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News + Politics The Agenda, Aug. 17-23: Is the Left moving to...

The Agenda, Aug. 17-23: Is the Left moving to the Right?

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Or does the Chron, once again, have the whole thing completely wrong?

1,000 people take over City Hall? Does that sound like the Left is moving to the Center?
1,000 people take over City Hall? Does that sound like the Left is moving to the Center?

By Tim Redmond

AUGUST 17, 2015 – Just got back from upstate New York, where all the pizza is good, most of the wings are exceptional, the rivers and lakes are all brimming with cold fresh water … and nobody is catching any bass (is it the explosion in the Comorant population or the fact that the St. Lawrence River froze 80 percent solid over the winter? The locals have plenty of theories).

I survived the trip back with two observations:

  1. The major US airlines no longer have any interest whatsoever in customer service. They schedule and sell flights that have such tight connections that the slightest glitch leaves everyone stranded (and you can’t take the next flight or the next one, since they were already overbooked). They are unwilling to hire enough staff to handle the crush of customers who can’t possibly rebook flights. They hit you with an extra fee to check baggage – then tell you there isn’t enough room for your carry-on. They charge $7 for a warm can of Bud Light. And we aren’t even getting bargain fares.
  2. The major airports of the United States haven’t figured out that the single most important thing travelers want these days in not an overpriced neck message or a $12 shot of bourbon or a golf shop (who buys golf balls at an airport?). What we want is … electricity. In Philly, in Phoenix, in LA (yeah, a saga getting home) we saw hordes of people fighting for a place to plug in their laptops, kindles, phones … you know, the stuff that distracts us and keeps us from going crazy while we wait for an hour on the runway with nothing to drink and the seat-belt sign on … and it’s like looking for a parking space in North Beach.

I literally had five people hovering around me as I prepared to unplug my phone from a rare floor outlet at Sky Harbor. I thought they might come to blows over who got a chance at the juice.

There are massive, serious, problems facing America that are really hard to solve. This one is easy. So easy. Just hire an electrical contractor to run wires to a string of outlets near each waiting area.

Every café in San Francisco has figured this out. You would think that the airports, which spend millions on marketing, could pay for an extension cord or two.

But no: The airports, and the airlines, treat us like cattle, ready to be packed into pens for shipping. And we all just take it.

You have to wonder: Given how crappy the service of the private carriers is, how come the United States is one of the few developed countries that lacks its own national airline?

 

City Hall, or at least the policy-making side, pretty much shuts down in August. The supes are in recess. The Planning Commission doesn’t meet. But the fall campaigns are in full swing, and so is the political analysis. Such as it is.

When I first started working at the Bay Guardian, back in 1981, Bruce Brugmann gave me some sage advice. “The Chronicle loves to run stories saying that the Left is in disarray,” he said. “If we paid any attention to that, we’d never get anywhere.”

So this weekend C.W Nevius says that the Left in San Francisco is out of touch with the city’s move to the center. Actually, the headline is sorta bizarre: “Political Left in SF is shifting toward the center.” Huh?

The point of his column, of course, is that the current Democratic County Central Committee “represents the new San Francisco more clearly than lefty theorists whose idea of a sensible solution to the housing shortage is to stop building housing.”

I have already spent way too much time explaining why the private market can’t possibly meet SF’s housing needs. Nevius would rather dismiss that all with one trite phrase. But the notion that the DCCC, as it is today, represents the city misses a couple of key points

Chuck’s colleague, Willie Brown (of all people) makes one of them very nicely:

My guess is that half of the people on the committee who voted for Christensen either work for the city or sit on city commissions.

Or work for the Board of Realtors, or work for Airbnb’s political operation, or have other conflicts that make this anything but a real grassroots party panel. The corporate interests have taken over the local Democratic Party.

But here’s what really annoying from Nevius:

So, you’d think a savvy progressive politician would put his finger in the air, sense that the political winds are changing and adjust the message accordingly.

In other words, the progressives are supposed to give up on what they believe and go along with the local oligarchy just to get elected. Funny: The politicians who do that are largely responsible for most of what is wrong with this country today.

And the guy we used to call What the Fuck Chuck wants more of that?

