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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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News + PoliticsThe Agenda, May 16-22: Big, ugly luxury housing projects...

The Agenda, May 16-22: Big, ugly luxury housing projects in the Mission and the Tenderloin….

Plus lying cops, some very cool events -- and a new level of political sleaze. We look at the week ahead

The local news media made a big deal of the legal thrashing that Federal Judge Charles Breyer gave to an SF police officer who, the judge said, lied on the stand. Now it’s up to federal and possibly local prosecutors to decide if Officer Nicholas Buckley should face perjury charges.

But missing in most of the discussion is the central fact that this case once again shows that San Francisco police officers lie – routinely – and get away with it.

Does this high-end housing project spell trouble for the Tenderloin?
Does this high-end housing project spell trouble for the Tenderloin?

(Note to Chief Suhr: It doesn’t matter if the feds or the DA can make a perjury case that will convince a jury. If a cop clearly lied on the stand, you can fire him. The fact that you rarely do that is one of the reasons a growing number of people say you should step down.)

The sad fact is that these kinds of cases are not that unusual. Anyone who has worked in criminal defense or police accountability knows that.       And it’s at the heart of so many of the cases that are now roiling the department.

As we pointed out in the Alex Nieto trial, cops have every incentive not to tell the truth, since the consequences are so dire and they so very, very rarely get caught. In the Amilcar Perez Lopez case, it’s pretty clear that the story the officers told was untrue. In the Mario Woods shooting, the version the officers told was clearly untrue.

Every one of those officers is still on the force.

One of the reasons that it’s so hard to convict police officers of unlawful use of force (or homicide) is that so many people in this country, even in San Francisco, still think that you can trust the word of a cop over the word of almost anyone else. Sadly, we are seeing increasing evidence that you can barely trust the word of some SF cops at all.

The Police Commission ought to adopt a new rule: Immediate termination for any officer who lies to his or her superiors, lies in a police report, lies in a legal deposition, or lies on the witness stand. Zero tolerance.

And good luck with that when the Police Officers Association seems to run the department.


The Board of Supes takes on homelessness Tuesday/17. A proposal by Sups. Campos, Avalos, and Mar would mandate that the city create six new “navigation centers” in the next 24 months, something the mayor opposes.

The navigation center in the Mission has been, by all accounts, a huge success. Now the progressive supes want to expand the program, which offers services that a lot of shelters don’t. Couples can stay together. Animals are allowed. You don’t have to get in line ever day to have a bed at night. And most important, the centers try to steer people to permanent affordable housing.

The mayor has said it’s not possible to set up that many sites in that little time – but as soon as the board put the pressure on, he started finding places.

Navigation centers aren’t long-term housing, but they are a first step off the streets for a lot of homeless people. I understand, as Randy Shaw likes to point out, that money going into these centers isn’t going for new, permanent housing. But money that’s going to Twitter for the tax break that Shaw and the mayor championed isn’t going for affordable housing either.

And speaking of all that money stuff: In a little-noticed agenda item on the Budget and Finance Committee meeting Monday/16 is this gem: A hearing on “the city’s financial situation.”

There will be a lot of diversion and confusion, but also maybe some interesting insights, if anyone on the panel dares to ask the mayor’s reps and the controller: how much money have we lost from tax breaks in the past four years? How much more stable would the budget be if we charged developers the full costs of the transit and housing impacts of their projects?

How much has this tech boom really helped the city, and how much has it caused a lot of misery, evictions, homelessness, and displacement – without tangible net benefit to the city coffers?

Yeah, we have more money coming in, which we always do in booms. But are the costs of this current boom so high that the net impact is … negative? If we are such a rich city, why isn’t there money for the affordable housing we need?


But back to the full board.

The supes will hear an appeal of the approval of a giant project with mostly market-rate housing in the Tenderloin, at Golden Gate and Jones. The Planning Commission approved this monstrosity, despite a really paltry affordable-housing allocation, but that’s what this mayor’s Planning Commission does. Donald Falk, director of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Center, wants the supes to reverse that decision – in large part because, he argues, a 304-unit complex that will attract high-paying renters on the edge of one of the city’s last low-income areas will be a recipe for long-term displacement:

The Tenderloin is the lowest-income and most racially diverse neighborhood in San Francisco, although that status in in peril. The median income for a Tenderloin resident is approximately $23,000 a year, equating to an “affordable” rent of $575 a month. If the units at 1066 Market rent at the current market rates, rents will be approximately four times the amount affordable to most Tenderloin residents. Most Tenderloin residents will not be eligible to live in the 36 below-market-rate units, which are targeted to households earning no more than $40,000 annually, an amount few Tenderloin residents receive.

