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UncategorizedThe Agenda, June 22-28: Housing bonds, the cost of...

The Agenda, June 22-28: Housing bonds, the cost of more cops, the cost of growth ….

… And some highlights of Pride Weekend — a guide to the upcoming week in politics

SF cops train at the Police Academy: How many more officers do we need, and who will pay the cost? (Photo SFPD)
SF cops train at the Police Academy: How many more officers do we need, and who will pay the cost? (Photo SFPD)

By Tim Redmond

JUNE 22, 2015 – Like developers, mayors don’t always make their best offer on the first round. Ed Lee originally offered a $250 million housing bond, saying that’s what the city could afford without raising taxes. (Why San Francisco – San Francisco, in this exceptionally wealthy era – is afraid of talking about tax increases continues to boggle me.)

But that’s where we are, and the mayor won’t go for anything resembling what the city needs, because property owners might reject it – and remember, bond acts need two-thirds to pass.

So we started with $250 mil. Then a thousand of so folks from the Mission flooded City Hall and a moratorium on market-rate development almost passed, and the mayor upped the stakes a bit, saying he had found a way to increase the bond act to $300 million and would earmark $50 million for affordable housing in the Mission.

(That might, maybe, build 100 units. Not nothing, but really, not enough to even begin solving the problem.)

So then Sups. Avalos, Campos, and Mar came up with an alternative plan for a $350 million act, and the showdown was set for last week. But apparently the mayor didn’t want to risk losing (although he had six cosponsors of his measure) so the matter was delayed a week to allow all parties to discuss things.

Now it comes back to the board, Tuesday/23, with some sort of compromise possible – but as of press time (I love using that term for a digital daily) I am told there’s still no deal. So there might be two competing bond proposals, with the supes in the center having to vote for less money for housing (looks bad) or rejecting the mayor.

But no matter what, the final deal will be better than what the mayor first put forward. Which is a lesson we need to remind ourselves of every day.



Then we’ve got the Scott Wiener/Malia Cohen/Mark Farrell plan to increase the number of police officers on the streets every time the city’s population increases.

Considering that regional governing agencies want SF to accept 280,000 more people in the next 30 years, that’s a whole lot more cops – and a huge amount more expense.

Before we get to the larger policy question – do more cops really mean better public safety? – let’s just do the numbers for a second.

To get from the 1,730 officers we have today to the “more than 2,200” that Wiener and Cohen want means adding 470 more sworn officers. At a cost of $175,000 a year each. That’s another $82.2 million – a year.

We’re at about one officer for every 375 people today. At that rate, you’d need 750 more cops to cover the projected population increase, at a cost of another $131 million – a year.

Where does that money come from? Well, it’s pretty clear, and has been clear for decades, that growth in housing development doesn’t pay the costs of serving that development. Developers don’t pay even a fraction of what it costs to bring them Muni service, much less police and fire.

So that $82.2 Wiener and Cohen are asking for now, and the more than a quarter of a billion a year that would be needed to keep up without our projected growth, will come out of the pockets of ordinary taxpayers.

Or else it will mean cuts in other services.

Police officers are expensive, like prisons, and there are some who argue that more cops aren’t the best or most cost-efficient way to fight crime.

Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi says the city can save a lot of money by using existing law-enforcement resources in a more efficient way – but he’s getting little support from the mayor or SFPD.

When this was up at the Land Use and Transportation Committee, Sup. Jane Kim dissented, saying that she wasn’t convinced that there’s a straight line correlation between more cops and better public safety. That’s worthy of discussion, since the Wiener/Cohen resolution identifies no funding source for this huge new expense.

And it comes back to one of the critical issues the city is facing today: Who pays the costs of growth? So far, it’s not the people who are making big profits from that growth.


That issue – or at least a variation on it – will come up at the City Planning Commission Thursday/25. The commissioners will hear a presentation on the Central Soma Plan – and how much it’s “feasible” to ask developers to pay for community benefits:

Discussion of the economically feasible amount that new development can contribute to public benefits, the amount and type of public benefits that could be funded by these contributions. This information will facilitate future conversations about what benefits the Plan will be able to provide, the potential tradeoffs that will need to be considered, and what additional resources may be necessary to meet our benefit goals.

Let’s parse that for a second, particularly the phrase “what benefits the Plan will be able to provide.” That’s one way to look at development – gee, what can the money people give us?

Another way is to ask: What do we need to accommodate growth? And once you have that answer, you tell the developers: This is what you have to pay, or you can’t build. Why should Central Soma – or any neighborhood – have to beg and scramble for money to mitigate development? If the costs to the city of a new project exceed the benefits, the answer should be: No.


Room 400, City Hall. Meeting starts at noon.


So many Pride Week events, and Marke B. will be telling you about all the glam and parties and fun … but here’s a few big moments:

The Trans March is, in the words of my friend Gabriel Haaland, “sponsored by no corporations.” It’s a grassroots event, getting bigger every year, and this year’s theme is “Power Through Visibility.” Friday/26, Noon, 18th and Dolores.

The installation of the Pink Triangle on Twin Peaks is kind of a weekend kickoff, and there’s always a need for volunteers. People will start to gather at 7am Saturday/27; bring hammers and work gloves. Wear long pants and closed-toe shoes; don’t forget the sunscreen. More info here; the official unveiling is at 10:30.

The Dyke March (and the pre-rally events, and the rally, and the after parties) fill the afternoon of Sat/27. The opening prayer is at 11am, the rally at Dolores Park starts at noon, the march starts at 3pm at Dolores and 18th. Details and more info here.

And of course, the Parade. Sunday/28. 10:30am. Market St.

Also: Don’t miss Pullin’ Pork for Pride, sponsored by the Harvey Milk Club and 48hills. Wednesday/24, 6:30pm-9:30pm, $15 for all the beer you can drink, Carnitas from Casa Sanchez, prizes and much more! The Pilsner Inn, 225 Church. More info here.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond
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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