Aaron Peskin

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Aaron Peskin
Aaron Peskin.jpg
Member of the
San Francisco Board of Supervisors
from District 3
Assumed office
December 8, 2015
MayorEd Lee
Mark Farrell
London Breed
Preceded byJulie Christensen
In office
January 8, 2001 – January 8, 2009
MayorGavin Newsom
Preceded bydistrict created
Succeeded byDavid Chiu
President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors
In office
2005 – January 8, 2009
MayorGavin Newsom
Preceded byMatt Gonzalez
Succeeded byDavid Chiu
Personal details
Aaron Dan Peskin

(1964-06-17) June 17, 1964 (age 58)
Berkeley, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseNancy Shanahan
Residence(s)San Francisco, California
Alma materUniversity of California, Santa Cruz (BA)
ProfessionEnvironmental activist
WebsiteBoard 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 District 3, and was elected President of the Board of Supervisors on January 9, 2023, after seventeen rounds of voting. [1] He was elected in 2015,[2] having previously served two terms in 2001–2009.[3] Peskin is currently serving his fourth term as District Supervisor.

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

Early life and education[edit]

Peskin was born and raised in Berkeley. His mother, Tsipora, an emigrant from Israel and a therapist, she taught at University of California, Berkeley; his father, Harvey, was a therapist and professor of psychology at San Francisco State University.[4][5] Peskin attended University of California, Santa Cruz, where he earned a bachelor's degree (1987).[5][6]

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 was president of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, where he co-led the effort to stop the Colombo Building from being converted into the Chinatown branch of City College.[7][8]

Political career[edit]

During his first two terms as a supervisor, Peskin mostly sided with a self-described progressive majority on development issues, often being at odds with the policies of mayors Gavin Newsom and Willie Brown.[9]

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.[10]

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.[11]

Peskin was unanimously elected President of the Board of Supervisors in 2004 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.[12] 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.[13]

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,[14] but Peskin was not chosen by the Board of Supervisors.[15][16]

Peskin announced his candidacy for his old District 3 Supervisor's seat, challenging appointed incumbent Julie Christensen, on March 30, 2015. While Peskin had previously served the maximum of two consecutive terms as a supervisor from 2000 to 2008, the city code is silent on non-consecutive terms.[12] When Christensen used the physics concept of a 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.[17] 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.[18] Peskin ultimately defeated Christensen. In 2019, Peskin proposed naming the Chinatown station of the Central Subway the Rose Pak Subway Station against strong opposition from practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual movement.[19]

Now in his fourth term, Peskin will again be termed-out in 2024. Due to the city code limiting Supervisors to two consecutive terms, he will not be eligible to run again until 2028.

Housing and development[edit]

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 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.[20] 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."[20] Peskin blocked discussion of a 2021 proposal that would have required 50 signatures to invoke the California Environmental Quality Act to block projects, rather than just one person.[21][22]

Peskin instigated the eminent domain seizure of a triangular plot of private property at 701 Lombard Street in 2003. He acted with Telegraph Hill Dwellers, a neighborhood association, when it became clear that the lot could be used for open space and turned into a park. The parties attempting to commercially develop the lot called this an abuse of government power.[23] The lot was approved as the new site for the North Beach branch of the San Francisco Public Library in 2011. The library was completed in 2014.[24]

Peskin prevented the conversion of hotel rooms by several San Francisco hotels into condominiums in 2005. He 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.[25]

Peskin sponsored 2006 legislation to curb the Ellis Act, a state law that allows property owners to evict tenants by quitting the rental business, by prohibiting landlords who instigate an Ellis Act eviction 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).[26]

Peskin has been endorsed by the San Francisco Tenants Union,[27] the Affordable Housing Alliance and the Community Tenants Association.[28] 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).[29] 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.[29]

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 are affordable,[clarification needed] alongside commercial, retail, office and public spaces. He led a group called Citizens for a Sustainable Treasure Island in lawsuits against the city of San Francisco and a developer, arguing that its impact on environment and traffic had not been properly reviewed.[30] The courts rejected the complaint by Peskin and his group, with the California Supreme Court declining an appeal in October 2014.[30]

Peskin introduced legislation in March 2017 which would bar contractors from work on city projects if they bid for a contract to construct the proposed US-Mexico border wall.[31]

In October 2021, Peskin voted against the construction of 316 micro-homes in Tenderloin, 13.5% of which would have been designated as affordable housing.[32] Peskin said there was "a glut of group housing in the Tenderloin and Mid-Market areas."[32]

In January 2022, Peskin defended the delay in approval for a $18.7 million grant to repurpose a hotel in his district into a homeless shelter for upwards of 250 people. Peskin said that the project needed "meaningful and real involvement with the community."[33]

Peskin opposed the 2022 San Francisco Board of Education recall elections, which was supported by more than 76% of voters. The day after the recall vote won, he sponsored Proposition C, which would make recalling officials harder in San Francisco.[34]

Environment and landmarks[edit]

Peskin spearheaded a 2001 plan to prevent the San Francisco Airport from filling in a 200-square-meter (2,200 sq ft) section of the San Francisco Bay to build more runways. 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.

