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UncategorizedThe changing politics of the Mayor's Office and the...

The changing politics of the Mayor’s Office and the deeper meaning of the District Three appointment

Rose Pak talks with Sup. John Avalos outside the Campos Election Night party
Rose Pak talks with Sup. John Avalos outside the Campos Election Night party

By Tim Redmond

NOVEMBER 12, 2014 – There are plenty of names circulating, and lots more crazy rumors flying around, about the mayor’s likely choice to replace Sup. David Chiu.

But the decision will be more than a simple appointment – it will be a sign of where the Mayor’s Office is going in an election year and a signal of whether Mayor Ed Lee has essentially abandoned the folks who brung him to the dance in favor of the tech industry and real estate.

The old Ed Lee crew – the folks who convinced him to go back on his promise and run for the office and who worked hard to get him elected – are mostly united around Cindy Wu. Those are the Chinatown leaders Lee used to listen to – Gordon Chinn, Rose Pak, people at the Chinatown Community Development Center. Wu works for CCDC and is widely respected in the community. If this were Ed Lee circa 2011, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.

But Lee’s alliances have changed in the past couple of years. Now Ron Conway and the techno riche have his ear, along with the real-estate developers – and they aren’t fans of Cindy Wu.

Wu voted to pass Chiu’s Airbnb legislation on to the Board of Supervisors, but only after demanding a bunch of changes that never got made. She’s voted against developers and real-estate interests and seems to understand that building market-rate housing isn’t doing anything for the affordability crisis.

That makes her unqualified for the support of the Barons of Tech and Real Estate.

Rose Pak used to be seen as the power behind Ed Lee – but she backed David Campos over Chiu (when I saw her at the Campos party on Election Night, she told me “to know David Chiu is not to trust him”) and wasn’t happy that Lee endorsed Chiu.

But he wasn’t listening to her – he was listening to Conway, who is a big investor in Airbnb. Chiu let Airbnb get away with not paying some $25 million in back taxes; Campos would have mandated the collection of those taxes before legalizing short-term rentals.

That was one sign that the old Ed Lee crew is falling out of favor.

Here’s another: The Chron notes

Lee is being pressured by some in his inner circle to look at other candidates considered more moderate or business-friendly. They include Julie Christensen, a neighborhood activist and product design consultant whose advocacy included the construction of the new North Beach Library, and Christine Pelosi, a Democratic Party strategist and the daughter of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.

Christine Pelosi? Seriously? She’s never done much of anything in D3, and a lot of longtime activists in that part of town say they’ve never seen her and didn’t even know she lived there. That would be, as they say, a “stretch.”

Julie Christensen is better known and has some roots in the neighborhood, and would probably be acceptable to the Tech Barons.

There may be others out there; who knows what Lee will do. We won’t know until January – Lee by most accounts won’t appoint a D3 supervisor until after the new year, allowing that person to serve two full terms plus the rest of Chiu’s term.

But this much is clear: If he rejects Wu (who moved into the district a year ago in part because she was a natural for this job) and goes with someone Ron Conway likes, it will be a dramatic change in the politics of Room 200. It will be a confirmation that the Old Ed Lee is gone and that Conway and his allies have taken full control of the Mayor’s Office.

I will also, along the way, create an opening for another mayoral candidate who might even find support among Lee’s former allies.

Tim Redmond
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.
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45 COMMENTS

  1. Lee is popular because the economy is doing well. That is much more important to a majority of voters than any amount of ideological baggage that progressives like to wallow in.

    Lee’s top three priorities when running for office were jobs, jobs and jobs. And he has delivered on that promise by halving the city’s unemployment rate.

    A leader who delivers on his promise and boosts the local economy is always going to be much more popular than any leader who merely panders to a narrow left-wing constituency, as we saw with the successive defeats of Avalos, Quan and Campos at the polls.

  2. Lee cannot be trusted. He will do whatever he sees as more politically expedient. I can’t understand why his ratings are so high; he is a slimeball. Just look at his (lack of) role with CCSF. He did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING until very late in the game when it looked like the college was gaining some more powerful support. Then he offered some too little, too late words of support.

  3. What I meant by “long term” was that I envisage it lasting a long time. The actual leases are six months at a time. But in practice a month’s notice either way would not be a problem.

    I am not aware of any legal issue with this – that is exactly why I am doing it. It’s not a commercial lease because it is residential in nature. And it’s not a short-term stay, as defined by the city, because the lease extends beyond 30 days and because each rotating resident typically stays a few months.

    Moreover it is not clear to me what rule or law the city could pass to stop this.

  4. “I sign a long-term lease with the employers but can end it at any time.”

    ???

    I thought the nature of a lease (specially ‘long term’) is that both parties are bound by its terms.

