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City College Board hires chancellor despite faculty outrage

    Teacher and union activist Alisa Messer shows one of the many red flags

    After almost two hours of testimony, most of it from teachers beseeching the City College Board of Trustees to delay a decision on a new chancellor, the board voted 6-1 Thursday night to approve a three-year contract with Mark Rocha.

    “Are you out of your mind?” Janet Lohr, an art teacher, asked during public comment.

    A packed house was mostly against hiring Rocha
    A packed house was mostly against hiring Rocha

    Rocha was fired from Pasadena Community College after the faculty senate voted unanimously to express no confidence in his management.

    Although a majority of speakers opposed the contract, several members of the classified staff, represented by SEIU Local 1021, testified in favor of Rocha. “The classified staff believe you have done due diligence,” Gregory Cross, a field representative for Local 1021, testified. “He’s the one who meets the criteria.”

    He said he wasn’t terribly worried about Rocha’s record as a top-down, heavy-handed administrator: “SEIU and AFT will not allow a new chancellor to bully us.”

    Teacher and union activist Alisa Messer shows one of the many red flags
    Teacher and union activist Alisa Messer shows one of the many red flags

    Athena Steff, president of the SEIU City College Chapter, wasn’t at the meeting but she told me earlier that she had me with Rocha and was impressed by what he said. “Our facilities are an embarrassment,” she said, “suffering from lack of staffing at buildings and grounds. There are not enough custodians.

    “Rocha toured the grounds and told us he agreed we had a lot of work to do. He talked about the elevators being broken. He spoke to the things we are concerned about.”

    Most speakers, and most of the trustees, recognized that none of the 32 candidates in the original pool were perfect; in fact, there was general agreement that this was not a strong applicant pool.

    Board president Thea Selby and Trustee Brigitte Davila both voted for the Rocha contract. Photo by Cassie Ordonio
    Board president Thea Selby and Trustee Brigitte Davila both voted for the Rocha contract. Photo by Cassie Ordonio

    The trustees who supported Rocha said that, after a string of short-term or interim chancellors, the school needs stability and leadership. And Rocha had by far the most experience of the four finalists.

    He is, by all accounts, an impressive speaker and freely admitted that he made mistakes in his past jobs.

    The real issue at hand was this: Does City College, at this point in time, have to settle for a candidate who even his supporters say is a risk – or would it be better to hire another interim chancellor, do a new search, and wait for a candidate who, in the words of several speakers, is not just an okay leader but a “wow.”

    Does City College, as one speaker put it, have to “settle” for someone who even supporters say is pretty much a default candidate? Is it more important to have a strong leader in place now than to take the time to find someone truly inspirational?

    And given that there’s overwhelming concern among the faculty, can Rocha be someone who brings the school together?

    Alan D’Souza, an AFT member who served on the hiring committee, said that the process was fair. “But we had to believe what [the candidates] said. Now I’m incredibly unsettled to hear news and unsolicited information from other colleges saying ‘don’t do this.’”

    John Carrese, who has been on the faculty for 18 years, noted that the school is doing a lot better – enrollment for the fall is up 23 percent. “We are a great college,” he said. “We deserve a great chancellor.”

    Alisa Messer, a longtime teacher and union activist, talked about all the “red flags” in Rocha’s record. In fact, during the meeting teachers waved little red flags every time someone mentioned something troubling about his past.

    “The better choice is an interim,” she said. “Your willingness to ignore this is shocking.”

    There’s a video going around, which is worth watching, of the meeting in Pasadena where the faculty voted no confidence in Rocha. There’s pretty damning testimony about his tenure at Santiago Canyon College, about his style of management (“this is what we are going to tell the faculty, and this is what we are going to do”) and the unhappiness of the teachers and some senior administrators who worked for him.

    His supporters said at the hearing that he had freely admitted his mistakes, and that he could and would change. Some speakers challenged that:

    “This is not a rehabilitation center for failed executives,” Michael Adams, a retired affirmative action consultant, told the trustees.

    The trustees, however, were overwhelmingly supporting of hiring Rocha. I have generally been impressed with this board, and I have absolutely no doubt that every member was entirely sincere in their approach to this.

    But I have to say: After listening to your faculty testify for hours that the guy you’re are going to hire is a disaster, it doesn’t help to tell us all how seriously you take the decision or how much sleep you have lost over it. And it doesn’t help (and sounds patronizing) to thank all those people who came out to tell you not to do what you are going to do anyway.

    I know these elected officials take this seriously. I also know, as Trustee Rafael Mandelman noted, that once Rocha is hired, everyone has to try to help him succeed, because if he succeeds, so does the school.

    Thea Selby, the board president, said that “we are super committed to make sure that he does engage all the constituent groups in meaningful ways.”

    Mandelman agreed that everyone was taking the decision seriously, but said that “I believe this is a risky choice. It’s going to be tough to walk in with so many people distrustful. I do not think an interim would be the end of the world, and in a year we might be in a better position.”

    The final vote was 6-1, with only Mandelman dissenting.

    Nobody on this board is acting from evil or corrupt influence. I believe them when they say that they think this is the best decision they can make at this time.

    Maybe this is the best City College can do. Maybe Rocha will turn out to be fantastic, and all of his critics will (happily) say they were wrong.

    But for all the talk of healing and coming together, this was not a consensus decision. I have been watching City College for 30 years, and I don’t think any chancellor has ever been hired with this much dissent. For the sake of this crucial institution, let’s hope it all works out.

    If PG&E caused the fires, it wouldn’t be the first time

    Let us consider, for a moment, the cause of the fires that have devastated the North Bay and Wine Country.

    The conditions were clearly ripe for a disaster — an unusually wet winter spurring lots of undergrowth, a hot and dry summer turning it all to tinder, and high winds that would drive the smallest spark into a conflagration.

    There’s no clear evidence yet as to what caused fires to break out, almost simultaneously, in several different areas. It wasn’t lightning strikes; it might have been people throwing cigarette butts out of cars, or dropping matches, or barbecues going out of control. Given the urban area, it wasn’t campfires.

    It could, conceivably, have been arson — but that would have required a crew of arsonists hitting a broad geographic area all within a couple of hours.

    Then there’s the possibility that the San Jose Mercury News has raised with a nice piece of reporting based on early 911 calls: right at the time the fires started, people all over the region were calling to report the PG&E lines were down and sparking: 

    In all, according to a review of emergency radio traffic by the Bay Area News Group, Sonoma County dispatchers sent out fire crews to at least 10 different locations across the county over a 90-minute period starting at 9:22 pm to respond to 911 calls and other reports of sparking wires and problems with the county’s electrical system amid high winds.

    There is a certain logic here: The winds were high, and PG&E has a history of not maintaining its pipes and power lines — in some cases, leading to deadly disasters.

    State law requires the utility to keep trees and brush away from its lines. But that hasn’t always happened.

    In 1994, a fire broke out in the gold country town of Rough and Ready. Although nobody was killed, property damage was extensive.

    The Nevada County district attorney filed criminal charges against the company. I was working at the Bay Guardian, and reporter Savannah Blackwell covered the trial.

    The evidence that came out was stunning. While PG&E had a pack of high-paid lawyers, a single prosecutor, Jenny Ross, was able to show that the company had taken $80 million in money that the state had earmarked for tree-trimming work and diverted it to corporate profits

    Evidence produced in the trial also showed that between 1989 and 2004, PG&E lines touching trees had caused 760 fires and millions of dollars in property damage.

    A jury found the company guilty — but of course, you can’t put a corporation in prison, so PG&E paid a fine. The executives who made the decision to divert the money to profits were not charged, penalized, or fired.

    In 2015, a fire that destroyed 500 houses was caused in part by PG&E diverting tree-trimming money to executive bonuses, NBC reported.

    So far, we know that 29 people are dead, 180 still missing. The property damage will run into many multiples of billions of dollars. The economic impact on the tourist economy in Wine Country will last for years.

