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News + Politics The Agenda, Dec. 7-13: The jail drama, tamales and...

The Agenda, Dec. 7-13: The jail drama, tamales and global capital …

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… and the supes hear how the Super Bowl party will screw up your life

Protesters fighting a new jail locked themselves together with PVC pipe last week
Protesters fighting a new jail locked themselves together with PVC pipe last week

By Tim Redmond

DECEMBER 9, 2015 – All the drama over whether Aaron Peskin will get back from Nepal, where fuel shortages are grounding airlines, in time for a key vote on a new jail, appears to be overblown. At last week’s meeting, Mark Farrell, the chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, moved that that item be sent to the full board for Dec. 15, by which time, barring something highly unusual happening, Peskin will be safely in office.

It may be a moot question anyway: Even without Peskin, I’m not sure this expensive plan had six votes. “I think we have four solid votes,” one jail supporter told me. “But one of those is Julie Christensen” and she won’t be there when the item comes up.

 

I’ve read all the sad comments about the closure of Roosevelt’s Tamale Parlor, which was a part of 24th Street for as long as I’ve lived in the city (34 years) and part of the Mission since the 1920s. It makes me sad, too – in the old days when the Bay Guardian was on 19th and York, Roosevelt’s was our get-away-from-the-office lunch spot, where the staff of an alt-weekly that was still small and struggling could afford to sit down and eat.

In this case, Roosevelt’s isn’t being forced out by a rent increase; the place just can’t find employees who can afford to live in the city on the wages that an inexpensive community restaurant can pay.

“If you want to hire a line cook, you’re talking at least $16 an hour,” Presbrey said. “I get it. Our staff members don’t want to work 15 hours a day and then commute on a train for an hour back and forth. No one wants to live like that. But the result is that the cost of living here is killing our ability to hire staff.”

That’s another cost of the tech boom: Housing prices are killing small businesses. And it causes me to ask again: Are we, as a city and a community, better off today than we were before the mayor decided that San Francisco should be Tech Central?

Soon, we may see storefronts going the way of Vancouver, BC, where all kinds of places are empty – despite a strong economy. Why? The Stranger reports that global investors in real estate there (as here) don’t care about making income off their property; they care about its value increasing. Global Capital sets unreasonable rents, and cares little about vacancies or what they do to small businesses, communities, and the livability of a city.

What is happening in Vancouver is we have the most overpriced real estate in the world. Our average house price is 11 times the average annual income. Hong Kong, where much of the capital originates, it is 12. Your city, Seattle, is 6. Paris is 5. So, we are overpriced, and that applies to retail rents as well. That’s why Vancouver has become a really tough place to make a go of it if you are a shop owner. A lot of the money that came from overseas raised rents expecting the returns you get in Hong Kong. But that has only killed a lot of businesses. As a consequence, we have priced ourselves out of reality. For example, there is no book store here anymore. None. Zero. We have become all about global money, and it has little to do with the rest of the city and what it needs.

As to why global capital prefers empty spaces to a reduction of rent, Boddy said:

They are not there to get rent. They are there for the rising value of the real estate. That’s happening with our houses.

And it’s why in SF there are so many market-rate housing units that are vacant most of the year, and why building more of them won’t help San Francisco’s housing crisis one bit.

 

There are two hot items at the Land Use and Transportation Committee meeting Monday/9: Bicycles and the Super Bowl.

Sups. Malia Cohen and Jane Kim have asked for a hearing on the

anticipated neighborhood impacts, job opportunities, transportation issues, and safety plans for the events associated with Super Bowl 50, including specifics regarding any Market Street closure and possible removal of Muni overhead wires, as well as these impacts on transportation and commute times, pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

The Super Bowl Overlords have decided that they won’t force the city to remove the overhead Muni wires, but the party for mostly rich people who go to these events (real football fans can’t afford tickets, and watch on TV) will have a decided impact on those of us who live here.

I would add another issue: How many illegal short-term rentals will be added for this marketing extravaganza, and how will they impact local tenants?
The committee will also hear legislation that would essentially stop the police from issuing tickets to bicycle riders who treat stop signs as yield signs. It’s got wide support (six cosponsors, so it will pass) but the mayor hasn’t given any signals on where he stands.

 

There were some who said that the Twitter tax break and the “revitalization” of mid-Market would never impact low-cost SRO housing in the Tenderloin. That, it turns out, was absolutely wrong. Private SROs are being upgraded to appeal to a higher-end clientele – and that contributes to homelessness.

I will leave that article, by a supporter of the Twitter tax break, with no further comment.

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.

