Assessor Joaquín Torres Inaugurated as Assessor-Recorder of the City and County of San Francisco
For Immediate Release
Date: Thursday, January 5, 2023
Contact: Abby Fay, firstname.lastname@example.org
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Assessor-Recorder Joaquín Torres today took the Oath of Office and delivered a speech in City Hall’s North Light Court.
“It is an incredible honor to serve as San Francisco’s Assessor-Recorder. In my nearly first two years in office, with the assistance of an amazing group of staff, we’ve been able to support San Franciscans throughout some of the most difficult times in our history,” said Assessor Torres. “With a focus on fairness, equity and transparency, we have striven to safeguard the City’s financial foundation to accurately assign value to property and ensure vital public services are funded, modernize our office to make it more accessible and efficient for taxpayers, and created new programs to help families protect their hard-earned assets, secure their long held dreams, and advance opportunities for our diverse communities to build intergenerational wealth in San Francisco. I am humbled by the opportunity to continue this work.”
Assessor Torres was first appointed to the role by Mayor London N. Breed in February 2021, filling the vacancy left by former Assessor Carmen Chu following her appointment as City Administrator. Assessor Torres was subsequently reelected by San Francisco voters in June 2021 to complete the term of his predecessor, and again this last November 2022. Today’s ceremony marks the beginning of Assessor Torres’ first four-year term as Assessor-Recorder of the City and County of San Francisco.
The Office of the Assessor-Recorder establishes the annual assessment roll which is the foundation for San Francisco’s property tax system. For fiscal year 2022-2023 San Francisco’s assessment roll reflects over 211,500 property parcels and 37,000 business assessments, with a total assessment roll value of almost $330 billion. It is estimated that this roll value will generate approximately $3.9 billion in property tax revenue; supporting the City’s fundamental services that San Franciscans rely on, such as our public schools, parks, libraries, public safety, and more. Moving forward, in the context of rising assessment appeals, the Office of the Assessor-Recorder remains committed to the defense of accurate and fair values.
A testament towards the success of the Office of the Assessor-Recorder, in 2022, the California Board of Equalization recognized the office’s work in protecting and defending nearly $330 billion in property value assessments with an A+ rating.
In order to ensure the continued integrity of this work, in 2023 the Office of the Assessor-Recorder will be completing phase 2.0 of our multi-year property tax assessment systems update project - System for Managing Assessment, Records, and Transactions (SMART). This modernization process replaces a decades-old system and will allow for more efficient processing of annual property tax assessments, improve data collection, and make it easier for the public to access records.
Local City officials spoke towards Assessor Torres’ commitment to public service.
“Joaquín Torres has proven to be a true leader who delivers for San Francisco. During the pandemic he worked tirelessly on behalf of businesses, workers, and communities to navigate the severe economic and civic challenges we faced,” said Mayor London Breed. “As Assessor-Recorder, Joaquín’s role will be instrumental to our economic recovery and I look forward to partnering with him over the next four years to continue to advance the City’s economic vitality while ensuring we have programs and systems in place that focus on equity so we lift up all San Franciscans.”
“Since day one on the job, Assessor Torres has approached his work with his signature blend of humility and rigor,” said Treasurer José Cisneros. “I look forward to our continued partnership in service to the residents of San Francisco.”
“I am excited to support Joaquín Torres as our City Assessor. His integrity and commitment to San Francisco is second to none. Assessor Torres represents exactly what it means to be a public servant,” said Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton.
As he begins this next term, Assessor Torres will also focus on further cementing the Office of the Assessor-Recorder's leadership within the community as a partner in advancing the ideals of racial equity and economic empowerment. In doing so, he will build on efforts he has spearheaded throughout the last two years, including providing free or low-cost estate plans to residents, expanding the Family Wealth Series to raise public awareness of tax exemption programs, hosting forums focused on discriminatory housing practices and biases in securing fair appraisals, as well as implementing a new state law to ensure that racist covenants are removed from recorded documents.
Community leaders and small business owners expressed their support for Assessor Torres as he was sworn in.
Anni Chung, Executive Director of Self-Help for the Elderly said, “I have known and worked closely with Joaquín Torres for many years. He has been instrumental in creating jobs and economic opportunities for residents in diverse neighborhoods in San Francisco, especially Chinatown, where small businesses were hard-hit. Joaquín works behind the scenes, is accessible to the community, and always listens. Joaquín’s leadership style is about making government accessible to all. Our heartfelt congratulations to Joaquín!”