Peskin created the Landmarks Preservation Board, a commission to oversee the protection and preservation of historic sites in San Francisco, in 2008.[35]

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.[36]


Peskin authored a 2007 charter amendment to increase San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) funding and implement agency reforms.[37] 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 accommodate the high volume of tourist traffic into Fisherman’s Wharf.[38]

Peskin and supervisor Shamann Walton opted to not introduce a $108 million sales tax measure onto the November 2020 ballot to finance Caltrain, which had 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 cited the lack of shared authority on the Joint Powers Board over the train line's management, which is currently operated by 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. Peskin noted that the measure could still be introduced by the mayor or other supervisors if they choose.[39][40] The supervisors later changed their minds when Caltrain pledged to make changes to its structure, making it more independent from SamTrans.[41]

Reproductive healthcare buffer zone[edit]

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, in 2003. 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," Peskin said.[42]

Public image[edit]

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,[43][44] the temporary shutdown of the Savoy Tivoli,[45] and cancelling the San Francisco Grand Prix because the bike race's backers owed the city money.[46]

San Francisco Chronicle reporters Matier and Ross have claimed Peskin has a reputation as the "Napoleon of North Beach."[47] During Peskin's time as an influential neighborhood activist, columnist Warren Hinckle labeled him "The Ayatollah of North Beach".[8]

Verbal harassment[edit]

Peskin has been known to make inappropriate late night phone calls to public officials and private citizens.[10] 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.[48] 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."[48]

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.[49]

In June 2021, Peskin announced in a statement that he would be entering into alcohol treatment.[50] Peskin apologized for behavior that he attributed to his alcohol problem, but also announced that he planned to remain in office while in treatment.[51]

Personal life[edit]

Peskin owns a 1,495-square-foot duplex in Telegraph Hill that he purchased for $800,000 in 2002.[52]

He married in 1996 to land-use attorney Nancy Shanahan.[53][6]

He is a member of the South End Rowing Club and an avid outdoorsman, having hiked the John Muir Trail in 2006 and 2007.[54] Peskin can be seen most mornings in his Speedo swimming in the San Francisco Bay.[55] He reassured San Franciscans after the 2007 Cosco Busan oil spill that the water was safe by swimming in the Bay during a KTVU newscast.[56] Peskin and his wife run the non-profit Great Basin Land and Water out of their headquarters in North Beach. The organization preserves land in Nevada.[10]