Meanwhile, Randy Shaw (full disclosure, Randy and I do not always agree on local politics) has a completely different take:

From battling Ellis evictions and promoting affordable housing to this week’s turnout of over 100 bike activists to an SFPD Park Station hearing on stop sign enforcement, San Francisco activism is on the rise.

How can activism be increasing if, as many claim, the city is now dominated by young techies whose lives are spent in front of computers? And if the Mission has been completely gentrified and “hollowed,” where did these tenant activists come from?

The answer, of course, is that the “death” of the economically diverse Mission and of San Francisco’s progressive policies has been greatly exaggerated.

There is no doubt that the massive displacement of working-class people has had an impact on local politics. Just ask Mike Casey, longtime head of Local 2, the hotel workers union, who points out that it’s almost impossible to get people who live in Antioch to come to a union rally after work.

But at the same time, we are seeing huge numbers of people who didn’t see themselves as activists a few years ago fighting for their homes, and even their lives, as they face a level of displacement at a level far beyond anything we’ve seen in modern San Francisco history (or probably in the recent history of any other American city).

I don’t think this diverse group of terrified tenants looks at Mayor Ed Lee and sees a savior. I think they see the need for dramatic change at City Hall.

 

I’ve already written about the remarkable performance piece Eliana Lopez, wife of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, put on at that Marsh this summer. Now the show’s been picked up by the Victoria Theater for a run that begins Friday/21 and ends Sept. 6.

The theater’s at 2961 16th Street, and tickets are $35. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.

 

And while we’re talking about political theater, Amy Farah Weiss, who is running for mayor under the (unusual) banner of YIMBY (Yes in My Back Yard), is upset that the pundits have said Mayor Lee’s re-election will be a “cakewalk.” So she’s doing an actual cakewalk, with actual cake, Monday/17 at City Hall, 5:30pm. Details here.

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.

60 COMMENTS

  1. Dude read the Bible and you will learn about the violence in the Middle East dating back from the beginning of early recorded history.
    Obamacare saved the life of a family member and kept me out of bankruptcy so you are wrong about that also. Obama nixed the Keysyone pipeline because the U.S. Is now energy independent and doesn’t need it. You are wrong about everything

  2. Ahh Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary: The current wars in the “Middle East,” Africa, Asia, and Central/South America are a direct result of British, French, and German colonialism. Most of the borders were created by those colonial powers for their own purposes, and now the USA is trying to enforce the unenforceable (much like in Vietnam). OBTW, if you think there is ANY justification for war, you are not “progressive.”

    “Broke an insurance oligopoly? Tell that to my 90 year-old Aunt who can’t get her assigned doctor to even call her back. I had to take her to the emergency room where they discovered she had diverticulitis. That was last week.

    And the XL pipeline and all the other alphabet scams are alive and well, just waiting for the right time to be rammed down our throats. Probably while we’re watching tv or driving somewhere.

  3. Foreigners buying properties for investment and income through shell companies can’t be easily traced.

  4. You are wrong about the insurance companies. He broke up the insurance industry oligopoly and forced them to accept lower premiums and cover individuals with pre existing conditions . There is no keystone pipeline. The Middle East has been an unstable region for over 2000 years and I don’t think any American president will change that

  5. The idea of banning certain classes of people from buying property based on their national or ethnic origin may well not pass constitutional muster.

    Nor does the idea of different rates of tax depending on your residence, nationality or ethnicity sound particularly non-discriminatory either.

  6. No, what I said was the nation has been moving steadily to the right, regardless of labels. The only difference between the “parties,” is the name. Doesn’t matter if you call yourself a progressive or conservative; choosing the lesser of two evils is not a choice. Obama? A classic wolf in sheeps clothing. He has done NOTHING to help minorities, women, or the poor in general. Au contraire, he has increased military spending, destroyed Yemen, Libya, and Syria, and given our healthcare system to the insurance companies. Oh, and allowed oil drilling in pristine Arctic waters. A Republican could hardly have done worse.

  7. But that was only one neighborhood. What about all the rest?

    SF is still a city full of villages. We may claim to love diversity but, when push comes to shove, we’d rather live with our own.

  8. Commercial leases are very long so it doesn’t make any sense for a property owner to lock in a rent that is anything less than irresistable.

