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FeaturedA brutal double-standard on crime, and the guv wants the military in...

A brutal double-standard on crime, and the guv wants the military in the Tenderloin

Plus: The future of an affordable housing complex in the Western Addition—and why does the Sheriff's Office need combat equipment? That's The Agenda for April 23-30.

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Imagine this, for a moment: A man is arrested in a domestic violence case. He also has a record of drunk driving and selling an illegal switchblade knife. But the district attorney decides not to file charges, and he walks free.

He later murders a prominent member of society.

If this had happened when Chesa Boudin was the district attorney of San Francisco, or under the tenure of Pamela Price, the DA of Alameda County, it would have been front-page news, led all of the local TV news broadcasts, and exploded on social media.

Gavin Newsom, shown here at an earlier visit to the Tenderloin, has no real other plan than a random press release. Image form the Office of the Governor.

The mayor of San Francisco would have held a press conference; politicians around the country would have cited it as evidence that progressive district attorneys are creating a lawless society. See: They let criminals go free to commit other horrible crimes.

We saw this over and over in San Francisco. We are seeing it in Alameda County now.

Except that the scenario I just described is real, and it happened under a tough law-and-order DA, Nancy O’Malley, who retired last year. Are reporters camped out on her lawn to ask how something so awful could have happened? Is there any call for accountability?

Of course not. That only happens to progressive district attorneys.

It was O’Malley’s Office, not Price, who let Nima Momeni go without any charges after a woman called police and said he attacked her at his condo.

That story was buried on an inside page of the Chronicle. Nobody else is making it into a big deal or trying to hold O’Malley or her staff accountable.

DA’s make decisions like this every day. Maybe the evidence wasn’t there. Maybe the cops bungled the investigation. These things happen.

But when they happen to tough-on-crime prosecutors, nobody cares. When they happen to progressives, it becomes a huge scandal.

This is as profound a double-standard as I have seen in my 40-plus years as a political reporter.

So our governor decided to pay us a visit. He walked around the Tenderloin, which he never did much when he was mayor, and decided that the best solution to the fenanyl crisis is …. the National Guard.

Funny, a guy with orange hair who once was president and thinks he can be again just suggested the same idea to the Conservative Political Action Committee.

Sup. Dean Preston, who represents the Tenderloin and actually spends time there, issued a statement today:

The governor’s press release doesn’t tell us much about his plans, but he doesn’t need details because promising military interventions will be lapped up and reported by the media as if it’s a meaningful solution, the same way a $25 million SFPD increate to fund overtime for Union Square was deceptively sold as a solution to the Tenderloin…. the governor could show leadership by advancing proven public health interventions like treatment on demand and overdose prevention sites, both of which would dramatically improve neighborhood conditions and save lives.

But Newsom, who has decided once again that his political career is more important than saving lives, vetoed a bill that would have legalized safe injection sites.

“It takes a lot of nerve for him to be walking around the Tenderloin after he rejected a solution that would actually get people off the streets,” Preston said.

And now he thinks a publicity stunt like this is going to help. So, apparently, does the mayor, who sent her chief of staff to join the guv, and Sup. Matt Dorsey who just tweeted “THE CAVALRY IS COMING.”

Since the US cavalry was known out west for slaughtering Native Americans, I’m not sure that’s the best phrase to use in San Francisco. It also suggests that military solutions are going to solve the fentanyl crisis.

“Most Democrats would say that’s a horrible idea when Trump talks about it,” Preston told me.

At this point, of course, we have no idea whatsoever what Newsom is actually planning. There are no details.

There’s a big piece of this picture that is entirely missing. It’s called economic inequality, something Newsom has never, ever taken on. A very small wealth tax would solve many of the state’s problems. And a real income tax, similar to what the country had in the early post-War era, would bring down housing prices far more than any new construction ever will. Check this out. It’s the elephant and donkey in the room.

Midtown Park has a long history in the Western Addition Midtown, and for many years the city has lied to the tenants and mismanaged what has always been public property. The project, which includes 130 households, was initially designated as rent-to-own, with people who were displaced by redevelopment given the opportunity to become homeowners.

Then that promise vanished, but for decades the place was managed by tenants, and operated as if under rent control.

But because rents were not high enough to cover all the maintenance costs, and the city failed in its role as landlord, city officials turned the property over to Mercy Housing in 2014. Mercy imposed new leases and a new management model more in line with traditional affordable housing: People had to pay a percentage of their income in rent, and tenants who made too much money to be eligible for affordable housing faced eviction.

Never mind that many had lived there for 20 years or more, and that it had become, in essence, a middle-class housing development whose residents were mostly Black.

Sup. Dean Preston managed to move the complex under rent control in 2020, guaranteeing some housing stability. Mercy, which the tenants constantly rebelled against, has stepped away.

But it’s not clear what the new model ought to be. Should the tenants be able to move toward ownership (wonderful for equity, but if the units are flipped or sold later, the end of affordability), or should there be some sort of land-trust model, or limited-equity co-ops, or should tenants be able to self-manage an affordable-housing rental project?

Or is there something else that works?

Preston is asking the Local Agency Formation Commission to do a study and try to figure that out. Lafco would hire a consultant to do a tenant-engagement process, look at all the options, and offer the supes a series of proposals.

There is so much here: The ability to address the impacts of racist redevelopment policies (yes, perhaps part of reparations). The development of new and creative approaches to managing city-owned housing. The way to engage existing residents in property management.

The resolution to allow Lafco to take this on comes before the Land Use and Transportation Committee Monday/24.

The San Francisco Sheriff’s Office runs the county jail, and handles warrants and evictions, and patrols City Hall and SF General Hospital.

That’s about it—so I’m not sure why the office needs a long list of sophisticated military weapons.

Among them: Drones, robots, submachine guns, breaching weapons, flash-bang grenades, chemical-agent launchers, and anti-riot guns.

I can imagine there might be a situation at City Hall or SF General that requires a SWAT team, but the San Francisco Police Department, which would show up and take control anyway, already has all of that gear and more.

So why do we need another police agency with more massive firepower?

The sheriff’s request will come before the Rules Committee Monday/24. That meeting 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 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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