    The air quality in San Francisco is bad. In the North Bay and parts of the East Bay, it’s worse. People will get sick; some may die from respiratory illnesses.

    This wasn’t a forest fire; industrial buildings, residential buildings, and cars have burned, releasing high toxic chemicals into the air. It will be years before we know the full health impacts.

    And if PG&E was responsible — if the company diverted money from fire prevention to profits again — then a fine won’t be enough. Corporate executives who allowed this to happen need to be held accountable — personally accountable.

    Again: None of us know what caused the fires. But if PG&E was at fault, it wouldn’t be the first time.

    Tenant Troubles: Can my landlord spy on me?

    Editors note: Tenant lawyer Dave Crow is here every Wednesday to answer your questions. Email [email protected]

    I’m a 14-year rent controlled tenant in the TenderNob. Two years ago, my landlord surreptitiously trained a surveillance camera well-disguised as a smoke detector at my unit door—and only at my unit door. In fact, it’s the only camera in the entire building, a building with a long history of mail package thefts in its lobby.

    The camera was ostensibly placed in front of my door in anticipation of an eviction filing to come the following calendar year, to collect evidence for said filing in other words. The rather flimsy nuisance eviction attempt never came close to trial, though exactly one deposition was taken and the stress of the whole thing totally dominated my 2017. But the camera, for the most part, flopped as an evidence collection tool, on this occasion at least.

    But now the camera-cloaked-as-faux-smoke-detector remains fixed in place directly aimed at my unit door and the landlord has refused to move it after multiple requests every few months. I am not allowed to access the camera, or understand how it works, or how the footage of me and all my guests is collected or stored. The hidden camera isn’t going anywhere. But this feels like such a long-term invasion and completely makes toxic my relationship with my landlord as long as it records all my comings and goings and those of all of my guests.

    To be clear, the camera is placed on the common hallways ceiling (8.5-9’ high) and is about eight feet in front of my unit door. Based on the still frames that were discovered in last year’s aborted eviction, the camera only captures my door, no others, and only records individuals who enter and exit my unit. And the camera can see inside my unit, but only just about 4-5 feet into my entryway/hallway area. The camera ostensibly never stops recording my unit door and has been doing so since summer 2016.

    The party line among the various legal counsel to whom I have spoken about this, is that such tactics are per se legal, even under our comparatively tenant-friendly SF Rent Ordinance, because landlords can always place cameras in their common areas and that litigating such tactics would be a total waste of time for any tenant in my position.

    After almost two full years of non-stop, targeted surveillance, these security camera bromides are getting harder and harder for me to swallow. Don’t such targeted surveillance cameras violate at least the spirit and intent of our Rent Ordinance by applying undue pressure on specific tenants like me to give up their longstanding, well-below-market rental units with the apparent intent of tenant turnover and increasing the yearly value of such a unit two or threefold?

    Is there really nothing that can be done under the Rent Ordinance or at the Rent Board to challenge such heavy-handed landlord tactics? Doesn’t the now long-term nature of the surveillance targeted at me at least make it more egregious and potentially more actionable? What if this lasts for another 15 years? When, if ever, does targeted 24/7 unit surveillance cross over the line into landlord harassment? Please examine this from all the angles, as I know I am not alone and this problem is sure to only get worse as such technology becomes more mainstream and affordable.

    The “bromides” to which you refer reflect a common apathy about the use of surveillance cameras everywhere—the slowly boiling frog approach to an “inevitable” societal slide into a police state. As long as we accept, without question, a surveillance state, the short answer to your question is: no, there isn’t much that can be done.

    The rationale for the use of surveillance cameras.

    Any policy adopted to diminish the right to privacy, finally recognized as a constitutional guarantee in Griswald v, Connecticut(1965) 381 U.S. 479, will be based upon an urgent need that trumps that right, e.g. national security, crime prevention, etc. Landlords often justify a decision to install surveillance cameras outside and in the common areas of a building as bid to provide a safe, secure residential environment. Landlords will point out that they have a duty to their tenants to do so.

    The landlord’s duty

    I read several California cases that define a landlord’s duty to provide security for tenants:

    “Out of the generic obligations owed by landowners to maintain property in a reasonably safe condition, the law of negligence in the landlord-tenant context has evolved to impose a duty of reasonable care on the owner of an apartment building to protect its tenants from foreseeable third-party criminal assaults. Thus, the question of a landlord’s duty is not whether a duty exists at all, but rather what is the scope of the landlord’s duty given the particular facts of the case?” —Vasquez v. Residential Investments (2004)118 Cal.App.4th 269

    “The scope of a landowner’s duty to provide protection from foreseeable third-party criminal acts is determined in part by balancing the foreseeability of the harm against the burden of the duty to be imposed. In cases where the burden of preventing future harm is great, a high degree of foreseeability may be required. On the other hand, in cases where there are strong policy reasons for preventing the harm, or the harm can be prevented by simple means, a lesser degree of foreseeability may be required. Duty in such circumstances is determined by a balancing of ‘foreseeability’ of the criminal acts against the ‘burdensomeness, vagueness, and efficacy’ of the proposed security measures.” —Yu Fang Tan v. Arnel Management(2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 1087.

    Generally, intervening criminal acts will negate a landlord’s duty to a tenant if the criminal act was unforeseeable. For example, if a tenant is mugged outside of his or her building by an unknown assailant, usually the landlord will not be held liable. The law can impose landlord liability for criminal acts when the building is located in a high crime area and/or the landlord is informed of a specific threat and does nothing to prevent it. California cases have found a landlord liable for refusing to repair security gates, ignoring repeated requests by tenants for the repairs, when a subsequent rape occurred in the building. A landlord breached his duty when he received prior written notice that a tenant in the building had brandished a shotgun at another tenant and a visitor in an angry and threatening manner. A landlord had duty to replace missing glass on apartment door murderer used to obtain entry.

    Foreseeability is a crucial factor in determining the existence of duty. A duty to take affirmative action to control the wrongful acts of a third party will be imposed only where such conduct can be reasonably anticipated. Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center(1999) 6 Cal.4th 666.

    All of the cases I read imposed liability upon a landlord who failed to act given the specific foreseeability of the given act. None of the cases imposed a duty to provide security guards in in a building because the court assessed that providing such guard would impose an undue burden upon the landlord despite foreseeability. I could not find any cases that established a landlord’s duty provide camera surveillance in a building.

    Your landlord may justify the installation of the camera for safety and security of the building, but as far as I can tell, he does not have the duty to provide it, nor would he be able to prove its efficacy to provide safety or security, nor would he be liable for unforeseen criminal liability, despite the surveillance.

    Surveillance does not prevent crime

    After the Boston Marathon bombing, a great deal of attention and praise was lavished on surveillance systems, public and private, aiding in the apprehension of the bombers — but the surveillance did not prevent the bombing.

    “An increasing number of American cities and towns are currently investing millions of taxpayer dollars in surveillance camera systems. But few are closely examining the costs and benefits of those investments, or creating mechanisms for measuring those costs and benefits over time. There is extensive academic literature on the subject—studies carried out over many years—and that research strongly indicates that video surveillance has no statistically significant effect on crime rates.” —ACLU Expert Findings on Surveillance Cameras.

    The ACLU report cites serval studies done in Great Britain and the United States.

    There may be some small impact on property crime. Think the TV commercials that show the would-be thief about ready to grab your Christmas gifts from the front porch when he notices the camera and decides to pick another house.

    Cameras installed in an LA housing project may have played a role in preventing a substantial escalation of crime relative to surrounding areas, since the housing project was the site of a gang war during the period of the study. Yet, “meta-analyses from the UK, along with preliminary findings from the US, indicate strongly that video surveillance has little to no positive impact on crime.”

    The true aim of surveillance—compiling dossiers and exerting control

    “We are not safer from terrorism with security cameras in our cities. Particularly terrorists who are willing to die, security cameras do not control their behavior. They would not stop them from planning to pull off an attack. Cameras don’t just watch criminals, but they watch everybody. Someone visits their psychiatrist every Monday at two in the afternoon, traveling through public spaces. Where they’re going is known to nobody, but a network of cameras could pull that out of obscurity. That info is known to government officials.” —Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies at the Cato Institute.

