Lee says low transportation impact fee is a “balance” to keep development happening

The real Question Time: Reporters converge on Mayor Lee as he leaves the Board Chambers
The real Question Time: Reporters converge on Mayor Lee as he leaves the Board Chambers

By Tim Redmond

The monthly charade that’s called Question Time – the mayor gets all the questions in writing in advance, and simply reads pre-prepared answers, the supervisors hardly ever follow up – took another step toward the absurd today when Sup. Julia Christensen threw Mayor Lee a giant softball by asking him, in essence, to tell us all what a great job he’s doing with homeless policy.

He’s doing a fine job, he said. More outreach workers, a new Navigation Center, and plans to make sure there are no more homeless veterans on the street by the end of the year.

The Navigation centers are a good idea, and I don’t doubt the mayor is trying to respond to the ongoing crisis. But he never makes any connection between the rash of evictions (caused in part by his embrace of the tech industry) and the number of homeless people on the streets.

Oh, and he didn’t mention that he’s going to tell them all to get lost when the Super Bowl party comes to town. (As one friend told me, “if it’s a choice between rich drunk Texans here to root for the Cowboys and San Francisco homeless people on the streets, I’ll take the homeless people any time.”)

But I didn’t go to the meeting to hear his speech; I went for the media’s own “question time” – the brief back and forth we get as the mayor walks from the Board chambers to his office.

This time around, a large crew of reporters wanted to talk about the proposal by Sup. Eric Mar’s to build a memorial for the so-called “comfort women” — young women captured from Korea and China by the occupying Japanese army during WWII and forced into sex slavery.

Mar invited 87-year-old Yong Soo Lee to speak at the board meeting; she’s an amazing woman who survived the sex-slave camps and became an advocate for groups that have been demanding a public apology from the Japanese government.

It was a remarkable moment when she accepted the Board’s commendation and spoke in Korean about her ordeal, her decision after decades of silence to go public with what had happened to her, and her efforts to get the world to acknowledge what the government of Japan has at times tried to hide. Sup. Jane Kim spoke of growing up in a family of Korean immigrants who talked of that horror.

Sups. Jane Kim and Eric Mar with Yong Soo Lee
Sups. Jane Kim and Eric Mar with Yong Soo Lee

The mayor so far has refused to endorse Mar’s proposal.

Outside the Board Chambers, he said he would “make time in the schedule” to meet with Lee. He said that all cities today should join together to fight modern sex trafficking. He said that he supported some sort of effort to recognize the horror that happened to Kim and thousands of other women.

But then he said that he wanted Sup. Mar to “do some more homework” and “reach out to many groups so it is not misinterpreted.” And he said he was more concerned with the present than the past.

In the end, under repeated questioning, he refused to say that he would support the memorial plan. He didn’t say no – but he didn’t say yes.

Yong Soo Lee’s assistants said she wouldn’t be taking questions from the press, so I didn’t get to ask what she was going to say to the mayor. But she was clear with the supes: She urged them to support the memorial proposal.

Then the mayor broke away and walked toward his office, and as the rest of the media went back to the chambers, I followed him to ask about the transportation sustainability fee.

The mayor is pushing to revise the fee that developers pay to mitigate the impacts that office buildings and new residential projects have on transportation.  But the fee he is proposing is actually lower, compared to the impacts, than the city has charged in the past. And it would only mandate that developers pay for about 20 percent of the actual cost they are imposing on the city.

It is, in other words, a hidden giveaway to developers worth around a billion dollars over the next 15 years.

I asked: Doesn’t that mean that you and me and everyone else who uses Muni or pays taxes in this city is subsidizing developers?

Lee told me that he never expected the fee to pay for all of the costs of development. “We knew it was going to be limited,” he said. “We had to keep the balance.”

The “balance” means keeping the fee low enough that developers will continue to build big office towers. I asked: Why would we want more development if all that it means is the rest of San Francisco has to subsidize it?

The mayor said that offices create jobs, and those new workers pay taxes.

They also put demands on Muni. And the city’s own studies show that the taxes coming in are not adequate to pay for the costs of new infrastructure.

