Wednesday, March 3, 2021
News + Politics Supes vote to protect arts space after some disingenuous...

Supes vote to protect arts space after some disingenuous whining

Wiener, Farrell complain that progressives are using the ballot to push their agenda -- which is exactly what Wiener and Farrell are doing

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The Board of Supes put a measure to protect artist workspace and blue-collar jobs on the ballot yesterday after a long discussion about why this has to get voter approval.

That debate was punctuated by some stunningly disingenuous remarks by Sups. Scott Wiener and Mark Farrell, who said this issue should have been dealt with by the board – but who have put two measures of their own on the ballot that could have been addressed the same way.

There’s no secret what’s going on here. Farrell and Wiener want to have anti-homeless measures on the ballot to create a wedge issue to attack progressive candidates. There’s no way the 6-5 majority on the board would have approved these harsh and pointless laws, so they used their power under the City Charter to put them on the ballot with just four signatures.

Kim’s measure had at least six votes – but not eight, and if she had gone the legislative route, everyone knows the mayor would have vetoed it. Mayor Ed Lee supports the tech industry and the developers who are rapidly taking low-cost production, distribution, and repair space and arts space and turning it into luxury condos and tech offices.

So both sides have gone directly to the voters.

In a perfect world, as Sup. Aaron Peskin noted, the board would do its job and only ask the voters to weigh in on Charter amendments, bonds, and taxes, as required by local and state law. But the city Charter, written in 1932, addressed another problem: At that time, Peskin said, most of the board was utterly corrupt, and many members were indicted. The only way to get a fair hearing on some issues was to go directly to the voters.

In this era, it’s less that sort of outright corruption and more the fact that the board is deeply divided between people who have a very different vision of the city – and the mayor is a total captive of the tech and development industry.

So some things simply have to go to the voters.

John Elberling, director of TODCO, pointed out the problem: “There has been catastrophic displacement of arts space and PDR, and for five years, the city has done nothing about it,” he testified.

Eric Arguello, who works with Calle 24, noted that Cell Space is gone, Galleria de la Raza is having trouble getting a new lease, Dance Mission is having trouble getting a new lease – and all over the Mission, cultural heritage is under attack.

“We are bleeding blue-collar jobs,” he said, noting that some studies show more than 20 percent unemployment in the Latino community (while the mayor brags about the city’s overall unemployment rate, which shows that white people with engineering degrees who moved here recently are doing fine).

Flora Davis, an artist who recently lost her studio on Soma after 23 years, noted that of the 43 artists she used to share space with, only 16 remain in the city. The building she moved into in the Mission used to have 60 artists; there are 20 left.

Kim noted that a recent study found that 70 percent of the artists in San Francisco are either being evicted or facing eviction – and the other 30 percent fear it.

So yeah, it’s a crisis. And yeah, the mayor won’t do anything about it – in fact, his Planning Department has allowed vast amounts of PDR space to be converted, some of it illegally.

Sup. Scott Wiener listened to all of that testimony, said he agrees that there is something of an issue here – and then went into a rant about how this doesn’t belong on the ballot. We don’t need to put this before the voters, he said; we need to deal with PDR conversion and zoning in a “collaborative way.” But I don’t think he has ever voted against a PDR conversion or in favor of legislation that would stop industrial space from being torn down for market-rate housing or offices.

The Kim measure, he said, “is extremely strict.” As is has to be; the developers have found was around almost every zoning law in this city.

And then we got into the argument about ballot measures.

Farrell and Wiener both tried to claim that this is the sort of issue that doesn’t belong on the ballot. Kim called their bluff: Sure, she said, although she has been working for more than 18 months with stakeholders on this legislation, she would pull it immediately – if Farrell and Wiener would pull their anti-homeless measures, which not only replicate existing law but never needed to go on the ballot.

Um … no.

So this has nothing to do with the great public policy question of what goes on the ballot, and everything to do with the real politics of San Francisco today. Sorry, Sup. Wiener: The rest is rhetoric and games.

The Kim measure made it to the ballot 7-4, with Wiener, Farrell, and Sups Katy Tang and Malia Cohen voting no.

The future of the Beast on Bryant has been delayed until September — the supes voted to continue that item a few weeks.

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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  31. Two surveys of artist were conducted. One by the SF Arts Commission and one by Artspan. Both showed an alarming loss of PDR space. I don’t think you need to file a Sunshine request to see the data.

