The Agenda, Dec. 12-18: Will the supes fold on free City College?

Plus: Building over a shaky PG&E gas main, a new police commissioner, and goodby to three really excellent supervisors: We look at the week ahead

First, let us take a moment to say: We are losing three great supervisors. John Avalos, David Campos, and Eric Mar have been the reliable left flank of the board for the past eight years. They have lead the way on a long list of issues, have passed important legislation, and have helped other young progressives get elected to office.

Term limits are a complicated issue, and part of the tradeoff to get us back to district elections was a provision limiting everyone to two consecutive terms. The board that takes office in January will not have six progressive votes. Mar and Campos are well succeeded; Hillary Ronen in D9 and Sandra Lee Fewer in D1 will be worthy heirs to the legacy of Campos and Mar. No so much in D11, where real-estate guy Ahsha Safai narrowly defeated Kimberly Alvarenga.

The voters backed Sup. Jane Kim's campaign for free city college; will the mayor try to undo it?
The voters backed Sup. Jane Kim’s campaign for free city college; will the mayor try to undo it?

We will have plenty to talk about and work on in the spring; for now, though, let’s just say a collective thanks to the three who have been with us on so much, and through so much. They aren’t going anywhere, and all three will no doubt be active in politics for a long, long time to come. But this chapter of their political careers is coming to an end and they deserve all the recognition they will get. You did good, guys.


Back to the present: The Board of Supes will get a chance Tuesday/13 to send a clear message to the mayor that the voters wanted money from the Mansion Tax to go to make City College free. Mayor Lee and his advisors are talking about seizing that money, approved by the voters in November, and the money set aside for street trees, to fill an unexpected budget gap.

The hole in the budget is largely due to the fact that the mayor assumed his sales tax would pass, dropped the ball on making that happen, and instead directed his top folks to spend their time defeating four modest reforms that would have limited a little bit the mayor’s power.

So now City College has to pay the price?

The supes will vote – in the last meeting for the progressive majority – on an appropriation to send the first $9 million of the projected Mansion Tax money to City College in the spring. There are six co-sponsors of the bill, which means it will pass …. But the mayor has shown he is happy to veto progressive measures as this board winds down, knowing that the next group will be more to his liking. So it will take eight votes to send the clear message that the voters overwhelmingly wanted to make City College free.

Members of the City College teachers’ union, AFT Local 2121, will be visiting the supes offices before the meeting to sing holiday carols and remind them that they made a promise. Meet at the South Light Court at 12:45 if you want to join them.


Next on the agenda for the board: A proposal by Sups. Avalos, Campos, Mar, and Malia Cohen to create a memorial to Alex Nieto in Bernal Heights Park. The cops are way, way against this, since it suggests that the shooting of Nieto was wrong and the young man didn’t need to die. Six votes create the memorial. I dare the mayor to veto that.


And on to another Bernal Heights issue: the supes will hear the appeal of a Planning Commission decision denying environmental review for a project on the south side of the hill that would be built on top of the only PG&E gas main that isn’t protected under a street.

Folsom Street has a 26-inch main, the same sort that exploded in San Bruno, and it’s from the same era and has the same sort of potential maintenance problems, according to a couple of engineers who have weighed in on the issue.

Folsom dead-ends on the south side of Bernal Hill, and the pipe goes under the odd, shifting sedimentary rock that makes up the hill, then rejoins Folsom when the street continues on the north slope.

Robert Bea, a professor emeritus with the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management at UC Berkeley, calls the site of the pipe “highly variable topography” and warns that PG&E has no available records on the maintenance or status of the aging line. The problems, he said, are “identical to the list of concerns that summarized causation” of the San Bruno blast.

A developer wants to build two large houses on the site. (Full disclosure: I go jogging near that site pretty regularly. I don’t think the new houses will damage my running experience, such as it is, but I would hate to get blown to bits.)

The site, which is now a community garden, can accommodate six houses, and it’s pretty unlikely that the developer will stop at two. Under the California Environmental Quality Act, a project with more than three houses automatically requires and environmental impact report; in this case, since only two are currently planned, and the Planning Department doesn’t seem to consider a massive gas explosion to be an issue, the project was determined to be exempt from environmental review.

Rune Storesund, a licensed geotechnical engineer also affiliated with the Cal Catastrophic Risk Management department, notes that the developer will have to do a lot of excavation, and that there has been “no explicit discussion about induced vibrations during rock excavation and associated potential degradation of the PG&E transmission line integrity.” Yeah: You can’t dig all that stuff up, build a new road extension, carve out foundations for two big houses, and do all the associated utility work without shaking things up underground.

Which is a bit alarming for people who live nearby.

Storesund suggests that “strong consideration” should be given to replacing the pipeline before construction. Given its age and condition, that’s a good idea anyway.

The politics are tricky: Sup. David Campos owns a home within 150 yards of the construction site, so by law he can’t vote on the project. Which means D9, where this is happening, is without representation.

If the appeal were delayed just one meeting, then Hillary Ronen, the new D9 supe, would be able to vote. But no: It comes up this week.

And with Campos recused, it may be hard to get six votes to overturn the Planning Department decision. Which is a bit crazy: The neighbors who are appealing aren’t against building housing on the site (although it means the loss of a community garden). They just worry about the pipeline. And they seem to have a point.


The Folsom Street project that raises serious issues about the Eastern Neighborhoods plan is back on the agenda, after being continued.


And there’s a key open seat on the Police Commission that needs to be filled.


It won’t be a quiet day for the last meeting of the progressive Board of Supes.


