Plus: Some crucial campaign-reform issues — and what will be the fate of the Ethics Commission? (UPDATED)
By Tim Redmond
JUNE 1, 2015 – The vocal debate that took place at the DCCC last week moves to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday/2 when a Committee of the Whole will hear the Mission moratorium proposal.
The measure needs nine votes to pass, and already, Sups. Scott Wiener and Mark Farrell have come out against it. That means all the remaining members have to vote yes.
There is plenty of political pressure. The mayor doesn’t like the idea at all. The developers, of course, hate it. And groups like SFBARF, which wants to build everywhere until SF looks like Hong Kong, and GrowSF, which wants more infill housing, second units, etc., were present in some numbers last week to make the case against the moratorium.
The Chron came out against the measure, no surprise there, and Sups. David Campos and Scott Wiener had a lively discussion about it on KQED Forum.
Wiener kept repeating the same line that the Chron had: The city needs to keep building more and more housing “at all levels.” As if allowing more private-market construction could possibly be part of that solution.
It won’t: The private market today only builds for the very rich, because that’s where the money is. The city can get housing “at all levels” only through spending public money or strictly regulating what gets built.
Campos said that “government has a role” in this housing crisis. I would go further: Government has the only role. The private market has utterly failed to provide what the city needs.
Not that all new housing has to be publicly funded – but all new housing that isn’t publicly funded has to meet city standards, including way more than the current 12 percent required affordability.
And if it takes a time out to get there, the world won’t end.
That said, the Campos plan has an uphill political struggle. If one, only one, of the uncommitted supes votes no, it’s over, and this winds up on the November ballot.
Interesting to note that the measure went down at the DCCC – but only narrowly, with some of the more centrist members of that panel voting to support it. There is clearly strong support for this, certainly on the east side of town – and I think some folks on the west side will agree with the argument that the neighborhoods ought to have some say in their fate.
I count five Yes votes — Campos, John Avalos, Eric Mar, Jane Kim, and Norman Yee. We know where Wiener and Farrell are. That leaves London Breed, Malia Cohen, Katy Tang, and Julie Christensen.
Tough for Breed, who will likely face a challenge from tenant advocate Dean Preston. Touch for Christensen, who is facing a challenge from former Sup. Aaron Peskin. People in Cohen’s district are starting to say they want a similar moratorium.
I look forward to the debate. I look forward to someone (please) saying that the private market is not going to build middle-class housing no matter how much upzoning and CEQA reform you do. And I look forward to someone saying that “housing at all levels” is a complete myth, absent serious, strict, and far-reaching government action.
Which, of course, is what the moratorium is about.
The hearing is set for 3pm in the Board chambers.
A project that would create new market-rate SRO hotel rooms – testing whether young tech workers will accept SRO conditions and pay well above the standard rate for rooms with shared baths and no kitchens – come before the Planning Commission Thursday/4.
The deal is complicated, but in the end, the developer wants to replace 238 rent-controlled housing units with new units that won’t be under rent control. It’s a screwy deal, and could set a bad precedent for the conversion of low-rent units to high-rent replacements.
UPDATED: My mistake — the conversion of existing SROs is now off the table, and the project is being evaluated on its own, although as BeyondChron reports in an extensive story on the project,
The project sponsor will presumably seek Planning Commission approval of the conversion plan after the project is moving forward, since significant funds have been transferred from the SRO owners to the developer for the conversion. In addition, the original developer who arranged the conversion/replacement housing plan has a second group of SROs ready to go with a similar project.
The press attention at the Tuesday BOSA meeting will all be on the Mission Moratorium, but there’s another item that might have a significant political impact: The board will vote on a proposal to impose full financial disclosure requirements on committees that seek to encourage someone to run for office.
That most famous recent example: The “Run Ed Run” committee, which not only urged Mayor Lee to run for a full term, but promoted his candidacy – and never told us who was paying the bills. The bill to expand disclosure to those groups is sponsored by Sups. John Avalos and Eric Mar.
The Ethics Commission holds a special hearing on Friday to look at another issue involving the mayor – the role of so-called “candidate controlled committees.” Here’s the rundown from Larry Bush at Friends of Ethics:
The special hearing on candidate-controlled committees brings to San Francisco Bob Stern, author of the state’s Political Reform Act and first head of the state Fair Political Practices Commission. His credentials on ethics, campaign reform and related matters is second to none. Joining on the panel is Corey Cook from USF’s McCarthy Center. At issue is the fact that elected officials can set up committees that accept contributions in any amount and from any source, unlike their own campaign committees, and then act on behalf of the interests of the donors. The major example is the Mayor Ed Lee for San Francisco Committee that has accepted in excess of $600,000 since starting in 2012 with a $25,000 contribution from Ron Conway, who weeks later won Lee’s support for his tax rewrite. The issue before the commission is whether there should be restrictions on some donors, like those with pending financial interests, or a cap like the $500 limit, or no change at all. In 1990, SF voters approved with over 80% support a law that prohibited contributions etc. if the city official had approved a contract, lease, franchise, land use variance special tax benefit or monetary payment. That version puts the onus on the official not to accept the contributions, etc., but doesn’t seem to speak to pending issues. The city’s regular candidate committee law simply bans contributions from contractors or corporations or their officers or directors. So two ways to go, and both have major loopholes.
Oh, and Ethics is going to start talking about a replacement for John St. Croix, who is leaving the job of executive director as of Aug. 27. The commission has been weak for years, and St. Croix never made it a point to push political reform (or to enforce the existing laws with any type of aggressiveness.) The five-member panel has a chance to go in a completely different direction and turn the agency into a leader in the field. Or it could punt, and replace St. Croix with someone who has a similar approach.
The decision is still a ways off, but the public ought to let the commissioners know what type of person the city needs to lead this crucial watchdog agency.