SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco's incoming mayor knows the yawning gap between rich and poor firsthand, having been raised by her grandmother in the city's drug- and violence-riddled projects.
It is now the job of London Breed — the first black woman elected mayor of the city — to unite a wealthy but conflicted San Francisco, where the high-tech economy has sent the median price of a home soaring to $1.3 million and where homeless tents and human waste fester on sidewalks.
People who know her say the 43-year-old Breed has the grit, drive and deep love for her hometown to tackle its problems.
"I know where she comes from. I know where she is currently," said high school classmate Adonne Loggins. "It's not an easy way to come up. A lot of people fall by the wayside, and she didn't. That's a tribute to her character and her willingness to fight."
Breed, currently president of the 11-member Board of Supervisors, was declared the winner Wednesday of last week's eight-way mayoral election. The Democrat takes office next month.
She is only the second woman to become mayor of San Francisco. The first was Dianne Feinstein, now senator.
San Francisco, with a population of 870,000, is about 6 percent black, one of the smallest percentages among major U.S. cities.
In her first official speech as mayor-elect on Thursday, Breed fondly recalled people telling her to go to college when she didn't know what that was.
"If it wasn't for a community that believed in me and supported me and raised me and did what was necessary to make sure that I was a success, I would not be here," she said to several hundred people at Rosa Parks Elementary School. "But the problem is, I am the exception and not the norm, and as mayor I want to change what is wrong with this city."
Breed wants the technology sector to work with youngsters so that they have a real shot at sharing in the city's immense wealth. She wants to build more housing more quickly and supports the use of legal conservatorships to get mentally ill people and drug users off the street and into treatment.
She has also promised to end long-term homeless tent camps within a year of taking office.
Breed has a broad smile, a blunt way of speaking and a down-to-earth demeanor. She is a big foodie who lives in a rent-controlled apartment in the city's fashionably dilapidated Lower Haight neighborhood, blocks from the traditionally black Western Addition and Fillmore neighborhoods where she grew up.
She unwinds at night by washing dishes by hand — no dishwasher in her unit — and re-hashing her day with friends by phone. Like many other residents of the city, she has been unable to afford a house. That may change; as mayor, she will be paid $335,996 a year.
Breed was raised by her grandmother Comelia Brown, a house cleaner who told a young London to make her bed, clean the kitchen and not even think about skipping school if she wanted to continue living in her house.
She drank powdered milk, and Christmas toys came from the firefighters' annual giveaway. Her grandmother died in 2016 after a long struggle with dementia.
"I gave my grandma a really hard time. And can I tell you? She never gave up on me," she said Thursday.