I walked out of City Hall shaking my head. It’s getting to be a habit.

SHARE
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
  • Bob

    “He said that he supported some sort of effort to recognize the horror that happened to Kim and thousands of other women.” Are you saying that Supervisor Kim was a sex slave? I didn’t see anything that showed she had discussed this.

    • bobfuss

      Why would we build a monument to somebody or something thousands of miles away?

      • jhayes362

        We have a Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC $am. A little more sensitivity to large scale international crimes would not hurt us one bit.

        • bobfuss

          DC is the nation’s capital and not a provincial city thousands of miles away.

          And anyway, why choose THIS cause and ignore so many others

          • jhayes362

            There are Holocaust memorials all over the U.S. There’s even a small one near the Legion of Honor in SF. Mine was a statement of values. Given what I perceive to be your values, your reply did not surprise me one bit.

          • bobfuss

            The comfort women issue is hardly the same as the holocaust.

          • jhayes362

            As the father of a daughter and the husband of a Jewish woman I find both abhorrent. My earlier point still stands: more sensitivity to international crimes against humanity would not hurt us in the least.

          • bobfuss

            Then why not a monument to every other crime against humanity? Why just this one?

            We could form a committee to objectively decide which monuments are most appropriate. Or we could have individual supervisors playing politics by advancing their pet cause.

            Maybe we could start with some atrocities that happened here in the US. Does SF have a 9/11 monument?

          • jhayes362

            Yes $am, we could do that. Here’s one that I would like to see: a memorial recognizing the crimes committed against humanity and the earth’s environment in the name of Mammon.

          • bobfuss

            Then why don’t you fund and commission one instead of just whining about it?

          • jhayes362

            I’m not the one who is whining here $am. You are in complaining about an attempt to memorialize the plight of WWII sex slaves within your pristine wealthy playground. I say it’s legitimate. You denigrate and dismiss the attempt. Maybe it would be different for you if the victims had money.

          • bobfuss

            Sure it’s a cute idea. But you can equally make a “legitimate” case for any one of a thousand causes to be monumented. Why this one?

            This is being used for political ends. I’d want to see a 9/11 memorial before meddling in foreign affairs like this.

          • jhayes362

            Stop whining $am. If you want a 9/11 memorial, go for it.

          • bobfuss

            And if you want a memorial to Asian hookers, go for it.

          • jhayes362

            $am, I’ve seen a lot of trashy stuff from you on these discussion boards but this could be the worst. Comparing women enslaved and made to be prostitutes by the Japanese government to “Asian hookers” is a new low for you. I’m out of here.

          • bobfuss

            It’s really too bad that you clearly did not read past the first sentence, as I believe my analysis was both fair and measured.

          • Nancy Snyder

            you do not know history – especially WWII history and you have no idea what the comfort women were

          • Go back under your bridge, Sam…..

    • MKR

      Dude she’s about 60 years too young …

  • voltairesmistress

    Housing insecurity, including but not limited to evictions, is the most important issue facing most San Franciscan renters. That said, not a single evicted or priced out person I know has ended up homeless. Rather, they have moved to Hayward, San Leandro, West Oakland, Richmond, Vallejo, Daly City, San Rafael . . . Well, you get the picture. We need to build more housing of all types, strengthen eviction protections, and put a break on Tenants-In-Common conversion of rental housing. But linking the homeless problem that dates to at least 1981 to current evictions per year is tendentious nonsense.

    • bobfuss

      Yeah, people with jobs can afford to live in the Bay Area. The complaint seems to be that they cannot live in the more fashionable and exclusive zip codes. Well duh.

      The vast majority of the homeless would be homeless anywhere else. They have criminal, drug or mental issues. We spend a billion on them every six years. how much does Tim think we should spend?

      • “The vast majority of the homeless would be homeless anywhere else. They have criminal, drug or mental issues. We spend a billion on them every six years.”

        Well, that proves it, no? No.

    • sfparkripoff

      ‘”not a single evicted or priced out person I know has ended up homeless.”

      Has it dawned on you that you don’t know EVERYONE who has been displaced or evicted in San Francisco?

