The local TV news coverage of Jeff Adachi’s death is a disgrace

Plus: Letting developers drive Port land use decisions, cracking down on vacant storefronts, and telling the cops not to interrogate minors ... that's The Agenda for Feb. 25- March 3.

I’m just going to come right out and say it: Some of the TV news coverage of Jeff Adachi’s death has been utterly repugnant.

Channel 4 and Channel 7 seem to be trying to outdo each other with “scoops” based on reports that I am almost certain were leaked by the cops, many of whom hated Adachi.

Jeff Adachi
The late San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi

Police reports aren’t public. When the police shoot and kill young people of color, their families can’t get those reports.

But when Adachi died in an apartment in North Beach, not only the reports but photos taken by the officers wound up on the TV news. Where do you supposed those came from? Why do you suppose they wound up with the sensation-driven TV stations?

The photos have been widely publicized with no context at all. There are photos of “an unmade bed” – a salacious innuendo with no relevance. There are pictures of liquor bottles – although there is no evidence or even suggestion that Adachi drank anything but two glasses of wine.

There is zero — zero — evidence of foul play. Everyone agrees with that.

The Medical Examiner’s Office called off the cops, saying there was no evidence of a crime – and there still isn’t. Instead, the cops showed up anyway (why is nobody investigating why that happened?) Are some officers at the SFPD trying to damage the reputation of one of the city’s heroes – before he’s been dead more than a day? Looks like it.

And the TV news is going along with this farce.

To its immense credit, the Chron has been much more circumspect, waiting – as a responsible news outlet should – for the actual facts to come in. Same with Channel 5, which is just reporting that the Medical Examiner is looking into the cause of death.

So awful that his wife and daughter have to deal with this.

The Port Commission meets Tuesday/26to begin what appears to be a process that could lead to one of the largest development projects in Port history – turning six public piers, with a total of 540,000 square feet, over to a private developer.

And it’s happening before a long-discussed Waterfront Plan Update has been completed.

In other words, the Port is ready to start asking developers for proposals to build commercial operations on Piers 19, 19 ½, 23, and 29 and possibly 29 ½ and 31 – before there are plans coming out of a community-driven process to decide what we want on the waterfront.

“This is tail wagging the dog – in this case it looks like flipper wagging the sea lion,” Jon Golinger, a member of the Port’s Waterfront Land-Use Review Committee, told me.

Everyone agrees that the piers are old and in bad shape. It’s going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars to bring the up to the standard that’s needed in the era of climate change and rising sea levels.

The Port argues that the only way to do that – since the city doesn’t have the money – is to enter into public-private partnerships with developers.

The idea: Developers will take valuable waterfront land, turn it into profitable enterprises – and as part of the deal, repair and upgrade the crumbling piers.

We can argue the value of that approach; a city as rich as San Francisco ought to be able to repair its own infrastructure. But let’s accept for the moment the notion that we have to let private developers make money off the waterfront to save the piers.

Shouldn’t the Port Commission wait until the staff has reviewed the Waterfront Plan Update reports and made recommendations for amendments, and the commissioners have had a chance to decide what the city’s collective vision for the future of one of our most valuable assets is?

“Not one substantive amendment has been proposed,” Golinger said.

Or are we going to ask developers to come up with their ideas, hire their lobbying teams, make their campaign donations, and drive what ought to be a public process?

The meeting begins at 3:15 on the second floor of the Ferry Building.

The Supes Budget and Finance Committee meets Wednesday/27 to consider a couple of interesting items. One would authorize the city treasurer, in the event of another federal government shutdown, to secure a short-term line of credit up to $20 million to provide emergency loans for federal workers in San Francisco. The local banking industry should have done this in the last shutdown; the city stepping in is a small move toward the idea of a public bank.

The committee is also going to look at rules for allowing on-site sale and consumption of cannabis at special events. It’s fairly easy to get a permit to allow people to drink beer at say, a street fair. Soon: Cannabis, too. You can weigh in on any of this in the Board chambers at 10am.

The Land Use Committee takes up the issue of vacant storefronts Monday/25. All 11 supes have signed onto the idea that every vacant storefront needs to be registered with the city and pay a fee (soon, the board may discuss raising that fee, current $775, a lot higher). The current rules have a loophole: If you say that the storefront is for lease – even if you set the price so high nobody will pay it and accept no offers – you are exempt from the rules.

Vacant storefronts are a neighborhood blight – but more than that, they’re evidence of landlord greed, of property owners refusing to rent to small businesses at reasonable rates because they think they can get more money in the future.

All this does is drive up land values; speculators buy commercial property at inflated prices, assuming that rents in the area will rise enough to pay off the gamble. And that hurts all of us.

The full board on Tuesday/26 will vote on a measure to ban the SFPD from joining, spending money on, or participating in anything sponsored by the National Rifle Association. That’s symbolically important.
More important is a proposal to ban SF cops from interrogating people under 17 until they have representation, and setting clear rules on questioning of youth.

Long overdue.