    The units that are vacant are retail. Office space typically rents quickly. So the real problem is our zoning which favors more retail space than we need and not enough office space.

    And obviously not enough housing either

  9. Unless you are advocating a racist and xenophobic housing policy where “No Europeans or Asians” replaces the more traditional “No blacks or Irish”, then I’m not sure what can be done about this alleged “problem”.

  10. What does lack of city, regional, state and federal government building have to do with the effect of nonresident investment?

    Existing sales in San Francisco were around 6,000 last year. Per ACS13, around 200 units were occupied by noncitizens in 2013 who had been nonresident the prior year, around 3%.

  11. If, as you said the political lines are blurring and difficult to identify then you can’t really say the nation is moving one way or another. What does “left” and “right” mean nowadays anyway?
    And within the parties there are so many subtle differences within the parties you actually have inter-party fragmentations.
    Most people have a very low opinion of most politicians in this country. In my opinion, President Obama has been a once in a generation leader who has accomplished more than anyone else in the last 50 years. But the current line up for 2016 looks particularly depressing. In a country like this can’t we do any better than these guys?

  12. Au contraire, mon ami; the nation has indeed ben moving right since Reagan. San Francisco has been moving right since the assassinations of George Moscone and Harvey Milk by a member of the SFPD who literally got away with murder. Then Ms Feinstein sold the city to developers, and Gov. Moonbeam sold the state to the real estate industry, and the Repuglicrats sold the country to China. During this period, the terms “left,”progressive,”liberal,”and “Democrat” all came to have the same meaning. Consequently, we have people who are Democrats who think they are progressive, liberals who think they are “on the left,” etc, etc. In fact there has only been damage control, largely driven by enlightened self-interest. Bottom line; the similarities between the major political parties are far greater than the differences. Obama was elected precisely because he is NOT a progressive.
    Texas?! They’re are still lynching people.

  13. Per ACS2013, around 10% of rented units in pre-’79, multifamily buildings were households making over $200,000.

    Rent control’s universality seems a feature, not a bug. Still, it’s ironic the neighborhood with the most such households is North Beach and Chinatown, where they fill almost 9,000 units.

    Aaron!

  14. Weird. The people I know that live in RC apartments don’t tend to make 200k a year, and often have roommates. I’m sure everyone has a story of their own, but I’d be curious to see exactly how many high-wage earners have been sitting on RC apartments for more than 10 years. Would also love to know how long said renters were making that high wage, too.

  15. Commercial rents might be very high, yet ground floor retail remains unoccupied throughout the City and office space is not difficult to come by. Landlords are demanding more than the market will bear.

  16. Foreign investment in housing in San Francisco is greater than the City could ever muster via public investment in affordable housing. It is one of the three pillars that are holding up the sky high housing bubble along with the highly profitable global tech companies headquartered and with employment bases in the Bay Area as well as the venture capital speculation.

  17. Yeah, stop stoking more demand by intentionally passing pro-cyclical economic policies, creating more jobs and more housing without sufficient infrastructure to accommodate new residents and workers would be a good first step–do no harm first.

    Of course the driving force in all of this is corrupt purchase of government by operatives promoting their own get-rich-quick schemes so that’s not going to happen, especially with the city funded nonprofits dependent upon that private development for their own well being.

    They got the game locked up tight and don’t give a shit about whatever reasoned argument you make. It is all about winning elections and operating from a position of political strength with an affirmative agenda rather than perpetual shamethrowing and blamethrowing.

    Adapt or go extinct.

  18. “In other words, the progressives are supposed to give up on what they believe and go along with the local oligarchy just to get elected. Funny: The politicians who do that are largely responsible for most of what is wrong with this country today.”

    No, you are supposed to craft a message that resonates with enough voters to get over the top, not just fight for “the most vulnerable,” lay a guilt trip on everyone else when you lose and call it a day.

    There are many different ways to connect with the voters than by capitulating to the local oligarchs. But that might bring into question the cozy corrupt relationship that Tim’s nonprofit friends have with the General Fund and what they have to do in order to maintain the flow of city money their way.

    San Franciscans adapted to Willie Brown’s corruption 15 years ago, the oligarchy adapted again in kind. Either we adapt now or we go extinct.