      • bobfuss

        Her point stands. If you cannot afford SF but your job is here, chances are you will relocate to a cheaper part of the Bay Area rather than sleep on the streets.

    • Nathan

      Thank goodness, I’m so glad that you appointed yourself the keeper of the “where did all of the evicted folks go” list. How often exactly do you visit and interview evicted folks that end up in homeless shelters?

    • “That said, not a single evicted or priced out person I know has ended up homeless.”

      Well, that proves it, no? No.

  • DavidinSF

    Tim are you on drugs, to write but he never makes any connections between the rash of evictions (caused in part by his embrace of the tech industry) and the number of homeless people on the streets, Facts the street people are made up of the following, addicts, the mentally impaired and young street people and some folks that are down on their luck,
    Please dont lose credibility by writing unreal things.

    • GarySFBCN

      About 9% are veterans.

    • jhayes362

      From today’s Examiner:

      The homeless count found that 71 percent were living in a stable housing situation in San Francisco before they became homeless — a 10 percent increase from the 2013 count. Of those, 49 percent had been living in The City for more than a decade. Job loss was the single largest reason for homelessness at 25 percent, following by substance abuse at 18 percent.

      Evictions are a growing cause of homelessness. In 2011 just 4 percent said they were living on the streets after being evicted while in 2015 that increased to 13 percent.

      In general the population has gotten older and there are more cases of substance abuse and mental illness since the last count. The largest single health concern was substance abuse, comprising 37 percent of the population followed by mental illness at 35 percent. In 2013, 17 percent were over the age of 51, which has increased to 30 percent this year.

      • bobfuss

        For those who had a SF job and home, and then lost both, what percentage elected to continue to live in one of the most expensive and desirable cities in the world, even if that meant being homeless?

        How many of them would not be homeless if they had instead moved to somewhere cheaper?

        • GarySFBCN

          If they don’t have jobs, just how are they supposed to move somewhere else?

          Have you ever in your life tried to be empathetic?

          • bobfuss

            Thousands of homeless people from elsewhere find their way to SF. Are you saying that can’t happen?

          • GarySFBCN

            Why should someone who lived and worked here leave when they are homeless and jobless? Where do you suggest they go? Cincinnati? Peoria? Chattanooga? Paris? London?

          • bobfuss

            I never said they should go. I said they could go. It is an option if you do not want to be homeless here, to move to a place that is cheaper.

            Same goes for anyone who has a job but cannot afford the rent here. Not everyone can afford to live in Aspen either

          • GarySFBCN

            Never mind. I can’t argue with obtuse.

          • bobfuss

            Why is it “obtuse” to argue that the homeless could leave when your own cited data indicates that many homeless are capable of moving from one city to another?

            If someone could move to a city where they would not be homeless, but instead choose to stay in SF and be homeless, how generous should we be towards them?

            Not everyone can afford to live in the world’s favorite city.

          • GarySFBCN

            If someone had money, yes they could move. But money is an issue with homeless people.

            And why should San Francisco residents who become homeless become burdens for other jurisdictions?

          • bobfuss

            Your own data shows that 2,186 homeless people manager to come to SF from other cities. Clearly it is possible.

            And why should residents of elsewhere who become homeless and then move to SF become burdens for our jurisdiction?

          • GarySFBCN

            The shouldn’t.

          • But the people who live here now should have the “right” and “privilege” to stay.

      • azz

        The city should move residents to the head of the line. The farther you are moved up the lines depends on how long you have lived here.

        Treating locals and travelers the same is ridiculous.

    • MKR

      How do you know? Have you actually talked to any homeless person in SF?

  • danimalssf

    Please spare us your concern regarding demands on MUNI, as you shit on every single private form of transportation in the City. People want to take Chariot instead of a bus? Elitists. Insulating themselves from their community. Google bus riders? Fuck those techies, they should all be on MUNI and go to a central location.
    Here’s a newsflash: the more people not taking MUNI, the less the rest of us folks who do take MUNI have to deal with them. Simple math. Not that you’ve proven yourself particularly adept at that…

  • dt333

    Don’t expect anything close to reason to come from this administration. It is all subterfuge so they can continue to get $$$ from development- they certainly aren’t going to require the folks who are paying them to pay more, right? Back scratching is the theme.