“Assessor Torres’ commitment to the people of San Francisco is exemplary. As we continue to navigate COVID recovery efforts, our city’s public records and property assessment are key functions that support the infrastructure and operation of our great city,” said Ani Rivera, Executive Director of Galería de la Raza and Co-Chair of the San Francisco Latino Parity and Equity Coalition. “We need a public servant with integrity leading the Office of the Assessor-Recorder, and in Assessor Torres we can count on it. Throughout the years, Joaquín has gotten the job done not with an iron fist, but with humility and respect. Adelante, Assessor Torres!”
“With his keen eye for social justice and a heart rooted in community, the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center congratulates Assessor Torres for stepping up to ensure the City will not only provide meaningful documentation and assure the critical foundation for high-quality, reliable services for all San Franciscans,” said Shakirah Simley, Executive Director of the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center. “We look forward to working with the Office to highlight and address key needs, especially those of our beloved and resilient communities of color. Assessor Torres exemplifies the servant leadership, and we laud him for bringing a grounded and equitable lens to this work.”
“We had the privilege of meeting and working with Assessor Torres during his days at the Office of Economic and Workforce Development where Excelsior Coffee was a recipient of the SF Shines Program. We recently connected with him at the coffee shop at a time of uncertainty during the pandemic. Not only did his visit speak volumes to his commitment to the City's recovery, but for him to first-handedly hear about our small business' struggles and victories, as both owners and residents of the Outer Mission/Excelsior District, we felt reassured for a better future for both our neighborhood and community. The work doesn't stop here, we are excited and honored to have Assessor Torres serve another term as our City's Assessor-Recorder,” said Lea Sabado and Andre Higginbotham, Owners of Excelsior Coffee. “We believe in him and his team's commitment and investment to San Francisco, especially to us small businesses. Congratulations!”
“For many years, Joaquín Torres has been a true partner to the business community across San Francisco, but also specifically in the Bayview-Hunter's Point neighborhood,” said Yvonne Hines, Owner of Yvonne’s Southern Sweets. “From his time at OEWD supporting and advocating for businesses throughout COVID with access to immediate financial relief, to his current role as Assessor-Recorder providing resources to help San Franciscans build intergenerational wealth, he has proven himself to be incredibly connected and in tune with the needs of the people who live and work in our city. He has personally helped me to grow my small business and I know he has done this for many others.”
Prior to serving as Assessor-Recorder, Assessor Torres served as the Director of the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development beginning in 2018 and led citywide efforts to mitigate economic hardships on businesses and workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the years, Assessor Torres collaboratively leveraged resources across City departments to create opportunities for all, expand support for small businesses and workers, build capacity and stability for locally rooted nonprofits, and maximize equitable economic and social impact for the benefit of San Franciscan communities, residents, businesses, and neighborhoods. As Director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, he provided citywide leadership and coordination for workforce development, business development, neighborhood economic development, film, small business, and development planning.
Assessor Torres is also the President of the San Francisco Housing Authority Commission, chairing the oversight body as the Authority and City implemented a re-envisioning process to rehabilitate over 3,400 units of public housing with $750 million in improvements, leading to the transfer of ownership to affordable housing providers to best serve low-income communities.
Previously, Assessor Torres has served as Director of the San Francisco Invest in Neighborhoods initiative, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, and Liaison to the San Francisco Latino and American Indian communities and to Supervisor Districts Nine and Eleven, largely in the Mission and Excelsior neighborhoods. Assessor Torres also participated in the inaugural cohort of the City’s Government Alliance for Racial Equity program, which equips leaders with the framework and tools to transform systems and institutions impacting historically marginalized groups.
Currently, Assessor Torres serves as President of the Board of Trustees for the American Conservatory Theatre (A.C.T.) and as a member of the Executive Committee and Equity Advisory Council for the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR).
Assessor Torres is a graduate of Stanford University and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. He lives in the Inner Sunset with his wife, Ruibo Qian.
To watch the full recording of Assessor Torres’ swearing-in ceremony, follow this link.
Below is the text of Assessor Torres’ speech.
Thank you, Mayor Breed.
And thank you to my family who are here with me today – to my mom who’s listening in from down south, to my two dads, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, and all of you joining us here and online. The presenters today, my friends, thank you.