  1. “City College of San Francisco, struggling for every dollar it can muster, must repay the state nearly $39 million because it can’t prove that instructors taught thousands of students in hundreds of online classes from 2011 to 2014, an audit revealed.”-Chron today

    The funny book-cooking never ends at City College.

  2. My wife is from NYC and we visited often. We stayed on 73rd near Central Park West. I would take the subway downtown but stopped using that station when it became a homeless encampment. I would take the bus even though it took longer. I recall that Giuliani made the subway safe and sparkling clean. The streets were also safer. It was an amazing transformation.

  3. I am waiting for a Trump like mayor to drain the swamp. Well maybe not that far!

    Let me tell ya — I lived in NYC in the 90s and am convinced that a Rudy Giuliani could win the SF Mayor’s race easily.

    When street conditions become so bad that you dread walking a few blocks it becomes much easier to elect a fascist who will be able to get the stale urine smell out.

  4. None, isn’t he the queen from NB still renting & retired early? No matter, I have him on block because he can not be civil with anyone.

  5. Progressives are being voted out of office worldwide. Probably not for their philosophy but because of the results. SF is behind the curve but I suspect we will see a continued move to the right. I am waiting for a Trump like mayor to drain the swamp. Well maybe not that far!

  6. Here’s why these three supervisors are so great, “John Avalos, David Campos, and Eric Mar have been the reliable left flank of the board.” Because they’re good little soldiers, that’s why. Avalos may be the dumbest member of the BOS ever (and that’s saying something), Campos tried (and failed) to leverage himself into another city job using his position on the board and Mar is a nanny stater who passed legislation because he couldn’t say no to his own child. Good riddance to all of them.

  7. Utter lies regarding the new homes on bernal. The neighbors are totally trying to block the project, and using the gas main as an excuse. This thing had a design review in April 2014, and now over 2.5 years later, finally got through planning, and now you want to use a BOS appeal to delay it again. YEARS to get through planning. This is why housing is so expensive. Because of people like Tim.

    Perfect example of why we need the legislation proposed by Weiner recently. NIMBY’s abuse the system.

  8. Agree with bear on the peaks, but back to these issues that Tim wrote about, specifically, the PGE pipe under the new development. Can’t the neighbors push the city/PGE to do something about it? Or, the blog Bernalwood? Or Mission Local, etc? All the so-called advocates should be trying to get that pipe replaced before another problem & loss of life happens. We’ve been talking about the irresponsibility of the lease holder & owner of Ghost Ship aka the Oakland Fire, and safety being an issue, this should be a #1 issue.

  9. I look forward to the day that people like you get disgusted and leave San Francisco. You don’t give a shit about our city, you don’t give a shit about people who are homeless and you want to solve issues with political hackery. Stop trying to make San Francisco into the boring suburb from which you came.

    Translation: You don’t agree with my progressive agenda, therefore you are a douche who should be scorned, belitteld and ignored.

  10. “They … have passed important legislation…”

    Please innumerate the “important legislation” that Campos, Avalos & Mar have authored and shepherded through the process so that we can all discuss its relative merits and their actual accomplishments.

  11. The problem with the funding that was approved for city college and tree maintenance is that those are not earmarked funds. And the reason is that the sponsors didn’t want the additional burden of requiring a 2/3 majority. In making the tactical decision to not have dedicated funding, but rather just have the revenue go to the general fund, there was always the risk that that money would be diverted to other purposes.

    So next time around, if you want to be sure that the money goes to city college, then do it the right way with a parcel tax – one such measure was approved by the required 2/3 majority a few years ago. If it is just and fair, you’ll get 2/3 and not have to play these lottery games.

    On another note, it’s a little unfair to accuse Lee of not campaigning for the sales tax hike and instead defending the mayor’s office against the 4 props designed to weaken his power. The blame surely lies with the sponsors of those 4 measures, which made it inevitable that the mayor would have to focus on them. They all lost and so, on balance, would it not have been better to have not pushed for them, and instead all work together for the sales tax hike?

  12. Blaming Kim for the Tenderlion is nonsense. You are either a political hack or an ignorant newcomer.

    And blaming someone for owning a ‘million dollar plus’ home is equally idiotic, because most homeowners in San Francisco own million dollar plus homes.

    The Mission district has become a haven for expensive condos? Well, let’s blame Campos and not mayor and his cabal of tech investors and developers who want to enrich themselves by displacing non-wealthy people, and, in the case of Ron Conway, who wants to displace progressives.

    And you say that it is no wonder that Trump won. Except that he got less than 10% of the votes in San Francisco.

    You look forward to the day with Campos and Avalos are gone. I look forward to the day that people like you get disgusted and leave San Francisco. You don’t give a shit about our city, you don’t give a shit about people who are homeless and you want to solve issues with political hackery. Stop trying to make San Francisco into the boring suburb from which you came.

  13. How is that one can complain about the deteriorating quality of life in our city these past years where there are so many without a roof over their head and go go to bed hungry every night and still praise the city supervisors who have held office during this time? How can one support someone like Jane Kim in Sacramento or anywhere to make the world a better place when life in the Tenderloin has gone from bad to worse during her incumbancy? How can someone keep telling us that David Campos is an advocate for housing when during his incumbency the Mission district has become a haven for expensive condos, and yet he goes to bed every night in his million dollar plus Bernal Heights home? Is it no wonder that Trump won? Terms like “liberal,” and “progressive,” mean nothing anymore. I love this City and I look forward to the day David Campos and John Avalos are gone. We gave them an opportunity to make this city a better place and they are leaving it a worse place. Enough said.

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