Meet District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan, who immigrated from Hong Kong and was once called Kamala's 'right-hand-woman'
Part 1 of our "Meet the Supervisors" series
This post is the first installment of our “Meet the Supervisors” series. Over the next few months, in sequential order, we’ll highlight the life stories, accomplishments, and policy stances of our 11 city Supervisors.
Written by SF Minute correspondent Natalie Mead
Connie Chan is a Richmond resident, a mother, an immigrant, and, as of earlier this year, the Supervisor for District 1, which includes the Richmond and Golden Gate Park area.
Here’s more on the life and political rise of Supervisor Chan…
Connie Chan was born in Hong Kong in the late 70s and at 13 years old, she immigrated to San Francisco with her mom and younger brother.
Chan is one of two immigrants on the Board of Supervisors today (the other being District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, who was born in Iran).
Upon arriving in San Francisco in the early 1990s, Chan’s family settled in Chinatown in a rent-controlled apartment. She attended Galileo High School (near Fort Mason) and then earned her undergraduate degrees from UC Davis in Comparative Religion and Chinese in 2001, according to her LinkedIn profile.
After college, Chan worked as a legislative aide to former District 10 Supervisor Sophie Maxwell.
From there, between 2007 and 2011, Chan worked for then-San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris—first as Harris’ head of comms and then as her “Director of Interagency Collaborations.” An SFGATE article last year described Chan as Harris’ former “right-hand-woman.”
“By the time I worked for her, everyone knew who Kamala Harris was in San Francisco,” Chan told SFGATE. “But with new faces, and young people especially, she’d just say, ‘hi, I’m Kamala Harris, how are you doing’...Humility is the lesson that I learned.”
Harris later endorsed Chan in her 2020 bid for city Supervisor.
Before becoming a Supervisor herself, Chan also served as a legislative aide in District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s office and spent more than six years working for the San Francisco Rec and Parks Department.
“I realized there’s a gap and a need for our Chinese-speaking residents in the Richmond, and city-wide,” Chan told SFGATE. “Also, I was raised by a single mom. That’s my background, from a working family. That’s what I’m about, and I’m running so that those values will consistently be front and center at the Board of Supervisors.”
In the closest Supervisor race of the November 2020 election, Chan won her bid for the District 1 seat by just 123 votes over Marjan Philhour, a former senior adviser to London Breed whom the mayor had endorsed.
One of Chan’s first acts as Supervisor was opposing the four-year lease extension for the Golden Gate Park Ferris Wheel, which the city installed in 2020 to celebrate the park’s 150th anniversary. Chan, along with her former boss Aaron Peskin, raised concerns over the wheel’s ticket revenue-share agreement with the SF Parks Alliance, given that organization's involvement in the city’s widespread corruption scandal.
“While we all can agree Ferris wheels are fun, anti-corruption and good government policies are of utmost importance,” Chan said at the time.
In March, the Board of Supervisors voted to extend the Ferris wheel’s lease anyway.
Though the contested stretch of the Great Highway is not technically in her district, in August, Chan supported District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar in reopening the road to car traffic on weekdays and keeping it closed for recreational use on weekends.
“I have heard from most of my constituents the need for more travel access and connectivity in north-south directions,” Chan said at the time. “And the Great Highway has been a key roadway for access.”
Long-term, Chan has said she envisions “a full promenade on one side of the Great Highway available to pedestrians and cyclists, and the other side of the highway open and available to motor vehicles.”
Interestingly, on October 8th, Supervisor Chan announced she’s taking a break from social media.
“My team and I want to refocus our time and energy to provide more thoughtful constituent services,” she said in a post across her Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.
To date, Chan’s social media silence continues.
Also in October, Supervisor Chan authored the legislation which extends permanent voting rights in San Francisco school board elections to non-citizen parents of school-aged children, which had been set to expire in 2022.
The new ordinance, which was unanimously passed by the Board of Supervisors, also allows non-citizens to vote in the upcoming February school board recall election.
Supervisor Chan has yet to publicly announce whether she supports the recall of board President Gabriela López, Vice President Faauuga Moliga, and commissioner Alison Collins. Though, earlier this year, Chan, along with several other Supervisors, did call on Collins to resign.
Moving forward, keep an eye out for Supervisor Chan in the ongoing debate over whether or not to reopen Golden Gate Park’s JFK Drive to cars, especially since the road is in her district.
“I do believe in creating safe recreation inside of the park as well as creating equitable access,” Chan told the Examiner. “Those two truths can exist at the same time.”