The Constitutions that I've sworn to guide my work, in new ways recently established and in practices long held - in the fair assessment and collection of billions in property tax dollars that are essential to San Francisco. Its security, its stability, its solvency, and its recovery.
I lend myself to its demands, its highest principles, and laws - tempered by the lessons of this pandemic - its ebbs and flows - disciplined by the hard-fought openings and re-openings of our economy, and most sensitive to the pain it caused in our diverse communities.
And I’m honored Mayor Breed - for the confidence you’ve placed in me from the start, for the opportunity to serve side by side with you - and with so many in this room through the thick of the pandemic.
And I’m humbled by you, the voters of this city, for the opportunity you’ve given me to continue my responsibilities as Assessor-Recorder for the City and County of San Francisco.
The fundamentals of our government rely on the service that we provide: assessing property, assigning value.
That value comes to life in the daily work of our City – the emergency services we’ve seen delivered on our streets these last days. It addresses homelessness. Affordable housing. Shelter beds. Schools. Our economic recovery efforts. Public and mental health needs. Firefighters. Our sanitation flow, and the wages and benefits that lift-up livelihoods, support families and sustain the dreams that so many of us still reach for – all of them depend on the financial foundation built through the hard work of this office.
It is a responsibility I take seriously.
That sense of responsibility is made from many parts. Some come from those I’ve served and those whose footsteps I’ve followed in.
From all the Mayors – those with us here today, those tending to matters of state, and those above, your legacies and generosity have helped form the political character of the still young man who stands before you today.
Part comes from the weight of those principles of service I’ve sworn to – which – for the people we serve – has not always seemed to be the concern of government: what is just? what is fair? What is equitable? What do we do when we see that opportunity has been designed for some, but not for others – in this country – but also in the history of this city.
And quite often, in both cases, for reasons based on the color of one’s skin.
As my favorite city prophet would say, It ain’t no mystery when you know your history.
And thankfully, finally, more is being done today federally, locally at the state – to consistently and publicly reveal this history of discrimination – specifically as it relates to my work – property and value and homes hard fought for. Homes kept. Homes lost.
Each family has its own stories. Immigrant families. Indigenous families. Black and brown families. More certainly so for the women within them. Families like yours. Families like mine.
A Mexican American family.
My people, my grandparents when they came were greeted by signs with posts pounded into land whose messages were pretty clear - No Mexicans or Dogs allowed. A practice of history – so perverse, so exclusive, so deeply embedded - not only in the private fields of industry – but in our own governments.
For my family, there was no time to dwell on these injustices. Not then. Not now.
Not for my grandfather who raised a family on butchers wages.
Not for my grandmother whose home was bought with her own seamstress wages.
Not for my father, who would not - could not - wait for the arc of justice to reach its destination of representation in elected politics.
Nor for my mother in broadcasting, not for my sister in legal practice and not for my aunt as an educator, a bilingual teacher.
And not for my wife Ruibo, who perseverance, passion for performance, and art continues to realize her success - not only for her but for the representation of her community in the arts.
Their agency was most important. For themselves, for their families and for their communities. For others.
It is their reach for representation and opportunity that I bear witness to. It’s what I carry with me in my quiet place and something I respect.
And for our communities, it is their agency, their reach, their struggle that they seek for us in government to respect as well, for it has and does make our City strong.
As does our care. The bible that I laid my hand to belonged to my Nana, a homemaker, a one-time restauranteur, and the best maker of flour tortillas I knew.
Her care came in the form of a chorizo burrito, wrapped warm in foil, to soothe a chubby young boy shuttled between two parents, in two houses, in two cities.
Now that care did not cost much. But the decision to do so made such a difference to me – That simple act told me I was seen, that I was valued, that I was worthy to be served. And that memory, that feeling and how to pass it on, I carry with me too.
I’m very grateful for those lessons from my family, my Mexican American family, proud and grateful for them raising me in an environment defined by resiliency, tenacity, possibility and public service.
But I also know these are the products of privilege and of luck. That not all of us are born with it. Not all of us can close our eyes at night knowing that the love and care we know is so important to succeed will be there for us when we need it most.
It’s this awareness, together with those values, principles and ethics instilled in me that carry me through the hardest times - that I seek to bring everyday into my practice of public service. I believe people need our care now more than ever. I believe they need to feel our understanding now more than ever. To know we’ve contemplated the lives around us.
