… a School Board member’s role in a sleazy Ed Lee/Julie Christensen event, and why is SF still stuck with Comcast? 

When the city lets its affordable housing mix slip to about 15 percent, you get evictions
When the city lets its affordable housing mix slip to about 15 percent, you get evictions

By Tim Redmond

OCTOBER 19, 2015 — On KQED’s Forum Friday morning, Chuck Nevius from the Chron and Marisa Lagos, who works for KQED, and I were talking about the mayor’s race and the legacy of Ed Lee, and Chuck pointed out that hey: It’s bad now, but San Francisco has always been expensive. He cited a story from BeyondChron that “explodes the myth that the housing crisis is a result of the post-2011 tech invasion” and suggests that people were worried about gentrification as far back as 1981.

That happens to be when I arrived here.

Yeah: We were worried about gentrification back then, particularly in the Haight, where an anarchist gang calling itself the Mindless Thugs was throwing bricks through the windows of yuppie bars and storefronts.

But to compare that era to today is just nuts. The city was indeed expensive – but the difference between the cost of housing and what most working people earned is radically different today, on a level that has never happened in the 30-plus years I’ve been here.

When I started as a reporter at the Bay Guardian in early 1982, I made $200 a week. Seems like nothing – except that my rent was $175 a month for a room in a flat on Hayes St. People were getting evicted as landlords tried to drive tenants out of (newly) rent-controlled apartments – but many of those people were able to find other places to live in the city.

I managed the Bay Guardian, a small business, for years. We were able to pay employees a living wage – that is, enough money to pay rent and have a decent life – and we weren’t paying the big bucks. Even in the 1990s, you could afford to live in San Francisco on a salary of $30,000 a year.

It’s so different now that nobody who doesn’t already have a rent-controlled place or a house he or she bought years ago or a more-than-six-figure job can rent an existing apartment. That is absolutely the result of the tech invasion. Absolutely.

 

I hope everyone who uses Uber, and all of the city officials who allowed the company to operate illegally for so long, take a moment to read this.

Last night, I had dinner with my SFist colleagues. We wanted to sing karaoke after we ate, but The Mint was too busy. At around 10 p.m. we called it a night. By 10:30, my Uber driver had announced that he was going to sexually assault and murder me.

There are bad people in all sorts of jobs, including traditional taxi drivers, but the thing that gets me is that the police are having trouble finding this guy. If he drove a real cab, he would have a license, and the cab company would know who and where he was and in a case like this, would tell the cops right away.

Not only are there issues with background checks (clearly), the Uber system doesn’t seem to help in a situation where someone who allegedly threatened to murder and rape a woman, and who, according to the story by Eve Batey (who is a longtime journalist) sorta stalked her.

Again: If this was a traditional licensed cab company, there would have been a human being answering the phone, and a city agency monitoring the company, and an easy way for both Eve and the police to pursue this complaint.

Not at Uber.

 

The SF Weekly reports that an event involving Sup. Julie Christensen and Mayor Ed Lee at the very least pushed the limits of the city’s campaign laws. I am not surprised – this mayor and his allies have never been all that worried about violating campaign laws, since there appear to be no consequences, particularly if you win.

But there’s an element that hasn’t been fully explored here. Hydra Mendoza, the School Board member who arranged to allow a (public) school building to be used for a campaign event – not generally allowed – happens to work for Ed Lee.

That’s always been a potential conflict. Now it’s a serious one.

 

My Comcast Internet service went down on Saturday. Here’s how you have to get it fixed:

  1. You call Comcast and wait on hold, pushing buttons, until finally a human being comes to the phone. While you are hold, Comcast urges you not to waste the time of the company’s human beings and instead go to Comcast’s web site. You can’t do that, of course, because you have no Internet service. And if you go to a café to get service, you won’t be home to watch the buttons on the modem, which is what the Comcast person is going to ask you to do. Finally, the person tells you your modem is fried and you need a new one.
  1. You go to the Comcast store and wait in line (fortunately not bad Sunday morning; it’s taken more than an hour in the past) to get a new one, and go home and plug it in, then
  2. You have to call Comcast again, and wait on hold again, and push a whole lot of buttons on your phone again, until another human being can “activate” your modem.

Total elapsed time: About four hours, half a working day. The company’s time, represented by a lack of adequate staff, is more valuable than mine.

And for this we pay a fortune.