    This almost sounds (forgive me) like ‘tenant control’ for the LL.

    Also, I seem to recall some legal problems with the setup – ok only as long as no one looks too closely.

    At any rate, I admire your spirit nevertheless.

  5. That’s exactly my thinking as well.
    My neighbor does the identical thing with a technology firm and seems to work well for her.

  6. MAP became supe because Angela endorsed Newsom over Gonzalez in 2003 and Newsom appointing MAP was payback. That is all.

  7. I agree with Becky. MAP became a supe 30 years after Joe Alioto had been mayor, and Angela Alioto was a known political figure but not a very formidable one. I don’t think people were thinking of a ‘dynasty’. I think that to many people who weren’t deep in the details, MAP was a young woman in a wheelchair navigating her way among the other supervisors.

  8. Meh. Everything is a lot easier when you are born into money, privilege and connections. Including being a mom -she has money for nannies and sitters and caregivers, and still didn’t bother to show up to half the BOS meetings.

    Deciding at age 28 to move to a different county and run for congress, because the place where she actually lived was already taken by an entrenched incumbent… well one can look at that two ways. One can say how amazing it is to do that, but to me it just smacks of privilege and entitlement.

    And how did she get that job working for Gore? Did she do some amazing organizing? We know it wasn’t her brilliant intellect. Would she have gotten that job if her name wasn’t Alioto? Nice work if you can get it.

    Nah… I think it makes for a much stronger story when one didn’t grow up in privilege. Take a guy like David Campos, who came to this country undocumented, overcame homophobia, poverty, having to learn English as a second language, and somehow made it into Harvard Law. The guy is sharp as a tack, not dumb as nails. To me, that’s a lot more compelling.

  9. Well I think that Ron Conway once said that he wanted to destroy the SF Progressive movement (and this was back when it was only teetering). So I think that it is more than just a generic hatred of anything that brings wealth into the city.

    BTW, the $25 million figure that Tim uses is also a fabrication (Steven Jones used to say $1.8 million). I think they took the estimate of $11 million a year going forward, applied it to the past two years (which assumes no growth over that period) and then rounded up a couple of million.

    …and then they wonder why they have zero credibility.

  10. Trust of a candidate has nothing to do with GOTV, most often voters are mobilized out of fear, frequently they are mobilized out of greed.

  11. Chui makes good points but, moving on as we must, and speaking of tech, I can predict the next shit-storm like this.

    I did Airbnb-like short-term rentals for many years with some of my units. This was, of course, to immunize myself against the excesses of rent control. But it was also because I enjoy turnover because I get to meet lots of different people, and because of the flexibility it offers.

    But in recent years I have refined this. As the whole Airbnb paranoia gained momentum, I switched tack as I always like to stay ahead of these things. I noticed that many of my short-term tenants were tech workers moving here, and so I went to the tech employers directly and offered them units so that they could swap in and out their new recruits as they arrived.

    The results have been fantastic. I sign a long-term lease with the employers but can end it at any time. They rotate employees through the unit but, since the stays are invariably more than one month, the whole TOT thing doesn’t apply. I get paid without a hitch and rarely have to deal with a problem.

    Moreover rent control really doesn’t apply either because the “tenant” is a corporate entity who is not using the place as a principle residence. I can raise rents as I wish and end the contract as needed.

    And the beauty of it is that neither rent control nor these new Airbnb rules apply. My leases are fully compliant with SF law and, moreover, I do not believe that the city can touch these types of deals.. And I have the personal satisfaction of helping new immigrants to our great country and our great city.

    There is always a way.

  12. No, my assertion was merely part of the refutation of your original assertion:

    “Results at the ballot box have nothing to do with trust”.

    Any over-generalization like that is screaming to be debunked and so I obliged. It’s not personal – more educational.

  13. On Chiu, AirBnB, and such:
    I didn’t see it covered here, but Chiu published an Op/Ed piece two days before th elections, here:
    http://techcrunch.com/2014/11/01/san-franciscos-short-term-rental-solution/

    A few observations:
    – Chiu published this in TechCrunch, of all places, not any general readership outlet, like the Chronicle. I can’t see it as anything but a very targeted last-minute campaign piece.I don’t know what motivated it, but perhaps an internal poll showed that support among techies was softer than they would have liked. It seems surprising, but there you have it.
    – Chiu makes a case for the amount due being considerably lower than the oft-quoted $25m, which he sources back to an estimate by one reporter. I can’t judge the validity of his argument one way or another, but
    There is no other solid figure of back taxes owed mentioned here. AirBnB has been front and center for a year now. Can the city give a figure of how much, if any, is owed in back taxes by AirBnB and/or its subcontractors (“hosts”)?
    – Chiu reasserts that the city treasurer “has all the legal authority he needs to pursue back and future taxes”. The linked statement by treasurer Cisneros says…
    – nothing.

