Dumping Sophie

On the heels of Gov. Davis' recall, angry constituents are trying to oust Supervisor Sophie Maxwell

Potrero Hill recall proponents are angry over development issues, particularly the rezoning of light industrial areas to make way for more live-work housing. Maxwell, they allege, has supported developers over the wishes of constituents in rezoning and in allowing "monster homes" to spring up around Rhode Island, De Haro, and 18th streets.

Maxwell seems stunned by the criticism, saying she has sought to inject community input into the planning process, and that the city Planning Department is now reviewing plans for the entire southeast side of San Francisco.

"People don't understand what happens and the process and how you have to go through it," she says. "Nothing has gone up. Nothing has happened with any of the developers. I am the one making sure that we have planning and a process and ... hearings on things.

"These people are very selfish and self-centered -- that's what they are and who they are."

A District 10 native, Maxwell swept into office with support from Potrero Hill, beating out Linda Richardson, who was supported by Mayor Willie Brown. The supervisor is often backed by Potrero Hill Boosters, the area's most politically powerful neighborhood group. And since her election, Maxwell also has been supported by Brown, to the chagrin of recall advocates who believe the mayor is too friendly with developers. Maxwell's failed run at the presidency of the Board of Supervisors earlier this year was backed by Brown-friendly Supervisors Gavin Newsom and Bevan Dufty.

But Maxwell has suffered some serious personal losses since she took office as well.

"My son died. My mother [well-known local activist Enola Maxwell] died. I'm raising a grandchild. I have family issues like everybody else," she says. "This community has been my first priority. I [won the election] and I believed I could deal with this because the environment and issues were important to me."

And she acknowledges that getting around her large, diverse district -- which also includes Visitacion Valley and some smaller, adjacent neighborhoods -- can be difficult.

"On one side of [Potrero] Hill I have a power plant and on the other side they're talking about rebuilding S.F. General and people losing their homes, and I have to be both places on the hill," Maxwell says with exasperation. "I have to deal with city departments who are not my departments. I don't own them. I can suggest to them what to do, but I can't hire and fire them. There is a process that you have to go through.

"I say to those people [the recall supporters] that they really don't understand the process and they're not looking at the whole; they're looking at their interests and what they want. I work day and night to be available to people. I had to run immediately when I got in here. I've been running ever since."

If Maxwell's political enemies can gather enough valid voter signatures in time, they hope to place the recall on next March's state primary election ballot. If not, a special election would have to be held later.

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