Press Release

Mayor Breed Nominates Lydia So to the San Francisco Planning Commission

Lydia So, who currently serves on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors, is a longtime public servant and advocate for the AAPI community
March 26, 2024

San Francisco, CA – Today, Mayor London N. Breed announced the nomination of Lydia So to the San Francisco Planning Commission. In June 2023, Mayor Breed appointed So to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board of Directors, where she has worked to advance the equity, safety, and efficiency of Muni for San Francisco residents and visitors. 

A longtime public servant and advocate for the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, Lydia was the first Chinese American to serve on the Historic Preservation Commission, where she worked to maintain some of San Francisco’s most historic and cultured buildings and places. As a former Arts Commissioner, she used her creative vision to improve the quality of City designs and planning. 

During her tenure at SFMTA, Lydia has advocated for increased safety for all Muni users and operator’s safety within the system. She has also worked to address issues that affect the AAPI community, including connectivity to Chinatown, as well as safety, affordability, and quality outreach for monolingual populations. 

“Lydia has been a champion for the people of San Francisco, and her dedication to public service and her understanding of the intersection of housing, transportation, and infrastructure is what our City needs to move forward,” said Mayor Breed. “As we work to become a city that says yes to real solutions, including on housing, I know she will focus on meeting the needs of our residents and neighborhoods and help us improve the way we get things done.” 

With over 10 years of experience in City planning and design, Lydia has dedicated her life and career to championing for arts, equity, and sustainable growth. During her time as a liaison to the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, Lydia advocated for affordable housing for all residents.  

"I am deeply grateful for the nomination to serve on the Planning Commission, where I look forward to contributing my expertise in urban design, architecture and transportation solutions to shape a brighter future for San Francisco and foster community connections,” said Lydia So. “I am committed to creating sustainable, livable spaces that enhance the quality of life for all residents.” 

As a member of the SFMTA Board of Directors, Lydia understands the critical role public transit plays in connecting residents and visitors to other parts of the City.  

Prior to founding her own architecture firm in 2015 to improve the living environments and cultural equities of families and business owners in the Bay Area, Lydia managed the Apple retail real estate team in North America.  She was the first AAPI woman architect promoted to Associate at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, honing her design skills while trailblazing the technical aspects of architecture and engineering practice.   

Lydia’s practice has had positive impacts on regional urban growth, transit-oriented developments and sustainability. Her global experience includes working on the design of some of the world’s tallest buildings, most advanced life science buildings, and the world’s first all glass spiral staircase.   

"Lydia possesses an exceptional array of skills, encompassing place making, land use, transportation, real estate, and historical preservation. However, what truly distinguishes her is her profound comprehension of the indispensable role that urban planning and community engagement play in sustaining vibrant and distinctive environments,” said Malcom Yeung, Executive Director of the Chinatown Community Development Center. “With her insights and capabilities, Lydia will be an incredible addition to the Planning Commission." 

"I had the honor to serve with Lydia So on the San Francisco Arts Commission where she brought critical examination to Civic Design, the Executive and Nominating Committees. Next, she joined the Historic Preservation Commission with deep experience as an architect and to the SFMTA guiding our public transportation infrastructure,” said Charles M. Collins, President of the San Francisco Arts Commission. “Ms. So will now serve the San Francisco Planning Commission bringing her values, integrity and oversight. She is fair, just and upholds the highest values of our great city." 

The Planning Commission advises the Mayor, Board of Supervisors, and City Departments on San Francisco's long-range goals, policies and programs on a broad array of issues related to land use, transportation, and current planning. The 7-member body  maintains the San Francisco General Plan and approves all permits and licenses subject to the Planning Code. The Commission also oversees and delegates certain approvals to the San Francisco Planning Department. 

Lydia would step down from the SFMTA Board of Directors upon her confirmation for the new role by the Board of Supervisors. 

Lydia lives in San Francisco with her family and has been a longtime resident of the Mission neighborhood. She is Chinese American and fluent in English and Cantonese.