Jon Lovett, a former Obama speechwriter who hosts “Lovett or Leave It,” one of the most popular political podcasts in the country, parachuted into San Francisco last week to do a live show that featured Mayor London Breed demanding even more power for one of the strongest mayors in California.
Lovett demonstrated at total lack of understanding of the state’s housing crisis, and gave Breed a platform to send a mangled political message to the liberals who listen to the podcast.
Some of the material is comedy, and it’s funny, and Lovett is a great communicator. But the central focus of the discussion was housing, and while what Breed said isn’t surprising, really, it fit into a dangerous narrative for DC insiders.
In essence, the podcast suggested that the reason San Francisco (and by implication the state and the nation) has an affordable housing crisis is that progressives have blocked projects that might have made it less expensive to live in the city.
Lovett mentioned a Yimby favorite, the 469 Stevenson Street project, which has now been approved and likely never be built—not because of Nimbys or progressives but because it has no financing.
He also mentioned, apparently, the Monster in the Mission, saying that progressive opposed a project because it might lead to displacement—”although a lack of housing creates displacement.”
Mr. Lovett: Thanks to the opposition you denounce, that project is now going to be 100 percent affordable housing.
Breed and Lovett continued to make the obviously inaccurate statement that “San Francisco need to build 82,000 housing units” under state law.
San Francisco, as I have said many times, builds no housing units. Developers build housing. And they only build when they can make enough profit to satisfy the speculative capital that finances housing these days.
But Breed complained the “CEQA” and “bureaucracy” were slowing housing development, and contributing to the lack of affordability.
In fact, Breed complained over and over about the city “bureaucracy,” and said that she can’t even hire department heads, which is wrong: The mayor appoints a majority of every commission that oversees a department, and I don’t believe there has ever been a case where a mayor wanted a new department head and was unable to hire that person.
In fact, it’s usually the opposite—check out the new director of the War Memorial, who has no qualifications for the job be was hired because Breed wanted that to happen.
Breed oversees the “bureaucracy.” San Francisco has a very strong mayor system; the chief executive controls the budget and all spending, controls all city departments, and can appoint people to fill any vacancy, which she has done with the offices of city attorney and district attorney.
Lovett, who clearly knows nothing about San Francisco government, didn’t challenge her on that point, and allowed her to say that during the pandemic, when she declared a state of emergency, she was able to get things done. (She was not responsible for the program that saved hundreds of lives by getting homeless people into hotel rooms; she opposed it.)
She told the podcaster that she wants a system where “the mayor has to be able to be an executive and make decisions.”
In other words: She wants the Board of Supes to have even less power, and the voters to have even less power, and to eliminate what remains of the limited checks and balances the supes have over the way the city is run.
Meanwhile, the Chron finally noticed that the media narrative it helped create, about San Francisco falling apart with crime and economic disaster, is causing problems. The paper admits that it ran one story talking about the “doom loop,” but has not acknowledged, nor has Breed, that the entire narrative started with politically charged efforts to discredit former District Attorney Chesa Boudin.