  14. The skiing accident. Working for Gore. Disabled mom and politician. The mom part alone would earn points for personal story – that stuff’s hard on two feet let alone sitting down all the time.

    You may dismiss it because she comes from money but compare what’s she’d chosen to do to some of the other candidates and supervisors and there’s no question she’s faced challenges that others haven’t. Spend a couple of weeks in a wheelchair, it’ll give one a different perspective about what is hard in life.

    By the way, I’m not a fan of her as politician, disagreed with most of her policy reasoning, and found her ideas for the City to be misguided to the point of delirium. Everyone I know thinks she’s, how does one say, not overly burdened by intellectual weight. That was also my experience.

    But I do respect people who are given hard circumstances and still choose to try to make a difference. When he was on the MTA, I disagreed with much of what Bruce Oka said but, damn, a person has to respect the time and energy he’s put into the civic realm. I put her in the same category.

  15. Love your stuff Becky. You always have some good analysis (for a conservative).

    Just curious about one thing though… what exactly is MAP’s “strong personal story?” That she skied into a tree at one point, or is there more to it than that? AFAIK, her story is that she grew up in privilege as the granddaughter of a San Francisco mayor, took up a recreational activity that most 13-year olds would be hard pressed to afford, took a wrong turn on the slopes, and then her wealthy family used their connections to get Ronald Reagan to appoint her as an international disability rep or something. Oh, and along the way she tried to move to Humbolt and run for congress.

    Powerful stuff. Am I missing something?

  16. There is nothing more to be said, Dave has said it all. Please folks don’t bring up to topic of Airbnb again, Your beating a dead horse to death.

  17. There is nothing more to be said, Dave has said it all. Please folks don’t bring up to topic of Airbnb again, Your beating a dead horse to death.

  18. Please provide evidence that it is not.

    You said trust had “nothing to do with it”. I only have to find one person for whom that was important and your statement is wrong.

    And it was important to me.

  19. Trust is a key factor that will lead voters to vote for one candidate over another. And much of any campaign is devoted to showing how one candidate is more trustworthy than his opponents.

    The trust in Chiu was broader, if not deeper, than in Campos because Chiu appealed to a broader base of the electorate. Campos just hoped his captive identity groups would carry him over the finishing line, and they were not.

    I “trusted” Campos to further the interests of his narrow identity groups but that isn’t the kind of trust I look for. I trust Chiu to better consider all the angles and parties.

    Anyway, no matter, it’s done and dusted.

  20. Results at the ballot box have nothing to do with trust and everything to do with how successful a campaign was at getting people to the polls to vote for a candidate.

  21. I’ll put in my 2¢ worth of speculation. This is not an either/or situation. Conway is more powerful than he was, and Pak flexed her muscles but lost a round. This doesn’t necessarily mean that she’ll be Lee’s sworn enemy forever, just that the power balance has changed, and that the political price she can charge for her support will be less. Both of them need each other, to various degrees. I doubt Pak has turned into such a selfless idealist that she’d be willing to fight Lee to the bitter end, if a more appealing agreement can be negotiated.

  22. How did this discussion thread get so off-topic? At least BeckyBayside brought the conversation back to BOS District 3. Frankly I think the rules should be changed regarding choosing a replacement. The mayor should only have authority to choose a successor following unexpected circumstances (replacing Ed Jew, for example). The affected district could hold a special election in a reasonable time frame, giving voters a chance to decide who might best represent their interests. Recent history has shown that the Chinese community in District 3 ihas a huge influence on who is elected mayor; it’s common knowledge in political circles that you can’t get elected without the Chinese vote. I hope Mr. Lee remembers that come 2015.

  23. By complaining and not taking advantage of the structural avenues for redress, Campos gets to have it both ways.

    How much of progressive politics involves the political equivalent of protesting against empty buildings while declining to blockade those buildings during business hours when it matters?

    Simulacra.

  24. The real test of determining who is trusted the most is at the ballot box, and the clear message there was that the people trust Chiu more than Campos.

    The only people who can trust Campos to take their interests into account are the narrow identity groups that Campos endlessly panders to at the expense of everyone else, and that’s a problem.

  25. This all seems silly. Wu has it. She asks questions and pushes a bit but seems to make sensible decisions and follows direction on the big stuff. She’s not the warmest person in the world and doesn’t have real history in the neighborhood but she has access to and can build a sufficient network to properly represent the district in City Hall.

    I do wonder whether she’d make a good candidate. Money and organization wouldn’t be a problem but connecting with voters might be, especially given her lack of history in that community. On the other hand, with the exception of Peskin, neighborhood candidates have done poorly in D3 since 2000’s start of District Voting Part 2.