  19. Thanks for mentioning Amy’s cakewalk. We had a good show. Three “serious” Mayoral candidates showed up and joined in the chant for a debate. Looks like they will get one at the Potrero Democratic Club. Maybe the question is not whether the left is moving right, but where the center is shifting to the left?

  20. Campos would like that just fine. To him, vacant lots are much better than the evil gentry moving in.

  21. It is illegal but it would be very hard for a sub-tenant to find out the total rent his master tenant is paying. The master tenant won’t say, and the real landlord is typically advised to have no contact with sub-tenants, less they be later held to be full tenants.

    Moreover even if the landlord finds out about it, it is not a just cause for eviction of the master tenant. While a master tenant can evict a sub-tenant without just cause.

    So in practice this kind of so-called rent gouging is fairly routine.

  22. Pretty sure what he is doing is illegal. Obviously, at that point it becomes about enforcement as opposed to getting a law on the books.

  23. You might be surprised how many wealthy foreigners have been buying property in America – Last year the Chinese spent $28.6 billion on American property, which is approximately 28% of the total real estate sales to foreign buyers. Capital controls in China forbid the transfer of more than $50,000 out of the country but they ignore the regulations.A real estate broker I know in Miami mentioned that nearly all of the sales of luxury condos there were to wealthy foreigners. I don’t know if the same is true in SF, but Im sure that preventing foreign investors from buying property as an investment would have some impact.

    http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/351606a8-159b-11e5-be54-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3j7CJHU9X

  24. The nation has not been moving right since Reagan, or Obama never would have been elected. Red states are turning bluer, in fact the next state to make a California-like turn to the left (California was once a Republican state) is Texas. This is one of the reasons the Republicans are so freaked out about Latin immigrants – they vote Democratic.

  25. One more thing: Progressives have also given up on trying to expand their own base or woo new voters. A toxic mix of inflexibility, purity tests, and straight up bad ideas have turned off new voters (and at times also spawned new activist opponents). The progressive coalition in SF now consists of the old, the entrenched, the moralists, and the reactionaries. The demographics don’t look good for those cohorts.

    PS: The success of marriage equality nationwide has also hurt progressives, because it has removed that issue from the table. When once-radical cultural ideas become mainstream, it’s harder to attract newcomers to the cause.

  26. If airlines are consolidating and competition is decreasing, why is the solution a ‘National Airline’ (think: MUNI_). Seems like the obvious answer is to ban airline mergers.

  27. Or … see to it that current RC residents don’t bump up the costs for roommates and thus skate rent-free. A guy told me Sat. how he rents a room in his $1600/ unit to a guy for $1300, rents out his 2 garages, and comes out $300/ in the black each month. Don’t have much sympathy for the garage leasors, but $15000 a year for a room is somewhat disturbing. (that money would be better spent on student loans, nee?)

  28. “Taking a broader viewpoint, the nation has been moving right since Reagan, while the world has been moving right since the fall of the Berlin Wall and since Russia and Chine discovered capitalism.”

    China is playing all sorts of games trying to maintain its economic growth (propping up its stock market, jiggering with its currency) while preserving the power of its communist party elite. The Russian economy is groaning under the weight of economic sanctions and is still tightly controlled by Putin.

    In the U.S., Occupy Wall Street gave us a handy phrase for characterizing growing income inequality (the 99%) and the Republican Party has become so bereft of ideas that someone with few detailed positions on anything (Donald Trump) is now leading the GOP presidential primary. To preserve its power the GOP has turned to gerrymandering and restricting voting rights.

  29. “You would think that the airports, which spend millions on marketing, could pay for an extension cord or two.” Are you conflating airports with airlines? Do you think certain airports which are losing flights (and hence rental revenue) as the airlines consolidate actually market to the airline customers? Are you confusing Southwest ads as SFO ads?

    This is what happens when you have someone with a fundamental lack of economic understand engages in some muckraking. Why would an airport want to increase their electric and infrastructure costs as airlines consolidate and are reducing the number of flights? What’s the economic incentive in doing so? What’s the social incentive in making people look at their iPads more in the airport? Every cafe in SF has figured it out since they have competition to attract customers. The airline wars has reduced competition, hence less economic incentive to cater to the customer. This type of lack of understanding of basic economic behavior is why I sigh whenever you argue that reducing construction in the city will miraculously lower prices.