40 COMMENTS

  1. Can’t blame you for not reading the Chron, although it does have lots of good information in this case; lots of stats on income and this section of the Mission being ground zero for gentrification.

    My personal observations are recent and different than yours: gentrification is showing its face even on the east end of 24th st.

  2. You must have missed the Chron article on SF’s disappearing middle class. It focused in on exactly this area.

  3. Dude, I was there a few weeks back and it was little changed from how I remember it when I had a rental building there ten years ago.

    Sure there were a couple of nicer looking places. But most of the joints there looked like they had been there since forever – greasy spoon Mexican eateries and enough fried chicken places to make you gag.

    And way more Hispanics than whites. If that is gentrification, it has a hell of a way to go.

  4. Regarding 24th east of Mission, you must not get down there very much $am. I do. There are upscale establishments popping up and some old businesses shuttered. As an advocate of gentrification, I figured you would be heartened by this.

  5. Re: Roosevelt – Not to belabor the obvious, but can they just raise the price of Tamales or get into the alcohol game or something? Or what about that ballot ‘legacy business fund’ we just approved?

  6. I didn’t go away. The motivation to change my Disqus identity had more to do with being stalked by a nutcase. The information in my posts was not used to identify me here.

  7. I agree. And likewise, it is practically impossible to tell the difference between a project that is a complete fraud and one that is supposedly ‘good’ for San Francisco. Remember the original America’s Cup proposed giveaway to Larry Ellision? We should all be grateful that some of the usual characters went apeshit and prevented the city from allowing Larry to control a healthy chunk of the waterfront for 70 years.

  8. Those “global investors” in Vancouver are Chinese Communist Party ‘princelings’, or multi-millionaire offspring of Mao & Co., who are getting their assets out of China as soon as they possible can.

    The ‘princelings’ do not care one iota about the working class in China.

  9. Just to clarify, the “Super Bowl village” will be up from 1/30-2/7, a bit more than “one lousy weekend”.

  10. I’m kind of amazed at just how intensely progressives have turned against groups like SFBARF, calling them “developer shills” and constantly baiting them, etc. when they mostly seem to be attracting twentysomethings in shitty Bay Area living situations hoping to be able to upgrade someday. But those twentysomethings are more recent arrivals, of course, so they’re EEEEEEEEVIL.

    (I guess I shouldn’t be amazed, actually.)

  11. Wait….you mean that it is feasible to run a tacqueria in San Francisco?

    Do you have any proof for such an absurd claim?

  12. Having been lucky enough to attend a few super bowls I can tell you that a LOT of the attendees won contests, for example, selling the most linoleum flooring in south Topeka.

    And, last I checked, the actual game was being played in Santa Clara; the main event located in San Francisco is the village, an event that many San Franciscan families can enjoy and the ticket price is…let me check…of, it’s free.

    But hey, Redmond has to whine about something, so it serves that purpose as well.

  13. ” I think our problem here is that any opposition provokes labeling those who complain as being NIMBYs, even if the complaint is legitimate.”

    This is because the complaint process has been so abused by self-absorbed property owners, using their disproportionate power to gum up the works, that it’s practically impossible to tell the difference between valid and frivolous complaints anymore.

  14. Based on comments from other sources it sounds like the food was as big of a factor as anything with Roosevelts.

  15. I made an effort to phrase the attitude euphemistically. But most landlords try and avoid the “amateur lawyer” tenant from hell who complains about everything quoting chapter and verse.

    A little give and take goes a long way.

  16. No, professional knowledge workers is better off. For instance, tech salaries have doubled in the last 10-12 years, at least from the income statements I get from my tenants.

  17. Gary didn’t say he went away because of abuse, but because someone ID’ed his real name. In fact he is still here, obviously.

    Of course, that could not have happened unless he gave away enough information to allow that to happen.

    Sadly much of the abuse here comes from Tim’s progressive friends, and not from the opposition as some would claim. Gary isn’t immune from that himself so some good may come from this yet, if more tolerance and empathy ensues.

  18. that is horrible; despite being called numerous names on this list – especially “bitch” and scores of other demeaning sexist terms – i won’t go away

  19. That is true, but it’s a pretty complicated and dangerous game to play – one call to the cops by the legal owner four years in, and you’ve wasted your time. Possession via squatting is really only viable for truly abandoned properties.

  20. “In this case, Roosevelt’s isn’t being forced out by a rent increase; the place just can’t find employees who can afford to live in the city on the wages that an inexpensive community restaurant can pay.”

