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Home Featured Guess who’s a lawyer for the city’s worst planning scofflaw? (Hint: He writes for the Chron)

Guess who’s a lawyer for the city’s worst planning scofflaw? (Hint: He writes for the Chron)

Plus: A key vote on Haney's housing bill -- and why has the Chron completely ignored the Vallie Brown eviction story? That's The Agenda for Oct. 27-Nov. 3

The City Attorney’s Office and the Planning Department just released some details of the legal settlement between the city and the Academy of Art University after years of violations by the school that led to a city lawsuit.

The documents are complicated, and it will take a while for advocates to go through the more than 100-page development agreement and the settlement documents. Among other things, AAU will pay the city $37.6 million for affordable housing mitigations and will cease using nine properties that have been operating illegally for years.

But the city, according to an Oct. 24 letter from Planning Director John Rahaim, also agreed to make amendments to the Planning Code and approve a master development agreement.

This will all have to come before the Planning Commission and the Board of Supes – and right now, the commission is short-handed (there’s a vacancy that the mayor wants to fill with a developer lawyer) and Rahaim is retiring, so the commission is looking for a new planning director.

The commission was set to hear this immensely complicated development agreement and settlement Nov. 21.But it’s not clear that the seat vacated by Rich Hillis will be filled by then (the Rules Committee appears in no hurry to hold a hearing on Diamond’s nomination) and critics of AAU are going to push for a delay.

In the meantime, there’s a fascinating element to the settlement. We have known for a long time that AAU has a battery of lawyers – but while there have been rumors that former Mayor Willie Brown was working for the school, his name has never appeared in any of the records.

Until now.

An Oct. 25 letter from David Millstein, AAU’s primary lawyer, to the City Attorney’s Office has cc’s at the end – including “Willie L. Brown, Jr, esq.” So yeah: The Chronicle columnist is also a lawyer helping negotiate this deal for AAU. He has not, I believe, ever disclosed this fact to his readers.

The full Board of Supes will consider Tuesday/29 Sup. Matt Haney’s legislation to charge developers more for affordable housing – and the final vote will be politically critical.

The bill’s going to pass – Haney has six co-sponsors. But the Mayor’s Office is still opposing it, which means he needs eight votes to override a veto.

Sup. Rafael Mandelman, who got elected with strong progressive support, is not on the list of co-sponsors. Sup. Vallie Brown, who is in a tight race with tenant lawyer Dean Preston, isn’t either.

Sup. Ahsha Safai voted against the bill in the Land Use Committee, saying he thinks the fee would be too high. Haney has so far shown no sign of backing down and reducing the number.

This will be one of the most important board votes of the year – and the vote to override the mayor’s likely veto will be just as important.

The news for Vallie Brown keeps getting worseJoe Eskenazi at Mission Localtracked down the son of a woman who Brown evictedwhen she bought her building on Fillmore Street, and his story is painful:

Following the eviction, Dessman and her son, Williams, traveled a more circuitous route. For months, Williams says, they lived hand-to-mouth in a Bayview motel on Third Street. The forced relocation to the other side of town, Williams said, took the shine off his graduation from John Muir elementary to Everett Middle School. “We lived in a hotel and didn’t have much in the way of a refrigerator,” he recalled. “We pushed bottles and recycled to get money to buy groceries.

Dessman and her son eventually obtained a unit in the notoriously tough Sunnydale Projects. “I grew up in a family-oriented neighborhood and I went to a poverty-stricken neighborhood,” he told Mission Local. “I went from a place where I didn’t see too much negative stuff to a place where I could look out the window and see a person chasing another person and shooting at them …

He becomes emotional when told that his mother and her fellow tenants are being described by Brown as freeloaders. “I don’t know how she can have the audacity to make those accusations against hard-working people who struggled for years,” he says. “She put my family in the position of being in poverty. She ended up ruining my childhood.”

The story has been in 48hills. It started in SF Weekly. It’s been in Mission Local. It’s been in the Examiner. By any standard, it would seem that there’s news here.

But so far, the Chronicle, which endorsed Vallie Brown, has not said a word.

A final note: Buck Delventhal, who was a deputy city attorney for almost half a century, died this weekend. His current boss, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, put out a statement:

“San Francisco lost a piece of its heart today. Buck Delventhal was not just the oracle of the City Charter, a highly accomplished courtroom attorney, and the go-to person for tough legal questions. Buck was a beacon. He was a beacon of inspiration, trust, and boundless optimism. He was a legal lion and an even better person. Over nearly 50 years at the City Attorney’s Office, he quietly helped millions of San Franciscans in countless ways, even though they probably didn’t know he was the one to thank. Buck wouldn’t have had it any other way. City Hall – and San Francisco – will never be the same without him.”

Herrera has been a progressive city attorney. But Delventhal also worked under George Agnost, who was a horrible right-wing pro-developer city attorney, and Louise Renne, who I used to argue with on a regular basis (particularly about PG&E).

But always, from my first days as a reporter in this city, back in the early 1980s, Delventhal was friendly, polite, and helpful. There were times in those early days when nobody else in Agnost’s office would talk to me; Delventhal always took my calls. He explained city laws, he was always completely honest and straightforward, and at one point (and I never asked if his boss knew what he was doing) he filled me in on how San Francisco could get around state law and create a city income tax.

We were not always on the same political page, but everyone who knew him agreed: Buck was a person of immense integrity and principle.

The city will miss him.