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City HallThe AgendaA final decision—for now—on the fate of the Castro Theater

A final decision—for now—on the fate of the Castro Theater

Plus: Protecting airport workers and stopping SFPD from adopting new rules without Police Commission approval .... That's The Agenda for May 14-21

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The long, long saga of the Castro Theater will come a step closer to closure this week when the Board of Supes, the Planning Commission, and the Historic Preservation Commission all weigh in with crucial decisions on the future of the facility.

The full board will consider Tuesday/16 a proposal that would landmark the interior of the theater, including the existing orchestra seating and raked floor.

That would directly contradict the plans that Another Planet Entertainment has offered, which include removing the seats, demolishing part of the floor, and turning the theater into a nightclub with live music.

The future of the theater is still in limbo

APE has offered to replace the existing orchestra area’s 800 seats with mechanical tiered seats that can be in place for movies and removed for live concerts.

The Castro Theater Conservancy has offered to take over the least and preserve the interior seating.

Everyone agrees that the place needs at least $15 million worth of upgrades. APE has offered to pay that; the conservancy says it can raise the necessary money.

At the Land Use and Transportation Committee, Sups. Aaron Peskin and Dean Preston voted to approve the interior landmarking. Sup. Myrna Melgar dissented.

The preservationists and APE are both trying to organize public support and line up six votes. I suspect it will be close.

Then, two days later, the Historic Preservation Commission and Planning will meet to decide whether to issue a “certificate of appropriateness” authorizing APE’s plans for interior renovation, and a zoning change to allow night time entertainment on the second floor and a bar use on the first and second floors.

If the supes vote to landmark the seating, that vote will be essentially moot, since APE says it won’t proceed with any renovations and will walk away unless it can remove the orchestra seats.

At least, that’s what we are hearing now. There are other theaters that hold live music shows with full seating.

The supes meeting starts at 2pm. The Planning and Historic Preservation Commissions meet at 10am.

The Budget and Finance Committee will hold a hearing Wed/17 on wages and health benefits for workers at San Francisco International Airport.

The workers, represented by SEIU and UNITE HERE Local 2, have complained that contractors  who do business at SFO aren’t paying living wages and complying with city rules on health benefits.

The hearing, sponsored by Sups. Aaron Peskin and Connie Chan, will look at

a comparison of airport contractor worker wages to other comparable industries; whether San Francisco Airport (SFO) contractor leases and contracts include compliance language with the Healthy Airport Ordinance; and worker retention for low-wage workers versus other workers, utilizing badging data; and requesting for the San Francisco Airport to present.

The unions will hold a rally on the steps of City Hall at 10am, just as the hearing is starting, and I suspect labor folks will pack the chambers.

Union flier for the hearing

The Budget and Appropriations Committee is starting the work of crafting a new city budget, although the real fireworks won’t start for another month or so, when the mayor will present her draft for review.

But Sup. Hillary Ronen has asked for a hearing Wed/17 on funding for programs that serve people who have been in the criminal-justice system, including women and transitional-aged youth, and

specifically examining why these successful and popular programs with proven positive impacts on homelessness are cut from the Mayor’s Budget every single fiscal year.

That hearing starts at 1:30pm.

Sup. Dean Preston wants an audit of the Police Department’s management and use of overtime, and will call for that at the Government Audit and Oversight Committee Thursday/18. That committee will also hold a hearing on the Budget and Legislative Analyst’s scathing report on the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, looking into how funding decisions are made and why there’s $500 million in unspent housing money. That hearing starts at 10am.

When the Obama-era Justice Department conducted a detailed audit of the SFPD and made a long list of recommendations for reform, one of the key concerns was the lack of transparency in decision-making and policy.

That, some Police Commission members say, is still an issue today: The department keeps issuing “Bureau Orders” (also known as Department General Orders) that have the effect of creating new policies, without commission oversight:

They are issued without any notice to the public or the Commission, and do not require consultation with subject matter experts. Because the power to regulate the Police Department is vested exclusively with the Commission (S.F. Charter § 4.109), Bureau Orders may only implement existing Commission policy, they may not create new policies. … The Department’s use of Bureau Orders to undermine the Commission’s rulemaking and oversight authority persists to this day.

The department recently issues two recent bureau orders, involving policies for plainclothes and undercover officers as well as the use of social media in investigations, without commission approval. Some of those orders, the commissioners say, conflict with existing commission policies. The commissioners want those orders revoked, immediately:

It undermines the thorough, public DGO revision process and it creates confusion for officers who must follow a new Bureau Order that may differ markedly from both the DGO that will eventually replace it and the DGO that is currently on the books.

This is the continuation, to the mayor’s great frustration, of a reform-oriented majority on the commission. That hearing starts at 5:30pm.

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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