Raised in Pacifica, San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa is well acquainted with the Peninsula and the opportunities it offers, but also the issues that it faces. One of David’s favorite parts of living in Daly City is the diversity of the area, but he also realizes that hard work is necessary in order to maintain its diverse population. The lack of access to healthcare and affordable housing along with threats of deportation are real problems for many, and David makes it his mission to help those in need of assistance. He is an integral part of the Spare the Air campaign and aims to have fewer cars on the roads in order to improve Bay Area air quality. After 20 years in public service, David still loves being able to help people transform their lives!

What opportunities did living in the San Francisco Bay Area offer you when you were growing up in Pacifica? 
It gave me the opportunity to be exposed to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I went to a community college before attending the University of San Francisco. We know that community college is a gateway, and I’m working hard to make community college in San Mateo County free. It’s a passion for me, and I get excited when it comes to education.

Why have you decided to make Daly City your home, and a place that you shape through your public service? 
Daly City is one of the most diverse cities, and you get those diverse ideas and opinions all together, and it embodies all that is right. I have a two-year-old son and I want him to be exposed to this diversity and see how everyone can live together.

How did you start off your career in public service, and why did you choose to continue on this path? 
The ability to help people transform lives. What I’ve learned in my 20 years of public service, from city council to mayor and now as supervisor, being accessible is important. I want to hear all of the big, bold ideas from my community and be able to act upon what’s important. Here are three examples I’d like to share about things that have happened in our community:
– The first point is about immigration. A small business owner from Mexico was about to be deported. He came to me, and I was able to help save him from deportation. He was able to keep his business and help the community thrive.
– Access to healthcare is a big one. A community member was diagnosed with cancer and given six months to a year to live and struggled with how to deal with this without healthcare. She was able to enroll in the county healthcare program and is currently in remission.
– Housing is another major issue. While I was mayor, a single mother with three children came to me needing help. We were able to get her into housing, and she was so thankful.
The biggest thing that drives me is the ability to help. It’s the greatest gift, and it’s the basics that help the most.

What factors drive you to be an active member in local politics? 
Taking risks in a good way. When Chick-fil-A wanted to come into a Peninsula city, we told them their anti-LGBT values went against our values, and we didn’t want them in our city until they change their policy. We’re currently trying to save Seton Medical Center to make healthcare accessible to all. These are the issues we pursue.

What projects have you worked on that produced the most positive change within communities? 
I’ve worked on addressing immigration through a historic policy against deportation and allocating two million dollars to fund legal defense for immigrants. I’m the Chair of Census 2020, and I want to make sure people feel comfortable, that their values are important and that they feel safe.

What is the biggest problem communities face in San Mateo County, and how are you working to remedy the situation? 
Hands down, housing affordability. Colma Veterans Village is 66 housing units that offer a support system to help fight chronic homelessness through affordable housing. It’s hard to know that our first responders, firefighters and police can’t afford to live in the areas they support. 

What wins have you made through your involvement on the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) board? 
BAAQMD is better known as Spare the Air. I’m the chair of the mobile source and work to get people out of their cars. Electric cars head the way. We are looking to introduce a bill that has vehicle manufacturers meet California state standards for MPG, rather than the federal standard in order to be purchased in California.

Are we seeing improved air quality in the Bay Area due to your efforts? 
We are. The change from the ‘60s is remarkable. We know that the Port of Oakland and the refineries are a huge issue and are working on a plan with Oakland. We have improved, yes, but the wildfires from the past two years have had serious effects and the quality has been seriously impacted.

What does the landscape for women-owned, minority-owned, and small startup businesses look like in San Mateo County? 
Sky’s the limit. We need to make sure we help, and sometimes it’s a matter of getting out of the way. We hear and see what new ideas are out there. San Mateo County is special and unique due to those ideas. We need to be allies but also get out of the way.

Is there sufficient support for small scale entrepreneurs, or could there be more support from the local government level? 
There are different non-profits that help, but perhaps one thing we can do is have the local government provide micro-funding for small businesses.

Do you have ideas for how entrepreneurs and local governments could work together to facilitate success? 
We need to assess how to make it easier, be it streamlining the permit process, making it easier to get a business license, or having less regulatory involvement.

You recently recognized Rosalidia Dubon, publisher of this magazine, and her media business with an award from San Mateo County. What stood out to you about Rosalidia and her accomplishments? 
Rosalidia represents all that’s right – she’s an intelligent, ambitious Latina who wants to be profitable but she really understands the stake in the community and gives back, which is vitally important. The Rosalidias of the world inspire and give hope and optimism for the future to all but especially to those who look like her.

Why is it important to you to honor and recognize local businesses on the county level? 
San Mateo County is recognized worldwide because people understand Silicon Valley and look to us for leadership. The list goes on, but don’t forget that Mark Zuckerberg started at the bottom. As a local business, it’s hard to make payroll and pay the taxes. Small business owners have the ambition that is the heart of innovation. Businesses run by people of color need recognition. When recognizing entrepreneurship, you see the “I can do it,” and its inspiration.

In your position on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, what kinds of discrimination exist in our communities, and how are you working to end such discrimination? 
We know there’s discrimination against women, against people of color, and against LGBT. We’ve introduced legislation to end discrimination at a policy level, against women, especially women of color, and people of color. I’m proud to say that I have the first Filipino American Chief of Staff. 

Photograph © Mitch Tobias / David Canepa campaign photographs.

Do you see a disparity in the quality of education for our youth within the county? What factors might be causing a difference in education quality, and is the county working on a remedy? 
We have had school closings and unfortunately, we know that those most affected are our underserved communities. We are working toward better education in all schools that need help and will bring in programs like STEM. A county program called “The Big Lift” begins in preschool and is dedicated to helping all our children read at grade level by the time they reach 3rd grade, with free programming for the underserved (Latino, African American and Pacific Islander). The state of California has the biggest Latino demographic for education. We’re eventually going to have language diversity like French Canada or Miami, Florida.

During your time off, what types of activities do you like to do locally with your family? 
I work six days a week and Sundays are reserved for spending time as a family. Depending on the week, I enjoy outings to places like Lemos Farm in Half Moon Bay or going to one of our wonderful parks. Other times we hang out at the house while I do my housework – laundry and taking out the garbage are my home jobs!

By Sarah Wilson and Raelynn Rodriguez