Palo Alto High School's News and Features Publication

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Alum for election: Former student runs for supervisor

Augustus Soedarmono
SPEAKING TO SUPPORTERS — Bilal Mahmood addresses his supporters in Boedekker Park. “[District 5] gave my family a taste of home and I think right now, the community is struggling and it has been for several years and we need to turn it back,” Mahmood said. “I feel inspired to want to help because it [District 5] has been neglected for so long.”

On a sunny Saturday morning in Boeddeker Park, the heart of San Francisco’s Tenderloin, San Francisco Supervisor candidate Bilal Mahmood greets his diverse supporters at his campaign kickoff event. Behind Mahmood, a vibrant mural stretches across six stories.

A tree is painted in the center and branches connect many colorful houses to show both the unity in the Tenderloin and the housing problem it currently faces.

The words “Everyone deserves a home” dangles from a tree branch.  As Mahmood prepares to speak, crowds hoist up his campaign signs.

Mahmood, a 2006 Palo Alto High School alum and former co-editor-in-chief for The Paly Voice, a Paly online news publication, is running against incumbent Dean Preston of District 5 for one of the 11 seats on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

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With housing availability in San Francisco down from the prior year — at an all-time low, according to the San Francisco Standard — Mahmood proposes cutting down on permit requirements and other restrictions in place to make the process of building housing cheaper and faster.

“If we [the government of San Francisco] are able to streamline a lot of the bureaucracy that impedes building housing, we can build housing cheaper and make it more affordable,” Mahmood said.

Furthermore, Mahmood also hopes to address the city’s public health and public safety crisis, which is especially apparent in the Tenderloin.

“There’s an open-air drug market every evening,” Mahmood said. “[I’ll address] those issues through ending the bureaucracy and the corruption that is holding back a lot of government services.”

Lastly, Mahmood said he hopes to help small businesses to close the wealth gap in downtown San Francisco.

“A lot of small businesses are closing and we really need to revitalize our downtown-area economy,” Mahmood said. “We want to usher in more night markets for small businesses [and] want to bring in different types of economies here, like building universities downtown.”

“I think that built into me a resilience — not being afraid of failure.”

— Bilal Mahmood, San Francisco City Supervisor candidate

After graduating from Paly, Mahmood received a degree in neuroscience from Stanford University and worked with the Obama administration as a policy analyst.

He credits Paly teachers like Esther Wojcicki — a former Campanile adviser — for instilling in him the resilience necessary to help fight for change within District 5.

“She [Wojcicki] would have us write an essay, but you could edit it as many times as you wanted,” Mahmood said. “I think that built into me a resilience — not being afraid of failure.”

Through these lessons, Mahmood says he learned to come back stronger from defeat, such as his loss in the 2022 District 17 California 17th State Assembly election.

“This is my second time running for office,” Mahmood said. “We had about 100 people [at the last campaign rally] and now we have 300 people [at the new rally] here.”

Mahmood said he wished he knew that he could participate in politics as a high schooler and hopes current students will take advantage of these opportunities.

“If you show up to these [local government] meetings and make your voice heard … that’s a great way to get started and make an impact,” Mahmood said.