    I suspect that ubiquitous surveillance in this country will be used to more and more to compile dossiers and to eventually disrupt (or worse) dissidents, troublemakers who would wrest control from the privileged few, like landlords.

    In my experience landlords only spy on a specific tenant for two reasons: 1) to determine if a tenant principally resides in his or her rent controlled unit, and 2) to make a tenant uncomfortable in his or her home. Despite the fact that the landlord tried to evict you for an alleged nuisance does not justify the surveillance and, as you pointed out, the surveillance evidence flopped and was likely inadmissible at trial. But the cameras keep rolling and you’re not ready for your close-up.

    Your landlord has gone full Dick Cheney on you and his continued surveillance demonstrates my earlier point that he is compiling whatever evidence he can and, yes, harassing you in the process.

    Can you call the cops for this type of landlord surveillance?

    The disguised camera is only pointing at your doorway, which indicates that the landlord has singled you out, but California law only punishes those who attempt to procure confidential communications or who want to snoop for more salacious purposes.

    California Penal Code § 632(a)  provides: “A person who, intentionally and without the consent of all parties to a confidential communication, uses an electronic amplifying or recording device to eavesdrop upon or record the confidential communication, whether the communication is carried on among the parties in the presence of one another or by means of a telegraph, telephone, or other device, except a radio, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) per violation, or imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison, or by both that fine and imprisonment.”

    The case law interpreting Penal Code § 632(a) construes the statute rather narrowly. It’s unlikely you could prove that the landlord, by installing the camera intended to eavesdrop in this manner…maybe yes, maybe no.

    California Penal Code § 647(j)(3)(A)states: “A person who uses a concealed camcorder, motion picture camera, or photographic camera of any type, to secretly videotape, film, photograph, or record by electronic means, another, identifiable person who may be in a state of full or partial undress, for the purpose of viewing the body of, or the undergarments worn by, that other person, without the consent or knowledge of that other person, in the interior of a bedroom, bathroom, changing room, fitting room, dressing room, or tanning booth, or the interior of any other area in which that other person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, with the intent to invade the privacy of that other person…”

    On the other hand, it would also be difficult to prove that the landlord is a peeping Tom. So, calling the cops probably isn’t the answer.

    Finally, Rent Ordinance § 37.10B(a)(13), does provide: “No landlord, and no agent, contractor, subcontractor or employee of the landlord shall do any of the following in bad faith: Interfere with a tenant’s right to privacy.” While it seems like you might be able to prove a case for harassment under the Rent Ordinance, without direct reference to surveillance like you have described in the Ordinance, a court would likely apply the more restrictive California law. Winning a case based upon your particular facts would be very difficult.

    Here’s my bromide: If it looks like harassment, feels like harassment and smells like harassment, but it’s not explicitly defined as harassment, surveillance will not be considered to be harassment to tenants or anyone else until the lackadaisical public attitude changes toward widespread surveillance.

    How to help Dave help you

    Dear Readers:

    Every once and awhile I will have to guess at a detail or two when I attempt to answer your questions. For example, I will often assume that a building was built before 1979, given the context of a question. When I make that assumption, it’s highly likely that I will assume that you live in a rent-controlled unit and answer your question using the standard of the San Francisco Rent Ordinance. That could be a problem for two reasons. If your building was built after 1979, it is not covered by the Rent Ordinance. Worse, what if you don’t live in San Francisco?

    So, I thought it might be a good idea to give you a short list of details to consider and/or include when you write me.

    When was your building constructed?

    If you don’t know, you can find out by using the SF Assessor-Recorder’s website to find out. If that site is being funky (not unusual) ask around. Finally, take a look at your building. Victorian? That’s easy. The difficult ones are buildings built in the 1960s and 1970s, the big square ugly boxes reminiscent of the shit they’re building these days.

    How many units are in your building?

    That seems like a no-brainer. But it’s not so easy if you live in a single-family dwelling in which the landlord rents rooms. The Rent Board might consider each room as a unit depending on the facts. The other common scenario is the single-family house with an illegal in-law. Rent controlled? (By that I mean, subject to annual allowable increases?) Yes. This is a two-unit building because Illegal units are covered by the Rent Ordinance.

    Do you live in a house?

    If the house was built before 1979, it is subject only to the just cause eviction provisions of the Rent Ordinance and the landlord can increase the rent as much as he likes…within reason. However, if your tenancy started before 1996, the house is subject to the price control provisions of the ordinance.

    Do you live in a condominium?

    This can be difficult to ascertain if you live in a converted building. Ask the landlord or check the Assessor-Recorder site above. Condos are legal single-family dwellings, usually only subject to the just cause eviction provisions of the Ordinance. There is an exception, see Tenant Troubles: Are The Buyout Terms My Landlord’s Offering Acceptable?

    How old are you? Are you disabled?

    This may be applicable if you are a protected tenant under the Rent Ordinance.

    How long have you lived in your unit?

    This could be important to determine if you have a protected status or, as in the example above, if your tenancy in a house or condo is subject to price control.

    How much is your rent?

    Often this is the most important detail because it usually points to the underlying motive of the landlord for taking whatever action he is taking–he thinks you’re not paying enough rent.

    What does your lease say about it?

    The lease controls the terms of your tenancy. It is always helpful to me to understand how to apply the law to your problem when I know if there is an applicable term in your lease. For example, if you are having a problem adding a new roommate, I need to know if the lease absolutely prohibits subleasing or if subleasing is subject to the landlord’s written consent. The ordinance is different for each scenario.

    Details, details, details.

    If the landlord is harassing you, I want to know how. Does the landlord like to watch you sleep? It’s important to understand if your lease has a clause prohibiting pets and you just adopted a baby gorilla. It’s also important to know about the gorilla because other laws may apply. Sometimes little details can shed light on an issue you may not know you have.

    Obviously, this format has its limits. If you know your unit is rent controlled you can just say so. I want the gory details that make your case unique. They help make this column more interesting and fun.

    Oh yeah, if you live in Oakland, I need to know that, because they have a different Rent Ordinance. If you live in Daly City, I also need to know that, because they don’t have jack to protect tenants except feudal (California) law.

    I’m at 48 Hills to answer your landlord-tenant questions every Wednesday, so send them to me at [email protected]

    The opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not constitute legal advice. The information provided is general in nature. Seek the advice of a tenant attorney for any specific problem or issue. You understand that no attorney-client relationship will exist with Dave Crow or Crow & Rose, Attorneys at Law unless they have agreed to represent you. You should not respond to this site with any information that you believe is highly confidential.

    Iris Canada dies a month after her eviction

    Iris Canada died shortly after being evicted

    Iris Canada, a centenarian who was evicted from her apartment at 670 Page St. last month, has died. Canada was hospitalized shortly after the eviction and couldn’t recover from a stroke she suffered over the weekend.

    Iris Canada has died shortly after being evicted
    Iris Canada has died shortly after being evicted

    Canada was a resident of Page St. since the 1940s (accounts vary) and secured a life-time lease at $700 a month in 2005 after the building was bought by Peter Owens, Stephen Owens and Carolyn Radisch.
    Your actions matter! Donate $10 to support MEDA SF – who provide affordable housing in San Francisco

    The Owens want to convert the six-story tenancy-in-common to condominiums, which requires consent from all building residents. Canada, through her attorney, refused to sign conversion papers arguing that it would result in Canada losing her life-time lease. The disagreement sparked an ugly legal battle mobilizing housing rights activists in San Francisco.

    Owens argued that Canada no longer lived at her apartment and that it was in shoddy condition. Canada spent a lot of time with her niece or at the hospital, and the Owens family argued that meant Page Street was not her primary residence. Canada’s niece insisted that she be given an opportunity to buy the property, an offer the Owens felt was implausible. Canada’s attorney also didn’t accept reassurances from the Owens that they’d be willing to let her have a fulltime caretaker or meet other times if she came on board with the condominium conversion.

