Michela Alioto-Pier

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Michela Alioto-Pier
Michela Alioto-Pier.png
Member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors
In office
January 8, 2004 – January 8, 2011
Preceded by Gavin Newsom
Succeeded by Mark Farrell
Constituency 2nd district
Personal details
Born (1968-04-29) April 29, 1968 (age 49)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Tom Pier
Children Nicholas, Giovanna, and Valentina
Residence San Francisco, California
St. Helena, California
Alma mater University of California, Los Angeles
Occupation Public servant

Michela Alioto-Pier (born April 29, 1968) is an American politician who served as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 2004 to 2011. A Democrat, she represented the 2nd district, encompassing the Marina and Pacific Heights neighborhoods. She previously served as a member of the San Francisco Port Commission. She was appointed to the Board of Supervisors by Gavin Newsom after he was elected Mayor, in 2003. Newsom himself was initially appointed to this seat by former Mayor Willie Brown.

Alioto-Pier is the granddaughter of former San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto and former San Francisco Port Commissioner and former San Francisco Supervisor Michael J. Driscoll, Sr., and the niece of Angela Alioto, former President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. She is the most recent member of the Alioto family to hold an elected political office in San Francisco.


Alioto was born in San Francisco. She is the eldest of four children; she has two younger brothers and a sister. She was raised in the Catholic Church and played the harp as a child. In 1981, at age thirteen, she was paralyzed from the waist down when she fell from a ski-lift in the Lake Tahoe area. Alioto-Pier later received a degree in anthropology from UCLA.

She is married to attorney Thomas Pier and has three children. She uses a self-powered wheelchair and drives a Jeep equipped with a hand brake and accelerator.

Early political career[edit]

After working as an aide to Vice President Al Gore, Alioto-Pier made her first run for public office at 28 in 1996 against Republican Congressman Frank Riggs in California's 1st congressional district, which included Napa, Mendocino, and Humboldt counties, stretching along the coast up to the Oregon border. She won the Democratic nomination, but lost the general election. She is credited with mounting a strong campaign despite the loss.[1] At the time, she ran under the name Michela Alioto.

Shortly after losing that election, Alioto-Pier announced that she would try again in 1998 but withdrew from the race in deference to fellow Democrat (and eventual winner) Mike Thompson. Instead, she ran for the office of California Secretary of State and won the Democratic nomination but ultimately lost against Republican incumbent Bill Jones. She again ran for Secretary of State in 2002, but lost the Democratic nomination to fellow San Franciscan Kevin Shelley, whose father preceded Alioto-Pier's father as that city's mayor.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors[edit]

In January 2004, Alioto-Pier was appointed by Mayor Gavin Newsom, to his old seat in District 2 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Although even numbered districts were not slated for an election until 2006, an off-year election was held for District 2 because she was an appointed supervisor. Alioto-Pier ran for the seat in the November 2004 election and won, and in 2006 she ran for reelection and easily won the seat.

As a Supervisor, Alioto-Pier is committed to the preservation of St. Brigid's Church, which was once slated for demolition. Another top priority for Alioto-Pier is earthquake preparedness, especially important for her district, hit hard by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.[2] Alioto-Pier explains:

"As the district representative for a community that was really hit in Loma Prieta, It is my responsibility to make sure if something like that happens again that we know what we're doing." [3]

As a San Francisco moderate, Alioto-Pier has been attacked by San Francisco progressives for having a poor attendance record and mediocre constituent relations.[4] One significant source of the criticism is over Alioto-Pier's attendance record while she was giving birth to her third child, which was a first for an elected official in San Francisco.[5] Alioto-Pier responded by passing a family leave policy for elected officials in San Francisco.

On July 20, 2009, San Francisco Chronicle political columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross broke the story of Alioto-Pier's announcement for state insurance commissioner.

Alioto-Pier, the granddaughter of former Mayor Joe Alioto and a protégée of former Vice President Al Gore, calls it "the most personal venture I've ever undertaken."[citation needed] Having been in a wheelchair since a skiing accident at age 13, she says, "I've easily had more personal experience with insurance companies than any of the other candidates."[6]

Alioto-Pier subsequently left the race for Insurance Commissioner due to a leg injury.[7]

Re-election challenge in 2010[edit]

On June 3, 2010, Alioto-Pier submitted papers to register as a candidate for re-election to District Two of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. San Francisco Department of Elections Director John Arntz issued a letter that same day in which he announced she was ineligible to run for re-election for District Two supervisor due to a 2008 ruling regarding term limites issued by City Attorney Dennis Herrera. Arntz wrote, "Accordingly, the Department of Elections cannot list you as a candidate for this office on the November 2, 2010 ballot or any other election materials for that election." She would have served on the Board of Supervisors for seven years when her term expired in January 2011. Supervisors are limited to serving two four-year terms.

The municipal ordinance providing for term limits was a matter of debate. Some claimed that the ordinance states that any person who has served more than one-and-a-half four-year terms in office (six years) shall be deemed to have effectively served for two full terms and thus be ineligible to seek re-election.[8]

Others claimed that the law is more nuanced and that one must be appointed to serve more than two years for it to count as a full term. Alioto-Pier was appointed to serve one year, ran for a two-year term, and then ran again for a four-year term. According to this view, the question is whether or not the year she served as an appointed supervisor and the truncated two years she served can be combined and rounded up to count as a four-year term.[9]

Alioto-Pier challenged the ruling from the Department of Elections in Superior Court and won. In response, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, appealed that decision and overturned her victory, forcing her out of the 2010 election for District 2 Supervisor.[citation needed]

Candidate for Mayor in 2011[edit]

On February 7, 2011, Alioto-Pier filed as a candidate for mayor of San Francisco.[10] In the November election she placed ninth in a field of 16 candidates.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Gordon, Rachel and Hetter, Katia (January 20, 2004). S.F. mayor appoints an Alioto / New supervisor from longtime political family. San Francisco Chronicle.
  2. ^ San Francisco Chronicle Editorial (October 26, 2006). "The Chronicle Recommends: Re-elect Alioto-Pier". San Francisco Chronicle.
  3. ^ Noyes, Dan (September 21, 2005). "Conroy Answers Critics, Will Not Step Down". ABC 7 News.
  4. ^ Kirshenbaum, Daniella (November 17, 2006). "The Mystery Supervisor". Fog City Journal.
  5. ^ Charlie Goodyear (April 13, 2006). "Supervisor Alioto-Pier gives birth -- a first for city". San Francisco Chronicle.
  6. ^ Matier, Phillip (July 20, 2009) "Alioto-Pier to run for insurance commissioner" "San Francisco Chronicle"
  7. ^ (January 28, 2010). "Michela Alioto-Pier drops out of state insurance commissioner race", San Francisco Examiner; retrieved June 5, 2010.
  8. ^ Gordon, Rachel (June 4, 2010) "Alioto-Pier set to fight for her S.F. supe seat", San Francisco Chronicle; accessed March 13, 2017.
  9. ^ Griffin, Melissa (April 15, 2010) "Not that I understand why anyone would want the job of a SF Supervisor...", The Sweet Melissa; accessed March 13, 2017.
  10. ^ Sabatini, Joshua (February 7, 2011). "Michela Alioto-Pier enters race for San Francisco mayor". San Francisco Chronicle.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Gavin Newsom
Member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors
District 2

Succeeded by
Mark Farrell