Falk notes in his appeal letter that the displacement of neighborhood residents, through evictions and natural turnover, is higher than anywhere else in the city, and that when people leave rent-controlled units, the rents go so high that people in the community can’t afford them.

The demographics of people moving into the neighborhood do not match the demographics of people moving out, and the predominately low-income nature of the Tenderloin is being lost.

When that happens, he notes, businesses that serve the high-income levels replace neighborhood-serving businesses – and nonprofits that provide crucial services to the community are forced out by higher commercial rents.

The Mayor’s Office supports this project, which is sponsored by the Shorenstein Company, a major player in local politics. It takes six votes to uphold the appeal and reject the project.


The Beast on Bryant, a giant project bitterly opposed by much of the Mission community, comes before the Planning Commission Thursday/19. The project would turn most of an entire block on Bryant and 18th into mostly market-rate housing; in the process, the developers have already evicted a community arts space and local blue-collar businesses. In fact, the city is losing 50,000 square feet of Production, Distribution, and Repair space with this project.

The developer, Nick Podell, is trying desperately to cut a deal that will allow this to go forward. What the community wants is a big chunk of the land – deeded over to the city and funded for affordable housing and PDR – or a radically different project.

There will be lengthy testimony on this one, and a critical vote for the future of the Mission.


UrbanIDEA, the progressive land-use think tank and organizing group (full disclosure: I am on the steering committee) holds two events this week, one a community forum and the other a fundraiser.

The forum is called “Weapons of Mass Displacement: Homeless Sweeps, Police Killings, and SF’s Crisis of Gentrification.” Speakers include Phelicia Jones of the Justice for Mario Woods Coalition, Adriana Camerena of the Justice for Alex Nieto Coalition, Jennifer Friedenbach, director of the Coalition on Homelessness, and Chris Herring, a UC Berkeley sociologist.

It starts at 6:30pm at the Bindlestiff Theater, 185 6th Street.

The fundraiser features activist, writer and comedian Nato Green performing White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, the radical and highly acclaimed play that addresses censorship, activism … and a lot of other things that will be a surprise, because the critics all take a vow to keep the actual content a surprise.

The actors who do this show don’t see the script until they arrive. It’s a scary thing for a lot of them, but Nato is fearless and this will be a great moment in the city.

It’s at 2pm Sunday/26 at the Fort Mason Chapel, 1100 Bay Street. Get tickets and info here.
The strange ways of SF politics: I bet almost nobody else noticed, but I found it strange that the nasty hit-piece mailer taking on the progressive candidates for Democratic County Central Committee listed only 12 people under the “Vote for Progress Democrats” line. The group has endorsed 14.

Missing: Josh Arce, who is very much a part of that slate, was appointed by the real-estate lobbyist chair Mary Jung, and is also running for supervisor in D9 as the candidate of the same conservative forces that support the mayor’s agenda.

So why isn’t he on the slate?

One good reason: The mailer attacks progressive candidates for “voting to stop building housing in the worse housing crisis in decades.” What they actually did was endorse Prop. I, the Mission Moratorium, which had immense support in the Mission community and would only have stopped luxury housing, not affordable housing.

But here’s the odd part: At the DCCC meeting last fall, Arce, through his proxy Vince Courtney Jr., also voted in favor of Prop. I. It was tortured – Courtney went on and on about his allies in the Building Trades Unions didn’t want to see the measure pass, but in the end, he had to vote Yes or Arce would have lost any possible credibility in the Mission.

So: The mailer could have added Arce’s name to those who wanted to “stop housing.” But he’s their guy, right? Can’t do that. So I suspect they just left him off the slate to avoid the fact that the mailer was so sleazy and inaccurate that nobody who figured it out would take it seriously.

These folks have no shame.

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Tim Redmond
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.

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