    The court ruled in favor of Owens. 

    Canada’s story highlights the complexities of the housing crisis plaguing San Francisco. Housing activists argued that Canada not be evicted from her residence at her age while opponents argued she wasn’t living at her residence in the first place.

    Canada appeared in a wheel chair at a few press conferences but mostly stayed at home or in the hospital owing to her age and ill health. Family and activists warned about the toll the legal battle was taking on her. Despite court orders, Sheriff Vicki Hennessy at first decided to hold off formalizing the eviction given Canada’s health — but on February 10th locks to her apartment were changed. 

     While accusations hurled from either side, Canada’s health deteriorated and fears of housing activists came true over the weekend: “This is what we said, this what we kept saying again and again but no one listened. We said she will die if she’s evicted that she won’t be able to overcome this shock. We’ve seen it time and time again,” Tommi Aviolli Mecca of the Housing Rights Committee told 48 Hills.

    Mecca has been on the forefront of Canada’s fight: “We are San Francisco we are suppose to be compassionate and humane but this is what we did to a senior in our city. She could have been my own grandmother.” 

    Housing rights activists and community members have organized a vigil to remember Canada at her former residence 670 Page Street on Wednesday. Mecca says they want to give people a place to remember her: “We wanted to give people some time to grieve so we can all come together and remember her.”


    The year that local zoning control comes under attack

    If SF loses control of local zoning, imagine how much more out of control development will be

    2017 is already shaping up as a year in which local control of development will come under unprecedented assault in California and in the Bay Area in particular.

    We have rookie State Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 35, submitted only a few hours after Wiener was sworn in to office on December 5. Still in placeholder form, the measure would put legal teeth into the state’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation and force cities to “meet” the allocation allotted to them by the state. This radical proposal—as Tim Redmond has observed, it could set off a housing war—did not appear on Wiener’s campaign website, nor, to my knowledge, did he ever he mention it on the campaign trail.

    If SF loses control of local zoning, imagine how much more out of control development will be
    If SF loses control of local zoning, imagine how much more out of control development will be

    And now a new, Bay Area-centric attack on local control is on the way, via the Association of Bay Area Governments’ proposal to have the U.S. Economic Development Administration certify our region as a federal Economic Development District (EDD). Planning for this initiative began in June 2015, when ABAG staff broached the idea to the agency’s Executive Board and Regional Planning Committee.

    The EDA requires a planning organization that is applying for an EDA-funded EDD to assemble a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Committee to oversee the preparation of a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). The committee must represent “the main  economic interests of the region” and “include Private Sector Representatives…as a majority of its membership,” as well as public officials, community leaders, representatives of workforce development boards, representatives of institutions of higher education, minority and labor groups, and private individuals. (U.S. EDA “CEDS Summary of Requirements”).

    Last summer ABAG convened a 38-member committee. The group met in July and September. Its next meeting is on Tuesday, January 10, from 1 to 3 pm in the Yerba Buena Conference Room at the Metro Center, 375 Beale, San Francisco. The agenda was posted on the ABAG website on January 6.

    The gist of the proposed CEDS—and specifically the proposed attack on local control of government—began to emerge at the July meeting, when the committee reviewed a draft Vision and Goals statement. In keeping with EDA requirements, a CEDS must cover a wide range of topics: business climate, workforce development, environmental protection, resilience, the use of technology in economic development, funding, housing and infrastructure, and metrics.

    The staff proposals that interested me the most were the ones that would severely curtail local control of development by standardizing permitting and zoning in the region across city boundaries.

    Two days after the September 13 meeting, I sent the committee members and associated ABAG staff the following email:

    Hello, all:

    I’m the 48 hills reporter who attended last Tuesday’s meeting about creating a federal Economic Development District for the Bay Area via the submittal of a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy to the Economic Development Administration. 

    The agenda for the meeting included a question—Which strategies can we immediately agree on?—that was never actually posed. I’d like to pose it with respect to specific recommendations in the Draft Summary of Economic Strategies, under “Government,” subhead “Ensure local regulations and permitting processes support retention and expansion of local business” (p. 7):

    “The importance of aligning and coordinating local permits and regulations at the sub-regional or regional level is a consistent theme across numerous economic development reports. Coordination among economic development providers and cities on local tax policy or permitting makes it easier and potentially less costly for companies to locate in the region and grow.

    *  Coordinate permit and fees within a sub-region in order to make the overall area are attractive and to reduce competition between cities for firms.

    *  Harmonize local regulations across multiple jurisdictions, where it makes sense (e.g. solar installation) while considering regional differences and industry dynamics. Develop consistent and streamlined regulations and permitting processes.”

    At the meeting, ABAG Economic Development Director Miriam Chion stated that the CEDS “is linked to and supporting Plan Bay Area.”

    Yet the staff Introduction for the recently released Draft Preferred Scenario for Plan Bay 2040 says that the scenario “does not mandate any changes to local zoning rules, general plan or prices for reviewing projects…As is the case across California, the Bay Area’s cities, towns and counties maintain control of all decisions to adopt plans and permit or deny development projects.” 

    My question: do you agree with the strategies highlighted [in italics] above?

    Thank you.

    No one responded.


    At the January 10 meeting I plan to ask the committee: How do you propose to reconcile the stated commitment to maintaining local control of development that appears in the Draft Preferred Scenario of Plan Bay Area 2040 with the proposals to undermine if not eliminate that control that appear in the draft Comprehensive Economic Strategy?

    That question becomes all the more urgent in light of the expanded CEDS Draft Vision and Goals that the committee will review on January 10:

    Goal 3: Housing and Workspace

    Objective 3.3: Ensure local regulations and permitting processes support retention and expansion of local business and infill development.

              Strategy 3.3.1  Coordinate permits and fees within a sub-region in order to make the overall area more attractive [to business] and reduce competition between cities for firms.

              Strategy 3.3.2   Develop more consistent and streamlined regulations and permitting procedures across jurisdictions, while allowing flexibility for regional differences and industry dynamics where appropriate.

              Strategy 3.3.3   To achieve a better balance of jobs and housing production and create stronger policy linkages between land use costs and benefits, explore opportunities for regional impact fees to allow for impacts to be compensated even if they occur in other jurisdictions.

    Objective 3.4   Advocate for state regulatory changes that impede local infill development and ensure cities have the appropriate resources to provide necessary services and future maintenance.

              Strategy 3.4.1  Modernize the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). [This is code for rolling back the state’s premier environmental law.]


    Goal 4: Infrastructure

    Objective 4.2  Increase access to jobs, economic opportunity and capacity for all workers increasing transportation equity.

              Strategy 4.2.3  Require jurisdictions that apply for planning or transportation funding from ABAG or MTC to allow residential as a primary use on all parcels located in a Priority Development Area and within ½ mile of a high-capacity transit stop.

              Strategy 4.2.4  Require jurisdictions that apply for planning or transportation funding from ABAG or MTC to remove parking minimums for all residential uses located in a Priority Development Area and within ½ mile of a high-capacity transit stop.


    The implementation of these proposals would profoundly diminish cities’ ability to control development within their boundaries. As per EDA rules, the application is to be approved by a majority of the Bay Area’s nine county boards of supervisors. There are no provisions for review, much less approval, at the municipal level. 


    My strong hunch is that very few city councils in the Bay Area are aware of ABAG’s EDD initiative. Only four members of the 38-member Strategy Committee sit on a city council—Monica Wilson from Antioch, Pradeep Gupta from South San Francisco, Dave Hudson from San Ramon, and Carmen Montano from Milpitas. The rest are all county supervisors (four), public agency staffers, or representatives of non-profits.

    In light of the EDA stipulations, Wilson, Gupta, Hudson, and Montano presumably represent the cities of the region, not just their own jurisdictions. Accordingly, they ought to demand that before the committee moves forward with an application to the U.S. EDA, the draft Vision and Goals and Comprehensive Economic Strategy ought to be vetted by every city council in the region, preferably at public hearing.