  30. How about we stop making rent control properties available to the socio-economic class who doesn’t need it. Why is someone making over 200k staying a $1500 rent controlled apartment. If the idea is to protect the middle income, then there needs to be a policy that makes the top 10% move along when they can qualify for market rate housing.

  31. The cynic in me thinks the city will fail to come up with the funds to construct the 72 units at the 16th & S. Van Ness project, as well as any other land that gets acquired. They’ll then sit on it for 10 years hoping the money falls out of the sky, only to sell the land at a loss during the next bust when they’re hurting for revenue.

  32. Seriously, there’s so much cheaper land they could use more efficiently. But a 2/3 majority is a big hurdle for a bond like this.

    The ballot we’re about to receive just shows how screwed direct democracy can get you. We have a bunch of activist groups that fought to get the moratorium on because they wanted a chance to build affordable housing (at premium cost to taxpayers) in the Mission. Where’s the money for that? From an entirely different measure, which the moratorium isn’t tied to at all, and which could fail.

    So now we have the real possibility of no housing being built for anyone at any income level in the Mission – which will suit a lot of Mission property owners just fine. Well done, progressives.

  33. I’m inclined to support the bond, but I don’t know if I can if the city is going to use the very small portion earmarked for new construction (less than $100M) to buy land in the mission at $2k/sq ft…

  34. “The left in SF have been losing influence for at least a decade now,
    even though occasionally they get a victory, as with 8 Washington.”

    Blocking development is the one issue that progressives can enjoy some amount of success with, largely because their goals often happen to overlap with the economic interests of other parties – e.g. existing waterfront condo owners who don’t want their views blocked.

    Of course, they’ll never get those same property owners to support tax increases to build lower-cost housing. A prediction: the Mission moratorium narrowly succeeds in November, and the housing bond fails. No housing for anyone! Hooray.

  35. stop building workspaces/office buildings that attract new workers

    The one thing worse than being oppressed by the man is not being oppressed by the man. Still, destroying the regional economy would make San Francisco cheaper. That does not make it a good idea.

    make foreign investment in ‘luxury condos’ unattractive

    To a first approximation, the effect of this policy on housing is zero.

    shift the burden of infrastructure.. to developers of luxury condos

    This begins to be a policy that might have an effect without being senseless and destructive. How about something simpler: heavily tax luxury housing; use the added revenues roughly equally to subsidize modest, dense housing and non-automobile transit.

  36. I agree with some of the sentiment. A peid-a-terre tax at 5-8% on condo’s over $1M, with revenue going towards affordable projects is a policy I have voiced my support for.

    Office space construction approvals will likely hit the prop M limit late this year or early next year, so the “stop” will happen on it’s own, but i’m not convinced that this is a good thing. Commercial rents are VERY high at the moment, and further constraining supply will have negative effects on smaller businesses and start-ups. High commercial rents are usually bad from an employment standpoint.

    Infrastructure, we can agree, is a vital part of the equation, but I believe enacting further costs/hurdles to developers will simply further ensure that the only thing that gets built is $1M studios. What I never hear from progressives are ways to incetivize/finance more diverse construction beyond placing increasingly onerous restrictions on development. This will make housing more expensive, not less.

  37. The problem that Tim is describing is not so much that there aren’t ideas like that out there, but rather that they do not appear to have the support necessary to get them implemented.

    Nevius appears to be arguing that that is because progressive ideas are on the wane in SF. Tim doesn’t agree with that analysis, preferring Shaw’s observation that progressive activists are making more noise.

    But in the end, it comes to the same thing – unless a majority of voters can be persuaded to adopt ideas like yours (which might work but are radically different from what we have now). The left in SF have been losing influence for at least a decade now, even though occasionally they get a victory, as with 8 Washington. Progressives can win the odd battle if they devote enough effort, but they are losing the war.

    Taking a broader viewpoint, the nation has been moving right since Reagan, while the world has been moving right since the fall of the Berlin Wall and since Russia and Chine discovered capitalism.

    SF is just one minor part of that global and national trend, but it would be a surprise if that changed. As Tim describes it, the best progressives can hope for locally (apart from further advances in LBQGT rights) is to slightly slow down the rate of evictions, rent rises and gentrification. That is hardly an ambitious goal for a once proud and significant movement.

