The Mysterious Role of the Assessor-Recorder
In this week’s blog, Alyssa Diammyra Cruz ’23, International Studies major with Global Politics and European Regional Focus, reflects on her internship with San Francisco’s assessor-recorder’s department. She learned about the department’s key role in property taxes but also about the importance of community outreach with residents and small businesses. Keep reading to learn more about Alyssa’s learning curve in a public service administration that is tied to working alongside local community.
What is an assessor-recorder? As I began my internship, I was confused yet curious. Despite being an elected official, the assessor-recorder never shows up in big news. My first weeks in the office presented a learning curve. I soon learned that the assessor-recorder’s department locates and records all taxable properties in the city and county of San Francisco. Even though this does not sound particularly riveting, it opened my eyes to the impact of this position. Unsurprisingly, close to a third of the city’s budget comes from property taxes. This position was far more important than anyone might realize.
I was new to the politics of City Hall. For the next few months, I learned that the assessor-recorder job was more than numbers. I had the opportunity to meet and work with the current assessor-recorder, Joaquin Torres. Similarly, my supervisors Tina Rose Novero and Holly Lung, were very accommodating and supportive at every step of the way. Surprisingly, the department has a component of community outreach unlike any other county. Assessor Torres makes an active effort to build relationships with the people.
The assesor is very active in the community. On a number of occasions, I wrote certificates of honor, awarded to community members and small businesses for their service and dedication to the city. He has consistently spread resources and moderated panels on our cities’ most pressing issues. I have attended a few community events including the grand opening of a Lucky’s in the Bayview district. This was significant because it helped alleviate a food desert in the neighborhood, an issue that had been a long fight for Bayview residents.
My internship mainly focused on community outreach and AB 1466: Real property: discriminatory restrictions. The bill, signed into law in 2021, authorizes recorded redactions of any property deed or land title with racially restrictive covenants. While these are illegal and void, many documents still include racist and discriminatory clauses put forth in the 20th century.
Through education initiatives, compiling a comprehensive list of community organizations, and writing up certificates of honor, I have learned the importance of community input at every step of the way. I have read about individuals who have greatly impacted our diverse constituencies; and I have witnessed Mayor London Breed, District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton, and countless others in action. City politics is a whirlwind of bureaucracy and diverse interests. Working for Assessor Torres under the supervision of Tina and Holly has been inspiring. It has shown me that even the administrative side of public service should not be detached from the community. Working in community is possible at every step of the way.
Learn more about the McCarthy Fellows in San Francisco here.