    If past is precedent, they will do no such thing, but instead allow themselves to continue to be railroaded by ABAG staff into moving the application process forward.

    Item 3 on the September 14 agenda, a “Facilitated regional strategy discussion,” included asking “Which strategies can we immediately agree on?” and “Which strategies should not be considered at this time?” As I noted in my email to the committee, at the meeting, neither of those questions was actually posed. And indeed, in a meeting that lasted only an hour and a half, there was no way that any group could have even begun to review the dozens of strategies listed in the draft Vision and Goals.

    Yet near the end, ABAG Chief Economist Cynthia Kroll said, “Now that we have a set of strategies that we’re working from…”

    The next day I sent Kroll, ABAG Planning Director Miriam Chion, and Senior Planner Johnny Jaramillo an email noting the omission of the agendaized questions. Citing Kroll’s remark, I asked:  “Does that mean that the answer to the question “’Which strategies can we immediately agree on?’” is effectively all of them?”

    I never got a reply.





    Arts Forecast: Coolest holiday events for everyone

    Holiday Gaiety with Armstead Maupin at the SF Symphony features drag emcee Peaches Christ and conductor Edwin Outwater joining the beloved author of 'Tales of the City,' Fri/8. Photo by Alex Fiore

    ARTS FORECAST Holidays can be a drag — and that’s a good thing! Two big drag holiday traditions lead our list of fun events that out the “oh, hey!” in holiday. Two big things, though, to kick it all off: If you have not been to the Great Dickens Faire (through Sun/17), please do go — three years after visiting, I am still recovering from the overwhelmingness of this enormous ye olde Burning Man-meets-Exotic Erotic-meets-Edwardian Ball-meets Renaissance Faire thing.

    Second, The San Francisco Botanical Gardens are free on Christmas Day, Dec. 25 (also on New Year’s Day, too!) Spend the day wandering amid the gorgeous orchids, primeval ferns, and blooming cloud forests with your family from out of town — or just by yourself, in all that glorious nature, celebrating your personal solstice.   

    PS: This is your fair warning — stay off the streets Sat/9 for Santacon, or risk being puked on by a reindeer. (Hey, your choice, it’s the holidays.) This afterparty at Monarch looks cute, though. 

    PPS: Duck into Martuni’s for a warming drink and some songs of the season live on the piano! Cutest bar for holidays ever.   

    DRAG QUEENS ON ICE Slip slide away — just don’t lose you wig — as a cavalcade of elegant gender clowns shows off its figure eights. This is one of the warmest, friendliest, family-full events I’ve attended in SF, and perfect to set off your joyful season. Thu/7, 8-9:30pm, free. Union Square Ice Rink, SF. More info here.

    WINTER WALK WITH HOUSE OF MORE! Pair your Drag Queens on Ice with the legendary drag queens of the House of MORE!, led by Juanita More, as they strut their stuff near Union Square. “Catch two fabulous holiday shows with the House of MORE! Pose for awkward family photos at our free holiday photo-booth, featuring ugly sweaters, kitschy photo props and classic Christmas card backdrops, as well as a DJ Jim Collins blasting campy holiday tunes to fuel all your merrymaking.” I think there’s also food trucks? This event has everything. Thu/7, 5:30-8:30pm, free. 133 Stockton, SF.  More info here

    TENDERLOIN MUSEUM HOLIDAY BAZAAR “Ten local artist-vendors will bring pop up shops to the Museum for a festive marketplace flush with neighborhood wares. Forget the old chestnuts and stereotypical stocking stuffers–enliven your gift game while supporting the arts. From hand-tooled leather belts to intricately-latticed metalworks to cherry-picked vintage duds, there will be a plethora of unique gifts for sale. This year’s seasonal celebration coincides with the opening reception for Holly Coley’s solo exhibition in the TL Museum gallery, Tender Life: Graphic and Ceramic Memories of Tenderloin Living, 1999-2004.” Thu/7, 6pm-9pm, free. tenderloin Museum, SF. More info here

    CASTRO ART WALK This new monthly neighborhood peregrination puts out a plethora of goodies for your delectation. Stop in, especially, at the wonderful Dog-Eared Books Castro for some wonderful crafts and cheer — all featuring local artists, of course. Thu/7, 6pm-9pm, Castro District, SF. More info here

    KITKA: WINTERSONGS Do not miss this, no matter what your take on the “holidays”! I took my parents a couple years ago and it was perfect and gorgeous. ” The women of Kitka have mastered repertory from all over and include everything from Sephardic songs to Eastern Orthodox sacred choral works; to Baltic pagan incantations for the return of the Sun Goddess, to Romany tunes and much more, some in arrangements by choir members.” Throughout the Bay Area Thu/7-Thu/21 (Oakland Fri/15 and Sun/17, SF Sat/16). More info here

    HOLIDAY GAIETY WITH ARMISTEAD MAUPIN The beloved author of Tales of the City is joined by scarily brilliant drag emcee Peaches Christ, SF Symphony conductor Edwin Outwater, actor Cheyenne Jackson, the legendary Bob the Drag Queen, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and more for a night of fabulous and dazzling performances and readings. Fri/8, 7:30pm, $15-$44. Davies Symphony Hall, SF. More info here.  

    DECEMBER FIESTA AT COMMUNITY MUSIC CENTER the Community Music Center is a fantastical, magical San Francisco institution in the Mission that hosts this awesome cultural celebration every year and draws huge crowds. “A vibrant multi-generational celebration of Latin American song and dance! Performances by the Mission District Young Musicians Program, Children’s Chorus, Coro Solera, and the Cuban Charanga Ensemble. Come for the music and stay for the celebration with a piñata, tamales, hot chocolate, and a Cuban charanga dance party!” Fri/8 (7pm-9pm) and Sat/9 (3:30pm-5:30pm), CMC, SF. More info here. Oh! And then go back on Sun/10 for the Winter Music Celebration full of poetry and music classics. 

    GOLDEN BOUGH: CHRISTMAS IN A CELTIC LAND “Folk songs tell a story and the music of the Celtic trio Golden Bough is full of the stories and mythology of the Celtic lands. For 36 years Golden Bough has been delighting audiences with their exceptional interpretations of the music of the Celtic nations and the uniqueness of their original compositions.” Sat/9, 8pm, $5-$23. Old First Church, SF. More info here

    MEXICAN MUSEUM HOLIDAY MERCADO The Mexican Museum‘s La Tienda holiday gift store opens its doors during the “Holiday Mercado” at Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture. La Tienda features items from Mexico, Central America, and local artisans and vendors for this special holiday shopping event.  The Holiday Mercado also offers fun art activities for families and the opportunity to see the exhibit, “Mexico In San Francisco: Works On Paper From Diego Rivera to Alejandro Santiago,” before it closes.” Sat/9 and Sun/10, noon-5pm, free. Fort Mason Center, SF. More info here

    UNSILENT NIGHT WITH THE SF CONTEMPORARY MUSIC PLAYERS Very cool, and participatory: “We hope you’ll join us for this family-friendly, free holiday event linked to ‘Unsilent Night’ celebrations around the world. The original composition by Phil Kline, written specifically to be heard outdoors in the month of December, takes the form of a street promenade in which the audience becomes the performer. Each participant plays one of four tracks of music downloaded to a smart phone, or anything that amplifies music, together comprising ‘Unsilent Night.’ We will walk a carefully chosen route in and around San Francisco’s Dolores Park area, creating a unique mobile sound sculpture.” Sat/9, 5pm-6pm, meet at Dolores Park tennis courts, SF. More info here.

    SF FETISH FLEA MARKET Ho ho ho, honey — gifts for everyone on your naughty list. “Whether you’re curious about the local kink community or you’re an experienced player looking for the best new toys, the Fetish Flea is for you. The Flea hosts a variety of toy makers, artists, businesses, upcyclers and more right at the SF Citadel for one day. Think of the Fetish Flea as your friendly neighborhood kinky shopping mall. Get all your gear in one place, and support the artists in your local community! All genders, presentations, and consensual dynamics are warmly welcomed!” Sat/9, 11am-5pm, $5. SF Citadel. More info here.  