  1. ^ https://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/peskin-elected-sf-board-president-17705673.php
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "Inauguration | Board of Supervisors". sfbos.org. Retrieved March 21, 2021.
  4. ^ Iwata, Miyako (May 31, 2021). "'A man who brought people together': UC Berkeley visiting scholar Harvey Peskin dies at age 86". The Daily Californian.
  5. ^ a b Eskenazi, Joe (August 10, 2017). "Prince of the City: Aaron Peskin finds ways to 'get to yes'". J. Retrieved November 12, 2022.
  6. ^ a b Knight, Heather (October 7, 2015). "Aaron Peskin trades vinegar for honey in race for supervisor". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 12, 2022.
  7. ^ Shaw, Randy (January 10‚ 2005 )"What Drives Aaron Peskin?" BeyondChron.
  8. ^ a b Issacs, Matt (August 30, 2000) "The Revolution is Canceled". SF Weekly. (Retrieved May 21, 2013).
  9. ^ a b Geluardi, John (October 29, 2008). "The Class of 2000". SF Weekly. Retrieved November 1, 2015.
  10. ^ a b c Knight, Heather (January 3, 2009) "Napoleon of North Beach to give up his gavel". SF Chronicle. (Retrieved 6-16-15).
  11. ^ District 3 Information Archived September 15, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ a b "Longtime Supervisor Aaron Peskin seeking his old seat on board". March 30, 2015. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  13. ^ "Peskin to Step Down from SF Democratic Party - Beyond Chron". March 9, 2012. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  14. ^ Marinucci, Carla (January 20, 2011). "Gavin Newsom faces political challenges in new job". SFGATE. Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  15. ^ Coté, John (January 12, 2011). "Ed Lee becomes the city's first Chinese American mayor". City Insider. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012. Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  16. ^ Shih, Gerry (January 7, 2011). "Behind-the-Scenes Power Politics: The Making of a Mayor (Published 2011)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  17. ^ "Supervisor Christensen Offends Chinatown With Sci-Fi Reference". sfweekly. July 23, 2015.
  18. ^ "Rose Pak's death leaves Chinatown wondering who can fill void". sfchronicle. September 20, 2016.
  19. ^ "Controversial plan to name SF subway stop after Chinatown activist stalls". sfchronicle. June 5, 2019.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Knight, Heather (June 5, 2021). "'Grumpalumps and gadflies': S.F. cafe owner fights to open in vacant Mission District spot". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved June 5, 2021.
  22. ^ Knight, Heather (May 19, 2021). "Is proposal to cut S.F. red tape dead? Supporters say even small efforts to tame bureaucracy go nowhere". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved June 5, 2021.
  23. ^ Witherell, Amanda (May 2, 2006). "Last Call?". SF Bay Guardian. 40 (31): 2. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  24. ^ King, John (May 10, 2014). "How new North Beach library rewrites architectural rule book". SFGate. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  25. ^ Goodyear, Charlie (July 28, 2005) "Anger over hotel condo conversion proposals".
  26. ^ Vega, Cecilia M. (April 5, 2006). "Supervisor wants limit on Ellis Act evictions". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved March 19, 2006.
  27. ^ Weinberg, Cory (October 14, 2015). "Why do S.F. landlords endorse a politician who wants to expand rent control". San Francisco Business Times. Archived from the original on October 30, 2015.
  28. ^ "Aaron Peskin for Supervisor 2015". Archived from the original on June 27, 2015. Retrieved June 26, 2015.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ a b Wang, Kristy (December 10, 2014). "At Last, Thousands of New Housing Units on the Way in SF". SPUR. Retrieved November 1, 2015.
  31. ^ San Francisco officials propose banning contractors that bid on border wall from city work, 22 March 2017, accessed 13 May 2017
  32. ^ a b Dineen, J. K. (October 6, 2021). "S.F. supes say no to 316 micro-homes in Tenderloin over fear they would become 'tech dorms'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 27, 2021.
  33. ^ writer, Carly Graf Examiner staff (January 6, 2022). "Latest homeless shelter delay epitomizes San Francisco's biggest challenge". The San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved January 8, 2022.
  34. ^ "Mulling the DA's Fate, SF Voters Also Consider the Recall Process". The San Francisco Standard. April 22, 2022. Retrieved May 16, 2022.
  35. ^ Selna, Robert (July 9, 2008). "Powerful new S.F. landmarks board proposed". SF Chronicle. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  36. ^ Philip Ferrato (July 10, 2012). "Board of Supervisors Discuss Jumbotrons, Birds, Urban Farming, and More Birds Today - Curbed SF". Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  37. ^ Gordon, Rachel (May 22, 2007) "Peskin to offer measure to overhaul Muni, cut greenhouse gases".
  38. ^ Sward, Susan (November 25, 2010) "A Fisherman's Wharf for Locals, Too" Archived June 27, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  39. ^ Graf, Carly (July 15, 2020). "Caltrain's future in jeopardy after supervisors block sales tax measure". The San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved July 15, 2020.
  40. ^ Swan, Rachel (July 15, 2020). "Caltrain might have to shut down after supervisors scuttle sales tax measure". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 15, 2020.
  41. ^ 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.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  42. ^ Gordon, Rachel (August 4, 2003) "Peskin to offer measure to overhail Muni, cut greenhouse gases".
  43. ^ "North Beach Jazz Festival plans to appeal ban on alcohol sales in park". San Francisco Chronicle. June 1, 2006. Retrieved June 15, 2015.
  44. ^ Bowman, Becky (May 31, 2006) "Alcohol banned at North Beach festivals." San Francisco Chronicle.
  45. ^ Matier, Phil and Andres Ross (February 6, 2002) "Stompin' at the Savoy no longer." San Francisco Chronicle.
  46. ^ 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.
  47. ^ "S.F. election slap-down: Peskin vs. Fisher over parking". November 4, 2007. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  48. ^ a b Vega, Cecilia M. (January 31, 2008). "President of S.F. supes accused of harassing calls, threats". SFGate. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  49. ^ Matier & Ross (April 4, 2018). "SF firefighters say Supervisor Peskin "intoxicated" at big North Beach fire". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  50. ^ "Supervisor Aaron Peskin To Enter Alcohol Treatment". SFGate. Bay City News Service. June 10, 2021. Retrieved June 10, 2021.
  51. ^ "San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin To Remain In Office During Alcohol Rehabilitation". KPIX-TV. Bay City News Service. June 16, 2021. Retrieved October 14, 2021.
  52. ^ Dineen, J. K. (July 12, 2019). "Peskin cleared of allegations he illegally merged units at his home". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 5, 2021.
  53. ^ Wall, Alexandra J. (December 22, 2000) "'Doing mitzvahs' propels supe Peskin." J. The Jewish News of Northern California
  54. ^ Sabatini, Joshua (Jan 9, 2007 ) "Re-elected board chief, Peskin sets ambitious agenda." San Francisco Examiner.
  55. ^ Bajko, Matthew S. (February 1, 2007). "Peskin 'bears' all". Bay Area Reporter. Archived from the original on November 3, 2007. Retrieved July 18, 2020.
  56. ^ "San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin Dives Into The Bay To Show It's Safe". Archived November 26, 2007, at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]