City fashions racial equity subcommittee

San Francisco this month will launch an Office of Racial Equity to rectify racial disparities in the policies and practices of all city departments.

The office will create a city-wide racial equity framework along with individual outcomes for every city department. Each department will be required to create action plans focused on racial equity, according to Chelsea Boilard, legislative aide of Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, who introduced the legislation for the office in May alongside Supervisor Vallie Brown.

“Equity means really making sure that we’re taking history into account, along with the disproportionate amount of additional resources that communities of color will need in order to have the same successful outcome as other folks,” Boilard said. 

If a department fails to meet the outcomes of their action plan, the Board of Supervisors will have the authority to withhold its ability to spend from its budget,  Boilard said. Additionally, the legislation requires all new policies that have an impact on racial equity — specifically, those related to housing, land use, transportation and economic security — to be referred to the Office of Racial Equity for analysis prior to their vote by the Board of Supervisors.

Under the jurisdiction of the Human Rights Commission, the new office will have a budget of $1 million over the next two years. 

At a celebratory press conference held by Mayor London Breed Oct. 1, Fewer referenced San Francisco’s history of racially biased policies, including anti-Chinese legislation, Japanese internment camps, redlining that prevented people of color from obtaining housing loans and the destruction of historically black neighborhoods. 

Though modern policies are no longer explicitly racist, Fewer said, systemic racism still manifests through government inaction when faced with the possibility of addressing or correcting past harms. This type of racism refers to patterns of racial oppression that are influenced by, or deeply rooted in, past economic and political laws and policies. 

“In that way, it is more insidious, more dangerous and harder to address,” Fewer said.

Breed emphasized the need to address racial disparities in education, homelessness, mental health and access to housing that comes as a result of historically racist policies. 

“We know that in the past, our city has enacted policies that disproportionately harm communities of color,” Breed said. “With this new Office of Racial Equity, we will work to right those past wrongs and ensure that our city’s policies going forward are equitable and just.”