    PETER AND THE WOLF Narrated by hunky half-Vulcan (in the Star Trek movies, anyway) Zachary Quinto, this Prokofiev classic will have you and your younger friends gasping and bopping in your seats, in awe of the timeless fable and music, as played by the SF Symphony Youth Orchestra. Sun/10, 2pm, $25-$79. Davies Symphony Hall, SF. More info here.  

    Mariachi Sol De Mexico.

    A MERRY-ACHI CHRISTMAS “Led by the incomparable José Hernández, Mariachi Sol de Mexico returns to Davies Symphony Hall for a festive musical tribute to Mexico’s Christmas traditions. Experience a truly international celebration, with the ensemble singing and playing holiday favorites from both Mexico and America in a vibrant performance that will have the whole family dancing in the aisles.” Sun/10, 8pm, $16-$90. Davies Symphony Hall, SF. More info here.

    KUGELPLEX I personally cannot wait for this: “Celebrate Hanukkah with a wild performance by Kugelplex, California’s rockin’-est purveyor of klezmer and old-world party music. Formed in 2001, the group plays wild, soulful dance music.” Sun/17, 4pm, $5-$23. Old First Church, SF. More info here

    NIGUNIM CHORUS PRESENTS: HANUKAH COMMUNITY CELEBRATION “A grand time of music, fun, entertainment, candlelighting, dancing, tchochkes, Hanukah gifts, books, and refreshments. Featuring the 45-member Nigunim Chorus directed by Achi Ben Shalom, the Adama Band, Story Teller Joel ben Izzy, virtuoso violinist David Chernyovsky, and special guests. All ages are invited!” Sun/17, 1pm, $20-$24. Freight and Salvage, Berkeley. More info here

    A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS — LIVE! “Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the entire Peanuts gang are back at Davies Symphony Hall! The show begins with your favorite characters dancing along to holiday classics and colorful video. Then, the gang returns to the stage to bring A Charlie Brown Christmas to life! With singers, dancers, and actors performing in front of an animated background, and Vince Guaraldi’s timeless music performed live by the Symphony.” Thu/21-Sun/24, $30-$80. Davis Symphony Hall, SF. More info here

    BUD E LUV CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR The 28th anniversary of this campy-yet-actually-amazing big band/lounge act spectacular. It’s got a spectacular history as well: “The Christmas show had its humble beginnings at the famed Paradise Lounge at 11th and Folsom in 1990. Unexpectedly, the power went out in the club but they pulled power from the next door, lit candles, and the Christmas Show tradition was started. When it moved to The Red Devil Lounge in 1998 they added the full nine-piece big band and continue with that extravagant sound to this day. From there it moved downtown to The Rrazz Room for three years to sold out crowds. Mayor Willie Brown has made this show part of his Christmas tradition for years. So put on your best cocktail dress and swinging dinner jacket and STAY in the Christmas spirit for one more day.” Sat/23, 8pm, $22-$25. The Chapel, SF. More info here

    KUNG PAO KOSHER COMEDY 25TH ANNIVERSARY Holy pickled herring! Can’t believe it’s been a quarter-centry of yuck-yucks over roast duck with this institution. Basically: Comedy in a Chinese restaurant on Christmas, for anyone who doesn’t want to sit around all day at home. And it’s charitable! Go out, why don’t you! Eat something! Laugh a little!  Two shows a night, Fri/23-Sun/25, 5pm (with dinner) and 8:30pm (cocktails and veggie dim sum). New Asia Restaurant, SF. More info here

    What the new mayor’s race poll really shows

    Mark Leno is the big winner in the mayoral vote at the Board of Supes

    The first poll on the 2018 mayor’s race offers some surprises – and a lot of information that is really not surprising.

    I’ve obtained a copy of the full poll, by Public Policy Polling. I will start with a caveat: In the days when nobody uses landlines, and people with mobile phones are impatient with random numbers calling them and asking poll questions, all polling data is a bit suspect.

    Mark Leno comes out well ahead in the first major poll on the mayor’s race

    This particular poll skews a bit conservative: Of the 627 San Francisco voters who participated, 52 percent were homeowners and only 48 percent renters. Fifty percent were white, 22 percent Asian, 12 percent Latino and eight percent African American. Almost 70 percent were older than 45. A full 70 percent had a favorable opinion about Gov. Jerry Brown.

    The gender mix was 53 percent women.

    But well-designed polls are not radically wrong, and they offer a glimpse at how the voters view people who are running, or might be running, for mayor.

    In an off-year primary election, the population in this poll may be a fair representation of who will go to the polls.

    It’s no surprise at all when voters were asked who they would support for mayor today, Mark Leno is at the top of the list. Nor is it a surprise that he has, by far, the highest positive and the lowest negative ratings. Leno has been in Sacramento for 14 years; he’s done a lot of great legislation, and spent a lot of time making political connections in town. But he hasn’t had to be a part of the local fray on all the divisive issues like tech taxes, the Google buses, housing policy, and the like. He has 59 percent favorables, and only 24 percent unfavorable. Close behind him is City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who has taken on some critical legal cases -– but also hasn’t had to take a position on the tough local issues. He’s at 49-21 positive-negative.

    David Chiu, who is now in Sacramento, where these days there’s so little news media attention that nobody knows what he’s doing, still has some strong negatives: he’s at 45 positive, 29 negative.

    Breed polls high as a replacement for Lee; she’s at 20 percent, and Leno’s at 26 percent. But her negatives are much higher – she’s at 43-29. Jane Kim, who polls at only 5 percent, is at 40-32.

    With a plus-or-minue four percent margin, a lot of those numbers are a wash.

    When you look at ranked-choice voting, Leno comes out even further ahead: Since 19 percent of the voters said they would list him as their second choice, he’s at 45 percent for top two. Breed is at 31 percent. Dennis Herrera is at 21, and David Chiu is at 22. That’s only first and second choices, and the voters get three.

    Among the very clear messages of this poll: A clear majority of the voters – 60 percent – think Breed should not be both acting mayor and board president for the next five months. It there’s going to be an interim mayor, aside from Willie Brown (who, at 84, has made it clear he has no interest) the clear favorite is Tom Ammiano. Ammiano’s at 19 percent, followed by Art Agnos at 13. Nobody else is close. That’s not a surprise, either — Ammiano is one of the most popular politicians in the city, and if he entered the mayor’s race, he would have strong poll support.

    The poll is not good news for Jane Kim. I’m a bit surprised at how low her numbers are – but on the other hand, much of her support in the state Senate race was from younger voters, who are underrepresented in this poll. She also suffered from a vicious, brutal barrage of attacks on her, funded by the tech industry, when she ran for state Senate against Scott Wiener.

    But she’s had the support of Bernie Sanders, and will have his substantial base of committed organizers, and is framing her campaign as a push for economic justice. If she can convince the voters that she is the person most likely to change the direction of local policy, she has a greater shot than the numbers today suggest.

    Now let’s look at political reality as it’s going to play out in the next few months.

    The poll doesn’t include (at least from what I have seen) a key question: Do you think the city is going in the right or the wrong direction? I think it’s pretty clear that something like 70 percent of the voters would say: Wrong direction.

    And as the campaign progresses, it will become clear that Breed is the candidate of the folks who have been running this city for the past, oh, 25 years. The big money behind Ed Lee (including Ron Conway) has come together to support Breed. She will have the tech-real-estate axis. She already has Willie Brown. The message that the campaigns will put out is simple: If you like the way Ed Lee ran the city, you will like the way London Breed runs it.

    If Chiu gets in the race, he will be in the same position: He was an ally of Lee and his supporters, and can’t possibly run as a candidate of change.

    I think, while there are fond memories of the mayor as a person, most people today don’t like the way Ed Lee ran the city. 

