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Levi Strauss Heir to Challenge Mayor London Breed of San Francisco

Daniel Lurie, an heir to the Levi Strauss clothing fortune, announced on Tuesday that he would run against Mayor London Breed of San Francisco next year, at a time when the city is struggling to overcome a number of crises in its downtown core.

Mr. Lurie, 46, planned to launch his campaign Tuesday at a community center in the city’s Potrero Hill neighborhood, a longtime working-class area now dotted with multimillion-dollar homes and upscale shops. His entrance in the race signals that Ms. Breed may be vulnerable in her bid for re-election and may have lost the support of some moderate allies.

Mr. Lurie said in an interview that he intended to campaign on solving the city’s quality-of-life problems, and that he blames Ms. Breed for doing too little to tackle them.

Mr. Lurie is the founder of Tipping Point, an anti-poverty nonprofit. He said that he decided to run for mayor when he was walking his 9-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter to school, and they saw a man stumbling down the street, naked and screaming.

Noting that nobody did anything about the situation, himself included, he said he was troubled that city leaders and residents had apparently grown numb to such scenes.

“Our kids have come to a place where they’re inured,” he said. “It’s almost like they accept it, which is not OK.”

Though many San Francisco neighborhoods came through the pandemic relatively unscathed, the city’s downtown has suffered. Offices have been left vacant while employees work remotely at home. Retailers have struggled, while homeless encampments, fentanyl overdoses and property crimes have endured as serious problems.

Mr. Lurie said Ms. Breed had accomplished little, even though voters approved higher taxes to finance homeless services and low-income housing. He said that as mayor, he would add more psychiatric beds to the city’s hospitals, expand the shelter system and pay homeless people to clean the sidewalks.

He also said he would place more police officers on the streets and compel more people who are severely mentally ill into treatment, even if they refuse care. San Francisco is one of seven counties in California that will begin a court program this fall with the authority to force people with severe mental illness to be hospitalized if they refuse treatment.

Maggie Muir, a spokeswoman for Ms. Breed’s campaign, said Mr. Lurie’s platform did not depart from what the mayor was already trying to do. The only difference, she said, was that Mr. Lurie lacked government experience.

“Mayor Breed is working every day to make San Francisco safer and cleaner,” Ms. Muir said. “Why should we trust a beginner to accomplish these things faster?”

Ms. Breed, 49, and Mr. Lurie are both San Francisco natives and Democrats, but have very different backgrounds. Ms. Breed, the first Black woman to lead the city, was raised by her grandmother in public housing near City Hall, and now rents an apartment in the Lower Haight, a lively neighborhood popular among young tenants for its restaurants, nightclubs and colorful Victorian homes.

Few San Francisco residents have family ties — or riches — that extend as far back in the city as Mr. Lurie’s do. When he was a young child, his mother married Peter Haas, a descendant of Levi Strauss, the German immigrant who opened a dry goods shop in San Francisco in 1853, when the city was bustling with new arrivals seeking gold in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Mr. Strauss found his own fortune by making durable denim pants for miners, and his company is still synonymous with bluejeans today.

Mr. Lurie’s mother, Mimi Haas, is a billionaire. His father, Rabbi Brian Lurie, was the executive director of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco. Daniel Lurie is living in Potrero Hill temporarily while his house in Pacific Heights, the wealthy residential area where he grew up, is being renovated.

Defeating an incumbent mayor in San Francisco is rarer than a fog-free day in summer; it last happened 28 years ago, when Willie Brown beat Frank Jordan, a former police chief. Unlike Mr. Lurie, Mr. Brown entered that race with extraordinary name recognition, having served as speaker of the California State Assembly for nearly 15 years.

Even so, Mayor Breed appears vulnerable as the November 2024 election approaches. While San Francisco residents fiercely defend their city against critics, few are sticking up for her. In poll after poll, city residents have said the city is on the wrong track and that Breed is mishandling the city’s recovery from the pandemic. Her approval ratings hover at about 33 percent.

Mr. Lurie joins a mayoral field that so far has just one other challenger: Ahsha Safaí, a San Francisco supervisor and a Democrat, who has centered his campaign on addressing retail theft and expanding the number of police officers. San Francisco will hold one nonpartisan contest for mayor next year, using a system that allows voters to rank their preferred candidates in order. If no candidate wins a majority of first-choice votes, the ranked order would determine the winner and avoid a runoff.

San Francisco voters have been in a foul mood. In 2022, they recalled Chesa Boudin, the district attorney, and three members of the school board. Local political consultants said that Ms. Breed was at risk, but that Mr. Lurie will have to overcome progressive voters’ skepticism toward a wealthy candidate, as well as a lack of experience.

“He hasn’t gained traction with even the business community as a strong leader who actually has the know-how and spine to shake things up,” said Jim Stearns, a San Francisco political consultant who has worked on past San Francisco campaigns but is not involved in the mayoral race.

Mr. Lurie said that he wants to use his privilege to help the city — and that he would ensure that his administration is as ethnically diverse as the city itself.

Asked to name the mayor he most admires, Mr. Lurie pointed to Mr. Brown of San Francisco and to Michael Bloomberg of New York City, both known for their pro-business, moderate politics.

“Whatever you think of them, they got stuff done,” Mr. Lurie said. “I am bullish on San Francisco, and I’m looking forward to helping put this city back on the right track.”

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