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Friday, June 18, 2021

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News + PoliticsThe Agenda, June 20-27: The budget battle begins

The Agenda, June 20-27: The budget battle begins

Plus the mayor's giveaway to private developers in the name of "housing bonuses" comes to the full board for a contentious debate

It’s all about the budget this week.

For months, the supes Budget and Finance Committee has been holding hearings and going over department needs and the mayor’s proposals, and on Monday/21 the public will get to weigh in on the final package.

Sup. John Avalos wants to hold some of the police budget in reserve until we see some real changes
Sup. John Avalos wants to hold some of the police budget in reserve until we see some real changes

The hearing starts at 10 am, and will last most of the day.

One of the big issues will be the move by Sup. John Avalos to put $200 million of the Police Department’s budget on reserve – until some of the reforms that the department has promised actually happen.

The mayor is going to do everything he can to stop this, and is going to argue that the city has to support the cops. That’s fine, but Avalos argues that putting money on reserve isn’t a cut at all – it’s just a way to ensure the accountability that has been missing.

Every quarter, the department would have to show the board how it made quantifiable progress in things like training, use-of-force policies, and discipline for officers. As long as the chief could show those goals were met, the money would be released.

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Meanwhile, the Budget Justice Coalition will hold a rally on the steps of City Hall at 9:30 to demand that some $53 million is shifted to critical social priorities. The group wants the mayor to cut additional Police Academy classes and reduce what is now a big increase in criminal justice – also known as the criminalization of poor people.

Budget Committee Chair Mark Farrell wants the entire hearing process over by Wednesday/22, when he has scheduled the committee to vote to pass the mayor’s budget to the full board.

The mayor's bonus for private housing developers will be the subject of serious debate Tuesday
The mayor’s bonus for private housing developers will be the subject of serious debate Tuesday

The supes on Tuesday/21 will consider the mayor’s Affordable Housing Bonus Program, which would allow developers to build bigger and taller buildings in exchange for a modest amount of below-market housing. It was an interesting hearing at the Land Use Committee last week: Sup. Scott Wiener Spoke at length about how important the private market was to the city’s housing supply. Sup. Aaron Peskin, who introduced an alternative called “density done right,” talked about the importance of giving neighborhoods a voice in planning decisions.

In the end, Peskin didn’t have three votes — but he might have six at the full board, where all of his amendments will be considered in the politics of an election year. Does Sup. London Breed want to side with the developers and against the neighborhoods on a major housing issue? is there somewhere an eight vote for something the mayor will want to veto?

At the committee hearing, Chair Malia Cohen, as is so often the case, seemed to want nothing more than to get the hearing over. Land Use always has long meetings, with complicated issues; if she doesn’t want to spend her time listening to the public and hearing debate, why is she the chair of that committee?


C.W. Nevius is apparently convinced that Sup. Jane Kim’s amazing showing in the June election for state Senate is all about strategy and the “Bernie factor,” and that it was really cool high-tech campaigning that allowed her to move to stunning victory.

But I have to ask: Is it not possible that the voters are profoundly unhappy with what’s going on in Mayor Ed Lee’s San Francisco, and that Wiener is associated with Lee, and that people wanted to see a change? I don’t doubt the brilliance of the Storefront Political Media strategy, but it’s hard to pull off an upset like this on strategy alone. You need a candidate who speaks to what the voters care about. And right now, they care about saying that the city has become a godawful mess and they want different people in charge.

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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  1. Yes, correlation is a powerful illusion. San Francisco does tax too much and it doubtless has too many laws and regulations. It is attractive because the urban core is attractive (people are coming back to that realization), and the urban core next door to Silicon Valley and at the heart of the tech revolution worldwide is even more attractive.

    And as usual, people always claim the Golden Goose is doing great before letting it die of neglect and exploitation.

  2. Yeah, we’ve heard dire predictions from your side for decades. San Francisco taxes too much. San Francisco has too many laws. San Francisco is too progressive. And yet people and businesses are clamoring to move here and developers continue to build housing and offices.

    As for the State’s law, the intention isn’t to ‘punish’ San Francisco for exceeding the law’s objectives. There should be exemption for any locality that demands a higher percent of affordable housing.

  3. So what’s to prevent a developer from invoking State Bonus Density (SBD) as a get around for Prop C? Or even AHBP?

    And if SBD is so powerful, why is Brown even suggesting the ‘by-right’ (AB2501?)

  4. If the BOS doesn’t pass a version of Mayor Lee and Sup. Tang’s (local) Affordable Housing Bonus Program (AHBP) that is robust enough to entice housing developers to utilize it then developers will simply invoke the State Bonus Density Law.

    Doing the latter will create far, far fewer subsidized units than the Lee/Tang/Planning Dept. AHBP.
    (FYI, there are already 12 State Bonus Density Bonus projects in the Planning Dept pipeline and most certainly this number will increase dramatically if the AHBP fails to pass.)

    If Peskin, Mar, Campos, Avalos, et al are able to water down the AHBP (e.g. via Peskin’s bogus “Density Done Right” alternative) or otherwise “neutralize” it — it’ll actually be worse with regard their supposed agenda, i.e. the creation of the maximum amount of subsidized units.

    Far fewer (to perhaps zero) subsidized units will be created under the Peskin plan as it has absolutely no funding mechanism attach to it that would supply the billion$ necessary to fund his “100% subsidized” housing projects.

    People that are young newly-arrived or of modest means will be the ones most hurt if a “full-strength” version of the AHBP does not get implemented. Anyone truly interested in stabilizing the cost of housing in SF while simultaneously creating the maximum amount of subsidized units should be vigorously supporting the AHBP.

    For those that are renters or aspire to live or remain in SF, opposing the AHBP is analogous to being a turkey celebrating Thanksgiving.

  5. Regarding Nevius column another metric was the relatively strong showing of Kim and the reform ticket in the DCCC races. At this point Kim was the leader in the AD17 race for slots on the DCCC. Wiener was second. Citywide it looks like the reform ticket has the votes needed to take back control from the conservatives, which included Wiener. This is more evidence of discontent with the Lee Administration.

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