    If, say, a Target closed for the same reason, people would say it just indicates they need to raise wages. So why would that not apply here as well? Labor should cost what it’s worth. No one should expect to get it below cost, small business or not.

  21. I think our point of disagreement is that it seems you are viewing everything through the lens of ‘housing’ and I’m viewing everything though the lens of ‘urban planning.’ Neither of those approaches is wrong.

    I agree that there continues to be effective cabals when it comes to development in SF but I think the most effective among them is the criminal syndicate consisting of developers, city planning and building inspection. Yes, there are groups of loudmouthed NIMBYs and that is something that most competent jurisdictions have learned to cope with. I think our problem here is that any opposition provokes labeling those who complain as being NIMBYs, even if the complaint is legitimate.

    I supported proposition I because I believed that it would give political clout to voices that aren’t being heard by our tone-deaf mayor. But I never thought that Prop I was good legislation. I saw it as a hail Mary.

  22. Yes. Name change was due to being “stalked” on one blog and someone here on 48 Hills didn’t like what I wrote so they kind of ID’d me. I’ll probably create an ID with my real name sometime next year.

  23. One simple reason why property owners prefer to rent to people like foreign students, which Shaw glosses over because it is inconvenient to his message, is that the regulations on both rents and (more recently) on very short-term lets have combined to motivate landlords to find the “sweet spot” for tenancies.

    And that sweet spot is more than 30 days (to skirt the Airbnb rules) but also not long-term (to avoid the prison life sentence that is rent control).

    Foreign students perfectly fit that demographic. Plus their parents typically have money and guarantee the rent, and you know they will leave after a few months or a couple of years, and they are much less likely to get all precious about their “rights”

    Other optimal tenants are tech workers relocating here or here temporarily on assignment. And visiting academics. Or rent directly to the businesses and institutions that hire and relocate them.

    Any examination of the housing shortage should obviously take into account zoning constraints and all the problems of NIMBYism. But the impact of strict laws on rentals must also be considered.

  24. The tamale place may have been old but the food was crappy. I am not surprised it is closing. And plenty of new eateries open in the Mission and evidently can find staff, so I don’t buy their excuse that they cannot find staff.

    As for gentrification, 24th Street east of Mission is still pretty down-at-heel with very few up-market establishments. Reports of its demise are much exaggerated.

    And poorer folks do attend the Superbowl. They save up for it. And it’s just one lousy week-end. Get over it.

  25. Correction – it takes at least five years.

    The less savory part of the SF Tenants Union under Gullicksen was a political sub-entity called “Homes not Jails” that was an attempt at turning squatting into the kind of mass movement it was in the 1970’s in Amsterdam and elsewhere.

    It never really caught on, not least because trespass and squatting are considered criminal acts in the US whereas in Europe it is more a civil dispute. I was told that Gullicksen used to pin his restraining orders up on the wall of his office on Capp Street as a badge of pride.

    But it never worked. To my knowledge only one residential property in SF has been acquired by adverse possession in recent decades. Try it and you are more likely to end up in a jail, not a home.

  26. Adverse possession is still the law. It takes five years, and you have to pay the property tax, but if vacancy is rampant, the city is yours.

    Pro tip: vacancies are at generational lows.

  27. For the most part, I don’t disagree with you. As someone who considers himself a liberal on the far left of the (US) political spectrum, I often put progressive in scare quotes when talking about SF, but that’s tedious to write and annoying to read.

    I feel using the term is justified, at least in some sense because 1) it is what politicians like Peskin and his supporters self-identify as and 2) because there’s a very real continuation in ideology, rhetoric and tactics of bay area leftist activists that goes back to New Left of the late 60s. I movement that effectively defined modern progressivism in contrast and opposition to liberalism: e.g. the rejection of reason, embrace of protest (and rejection of other forms of engagement), use of flamboyant rhetoric, militancy, utopianism, and the conception of art as therapeutic self expression and utterly banal agit prop.

    ‘Progressives’ (self identifying Bay Area) certainly have been adamant about no new market rate housing. You can find some variation of the Mission Moratorium being proposed, city wide, in some op ed by a progressive activists many times over the last 20 years+. Rejection of market rate housing is a non-negotiable ideological position for membership in the club. Progressive numbers in SF are now so tiny that it’s a fair question to ask how I can ascribe them any power at all, let alone playing a major role in quashing market rate housing. I would respond to that: 1) progressives used to be able to rally very large numbers (even as little as 5 years ago) 2) The Mission Moratorium was 100% politically motivated, advanced and funded by all the usual suspects. It didn’t pass, but the fact that it got on the ballot and commanded over 30% of the votes shows they are far from impotent 3) SF progressives have been very effective at clearing the left of anyone who disagrees with their stance on market rate housing, so no proposal come from the left that would address the needs of the poor and working class except those that start with the need to eliminate construction of market rate housing. 4) Their rhetoric supplies a very effective cover to garden variety NIMBY’s, even when it’s wielded in a transparently self-server way.

