Three supes who voted against homeless commission supported a very similar plan in 2016

Fewer, Mandelman, and Yee all backed an independent panel to oversee mayor's housing office.

There’s an interested oddity about the vote to delay (and possibly kill) Sup. Matt Haney’s proposal for a commission to oversee the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

Three of the supes who voted to delay the measure, and two who spoke against it, endorsed a very similar measure just two years ago.

Sup. Hillary Ronen complained that the existing structure made it hard for her to find alternatives to tent encampments in the Mission.

In 2016, affordable-housing advocates pushed for a measure that would put the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development under a commission. Three members of that commission would be appointed by the board, three by the mayor, and three by the supes, and one by the controller.

The argument in favor was very similar to what Haney is saying now: That a department tasked with a critical issue badly lacked oversight and room for community input.

The measure was on the ballot in November as Proposition M. It failed under a torrent of opposition from downtown, developers, and the Mayor’s Office.

But among the six supes who voted to put it on the ballot was Norman Yee, now the board president. Yee made the motion to delay Haney’s measure to March, and told me today that he was not likely to vote for any commission plan that doesn’t give the mayor a 4-3 majority.

Sup. Rafael Mandelman voted to delay the measure, and at the board meeting Tuesday spoke of the need for accountability. He said that giving the controller the potential tie-breaking appointment was a terrible idea.

But in 2016, he wrote a ballot argument in favor of Prop. M, saying the measure “will make city government more responsive and accountable to the needs of the LGBT community – and every community that is suffering from high housing costs.”

That ballot argument was also signed by Bevan Dufty, former supervisor and homeless director, who strongly supports Haney’s proposal.

Sup. Sandra Lee Fewer, who voted to delay the commission, also supported Prop. M, and signed a ballot argument stating that “with so many taxpayer funds being spent on housing and community development, it is critical that we have strong public oversight to ensure that all of us are being well served.”

Yee signed the same ballot argument.

Yee told me today that he thinking on the issue “has evolved a bit since then.” He said that any commission overseeing one of departments under the Mayor’s Office should have a majority of commissioners appointed by the mayor.

Mandleman told me that when he signed that ballot argument, “I was relying on the advice of my allies in the affordable housing community.” At the time, he was on the Community College Board, and “I didn’t have the kind of direct knowledge of how departments function that I have now as a supervisor.
He also said that he thought the controller should remain neutral in policy disputes. When I asked if he would consider any plan that didn’t give the mayor a majority control, he said it was unlikely.

I haven’t heard back from Fewer.

Haney told me that he is going to stick to his proposal that the mayor and the supes each appoint three people, and that the swing vote be a different party.

So this will be a fascinating discussion over the next month or two, as the measure works its way back through committee and toward a vote to place it on the March, 2020 ballot.