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News + PoliticsFinally, Walton will get to ask Breed about reparations

Finally, Walton will get to ask Breed about reparations

Plus: Next steps for the Castro Theater, the farce of 479 Stevenson, and how the city in once again screwing over cab drivers. That's The Agenda for April 17-24

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After a very strange event last week, Sup. Shamann Walton will finally, it appears, get to ask the mayor to take a position on the city’s Reparations Committee, its recommendations, and its future funding.

Walton was set to ask Mayor London Breed about reparations at last week’s board meeting, but somebody vandalized the main fiber optic line outside of City Hall.

Sup. Shamman Walton will ask the mayor to take a stand on reparations. Photo by Ebbe Roe Yovino-Smith

That meant the supes couldn’t meet, because remote access is part of the current rules, so the meeting was adjourned until the next day—when Breed (of course) had a scheduling conflict. She was, according to her office, scheduled to “join City leaders, community partners, and job seekers at the 2nd Annual Hospitality and Small Business Job Fair organized by Office of Economic and Workforce Development.”

Fine. Not sure her presence at that event was even remotely necessary, and not sure it was more important than talking about reparations, but there you have it.

But Breed has agreed to appear at the Tuesday/18 board meeting, and Walton will get to ask his question.

The Castro Theater landmarking is back, and the Land Use and Transportation Committee will, barring any further developments that lead to delays, vote Monday/17 on a measure that could determine the future of the historic facility and its role in the neighborhood.

The issues are huge: Can a theater that has been a central part of the LGBTQ community continue as a film venue? Should Another Planet Entertainment be able to turn it into a nightclub? How will all of this impact existing residents and businesses in the Castro?

The future of the theater will become a bit more clear this week.

But all of this depends on some very narrow language.

If the supes decide that the existing theater seating and raked floor are part of the historic nature of the theater, then APE’s plans to tear out the seats, level the floor, and install movable platforms that will make it easier to do music shows are essentially dead.

If that language isn’t in the final measure, then APE will move forward to turn the Castro into a very different type of venue.

Sup. Dean Preston says he will move to amend the landmark language specifically to include the preservationist language. Sup. Rafael Mandelman, who represents the Castro, continues to seek a “win-win,” but at the last LUT meeting, the other supes were pretty unhappy with the way APE has been negotiating.

GrowSF, the conservative group funded by Big Tech that is trying to undermine progressive politics in San Francisco, is all in supporting APE. More than two dozen of the group’s form letters are in the LUT Committee file.

That hearing starts at 1:30pm.

The appeal of the Environmental Impact Report for a luxury housing project at 469 Stevenson became a huge media and political issue two years ago. Exploiting a false media narrative around the project helped Matt Haney win a state Assembly seat.

And now the EIR is coming back to the Planning Commission, which will consider a revised version Thursday/20. The commission is going to approve it (the planners never turn down housing, and they hardly ever reject EIRs, no matter how flawed), and at this point, I don’t think anyone will appeal it again.

The Yimbys are making a fuss, but it’s unlikely this will be built anytime soon anyway.

That means, despite all the Chron and Yimby wailing, that 469 Stevenson is going to get the permits to move forward. And despite all the controversy, it’s not going to be constructed anytime soon, if at all.

Build Inc, the developer, doesn’t own the site and has no financing—and just abandoned its One Oak project.

This is a perfect site for 100 percent affordable housing, and since nobody’s building any market-rate housing at this level right now, perhaps the city could seek to take it over.

After all, the Mayor’s Office of Housing is sitting on half a billion dollars.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will take another step toward screwing over taxi drivers Tuesday/18 when it considers a measure that would block permit holders from appealing to the Board of Appeals when the MTA seeks to revoke their medallions.

This is an ongoing battle, and it’s particularly important because the city under the late Mayor Ed Lee allowed Uber and Lyft to operate illegally and decimate the cab industry—just after the city convinced drivers to put up as much as $250,000 to buy the right to operate a taxi.

That sale of medallions, the permits that allow someone to drive an actual cab, brought a huge windfall into the MTA. It also left hundreds of drivers with loans they now can never repay—thanks entirely to the MTA, which failed to enforce the law and protect the drivers when Uber and Lyft “disrupted” the system.

The MTA has been aggressive about enforcing the old (pre-Uber) rules that require all permit holders to drive a certain number of shifts a week. That dates back to when medallions were free, issued by seniority, and only to active drivers. Those drivers could rent the permit to others when they were not on the road.

But what happens to the folks who bought a permit under the new system, took out huge loans, and then became disabled? They can’t drive—so they can’t rent the permit out, and have to give it up. But they can’t sell it, since the city has ensured that there’s no market for permits.

Several disabled drivers, after and MTA hearing officer revoked their permits, went to the Board of Appeals, which overruled the agency.

The MTA doesn’t like that and wants to cut the Board of Appeals out of the system.

From driver Marcelo Fonseca:

Prop A of 2007 — when Mayor Newsom and the Board of Supervisors proposed reassigning jurisdiction of the taxi industry from the Taxi Commission to the MTA — was sold as a promise to reform the medallion system and improve the industry. One way this Agency could deliver that elusive, broken promise would be by not abusing its power. 

Terminating permit holders’ due process rights to appeal to the Board of Appeals, especially after it has been proven that there is no impartiality in your hearing process, is an abuse of power and it does not benefit anyone in the taxi industry nor the riding public.

This entire situation is the fault of the city, and the city needs to fix it.

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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