Formerly a Breed appointee to the SFMTA board, Mission District cafe owner and general mover about town Manny Yekutiel is now mulling a run for Breed's job.
Yekutiel dropped this news in an exclusive with the Chronicle's politics guy Joe Garofoli, and it sounds like it's something he's only been thinking about for a couple of months. Yekutiel, 34, tells Garofoli that his trip to Israel to see family in early October, in which he ended up stuck in Tel Aviv for several days following the October 7 attacks by Hamas, was a wake-up call, referring to it as a brush with his own mortality.
"Confronting your own mortality forces you to ask tough questions," Yekutiel tells the Chronicle. "My first thought was, 'When I get back [to San Francisco], I need to start from scratch.'"
Yekutiel is a political animal with Democratic Party bona fides — while still a student he worked on Barack Obama's 2012 campaign, and then in 2016 he worked as Northern California deputy finance director for the Clinton campaign. He opened Manny's in 2018 as a cafe and wine bar where political events and candidate debates are a regular occurrence, and in 2020, Breed appointed him to the SFMTA board.
Earlier this year, Yekutiel helped create the Civic Joy Fund with Daniel Lurie, the Levi's heir and philanthropist who is now running for mayor himself, and it has since funded things like the lasers up Market Street during APEC week, and last weekend's "San Francisco Is a Drag" event.
But is it maybe too soon to be eying the mayor's office, when maybe a run for supervisor or another office might be a better first step? (Mission District Supervisor Hillary Ronen is termed out, after all.)
Nevertheless, Yekutiel sounds impatient to take on bigger things.
"People want change," Yekutiel tells Garofoli. "People want different leadership and they want to see these problems in our city get solved. They want common-sense solutions to these problems. And there are a lot of folks who are not seeing that happen. And I'm seriously considering it because I, too, share that sentiment. I want to see our city solve these core issues so that we can reach our full potential."
Yekutiel seems to just be putting feelers out there, and having conversations with community leaders. He says he'll decide "on New Year's Day" whether to jump in the increasingly crowded race.
If he did so, Yekutiel would be competing for attention and campaign dollars with several other moderate-leaning candidates, running against the moderate London Breed who will be seeking reelection. Supervisor Ahsha Safai is running, and has been trying to position himself as better suited for the job than Breed, though his politics have tended to align with hers. And does Yekutiel really want to be running against the deep-pocketed Lurie, and maybe even former, brief-tenured mayor and former supervisor Mark Farrell, who is apparently being recruited to run?
As for Yekutiel's popularity among progressives, we need only look to the "Boycott Manny's" campaign that has been ongoing pretty much since the place opened five years ago. Pro-Palestinian leftists in the Mission have protested the cafe for years as being a "Zionist-Gentrifier wine bar," because of Yekutiel's family connection to Israel, and as recently as last week we saw "Boycott Manny's" written in chalk on a 16th Street sidewalk about a block away.
Last night, Black and Brown Social Club, the Lucy Parsons Project, QUIT (Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism) and allied groups showed up to fight the Zionist-Gentrification cafe Manny's while white supremacist Zionists ate a meal in support of Manny's: pic.twitter.com/Ff7g8VhZcx— LucyParsonsProject (@LucyParsonsProj) December 27, 2018
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, a close friend of Yekutiel's who has taken regular Tuesday morning walks with him around the Castro, isn't trying to encourage Yekutiel — who has never held elected office — to take this leap.
"He's enormously talented. I don't know that he's ready to be mayor," Mandelman tells Garofoli. "You can have a lot of conversations — and then there's actually being in the muck of the work." Mandelman further points out that Yekutiel wasn't particularly fond of being in that "muck" during his stint on the SFMTA board — which he resigned from his year — and a previous brief stint on the Small Business Commission.
Any bets on whether Yekutiel listens to his friends?