    The left has become an agent of protest, but not an agent of power or persuasion. And mere “ideas” won’t change that.

  38. More competition for domestic airline travel might be desirable but you’ll never see it under our current system of government. Why not? Money for lobbyists and campaign contributions sets policy and crowds out every other consideration. The same thing, by the way, happens at the statehouse and locally at City Hall. The big money people (with the help of the Supreme Court) have mastered our systems of government and get what they want. Even Donald Trump said so, and no one else on the debate stage bothered to challenge him on it because they know it’s true.

  39. 1.Stop building workspaces/office buildings that attract new workers.
    2. Make foreign investment in ‘luxury condos’ unattractive through tax and other policies.
    3. Shift the burden of infrastructure (including MUNI) to developers of luxury condos.

    There are other tools – we need to get creative.

  40. Tim I’m disappointed to see you holding up the cry baby bicycle club as an example of activism. They are a bunch of spoiled bed-wetters asserting white privilege. If they don’t want to stop at stop signs in a neighborhood folks like me were born in, they can ride the hills. That’s not activism this group is in large part responsible for the demise of the city.

  41. “I have already spent way too much time explaining why the private market can’t possibly meet SF’s housing needs”

    I agree with you here Tim. The market can’t help low income families unless there is a very large collapse in demand or 100,000 units suddenly materialized, driving prices down. However, many on the anti-development side, yourself included, often posit that no/very little market construction is a preferable course of action. I disagree with this. We need to leverage this high demand while we have it and incentivize large BMR components with variances or other perks. The market can’t help everyone, but it has to be part of the solution. The city and the non-profits are incapable of producing housing economically in any significant numbers (see: http://www.socketsite.com/archives/2015/07/citys-land-purchase-to-build-889k-affordable-apartments-approved.html).

    I have yet to hear a viable non-market solution for our housing shortage. Where do we get the money? How do we spend it?

  42. The problem you’ll be facing here is that the old guard of progressives in SF just don’t seem particularly interested in that “question we need to ask ourselves”. Have you heard the horror in the voice of Tim and his colleagues as they talk about tall buildings and density? The problem, in their mind, is the existence of a flux of new people in San Francisco at all; most of their policies are basically advanced with the false hope it would eliminate that flux entirely.

  43. Interesting that Tim’s proposed solution to the airline industry’s problems is a “National Airline”, as if having a monopoly run by bureaucrats would somehow improve things. In fact, the global trend has been to increase competition and allow multiple airlines to compete.

    The real problems are twofold. First US passengers want air travel to be cheap. 50 years ago you would get dressed up to fly, and sip champagne at 35,000 feet. Now they cram you onto a 737 with badly dressed fat people and give you a packet of peanuts. Americans get what they are willing to pay for.

    Second, real competition is suppressed. There are luxury foreign airlines flying coast-to-coast with half-empty modern wide-body planes because the US won’t let foreign airlines carry domestic passengers. Imagine being able to fly Qatar Air to DC? Singapore Airlines to NYC? Air France to Boston? Sorry but the US government won’t let you. And no doubt Tim agrees with that restriction even while he is stuck whining in Phoenix Airport.

  44. The main effect of boomers dying off will be that many rent controlled units will be freed up. It is the boomers who have mostly benefited from rent control as they are the ones who have been sitting on their places for the longest and have the best deal, effectively crowding out younger and poorer people who would otherwise rent here.

    Those younger people increasingly choose to live in Oakland, making their electorate more liberal, while SF’s electorate becomes more conservative (example: nobody challenging Lee).

    Where those same boomers own their own, the effect will be much less. Their homes will simply be sold in probate and will never be affordable again, although property tax revenues will increase as a result.

    Demographic changes are a big part of what is driving SF housng values and costs, but those changes are not favorable to those who dream of SF ever being affordable again. That will never happen.

  45. I would argue that 1,000 people “occupying” City Hall is indeed a sign that the Left is losing influence in the city. An effective and popular Left would have real political power and would work within the system to achieve change. But if the Left are downsized to a powerless rump, then protest and demonstrations is all they have.

    Progressives have gone from being a majority of voters and the Board to being a small intolerant mob on the streets. That is a critical indicator of irrelevance.

