

Public image

Peskin has been involved with contentious decisions which weighed public landmarks and events against the desires of his constituents, including the disagreement surrounding alcohol permits at the North Beach Jazz Festival, [33] [34] the temporary shutdown of the Savoy Tivoli, [35] and cancelling the San Francisco Grand Prix because the bike race's backers owed the city money. [36]

San Francisco Chronicle reporters Matier and Ross have claimed Peskin has a reputation as the "Napoleon of North Beach." [37] During Peskin's time as an influential neighborhood activist, columnist Warren Hinckle labeled him "The Ayatollah of North Beach". [4]

Verbal harassment

Peskin has been known to make inappropriate late night phone calls to public officials and private citizens. [8] For example, he called the Port of San Francisco director Monique Moyer several times about cutting their funding over disagreements concerning waterfront building height limits. Mayor Newsom told the San Francisco Chronicle that people around city hall had been complaining about Peskin's behavior for years. [38] However, former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos has said Peskin's alleged behavior falls "well within the boundaries of the system" and that it's "not unusual in politics at any level of government." [39]

In 2018, at the scene of the St. Patrick's Day fire in North Beach, Peskin was reportedly intoxicated while he verbally berating then Deputy Fire Chief of Operations Mark Gonzalez. Peskin has denied being intoxicated at the time but has apologized for his behavior. [40]


  1. ^ Brooks, Jon (November 4, 2015). "S.F. Election: Lee Re-elected, Peskin Wins, Airbnb Curbs Fail". KQED News. PBS. Archived from the original on November 5, 2015. Retrieved November 8, 2015.
  2. ^ Wall, Alexandra J. (December 22, 2000) "'Doing mitzvahs' propels supe Peskin." j.
  3. ^ Shaw, Randy (January 10‚ 2005 ) "What Drives Aaron Peskin?" BeyondChron.
  4. ^ a b Issacs, Matt (August 30, 2000) "The Revolution is Canceled". SF Weekly. (Retrieved May 21, 2013).
  5. ^ Sabatini, Joshua (Jan 9, 2007 ) "Re-elected board chief, Peskin sets ambitious agenda." San Francisco Examiner.
  6. ^ Bajko, Matthew S. (February 1, 2007). "Peskin 'bears' all". Bay Area Reporter. Archived from the original on November 3, 2007. Retrieved July 18, 2020.
  7. ^ "San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin Dives Into The Bay To Show It's Safe". Archived November 26, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ a b c Knight, Heather (January 3, 2009) "Napoleon of North Beach to give up his gavel". SF Chronicle. (Retrieved 6-16-15).
  9. ^ a b Geluardi, John (October 29, 2008). "The Class of 2000". SF Weekly. Retrieved November 1, 2015.
  10. ^ District 3 Information Archived September 15, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ a b "Longtime Supervisor Aaron Peskin seeking his old seat on board". Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  12. ^ "Peskin to Step Down from SF Democratic Party - Beyond Chron". March 9, 2012. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  13. ^ "Supervisor Christensen Offends Chinatown With Sci-Fi Reference". sfweekly.
  14. ^ "Rose Pak's death leaves Chinatown wondering who can fill void". sfchronicle.
  15. ^ "Controversial plan to name SF subway stop after Chinatown activist stalls". sfchronicle.
  16. ^ a b "San Francisco lets just one person delay eco-friendly projects in the midst of a climate crisis. How is that fair?". SFChronicle.com. September 12, 2020. Retrieved September 15, 2020.
  17. ^ Witherell, Amanda (May 2, 2006). "Last Call?". SF Bay Guardian. 40 (31): 2. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  18. ^ King, John (May 10, 2014). "How new North Beach library rewrites architectural rule book". SFGate. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  19. ^ Goodyear, Charlie (July 28, 2005) "Anger over hotel condo conversion proposals".
  20. ^ Vega, Cecilia M. (April 5, 2006). "Supervisor wants limit on Ellis Act evictions". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved March 19, 2006.
  21. ^ http://aaron2015.com/endorsements/
  22. ^ a b Weinberg, Cory (October 14, 2015). "The S.F. Apartment Association endorsed Aaron Peskin. Why favor a politician who wants to expand rent control?". San Francisco Business Times. Retrieved November 1, 2015.
  23. ^ a b Wang, Kristy (December 10, 2014). "At Last, Thousands of New Housing Units on the Way in SF". SPUR. Retrieved November 1, 2015.
  24. ^ San Francisco officials propose banning contractors that bid on border wall from city work, 22 March 2017, accessed 13 May 2017
  25. ^ Selna, Robert (July 9, 2008). "Powerful new S.F. landmarks board proposed". SF Chronicle. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  26. ^ Philip Ferrato (July 10, 2012). "Board of Supervisors Discuss Jumbotrons, Birds, Urban Farming, and More Birds Today - Curbed SF". Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  27. ^ Gordon, Rachel (May 22, 2007) "Peskin to offer measure to overhaul Muni, cut greenhouse gases".
  28. ^ Sward, Susan (November 25, 2010) "A Fisherman's Wharf for Locals, Too" Archived June 27, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  29. ^ Graf, Carly (July 15, 2020). "Caltrain's future in jeopardy after supervisors block sales tax measure". The San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved July 15, 2020.
  30. ^ Swan, Rachel (July 15, 2020). "Caltrain might have to shut down after supervisors scuttle sales tax measure". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 15, 2020.
  31. ^ Ruggiero, Angela (August 7, 2020). "It's official: Caltrain tax measure will be on the ballot after last-minute vote". The Mercury News. Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  32. ^ Gordon, Rachel (August 4, 2003) "Peskin to offer measure to overhail Muni, cut greenhouse gases".
  33. ^ "North Beach Jazz Festival plans to appeal ban on alcohol sales in park". San Francisco Chronicle. June 1, 2006. Retrieved June 15, 2015.
  34. ^ Bowman, Becky (May 31, 2006) "Alcohol banned at North Beach festivals." San Francisco Chronicle.
  35. ^ Matier, Phil and Andres Ross (February 6, 2002) "Stompin' at the Savoy no longer." San Francisco Chronicle.
  36. ^ Smith, Matt (November 23, 2005) "Pedal Power: Two politicians put their interests before a world-class event and a world of possibilities."[ permanent dead link] SF Weekly.
  37. ^ "S.F. election slap-down: Peskin vs. Fisher over parking". Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  38. ^ Vega, Cecilia M. (January 31, 2008). "President of S.F. supes accused of harassing calls, threats". SFGate. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  39. ^ Vega, Cecilia M. (January 31, 2008). "President of S.F. supes accused of harassing calls, threats". SFGate. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  40. ^ Matier & Ross (April 4, 2018). "SF firefighters say Supervisor Peskin "intoxicated" at big North Beach fire". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved June 2, 2019.

External links