    Even in their currently anemic state you can see this vilification at work against BARF, portraying it as a den of avarice with plutocratic developers vying with each other to black-top Golden Gate Parket and fill it with luxury condos. When in fact even a cursory look at the list serve will reveal that the rank and file are most liberal, often times quite far left, with the exception of a few cranks and loud mouths.

  28. While I agree with you about “slumification”, I’m tired of hearing people rant about progressives. When I moved here (before Tim), the city wasn’t all progressive and almost EVERYONE was against development.

    Nobody wants change and as there were some pretty ridiculous changes proposed, many San Franciscans developed a zebra-like skittishness and lion-like response to any proposed project. Among the wonderful projects proposed were a golf course on the Embarcadero, a casino on Treasure Island, a massive parking garage under Washington Square and a bridge to Alcatraz. Even a few weeks ago, the Superbowl committee wanted to rip down the streetcar wires because they are ugly. Yes, I know that isn’t planning or development, but moneyed interests always influence politicians no matter how detached from reality they are and that was a perfect example.

    The problem is that we don’t really have urban planning for growth, and there has been NO leadership to develop and communicate a vision of what San Francisco could look like when we hit 1.5 million in population in a very well planned urban landscape.

    I’ve seen hundreds of development opportunities be pissed away, some because of NIMBYs, others because of stupid planning policies and others because of political connections of developers.

    So what we have is development of the SRO type dwellings; episodic variances so wide-spread that a map of them would looks like a measles outbreak; and sporadic micro-planning that seems to have no objective other than making the developers money.

    I reject that this has been a progressive objective or that progressives are the primary cause of housing issues. There are many causes and we need to focus upon solutions and stop this bullshit blame game.

    What we need is to agree upon a target population, such as 1.5 million, and then develope a strong and well thought out urban plan to get us to that target population in 20-30 years. This plan needs to include all of the infrastructure updates needed and then it needs to be presented to San Franciscans.

  29. Regarding SRO conversions, lets be clear: SRO’s are being rented by students, new professionals moving to the city, and sometimes by dev teams forming a new startups.

    What’s happening happening now in SF is a type of slum-ification that I wouldn’t have thought possible 5 years ago. SF’s population continues to grow, between 2010 – 2014 by roughly 50,000 people, without a remotely comparable expansion in the housing stock. What progressives tried to do was to halt that in-migration by blocking the expansion of the housing supply to accommodate them. I actually would have thought that that would have been mostly successful. The costs would have been high, with any SF resident, who happens to find themselves in need of an apt. (break-up, marriage, ellis act eviction, master tenant getting a girlfriend, etc) instantly exiled from the city, but at some point the city would have filled and progressive would have preserved the ‘character’ of the city, or at least slowed its change. It turns out that assessment was wrong.

    Instead, what we’ve seen is that the new economic migrants coming to the city are willing to put up with a huge level of inconvenience and expense in order to live here. Often choosing to live in places that long time working and middle class residents will grudgingly leave the city rather than live in. And under conditions that make them shudder in terms of lack of space and the need to live in close proximity with many people. Paradoxically, previous generations of progressives have put in ordinances that make it extremely hard to remove residents living space that exceed their zoned level of occupancy. (ordnances I support even though the beneficiaries are increasingly not the poor and down-and-out) So, those new residents are often times here for good.

    So, what can be done? Feel free to turn SF in a kind of reality TV set where only those who want it most and are willing to fight for it get to stay. New comers have already proved they have what it takes to prevail over long time residents.

    But I personally think it’s time for the progressive old guard to come to grips with the fact that they’ve definitively lost, and unless they want a city entirely composed of the new breed of arrivals tenaciously determined to live here, then they need to give up the shattered dream of keeping out tech and begin building a larger, denser city that can accommodate them and the more mundane middle and working class.

  30. We need to strengthen squatting rights. In Ye Olde Times if you left your field fallow and someone else worked the field, they became the new owners. 44% of Manhattan sits empty because of investment properties. Use it, or lose it.

  31. Are we, as a city and a community, better off today than we were before the mayor decided that San Francisco should be Tech Central?

    The question should be, “Are we, as a city and community, better off today than we were before the nonprofits consumed and neutralized the progressive movement in San Francisco?”

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