The Comcast workers are remarkably friendly and competent; they do the best they can, considering that there are about half as many as they need to serve the demand.

But every time this happens to me, I wonder:

What about Chattanooga?

In that part of the world, which we generally do not consider among the most progressive in the US of A, there’s municipal broadband, and it’s way better and faster than what the private companies offer.

Why, in the tech capital that we are, is this not even mentioned once in the mayor’s race?

(BTW: When I have had a problem with water and sewer service, run by the city, I have never waited more than a minute or two for a human being to pick up, at any hour of the day or night. We seem to be able to provide decent public service; why not broadband?)

 

The city’s Housing Balance Report, a critical document that shows how under the Lee administration, the affordable housing situation is getting way worse, will come before the Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee Monday/19.

The report, which is part of the committee packet, is scathing: It shows that the net balance of affordable housing in the city is dropping, and that the projects currently in the pipeline are only going to make things worse.

From the Council of Community Housing Organizations:

This report shows that our affordable housing situation is only getting worse – the citywide housing balance of net new affordable housing from 2005-2015 dropped to a new low of 15.2%, down from the previous July report of 16%! Across the City there is a great need to correct an imbalance of low and moderate income housing compared to the rate of market rate housing.

And the future looks even worse, based on the entitlement “pipeline” of projects, the city is slated to produce only 13% affordable housing moving forward. We are far behind the goal of minimum 33% affordable housing for low and moderate income San Franciscans set by the voters in Proposition K last year, and unfortunately only getting worse.

“There are a lot of numbers thrown around these days about housing goals and aspirations of an affordable city for all, but as it is said, ‘torture numbers and they’ll tell you anything,’” commented Peter Cohen, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations.  Cohen added, “Here in this Housing Balance Report authored by the Planning Department we have the real story. This is from the City’s own building permit data, and the City’s own planning pipeline data, and the City’s own rent board data. It doesn’t get more truthful than this. 15.2% affordable and dropping! We as a city have a long way to go to climb out of this hole.”

The problem is not just about production – these Housing Balance Report numbers make clear how the loss of protected rental units completely undermines the City’s efforts to build more affordable housing.  The calculated affordable housing balance is actually negative in 8 out of the 11 supervisorial districts! Sara Shortt, the director of Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco reacted to the Report saying: “I don’t think there’s any more compelling evidence than this that makes clear the siege of gentrification in San Francisco.”

 

The committee will also be looking at the transportation fee for new development, which is one of the greatest quiet scandals in the city.

The meeting starts at 1:30, Room 250 City Hall.

 

The SoMa Action Committee, a coalition of community members and legacy organizations, will file its appeals on the proposed 5M Project proposed at 5th and Mission Street Monday/19 at 11am.

From the group’s press release:

The 5M project proposes an illegal spot zoning of over 4 acres located in the heart of SoMa’s diverse working class neighborhood, proposing massive luxury buildings that ignore existing zoning and long range community planning efforts. Developers, Forest City and Hearst Corporation, propose a giant 470 foot high condo tower with 100% market-rate units and two nearly 400 foot high Class A office towers on SoMa’s Youth and Family Special Use District

According to Angelica Cabande, Director of the South of Market Community Action Network, a lead organization in the coalition, the developers and the City are working in tandem to fast track this project and enact special laws to make the development possible. “The level of impact on this working class community will be devastating and irreversible. The community is standing up and saying that new development needs to respect our neighborhood and long time community planning efforts,” Cabande says.

The coalition is appealing the certification of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), the conditional use approvals and the office allocations associated with the project and will oppose several recommendations for approval that were sent by the Planning Commission to the Board of Supervisors. The deficient EIR fails to analyze and fully disclose substantial project impacts relating to cumulatively considerable impacts, massing and height, traffic, pedestrian safety, open space, shade and shadow effects, wind, inconsistency with area plans and policies, and violations of the General Plan. The description of the project is inadequate and incomplete, and was misleading and inconsistent from the start.

The City and the developer have mislead the public by claiming that special approvals are needed to build residential units on the site, but the community has produced drawings that prove otherwise. The community has a plan that is consistent with area plans, provides 670 units of housing with 50% affordable in keeping with the City’s Housing Balance policy, 240,000 square feet of office space, and ground level retail space. The community plan also retains the Dempster and Camelline buildings and has ground level public open space, and provisions for open space at the existing Chronicle building site. This plan respects the Youth and Family Special Use District, the Filipino community, and the existing neighborhood.