    The rest is simply explained by demographics. The poorer, younger and more agitated folks who would once have formed an activist base for progressives can no longer afford to move here. So as the old boomer lefties die off (is it me but do they seem to be dying quite young?) there is no new blood to replace them except for the odd trust fund kid with no credibility (e.g. McElvoy).

    Throw in a booming economy, jobs for anyone who wants them and a national shift to the right, and there is your answer.

  46. One fact not noted is the make-up of those housing units.

    Previous households were mostly families, with maybe one wage-earner and several dependents; a sort of natural cap on what could be paid.

    With the advent of hippies and LGBT singles, the ‘household’ went from one wage-earner to several (though, granted, maybe the term should be ‘income-producer’, since this was still the age of ‘welfare’ and many did not have a real job). The increased buying power of several earners – even if only welfare checks – pushed out the ‘family’ demographic (kids = low single-digit population); and rents were able to sky-rocket, even on the backs of working-class renters. With rising rents the poorer were also pushed out, making it ‘safer’ for middle class types to move in; with their increased ability to pay higher rents. Now the $ix-digit techies dominate what is available in the market and even the middle class feel excluded.

    And of course, forget about families.

    Solutions? Better transport.

  47. displacement.. far beyond anything we’ve seen in modern San Francisco history

    What is Justin Herman’s Western Addition, Paleolithic?

  48. Wait for the baby boomers to die/move away. They were the ones who came here 35 years ago and decided the city was perfect and unchangeable. They were the ones who fought to downsize everything and empowered the current mafia level power of many of the SF neighborhood planning groups.

  49. Having worked in the airline industry, I can say 20 years ago no airline executive would have dared dream that someday US travellers would become as accustomed to physical discomfort, time wasting security theatre displays and in general gross inconvenience in the way that today’s air travellers have. Airline industry profitability is mostly driven by fuel costs and economic activity, so the ever increasing level abuse customers are able to withstand is mostly incidental. But it certainly helps the bottom line or at least compensates for the average flyer’s tight fisted unwillingness to pay for any type of upgrade or amenity whatsoever.

    With respect to the left, I think that what you’re seeing now in terms of change of landscape is 1) attrition of the core multi-generational base of activists who are moving away, dying off, getting older and more importantly not being replaced by younger activists. In the process the cranks and malcontent have become more prominent. 2) The Democratic leadership realizes that that what’s left of the old activists can not be allowed to become the face of the Democratic party in SF or they risk completely turning off the new generation of recent arrivals.

    But I do think that it’s too soon for the new post 2008 tech influx to meaningfully effect the actual balance of power on the ground. It takes years for new arrivals to become plugged into city politics. In the long run, telling some techie living in $3000/mo studio that building more market rate housing won’t solve our problems and instead we need to be putting building moratoriums in place, is a non starter — I mean really? The question is when will we start seeing those votes show up at the polls. A defeat of the Mission moratorium and Peskin could perhaps signal the appearance. But even that I think could be attributable to the growing unattractiveness of the message that today’s progressives are trying to sell.

  50. “I have already spent way too much time explaining why the private market can’t possibly meet SF’s housing needs.”

    From 1945 until 1979 — in a period of significant population decline — from WWII “housing crisis” population high of 825,000 persons to its all-time low of 690,000 — SF produced, on average, approx. 32,000 housing units per decade and most certainly “met it’s housing needs”.

    (Note: Interestingly, one could argue that the “naturally affordable” housing that resulted from this period allowed SF’s “alternative cultures” (e.g. Beatniks, Hippies, LGBT communities) to find a home in the City and flourish.)

    From 1979 until the present — in a period of significant population increase — from 690,000 persons to its current all-time high of 855,000 — SF has produced, on average, approx. 19,500 housing units per decade and is most certainly “not meeting its housing needs.”

    Even with all the construction that is currently underway, we are on track to create only a little over 20,000 housing units within the current decade.

    The question we need to ask ourselves is why has housing productivity dropped off so dramatically within the last 35 years (as opposed to the previous 35 years?

    Why has supply been reduced in the face of significant increased demand?

    And what can we do to best address this problem and increase supply — relative to demand — as we were able to do so effectively from 1945 until 1979?

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