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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

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City HallThe AgendaWhy have DBI, Planning, and the cops gotten away with so much...

Why have DBI, Planning, and the cops gotten away with so much for so long?

Plus: $70 million for parking meters when the mayor says we can't afford to keep SIP hotels open to save lives. That's The Agenda for Sept. 13-19


The list of permit and safety violations at 2867 San Bruno Avenue is staggering. The space was approved for ten units; the developer snuck in 30, and didn’t pay the required affordable-housing fees. As Joe Eskenazi at MissionLocal, which has been following this disaster from the start, reports, the Department of Building Inspection appears to have ignored a long list of violations.

This is, of course, just one example of the ongoing problems, including criminal problems, at DBI. Now Sup. Hillary Ronen wants to find out exactly how this was allowed to happen.

Mohammed Nuru was arrested in a public corruption case. Now, the supes want to tighten the rules on “behested” payments” like the ones he solicited. DPW photo.

Ronen has called for a hearing Monday/13 at the Land Use and Transportation Committee to ask city officials, including the Planning Department and DBI, to explain—and talk about steps to make sure this never happens again. The meeting starts at 1:30pm.

The Government Oversight and Audit Committee will consider signing off on a police settlement that will cost the city $8 million. Maurice Caldwell was locked up for 20 years for a crime he didn’t commit—in part, he claims in a federal lawsuit, because a cop named Kitt Crenshaw framed him for murder.

As we noted in July:

Since Crenshaw retired at the rank of commander, and he’s eligible for as much as 90 percent of his highest base salary as a pension, he’s likely collecting around $180,000 a year from the taxpayers for the rest of his life.

The City Attorney’s Office recommended the settlement, under which Crenshaw and the Police Department would admit no wrongdoing.

I’m glad Caldwell is getting some payment for the torture—and that’s what we are talking about, torture—of spending much of his adult life in prison when he knew every day that he was innocent. But why is nobody in the city—in the District Attorney’s Office or in the Police Department—accountable for any of this?

Speaking of money: I am not usually one to complain about allegedly bloated city spending; I didn’t even weigh in on the expensive garbage cans. Turns out there’s a good reason that it costs so much to produce a single prototype of a trash receptacle that will meet the city’s unusual needs. (Maybe.)

But I have to say, looking at the agenda for the Budget and Finance Committee meeting Wednesday/15:

Right now, as we are still fighting COVID, with a homeless crisis on the streets and a looming disaster as the Breed Administration tries to shut down shelter-in-place hotels because there’s not enough money to pay the bills, and when many Muni lines have not been restored, I have to ask:

Does San Francisco really need to spend $70 million replacing parking meters?

Yes, that’s an item:

Resolution authorizing the Director of Transportation to execute Contract No. SFMTA 2020-46, for Procurement of Single- and Multi-Space Parking Meter Hardware and Support Services with MacKay Meters, Inc., to replace existing hardware in an amount not to exceed $70,557,894 and for a term of five years, to commence following Board approval.

The money will pay for 14,465 new meters and for the software to manage them and ongoing maintenance. It comes out to a little less than $5,000 a meter.

The existing meters, the Municipal Transportation Agency says, are nearing the end of their useful life and will need to be replaced. One of the main issues seems to be the modems; they run on 3G networks and can’t handle the new 5G systems.

The Budget and Legislative Analyst says that it’s more expensive just to replace the modems than to buy all new meters. And, of course, the city will collect about $621 million over ten years from parking-meter revenue, so it’s a great deal.

That, of course, assumes that people will continue to drive and park in areas with meters (particularly downtown and on Port property) in the same way that they have in the past. Which seems like, at the very least, a questionable proposition.

The city is doing all kinds of things to get people out of their cars. The remote-work movement isn’t going away. How does that impact future parking revenue? I don’t think anybody has any idea right now.

And really: How much money would the city lose if it delayed this for a year or two? I don’t drive much, but the parking meters I’ve used in the past year all worked just fine, and despite the old modems, they seem to connect with whatever system processes my credit card in a matter of seconds.

Are broken meters costing millions?

For $70 million, the city could buy another hotel for homeless people.

Just a thought.

The Rules Committee will consider legislation Monday/13 that would take some steps to close the glaring loopholes that were part of the latest civic scandal.

The measure, by Supervisors Matt Haney, Aaron Peskin, and Connie Chan, would ban department heads and commissioners from asking contractors or lobbyists to give money on their behalf to any outside organization.

These “behested payments” have become a huge source of corruption. Former Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, for example, asked Recology to give money to nonprofits he supports—and Nuru helps set Recology’s garbage rates.

Some of that nonprofit money went to lavish parties for DPW staff.

The Ethics Commission wants the supes to go even further:

Both the FBI and the Controller have found that City employees, including Mohammed Nuru, have routinely solicited behested payments from persons and entities that have official business before them. The FBI has produced evidence that these payments were in fact bribes intended to secure favorable treatment by the City for those making the payments. The Commission is deeply concerned about the practice of soliciting behested payments from interested parties, both for its inherent ethical risks and its ability to undermine existing laws restricting gifts and political contributions.

So, the commission says,

The Commission fully supports these efforts, but believes that to be truly effective the rule must apply uniformly to all officials and to certain designated employees. Thus, the Commission recommends that [the measure] be amended to include the provisions enumerated above and be enacted as soon as practicable.

That hearing starts at 10am.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond
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.

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