    I also wonder if Wu can walk the fine line appeasing all sides – staying in graces with the mayor while keeping Pesky from drumming up a competitor. She certainly wasn’t the smoothest operator on the Planning Commission.

    Christine Pelosi is one of the most entitled people I’ve ever encountered and would be a terrible supervisor… almost laughable so. She’d be like Michela AP without the strong personal story. I’ve never met anyone at the staff level who had a kind word to say about her…ever. Very telling.

    Christensen runs hot and cold and has an overly inflated sense of self importance. She’s never struck me as someone who understands or cares about other people’s perspectives. She’s deeply involved in one part of the community but the breadth of her reach and interest seems limited.

    I just don’t seem them as viable candidates. I do see them as people who’s name I would float to a newspaper if I wanted straw men to make the progressives feel better about Wu. If so, mission accomplished Tiger.

  26. ROSIE!! (insert Bogart line here). I admit it, I’m starting to become fond of her. She’s always been a player, but largely in the background. She is demonstrating to me now that she has more than one dimension. And the quote about Chiu “…to know David Chiu is not to trust him.”—-priceless. Too bad she wasn’t spreading that far and wide BEFORE the election.

  27. Yes, there is something instructive here about the left in general. As much as they love ever more taxes, they hate successful enterprises even more.

    So the real aim here isn’t to collect revenue but to seize any and every opportunity to hurt a business. It’s like they would prefer that their neighbor lost than that they win. The word “spite” comes to mind.

    Airbnb is a popular successful business that helps ordinary people share their homes. But for some reason that makes them the devil on progressive island.

  28. Well then all the more reason that Campos should be calling for hearings to shed light on the fact that Cisneros isn’t doing his job.

    Campos is aware that companies (like AirBnb) just thumb their noses at Cisneros.

    So why doesn’t he do something about it? Don’t complain to Airbnb, complain to the city official who obviously isn’t doing his job. What other money isn’t he collecting?

    And if Cisneros only did the bidding of the oligarchs then why did he issue the original memo saying that Airbnb was jointly responsible with the hosts (the one where Tim and Campos conveniently leave out the part about the host’s responsibility).

    Any chance that you might be able to actually make some sense?

  29. Tim, feel free to lead the charge to collect those taxes from the homeowners who used AirBnB. The tax man said that both AirBnB and these people are jointly liable for the money. If getting the dough is so important, please feel free to go after both, but for you to only whine about AirBnB not paying is disingenous and shows that you don’t really care about the money, you just care about trying to stick it to AirBnB. And that’s tiresome.

    And I must say, I love how Rose Pak went from being Progressive Public Enemy #1, to now the voice of anti-Chiu reason. Who will replace Conway as the next boogieman?! Stay tuned and find out! Tim will let us know shortly.

  30. Greg, please furnish evidence that the tax collector is wilfully not collecting taxes from certain favored groups.

    If Airbnb aren’t being asked to pay these taxes it is because at the time they were not asked to collect them, and therefore do not have that money.

    So either the guests added the tax to the asking rent, and they are liable. Or the tax was never collected at all, in which case that money doesn’t exist.

    That situation was the result of uncertainty around the legality of short-term lets, and the city cannot be seen to be collecting taxes from illegal enterprises. But now Airbnb is legal and now the taxes are being collected.

    This situation is quite clear and simple if you just suspend your biases and think about the facts.

  31. “…his name is José Cisneros. He is elected by the people and not beholden to anyone else.”

    LOL! Thanks for the 6th grade civics lesson! Now here’s the reality: Cisneros is a hack, handpicked by Gavin Newsom, who understands that as long as he does the bidding of the oligarchs who own this city, he can be assured of politburo style single candidate elections. But the minute he stops serving them, they will run someone against him and his career will go up in smoke.

  32. “Chiu let Airbnb get away with not paying some $25 million in back taxes; Campos would have mandated the collection of those taxes before legalizing short-term rentals.”

    You guys need to give up on this one…it didn’t work. Sorry. Try something else.

    We have a tax collector, his name is José Cisneros. He is elected by the people and not beholden to anyone else. He called the Campos amendment superfluous and unnecessary.There is nothing in the Airbnb bill that says that any past taxes are forgiven.

    If David Campos thinks that companies like AirBnb can just thumb their noses and safely ignore Cisneros then he needs to call for some hearings. If he thinks that Cisneros can be bullied by people like Ron Conway then he has every opportunity and responsibility to shed some light on the failure of José Cisneros to do his job.

    But he won’t do that.

    You guys are going to continue to lose and lose and whine and lose and moan and lose and thrown tantrums indefinitely unless you give people some credit for not being idiots.

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