    You can see quite a bit of information here: http://www.antievictionmap.com/
    and here: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1MQl7jzox7J5OrOK1Ovwr3IbnDYg&hl=en_US

    Los Angeles and New York have experienced similar loss of art and culture due to gentrification. San Francisco artists are attempting to solve the problem by coming up with a way to tighten enforcement of the zoning and use laws that are on the books.

  32. Protecting PDR zoning and use is about enforcing the law instead of ignoring it, which is what the Planning Department does with all of the zoning and use laws and all of their area plans. Sarah B. Jones admitted that she isn’t limited to an area plan because she can always draw metrics from a different plan. Why are we spending any time fighting at the city level? The real damage is being done in Sacramento and there are communities much further along in that fight. We can look to LA and points south for inspiration.
    http://www.citywatchla.com/index.php/the-la-beat/11583-jerry-brown-is-trying-to-quash-the-people-s-ability-to-fight-mega-developers-for-him-it-s-personal

  33. “Lots of evidence that few residents appreciate the sale of San Francisco to the highest bidder.”

    This is how our economy works for better or worse. Landowners try to maximize profit, i.e. sell to the highest bidder. Would you sell a building you own for less than market rate?

  34. Curious sounds confused. There is no such thing as a PDR industry. PDR is a zoning or use, not an industry. Most non-office, non-retain businesses fall under PDR use. Lots of evidence that the rush to build luxury housing is causing gentrification in cities all over the world. Lots of evidence that few residents appreciate the sale of San Francisco to the highest bidder. Lots of evidence that the transit rich concept is a scam. Lots of evidence the the residents of San Francisco have had enuf.

  35. It would appear the these zones won’t necessarily employ SF residents. 67% don’t live in the City and there is a higher percent Whites than average (70%). But it would also appear that around 50% live within 10 miles of work.

  36. Keeping some industrial use in the City by zoning may be a good idea, but that would not guarantee that “arts” won’t continue to be displaced. I presume it will keep more blue collar jobs and presumably more blue collar workers in SF. But with reengineering of industry and with automation those jobs are likely to require much more education than many of the working-class now have. There will still be a trend toward more highly educated tech workers.

  37. I will blow a Raspberry to ALL the supes this season. Farrell & Weiner for trying to give Tent City more rights, and Kim & Peskin for putting their measures on the ballot – was there even an attempt to go thru Committee?

    Ya know, some PDR we need. others we don’t. Do we really need to be making clothing and such in SF? One delivery from Fremont per week ought to do it. OTOH, we do need services, like plumbing & lighting supply, food services and repair shops. And cab/limo/shuttle companies should’t have to travel 20 mi to do business.

    Tim tries to say that the PDR situation has only gotten worse in the Lee Admin (the “last five years”). I guess it was doing Newsom in the Swell years – otherwise, it would have just STAYED worse.

  38. SF Bizjournal reported yesterday that PDR industry groups actually oppose the Kim measure, saying it was vague and arbitrary, iirc. Also, though Jane has been working on this for “18 Mths”, they were only “included” about a week ago.

    But that sounds about right for Kim. Short on evidence and facts, and long on bureaucratic ‘solutions’ that have to be revised later cuz they’re so totally unrealistic (Prop C) or turn out to be ineffective anyway (Kim 2.0 – Nuisance evictions running at same rate as last year: 20-30/mth).

    I guess the only good news is that we won’t have to see too much more of her, one way or the other. Maybe she can do for Palo Alto what she’s done up here.

  39. Meanwhile, the former Cellspace has now been surrounded by an homeless encampment offering SF’s finest chop shop, shooting gallery and hooker zone.

  40. …and there isn’t one artist in San Francisco who owns their space.

    Whenever Kim mentions an unsourced ‘recent study’ somebody should file a Sunshine request to actually see the study that was used as advocacy for legislation.

  41. Cohen voted no because she’s still waiting on the Mercedes she asked for last week. And once she gets the Mercedes, she will give the developers ever more of what they want … as long as she gets a new Mercedes every so often.

  42. “Kim noted that a recent study found that 70 percent of the artists in San Francisco are either being evicted or facing eviction – and the other 30 percent fear it.” – I call BullShit on this study if it exists. This study would mean that there is not one artist who is successful still living in SF. Kim should not be quoting such utter crap.

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