    The left in the city may be divided: I don’t know where the Milk Club, the Sierra Club, the Tenants Union, the new Progressive Alliance, SEIU Local 1021, the Hotel Workers Union, and others will come down on the question of Leno-Kim-Herrera. But I think it’s pretty clear that none of them will support Breed.

    So if Leno, Kim, and Herrera don’t attack each other (and why would they?), the poll results show that Breed is in serious trouble. There won’t be a lot of Leno, Kim, or Herrera voters who pick Breed as a second choice.

    Put that up against what will be pretty much unlimited money for Breed, including, I would guess, a massive independent expenditure effort by the tech lords, and you get some fascinating possibilities.

    The first battle comes this week, when the supes decide whether to keep her in the untenable position of being both board president and acting mayor – for five months. Four supes have endorsed Leno. Kim is running. One more vote and the city could have a mayor who isn’t London Breed as the race sprints into a crazy, mad rush.

    DA says no charges for officers who killed Amilcar Perez Lopez

    Father Richard Smith holds a photograph of Amilcar Perez Lopez's family in Guatemala, as he speaks to supporters gathered for silent vigil. Photo By - Sana Saleem

    The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office has decided not charge two police officers who fatally shot a man in the back more than two years ago in the Mission District. The case angered community members and added to the scrutiny the police department has been facing for the past few years. 

    District Attorney George Gascon’s office, in particular, has been criticized for not charging officers who have been involved in shooting incidents. 

    The 20-year-old Amilcar Perez Lopez was shot by officers on Feb 26, 2015.  The DA’s office says the decision not to prosecute the officers came down to evidence — something Gascon has hinted at before during his interaction with Father Richard Smith. Smith has been spearheading the Justice for Amilcar Perez Lopez coalition and was in regular contact with Gascon.

    “Based on the facts, circumstances and applicable law in this matter, there is insufficient evidence to file any criminal charges against Officer [Eric] Reboli or Officer [Craig] Tiffe,” reads the report released Wednesday.

    Furthermore, the report cites witnesses who heard officers identify themselves. This is crucial because officers who shot Perez Lopez were in plain clothes. The report also says that officers were within their rights to defend the man Perez Lopez allegedly threatened. 

    The decision from the DA’s office is bound to anger community members who feel that Gascon and his office have been incapable of holding police officers. The DA’s office, on the other hand, has continued to insist that the decision would come down to evidence.

    ‘Conflicting witnesses’

    Knife recovered from the from the crime scene (13-inch with an 8-inch blade). Photo Courtesy: SF District Attorney’s Office
    Knife recovered from the from the crime scene (13-inch with an 8-inch blade).
    Photo Courtesy: SF District Attorney’s Office

    The report starts with describing how Perez Lopez began chasing another man — identified as Abraham P — with a big knife. 

    There’s conflicting witness testimony on what started the conflict in the first place; the different versions include how Perez Lopez allegedly attacked Abraham because he had taken his cellphone or that Abraham wouldn’t sell him a bike or that Abraham wouldn’t let Perez Lopez into the building. 

    Although the details on what triggered the conflict aren’t clear the report cites one witness who told investigators that Perez Lopez: ““..had a serious look like, ‘I’m going to get him.’ as he chased Abraham P. 

    ‘Statements from Police Officers’

    Officers Eric Reboli and Craig Tiffe were in plainclothes and traveling in an unmarked police car near 24th and Harrison Streets when they heard dispatch put out a call about two men running after one another with one of them having a knife. 

    According to Officer Reboli, after he spotted the two men: “He announced himself as a police officer and then immediately grabbed Abraham P. by both arms and pinned his arms together in case he was the man with the knife, referenced in the broadcast.” 

    The report doesn’t mention what language was used by the two men.

    Reboli said he glanced over to his partner Officer Tiffe and saw him trying to take Perez-Lopez down to the ground and Perez-Lopez “violently resisting.”

    Tiffe describes Perez-Lopez as being “bloodlust-crazed.” He also describes Perez-Lopez continuing to approach him with the knife despite shouting “Police, drop the knife” or “Drop the knife,” and says  he discharged his firearm at Perez-Lopez to stop the threat to his life and to the lives of his partner and Abraham P.


    The report concluded that version of the events retold by officers was consistent with the evidence presented. The DA’s office reached this conclusion despite differing accounts, and insists that inconsistencies in the officers’ statements do not “establish that the officers’ accounts of the critical moments that led to their decision to discharge their weapons were fabricated.” 

    Crime scene photo taken by a witness who lives across the street from the crime scene. Photo Courtesy: SF District Attorney’s Office.
    Crime scene photo taken by a witness who lives across the street from the crime scene. Photo Courtesy: SF District Attorney’s Office.

    “The officers’ accounts describing what they observed as they reached the scene are consistent with the evidence. Contrary to stories circulated in the community that the altercation had been amicably resolved and Perez-Lopez was casually walking home alone by the time the officers showed up, overwhelming evidence confirms that the knife chase was still very much in progress when Officers Tiffe and Reboli arrived,” reads the report.

    The two main inconsistencies include Officer Reboli saying Perez Lopez was coming at him when he shot Perez Lopez although the Medical Examiner’s revealed that Perez Lopez was shot multiple times in the back. 

    A use-of-force expert cited by the DA’s office claims this could have happened because: “Reboli may have accurately recalled that Perez-Lopez was facing him when he made the decision to shoot and started the process of taking the first shot, but based on action versus reaction time, Perez-Lopez would have been able to turn 90 to 180 degrees by the time the first bullet hit him.”

    The DA also stated that one of the inconsistencies about whether Perez Lopez was holding a knife at the time of the shooting was satisfied by evidence that lined up with officers’ statements. 

    Perez Lopez’s family has filed a civil lawsuit and claim that he was unlawfully shot by SFPD officers. 




    Yes (on affordable housing) In My Back Yard!

    Housing for all -- or just market-rate housing for the rich?

    I’m kind of done talking about the Yimby conference, which has gotten far more press than you normally see for a wonky housing policy event. But I have a couple of things I have to respond to.

    Housing for all — or just market-rate housing for the rich?

    I got this email from Sonja Trauss, one of the Yimby leaders in the Bay Area and a candidate for supervisor in D6. I have tried, as I generally do, to reach out to and respond to people who don’t agree with me, in this case Trauss.

    Her response:

    I think life would be better for hundreds of thousands of people, and would be better for me, if a million or more people lived in San Francisco. You think life would be worse for yourself and others like you if a million people lived in SF. I understand your position, I understand that if we achieve our political goals you will feel sad. I just don’t care. Politics arises out of conflicts.

    Actually, Sonja, no.

    If your goal is more density in San Francisco and more people living here, that won’t make me sad. You want to add density to single-family neighborhoods? I live in one, and that’s fine with me. (Just don’t demolish housing that already exists, because that makes no sense.)

    I would be sad, though, if 250,000 more rich people moved here, and tens of thousands of existing working-class folks, immigrants, and poor people had to leave.

    I would be sad to live in a city with no blue-collar jobs, no light industry, a city where workers in what is going to be the largest employment areas in the future – services, hospitality, and health care – have to commute two hours from the suburbs to their jobs because the vast majority of the new housing that “the market” builds will never be available to them.

    I do not worship at the altar of the God of Growth. I don’t think every city needs to be Manhattan or Hong Kong. And I think it’s crazy to build more offices and housing without the money to build the infrastructure to accommodate them.

    But like most of the housing and community advocates you consider your enemies, I think San Francisco can handle a lot more people than we have, and I think dense areas like North Beach are wonderful, and I would be thrilled to see 200,000 new units of housing in the city.

    Our difference with the Yimbys is that we don’t want all that housing to go to rich people. And we don’t want the private market to decide who lives here.

    I, of course, like the German approach to regulating housing prices.

