San Francisco City Hall gears up for big changes

January 11, 2011 12:53:09 AM PST
Changes ahead at San Francisco City Hall, as outgoing mayor Newsom makes a surprise pick to become the city's new district attorney.

Former San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon finished his first day as the city's district attorney ob Monday. The job swap came on Sunday in a stunning move, as his appointment as district attorney was the last major act by Newsom on his way out the door at City Hall.

Gascon became the SFPD chief 18 months ago and was praised for introducing new crime fighting strategies. Now, the 56-year-old former chief, who is a lawyer, hopes to take initiatives in the district attorney's office to another level.

"There have been some great efforts dealing with consumer fraud. I think there are great efforts being done here in terms of victims' advocacy, hate crimes," he said.

In the meantime, Assistant Chief Jeff Godown will now run things at SFPD temporarily. He is a Gascon confidant who came to San Francisco from Los Angeles in 2009. His rise to the top isn't going over well with the Police Officers Association, which views Godown as an outsider, and wants to see someone promoted from within the rank and file.

"I think it's extremely important to find someone in our department who is experienced, who is knowledgeable, who understands the city, the culture of the city, the politics of the city," Police Officers Association President Gary Delagnes said.

Godown says he promised Gascon he'd serve just for the interim.

"I was not going to put my hat in the ring, so to speak, to be the permanent chief," he said.

The politics of the police department will be one of the first issues the new interim mayor will have to tackle. City Administrator Ed lee was another surprise move in the waning days of the Newsom administration. He attended the new lieutenant governor's swearing in on Monday in Sacramento, and is preparing to take the oath of office himself on Tuesday. Lee is expected to become the city's first Asian-American mayor. Supervisors, like newcomer Scott Wiener, are solidly behind him.

"He has no learning curve. He is so experienced in so many facets of city government," he said.

To add one more wrinkle, until Lee is sworn in, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu is acting mayor.