Dennis Richards (Photo: Rick Gerharter)
An African American lesbian and a gay man up for seats on two powerful oversight bodies won recommendations from a San Francisco supervisors committee this afternoon. They will now be up for confirmation to their seats at next week’s board hearing on Tuesday, July 29.
If approved, Bobbie J. Wilson will join the board of appeals as its second LGBT member, while Dennis Richards will join the planning commission as its sole LGBT member.
The rules committee, comprised of Supervisors Norman Yee, its chair, Katy Tang, and David Campos, unanimously voted to “positively recommend” both Wilson and Richards. The trio also unanimously voted to recommend that planning commissioner Kathrin Moore be re-appointed to a four-year term.
“I am very excited today not only about the reappointment of Kathrin Moore, but the two other appointments that have been made by President Chiu,” said Campos, one of two gay men on the board.
As the Bay Area Reporter noted on its blog last week, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu nominated both Wilson and Richards for the board appointed seats on their respective bodies. Because both are direct nominations made by the board president, others cannot apply for the seats.
The planning commission has not had an out LGBT member on it since Christina Olague, a bisexual woman, served several years ago. Olague stepped down from the commission after Mayor Ed Lee appointed her to the District 5 supervisor seat in 2012. She served for the rest of that year, but stepped down after losing her race for a full term.
If confirmed, Richards’ term would expire in July 2018. He will replace planning commissioner Hisashi “Bill” Sugaya, whom Chiu opted not to re-appoint.
“This is the second most important day of my life. The first being my marriage to my husband,” said Richards during his testimony. He pledged to be the board’s “rational, independent, thoughtful voice on the planning commission and am asking for your support today.”
Wilson would be the second lesbian board member on the board of appeals, as Arcelia Hurtado serves as its current vice president. If confirmed, Wilson’s term would expire in July 2018.
“I can guarantee not everybody will like my decisions,” said Wilson. “But I will always be prepared. I will be knowledgeable about the law. I will be compassionate. I will be impartial. I will be intellectually curious so that if someone is having a difficult time telling their story, I can help them bring out that story.”
Of his nominees, Chiu told the rules committee that Richards has “impeccable neighborhood credentials” and that Wilson is “a professional who has had many firsts in her life.” Of Moore, Chiu said she is someone with “tremendous experience in planning and urban design.”
(Bobbie Wilson. Photo: courtesy Perkins Coie LLP)
Wilson, who lives in Bernal Heights, previously lived in the Castro and Mission neighborhoods. She moved to the city in 1990 after growing up in the Queensbridge Housing Projects in Queens, New York.
She is a litigation partner at Perkins Coie LLP, where she has worked since 2010, according to her resume, which was provided by Chiu’s office. Previously, she was litigation director at Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk and Rabkin and was the first African American lesbian partner at the firm.
It was while she was at Howard Rice that she was selected as lead pro bono counsel by the city attorney’s office to represent the city, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, and other officials in the marriage equality litigation.
“I can’t say enough in terms of how impressed I am with her and what an honor it is for us to have someone like her representing us and working with us in partnership,” said Paul Henderson, a gay aide to Mayor Ed Lee who first met Wilson when he worked at the city’s district attorney office.
Gay Perkins Coie attorney and city resident David Tsai, who worked with Wilson, added, “Her type of acumen you need on the board of appeals to understand complex issues in the city and county of San Francisco.”
Richards, the longtime former president of the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association, has long been active in land use issues. He is currently a board member of DTNA, and a member of the Market Octavia Community Advisory Committee.
Richards currently works at Salesforce. He has been a resident of San Francisco for the past 19 years. During his time as president of the Friends of 1800 Market Street, the group led the fight to save the historic Fallon Building, now part of the LGBT Community Center at 1800 Market Street, and secured city landmark status for Harvey Milk’s former camera shop on Castro Street.
District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, a gay man who lives in Duboce Triangle, spoke highly of Richards, whom he has worked closely with while in office and when Wiener headed the Castro’s residential association.
“He brings not just values but the knowledge base and skill sets I think to be a fantastic planning commissioner,” said Wiener.