    But beyond that, I would love to see the city build 200,000 units of new housing — affordable, social housing, aimed at the existing and future workforce, not just at the tech industry, offshore investors, and the wealthy. Housing for people fleeing oppression and wars. Housing for people who see San Francisco as a haven for the LGBT community, for immigrants, for artists and writers and the truly weird who feel out of place in other parts of the world.

    Highrise social housing; dense social housing. Infill social housing. I’m all for it.

    If we repeal Prop. 13 and start taxing the very rich in this city and this state, we might even be able to pay for the buses and subways and schools and parks and cops and firefighters and water systems we need to handle all those new residents.

    I would also like to see the Yimbys help us protect existing affordable housing by putting as much effort into repealing the Ellis Act and protecting rent control as they do into advocating more market-rate housing.

    I am not a Nimby. I don’t care that much about my (nonexistent) views; my tiny back yard already gets too little sunlight to grow tomatoes. I am a homeowner who has no interest in rising property values (in fact, I wish property values in my neighborhood would come down, so people who aren’t rich could move here). I do care about the diversity of the city – and I think that what Trauss is advocating will drive out poor and working-class people and destroy the diversity (not the density) that I care about.

    She disagrees with that analysis; fine. I can only believe that she seriously thinks allowing private developers and private finance to decide what gets built in San Francisco will lead to a more affordable and more diverse city. There is zero evidence that that has happened, or will happen. I think allowing the market to set housing policy will mean more displacement; it’s not only likely to fail, it will cause immense harm along the way. I feel the same way about health care, where market-based solutions have been a disaster. You like private health insurance? You’ll love market-based housing solutions.

    The Yimbys say my goal of building 100 percent non-market affordable housing is a fantasy. I’m completely convinced that their idea that unlimited market-rate housing will bring prices down is even more of a fantasy. That’s the dispute. That’s it. Everything else is political diversion.


    A few days after the Yimbys met in Oakland, I went to a much smaller event in San Francisco, held by a group called YAH!. That stands for Yes on Affordable Housing.

    We listened to a presentation that had some reality behind it and looked at what job growth is likely to be in San Francisco, and what housing will be needed for that workforce.

    The data we saw shows that over the next 20 years, the largest job growth will be in professional services, healthcare, and education. Hospitality is close behind. Tech is a footnote.

    Because many of those jobs don’t pay high wages, more than 70 percent of the population growth will be people who earn less than the median regional income.

    “A staggering 72% of added households will be in the lower three income categories which are not typically served by new market-rate construction,” the data shows.

    It also shows that, contrary to the Yimby narrative, the Bay Area (and San Francisco) have been building a lot of housing – in fact, we’ve been building 99 percent of the market-rate housing we need.

    We’re way behind on the housing for low- and moderate-income people. That’s housing that, whatever the Yimbys want to say, the private market simply will not provide.

    At the Yimby conference, state Sen. Scott Wiener in essence said I was a “quack” for saying the more housing makes housing more expensive. No: I said that putting high-end (which is all market-rate housing today) housing in communities of concern tends to drive up land values and lead to higher prices and displacement. That’s supported by the evidence.

    Then there’s this, again from my pal Sonja Trauss

    No disrespect, but the fact that you think our strategy will fail is irrelevant to me because you have a bad track record of participating in strategies that succeed. Ostensibly, for over 30 years, you have been trying to make SF “affordable.” In that time SF has become more expensive than it has ever been and the most expensive city in the U.S. So how could a person with even half a brain look at your track record and think, “that’s a guy that knows what he’s doing! He sure picked a winning strategy!”

    Sonja gives me way too much credit.

    If you look at my “track record” you will find that most of the policy suggestions I’ve made in my 35 years in this biz have been ignored by politicians who are much more interested in developer money than in listening to a left-wing journalist.

    If I were calling the shots, if I had the “winning strategy,” there would be no new office development without the developer paying the cost of housing, infrastructure, and transit (until the developers help us repeal Prop. 13). Apple, Facebook, and Google wouldn’t have been allowed to build corporate campuses for tens of thousands of workers without first – first – making sure there was housing for them.

    If I were calling the shots, there would be rent control on vacant apartments, no Ellis Act, and Airbnb would have been shut down until first – first – we had rules to prevent displacement.

    If I were calling the shots, we would be taxing the wealthy at high rates to pay for social housing.

    If I were calling the shots, I would have slowed down the tech boom, disrupted a little less, and given all of us a chance to adapt within a more regulated market.

    If my “strategy” was implemented, I honestly believe we wouldn’t be in this mess.

    So don’t blame me. I tried.

    I’m done now. I don’t know what else to say.

    The Agenda: Tasers, traffic, and cannabis

    Why do we keep hearing that the cops need yet another weapon?

    The San Francisco Police Department hasn’t by any means given up on getting Tasers — apparently, Chief William Scott is a big fan of the zapping weapons. The Commission has declined to approve the request in the past, but it’s back — and there will be two key public hearings in the next two weeks.

    The SFPD refuses to give up on Tasers

    The first one, Tuesday/12, is at Bill Graham Auditorium at 6pm. The second one is Tuesday/19, at the City College Phelan Campus Student Union, Lower Level. The department wants you to sign up in advance, which you can do here.

    The cops say that Tasers will help them avoid shooting and killing people, which they’ve done a lot in the past few years. If there’s a “less lethal” alternative, they argue, it makes sense to have it available.

    But some of the shootings we’ve seen were instances where even a Taser would have been inappropriate, where the situation could have been deescalated without any sort of excessive force. 

    And, of course, Tasers can be lethal, particularly if they are used incorrectly — and sometimes, even if they are used correctly.

    Some critics also note that if cops have Tasers, they will use them — not as an alternative to a pistol but as an alternative to calming down, avoiding violence, and finding alternatives. Lots of people are going to get zapped — not just those who present a deadly threat. Tasers, critics have found, become a crutch.

    It’s going to take a lot of community resistance to keep the stun guns out of the SFPD. That starts Tuesday night.


    The One Oak issue is back at the Board of Supes Tuesday/12, after Sup. London Breed held a series of meetings with the project sponsors, city planners, and Jason Henderson, who filed an appeal of the environmental impact report.

    At issue is not just one 304-unit condo building; the decisions around how the city analyzes traffic impacts could affect Muni service all over the city.

    The developer will no doubt offer some concessions, including more affordable housing, but the supes might want to ask a few questions about the existing deal. The developer has given three lots in the Octavia corridor to the city and will underwrite the construction of at least 70 units there — but some critics are raising questions about the financing. Is Build Inc, the project sponsor, really going to fund 100 percent of the cost of building those 70 units (at least $40 million)? I don’t see that amount of cash in any of the documents on file so far.

    The hearing’s at 3pm, unless the parties reach a deal and it’s called off.


    Sup. Malia Cohen wants to stop the city from issuing medical cannabis permits for 45 days (and these interim controls tend to become year-long controls). She argues that the state is still figuring out how to deal with legalization — and so is the city’s cannabis office. Will existing medical dispensaries get permits to sell to anyone over 21? How will the city issue licenses for new permits to sell recreational weed?

    The problem, as the Small Business Commission points out in an Aug. 22 letter to the board, is that there are 27 applications for MCD permits that are already under review by the Planning Commission. Those applicants played by the rules, put up a substantial amount of time and money into their applications, and, that commission argues, they should at least get a hearing and a chance to get a permit.

    The city has 39 dispensaries. Some of them may apply for permits to sell recreational cannabis. This, I suppose, is alarming to some people. But according to a quick check with the the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, there are 89 active permits to sell booze in a retail outlet just in my zip code, 94110. There are another 53 in 94117 (the Haight) and 42 in 94114 (Castro).

    The Sunset, which seems to be adamantly opposed to any cannabis dispensaries, has more than 50 off-sale liquor licenses.

    In other words, the number of outlets that can sell you a bottle of bourbon is vastly greater than the number that can, or with current applicants, possibly could, sell you cannabis, which by many accounts is far less dangerous than alcohol.

    Just something to think about.

    Cohen’s moratorium bill is at Land Use and Transportation Monday/11 at 1:30 pm.