Saturday, November 28, 2020
News + Politics Holding the SF cops accountable

Holding the SF cops accountable

Plus building on toxic waste sites and the legacy of Alex Nieto ... that's The Agenda for Oct.18-25


The San Francisco Police Department has implemented only a fraction of the reforms that the Obama-era Justice Department proposed. Despite that, the city is working behind the scenes with the Police Officers Association – which is by far the largest obstacle to reform – on a significant raise for cops.

SF police are way behind on reforms.

The full Board of Supes, acting as a Committee of the Whole, will hear testimony from the chief and other witnesses on the progress toward reform – and the public will also be able to weigh in. That item is scheduled for 3pm (although it will probably be much later because there are other 3pm hearings ahead of this one.)

One of those – if it goes forward, and a lot of land-use appeals get continued – involves the question of whether the city should allow and encourage development, particularly housing development, on sites that have toxic waste issues.

In this case, it’s 1776 Green Street, where a developer wants to build six market-rate (that means luxury) condo units on a site where a gas station or auto repair facility has operated for about 100 years.

At one point, records show, there were several fuel-storage tanks below ground. As was often the case in the era before strict environmental laws, they leaked. The soil has benzene contamination at 900 times the acceptable levels for human exposure, appeal documents filed with the supes say.

Benzene is a human carcinogen. It’s also just nasty stuff that you don’t want to be exposed to.

But the Planning Department says the project can go forward without an environmental review, citing a “common sense” rule. (Common sense to me says you don’t build housing on a toxic waste site.)

This project is particularly relevant since the Chron, in a rare example of excellent investigative reporting, showed in August that the city has ignored environmental considerations in its desperate efforts to allow new housing on old gas station sites.

The Sierra Club, among others, has written to the supes arguing that this project needs a full environmental review.

The supes will also vote on a measure by Sup. Matt Haney that would prevent the mayor from giving a department head full authority to approve contracts. That, of course, stems from the Department of Public Works scandal involving Mohammed Nuru. The late Mayor Ed Lee gave Nuru extraordinary powers to approve contracts, and Mayor London Breed continued that authorization, which now has the FBI crawling all over City Hall.

Sup. Shamann Walton has a measure that would make it unlawful to call 911 or in other ways contact the cops with the specific intent to discriminate against a person “on the basis of race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, national origin, place of birth, sex, age, religion, creed, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, weight, or height.”

I have to wonder: If this had been in place five years ago, would Alex Nieto still be alive?

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.


  1. The supes did not cut one single SFPD sworn officer in this budget and are now teeing up a hand-wringing session over the DoJ recommendations followed by a likely pay raise.

  2. leftcoaster: It’s on Tuesday the 20th.

    You can search under “SF – Committee of the Whole – Update on Findings and Recommendations Regarding Law Enforcement Practices”.

More by this author

Will the cops agree to an acceptable deal by next week?

POA and Mayor's Office still in secret talks with Dec. 1 deadline for final approval of a new contract.

Supes to push measure keeping homeless hotels open

Proposal would set up another confrontation with the Mayor's Office over keeping unhoused safe during COVID.

Supes approve police contract that many agree is a bad deal

Facing threats of layoffs and promises of POA remorse, board approves raises for cops with no guarantees they will stop blocking reforms.

Supes to vote on cops contract — as new records show history of blocking reform

Documents reveal a stunning pattern of the POA trying to prevent reforms -- but a deal to give the cops raises with no concessions is still pending approval.

Supes, service providers stunned at mayor’s plan to close homeless hotels

Hearing shows that there is no financial reason to kick people out of hotel rooms, and no place for them to go.

You might also likeRELATED