Thursday, April 22, 2021
Uncategorized The Agenda, March 14-March 20: A mad rush to...

The Agenda, March 14-March 20: A mad rush to run the Democratic Party …

... and nonprofit displacement and the planning disaster that is the Academy of Art University


The filing deadline passed Friday for people who want to be on the Democratic County Central Committee, and it was wild: The real-estate interests that current control the panel went all-out in the last hours to bring big-name people along to prevent the progressives from taking back the policy arm of the local party.

The scene at the Department of Elections Friday as supporters of real-estate lobbyist Mary Jung scramble to meet the filing deadline
The scene at the Department of Elections Friday as supporters of real-estate lobbyist Mary Jung scramble to meet the filing deadline

Progressives have been working for months on a slate, most of which has been no secret. One DCCC member has offered a proposal that would change the rules around elected officials on the panel, and that will be discussed Wednesday/16. And at the last minute, the real-estate folks added a few unexpected names.

In a mad rush Friday afternoon, supporters of Chair Mary Jung, who is a lobbyist for the Board of Realtors, lined up dozens of people at the Department of Elections to sign petitions to get some new names on the ballot.

In the end, among those who ran at the last minute are former Sup. (and very, very conservative, almost a Republican) Tom Hsieh Sr., former Sup. Angela Alioto, Sup. London Breed, and School Board members Jill Wynns and Emile Murase. Sup. Mark Farrell was there and submitted signatures, but it’s not clear that he had enough to qualify.

The progressives got a last-minute boost when former state Sen. President John Burton (who happens to chair the state Party) filed to run.

The stakes are high, since the party will play a role in the battles for control of the Board of Supes in the fall. It’s going to be close: In these contests, name recognition is huge, and people who already hold, or have recently held, elective office tend to win. I could 11 sure winners on the progressive side, 10-12 on the conservative side, and 10-11 seats up for grabs.

Both sides are going to be fighting hard. The progressives have a few people who in the past haven’t exactly been in the left-wing camp (Bevan Dufty, for example, who was the swing vote to elect Ed Lee) but who have agreed to support the basic demands of the coalition: Remove the Board of Realtors lobbyist from the chair, and endorse progressive candidates in the supes races in the fall.

The DCCC has increasingly been a heated race, but this raises things to a new level. “It’s exciting,” Jon Golinger, a candidate who is working with the progressive slate, told me. “It’s becoming a referendum on the state of the city.”

Interesting twist: Jung appointed Joel Engardio, Marjan Philhour, and Josh Arce to seats on the panel, and all three are running for supervisor. By adding bigger names to the conservative slate, she may have helped knock here own appointees, people she wants to see get elected supervisor, off the roster of the final winners.

We shall see.


The Planning Commission will hear an update Thursday/17 on the longtime mess that is the Academy of Art University.

The for-profit school has a long history of ignoring city planning and zoning rules, of changing the use of its vast array of properties without permits, and of failing to comply with regulations.

In fact, the Planning Department’s memo on the hearing notes that of the 40 properties AAU owns, nine are “operating in a manner not allowed under the Planning Code, ten require Conditional Use authorization, 13 require historic preservation review, and one requires a building permit application.”

That is, half of the school’s property isn’t legal right now.

The city has let this go on for years and years and years. Expect testimony on why that has happened and when it’s going to stop.


The Board of Supes Budget and Finance Committee holds a hearing Wednesday/16 to find out what’s happening with the city’s Nonprofit Displacement Mitigation Program. I can tell you right now: It’s not doing nearly enough.

When Mayor Lee decided to turn mid-Market into a tech haven, he apparently didn’t give much thought to the fact that hundreds of nonprofits, many of them struggling to raise money, had low-cost office space in the area, and many of them have since lost their leases as landlords decide that tech tenants can pay much more money.

I am on the board of one of those nonprofits, Legal Assistance to the Elderly, and we had to move from a place in mid-Market where it was easy for clients – yes, senior and disabled people – to get to the office to a place on Sutter where there’s a steep hill and less Muni service. Oh, and the rent went up anyway.

This is a common story. Community-serving agencies have to spend more money on rent, and thus have less money to spend on community service. Some of them are city funded, which means the taxpayers are putting more money into the pockets of landlords who are profiting from the boom (although some of them were happy to leave storefronts vacant for years, blighting the neighborhood, because they were waiting for rents to go up).

So the city has put up a little bit of money to help. It’s nowhere near enough.

I ran into Ron Conway, who was and is a big supporter of the mayor and was a proponent of the Twitter tax break that drove so many nonprofits out of Mid-Market, at an event a few months ago. He told me that tech firms were dedicating time and staff to helping nonprofits (like, say, creating apps and better web design.) I told him the nonprofits I knew didn’t need apps or web design; they needed cash, money, to pay the higher rent that his pals had created.

He told me he was thinking maybe some of the firms might be willing to help with that. I haven’t seen any evidence that they have given a penny in ongoing, long-term rent subsidies.

That’s what the supes need to ask about. Nonprofits, in my experience, need money for staff and for rent. We gave away millions in tax breaks for Mid-Market; how much will the beneficiaries give back – not in volunteer hours, which are nice but not essential, but in cold, hard, cash, for what nonprofits need?





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.


  1. This is a sentiment that I’ve heard a lot and I find it really troubling. Development doesn’t cause displacement. Price increases cause displacement and those same price increases incentivize expensive development. In San Franisco, it’s our inability to keep pace with demand that has caused displacement, which is why were seeing so much displacement in neighborhoods that have very little development, like the Mission.

    The city economist found this to the be case here in the city:

    The State’s LAO found that areas with less development have more displacement.

    That isn’t to say that displacement isn’t happening, or to minimize the hardship so many families are facing. We need lots of market rate housing so that market-rate individuals aren’t fighting with low income individuals for apartments, and we need more affordable units so that when people are displaced they have somewhere else to go.

  2. The problem is that whenever development comes, it always, always, always pushes out existing residents along with it.

  3. Mid-Market had (and still has) many diverse residents, but it also had a lot of vacant buildings, underutilized buildings, and surface parking lots. Most notably the Hibernia Bank was filled with squatters for 15 years. The crumbling Furniture Mart is another good example.That certainly sounds likes blight to me. Those blighted spaces attracted lots of crime. In fact, our most crime-ridden block is still in mid market.

    Saying that an area has blighted buildings is not the same as saying there weren’t also people living there. The fact that there was less blight than there could have been is only thanks to good work of the existing residents.That being said, they did suffer because of it. Those residents deserve safe, walkable streets and meaningful investment in infrastructure and services.

    With the proper investment in affordable housing, which was happening in the TL, residents can share in some of the prosperity.

    I’m not saying rents haven’t gone up, or that non-profits aren’t struggling. They surely are, but let’s not re-write mid-market’s history to pretend that it wasn’t a place in desperate need of economic investment.

  4. Academy of Art breaks laws and we are helpless to do anything about it. Uber breaks laws and we are helpless to do anything about it. AirBnB continues to break laws and we are helpless to do anything about it.

    When the oligarchy came to San Francisco, she was draped in a rainbow flag and carrying an iPhone.

  5. Mid-market was not a blight. Mid-market was home to a lot of less affluent San Francisco residents and non-profit organizations. Would you prefer to see them on the sidewalk or in “blighted” offices?

  6. It seems really weird to decry blight in one sentence and then complain about the development on mid-market in another. Mid-market was a ghost town for years prior to the recent revitalization.

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