    • bobfuss

      All residents of this city benefit from new jobs and homes, and the increases in tax revenues that come from that.

      And all cities compete for development because of the beenfits.

  • azz

    We should be treated to what these fees have paid for in the past. If they just pad what we already have it just contributes to the boom / bust financing that this city does so poorly, or well depending on your sense of humor.

    Perhaps all fees could be put into an interest account and used during bust times if they are not actually used for improvements, which considering SF governance seems likely.

  • Tod1732

    Eric Mar:
    Toys at MacDonald’s. Sex slaves halfway around the world two generations ago.

    Glad to see that Eric is fully engaged with local issues. That’s why we elect local government officials.

    • azz

      Freaked out over Hustler club truck parked by his house, was OK with naked guys in the Castro.

      Not OK with clothed female poster truck in his local area, OK with naked dudes across town.

      I don’t think that is what you mean by local though.

      • Tod1732

        Not, it isn’t. You’re an astute dude.

  • Izsak

    Lee’s face looks red.

    • bobfuss

      Is that why he is heading for an easy re-election? Because the voters are so unhappy with him?

      • Izsak

        Dunno. Wish there was a moderate like him that wasn’t connected to such shady people.

  • sebra leaves

    Sorry Mayor, but, not too many people are going to buy the argument that developers need more incentives to build more. You will have to do better than that.

    • bobfuss

      It’s not about incentives but more about ROI. A developer doesn’t really care where he invests. It could be LA, NYC, London, Dubai, Singapore.

      If SF makes it too difficult or expensive to invest here, they go elsewhere, and we lost those jobs or homes. Of course, NIMBY’s will say that is just fine, but most voters want to see growth and development in SF, and don’t get all weird and bitter if someone makes a few bucks out of it along the way.

      • Ragazzu

        “…most voters want to see growth and development in SF…”

        Sure, we all want more gridlocked traffic, less open space, darker skies, uglier views…

      • Brian Tseng

        Living in SF these past 15 years, I couldn’t disagree more bob. SF is suffering from a major affordable housing shortage while this *mayor and previous administrations and supes have given away the farm to developers. As if SF has a difficult time attracting high rise developers… *not* Meanwhile, longstanding SF families are getting evicted from their rental homes/units by real estate conglomerates and unscrupulous landlords.

        A perfect example is the Google bus. Fine, people should be encouraged to bus/carpool to work. But then charge Google/Apple/etc. a reasonable fee which will be used to ugrade the muni cars and busses and improve the streets. (And i’m NOT talking about the subway to nowhere from Market up to Chinatown!)

        While *Mayor Lee and certain supes give away huge tax breaks to super-profitable companies cashing in on the cache of SF, he’s directing cuts left and right to the City’s services. Especially in healthcare, where looks the other way while “non-profits” like Sutter Health and Kaiser dump patients onto SF General Hospital. Sutter’s CEO only makes $5million plus a year. I’m sure we need to woo their ilk to our City so that they can get in bed with da *Mayor. From thence they shall bear the burden of making untold millions while the vast majority of people are left to fend for themselves as to how they can live here without impoverishing themselves or selling someone else down the river.

        Every San Franciscan (and beyond) should be demanding a much more thorough examination of Lee’s political dealings, because as the author does so well, “follow da money”. Respectfully yours.

  • Cambyses_II

    I walked out of City Hall shaking my head. It’s getting to be a habit.” You should get yourself checked for Parkinson’s Disease.

  • ethel silverstein

    Are Mayor is getting away with with all the bad because so many like him Get rid of this mayor and now

  • goodmaab

    Ed Lee missed the point of taxing real estate, development, and high-end flipping of property (especially larger sites) the lack of money means we will not see any real fixing of infrastructure while tons of new market rate units get pumped in and any funds get funneled to pet projects connected to downtown interests.
    We need that money equitably leveraged and spent in outlying districts of SF.
    With no balance should result in no backing… City Representatives need to learn this lesson the hard way at the polls, and the next elections…