Like the faces in the photos that surround us. Their lived experiences. Their dreams. Because it has not always been the case, that government showed up to care.
Redlines to prevent the purchase of homes. Restrictive covenants to seal that deal even if the resources could be found. Their messages were clear: no Blacks. No Mongrols. No Chinese. No Mexicans. These are the words not only of a Jim Crow South but of a not that long ago San Francisco.
Even today - in private practice – we’ve seen the stories in our local news – Black communities have found that to seek the wealth that their homes would finally provide – could only be so if they were willing to erase their race. Whitewash their homes. That their ticket to finally realizing their upward mobility would be to give up drops of melatonin from their skin to claim it.
So I’m proud that we’ve been able to raise awareness of these issues since I’ve started this work, highlight this history, and change the faces of those who tell it, help prevent it, and secure that wealth a home can bring for the next generation.
Because our challenges these days are not only economic, but cultural too.
I am bound to this work, now sworn to it and the principles of the greatest actors of our time who believe like Dr. King, “that I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.”
I believe it is this principle - of the inescapable network of mutuality where our answers for the future of our cities lie, for the future of our communities, our families - chosen and those we are born into – and for us to live up to our greatest potentials.
These are unsettling times. The actuals are unknown. The forecasts are not certain. And when the ground is unsteady, you need a helping hand. And I am so lucky to have that in the people I have the privilege of working with in the Office of the Assessor-Recorder.
People who believe in good government. People who get A+ ratings in our audits by the Board of Equalization. People who believe, like I do, that those we serve need our care now more than ever.
From every corner of our office. From each and every act. That there is matter in accessibility to our records. That there is pride in excellent service.
That we are to the City as the metronome is to the musician – providing a steady stable beat that allows our City to invest and do its work.
That even with the heavy load we carry, the rising appeals, the values to assign and defend fairly and accurately – as the law provides, the rolls that must be closed, we conduct our work with integrity, respect for each other and care.
I want to thank Carmen Chu again for leaving me with such a strong foundation to stand on, for my deputies, Juan Carlos and Simone, my front office Holly, Tina, Abby and Karen. Megan and every division lead and staff member for joining in service to the communities that have forged my character, who have challenged my beliefs, and for joining me in my purpose to deliver the best for San Francisco.
In our care for service lies a faith - most precious for the trust we need to serve, that our government and those that lead it hear you, that we see you, that the opportunities you seek closed elsewhere are open when you knock at our doors.
It is a surprise for many when they receive it.
These simple acts.
And these acts - delivered from a goodness people can feel, in addition to efficient, effective, transparent, accessible, accountable, that is what good government is.
We need this awareness and these acts especially today - when frustration and anger and apathy about government reflects the pain that people feel in these challenging times, in these unsettling times, in these sometimes-discouraging times.
How will we make it? Will we make it? Have we seen the best of our times?
I find inspiration in many places - in art, in theatre, in the principles of government that seek such precious states of being as liberty, freedom and happiness.
But most especially – because the answers to these questions cannot be found in the stars - I find inspiration and courage and hope in all of you. Community.
Because you are the actors of our time. You are the stewards of the future of our City. And it’s your success I want to see reflected in the mirrors of our tallest buildings, those symbols of opportunity and possibility and reach.
I see my responsibility, together with all of you, to answer that reach. To see your needs and meet them. From the Bayview to the Sunset. From the Fillmore to the Mission. From the Tenderloin to the Excelsior. On the Central Subway from Downtown to Chinatown and Union Square.
To see you reflected in the future of our shining city. Because I find my courage in you San Francisco, in your moral authority, in your formal authority, in your real struggles, in your deepest dreams, in the fullness of your expressions, your art and commerce, your politics and love, your trades.
I always have, we always have, found our faith in you - the neighborhood and merchant leaders, the coalitions of parity and equity, the trade associations, the public housing resident councils and cultural districts.
Because you have always had the courage to care.
Because when we as a city are at our best - when it seems the center will not hold, while storms hover above us in the sky, we march together - juntos – knowing – hand in hand - that the sun will set again upon the Bay.
We are, as the poets say, one equal temper of heroic heart, tested by time and fate and plaques, striving, seeking, finding, never yielding that which we are - one place, one home, one San Francisco full of heart. And it is an honor to serve you. Thank you.
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