Will the supes fix the Airbnb law — and will a Google lawyer throw a disabled tenant out of her home?
By Tim Redmond
JUNE 8, 2015 – You can look forward to another heated Board of Supes meeting Tuesday/9 when an Airbnb reform measure comes up for a vote.
There’s plenty else on the agenda, too: The mayor will be there at 2pm to take a softball question from Sup. Julie Christensen on affordable housing. Three measures limiting sugar-sweetened beverages, by Sups. Eric Mar, Scott Wiener, and Malia Cohen are up for a vote, and lobbyists from the beverage industry have been all over City Hall to stop them. (The measure would ban ads for this stuff on city property, ban city departments from buying the crap, and requiring warning labels on all cans and bottles sold in the city.)
Avalos and Mar also have a measure mandating the disclosure of daily appointment calendars of all city officials, and Sup. London Breed has a measure that would streamline some disclosure requirements – a plan that many ethics advocates are dubious about.
Airbnb is probably the biggest single item, though, and it will be a showcase of the power of the tech industry and its lobbyists and friends, including the mayor.
Almost every tenant group, most of the landlord groups, the hotel workers union, and others are pushing for the reforms to a law that anyone with any sense can tell you simply isn’t working.
Airbnb has hired the lobbying firm Ground Floor Public Affairs, run by Alex Tourk, a former Gavin Newsom staffer.
Tourk was present at a fundraiser March 25 for Sup. Julie Christensen, where five member of the family of Ron Conway, a big investor in Airbnb, gave the maximum $500 to her campaign. The event was heavy with the tech industry (Sean and Alexandra Parker, Biz Stone, Stewart Alsop) and brought in $21,000.
(Neither Christensen nor her opponent Aaron Peskin will have to file full reports on campaign contributions for another month – but under city rules, lobbyists have to file reports every quarter. And since Tourk was listed on the invite (along with, he says, some 20 others), and is a registered lobbyist, he had to list every contribution and the source on his disclosure report for the first quarter of 2015)
Tourk told me that he only invited a handful of people, none of whom could make it, and “those who donated at the event were invited on another co-host’s behalf.” He did contribute $500.)
Christensen wasn’t on the board the last time Airbnb came up, so she has no record on the issue.
The mayor has his own competing Airbnb legislation, not at the board this week, which is much weaker.
The American Beverage Association has hired Sam Lauter, of the powerhouse firm Barnes Mosher Whitehurst Lauter, and according to filings with the Ethics Commission, he has already been to see Wiener, Christensen, and Sups. London Breed, Norman Yee, and Mark Farrell to discuss the soda regulations.
Google Lawyer Jack Halprin has been trying to evict all of the tenants at a house he owns on Guerrero Street, and while some are still in court fighting, Rebecca Bauknight, who is disabled, was unable to file the proper paperwork – and the sheriff is slated to drag her out of her studio apartment at 6am Wednesday/10.
From the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project:
Due to Becky’s disabilities, she has been unable to file necessary paperwork on time for a second hearing and motion to quash her eviction.
While Halprin has appealed the rest of the tenants’
motion to quash their eviction, thus propelling all tenants at 812
Guerrero into an ongoing struggle to fight for their home, Becky is supposed to be dragged out of her studio apartment by Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi at 6am this coming Wednesday.
Becky’s neighbor Claudia Tirado surmises that if Becky is forced out of her home this Wednesday that she will have nowhere to go and will be forced to live on the streets. As she says, “Eviction processes are cruel enough to begin with, but evictions of people with disabilities are even worse.”
Unless Halprin rescinds the eviction notice, tenant advocates will be out in numbers to try to block the forced removal.
Port Commission Member Mel Murphy hasn’t shown up for a single commission meeting since City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit against him, and while the mayor has called on him to resign, Murphy has refused.
On June 1, waterfront activist Jon Golinger formally asked the mayor to remove Murphy from office, on the grounds that, by failing to show up, he’s neglecting his official duties.
The mayor’s office response: “On April 21, 2015, Mel Murphy submitted a note from his doctor that excused him from attending Port Commission meeting for three months due to medical concerns.”
The idea of a moratorium on market-rate housing in the Mission isn’t that radical — in fact, it’s happened three times since 2000 — and gave the city a chance to do some planning without any disastrous consequences.
Tony Kelly, a longtime land-use activist who lives in Potrero Hill, explains in an Examiner oped:
The word “moratorium” may sound extreme, but the proposed Mission Moratorium of 2015 really isn’t that much different than the interim controls of 2001. If you’re opposed to interim controls, you’re really opposed to the entire notion of zoning and urban planning….
A new Mission Moratorium on market-rate housing doesn’t create new affordable housing by itself; neither did the other three. But history tells us that it can help in two ways. As an interim control, it would calm the current feeding frenzy of development in the Mission, while new proposals are created and approved to (finally) correct past planning errors, prevent evictions and build affordable housing. And like a picket line or a boycott, it is also a clear and unmistakable signal to City Hall that business-as-usual cannot continue at the Planning Department and in the City’s neighborhoods.
And why I hate Comcast, still and again: The human race survived before there was high-speed broadband and cable TV, and I should be able to survive for a few hours, too. Except that I run an online daily newspaper, and work from home a lot.
But the fact that my Comcast service was down for a few hours the other night isn’t really the issue. I could have gone to a café. I could have waited until morning to post a story or two. I could have turned off the computer and TV and read a good book, which is what I did. Life isn’t so bad without constant media.
What got me, though, and always gets me about our local cable and broadband monopoly, is that when things like this go wrong, you can’t communicate with anyone at Comcast.
When the service went down, I called the number on my bill, and was told by a machine that too many people were calling, and there was no way I would ever get through to a human. Instead, the robot told me, I should go to the Comcast web site to see if there were outages in my area.
Wait: My Internet service is down. That’s why I was calling. If I could have gone to the Comcast web site, this wouldn’t be an issue, right?
I could have used my smartphone – except that I live in Bernal, where cell phone service is often so bad that we care barely have a conversation, and the only way I can use my phone to get to a website is through my home wi-fi … which connects to Comcast.
I guess I shouldn’t complain: The last time I called another competing broadband operation, which serves a house my family owns on the East Coast, I was told it would cost $5 to speak to a human being.
And you know what? I am so sick of robots and computerized voice systems that I paid it.