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How SF loses affordable housing almost as fast as it gets built

Look how many units we lose to evictions

The Planning Commission will hear a report Thursday/24 on the city’s latest housing balance figures – and the data includes some startling information that helps explain why homelessness is such an intractable problem.

The data comes from legislation that requires a twice-annual report to the Board of Supes on how much affordable housing has been built, how much market-rate housing has been built – and how much affordable housing has been lost.

In the past ten years, the data shows, the city has added 6,515 units of affordable housing – and lost 4,221 units, mostly to Ellis Act and Owner Move-In evictions.

That means, in essence, that every time we build 100 units of affordable housing, we lose about 60 units to evictions. Add in the number of evictions that are never reported, the number of rent-controlled units lost to Airbnb, and the number of people who lose their jobs or are told to leave after crashing with friends or family and you can see how every month, on average, 100 more people become homeless in San Francisco.

Look how many units we lose to evictions

The city spends $300 million a year to address the problem, much of it for supportive housing and other programs to get people off the street. But even if we manage to get 1,000 people a year housed, another 1,200 will need the same services the next year.

We can demand that developers build 30 percent affordable housing – but more than half of that number is lost every year, meaning our net increase in affordable units is small.

The bottom line – although the Planning Department report doesn’t say it: We can’t solve the homeless crisis until we solve the eviction crisis. And keeping people in their homes is far, far cheaper than helping them get off the streets.

I wonder why that never made it into the Department’s report.

Sup. Sandra Lee Fewer has a proposal that will help a lot of tenants, might prevent some evictions, and will reign in some of the worst abuses of big speculative landlords.

Here’s the deal: Under the city’s rent-control law, landlords are allowed to pass on to tenants part of the cost of capital improvements. You renovate the place, put in a new roof, whatever – some of those costs can be recovered through rent increases.

But the law includes mortgage and tax increases in that category – so if a speculator buys a building, pays a high price (perhaps with the hope of getting rid of rent-controlled tenants) and then gets a property tax hike under Prop. 13, everyone’s rent can go up by 7 percent.

The idea that tenants should pay to support the overpriced purchases and taxes of speculators has never made sense. Fewer’s bill, which isnow out of the Rules Committee,would put an end to that.

It’s on the agenda for the full board Tuesday/22.

 

Chilean feminists take over 14 university campuses in response to accusations of sexual assault

Students of the University of Chile's School of Law took over the campus on April 27th in a protest against sexual assault on campus. Weeks later, they've been joined by 13 other universities from across the country. Photo by Caitlin Donohue

LETTER FROM CHILE Our friends were late to meet us at an art opening on May 11th in Santiago, Chile. They had a good reason; thousands of feminist protesters had taken the streets. Even after their march had ended, everywhere you looked women were passing quickly in pairs and trios, faces painted, clutching signs. They ducked down briefly besides walls and street barriers, leaving inflammatory stencil art in their wake. That tightening you feel when mass gatherings hover on the brink of losing control was palpable and in an attempt to maintain control, officials shut down some entrances to the subway in central neighborhoods during Friday night rush hour.

Later, videos would emerge from the march that had taken place earlier in the day on La Alameda, Santiago’s central avenue. One contingent was shirtless, their faces covered in maroon balaclavas. They swayed low to the ground, their fists rising in synchronicity. The United States Women’s March this was not.

LA REVOLUCIÓN ES FEMINSITA.

A post shared by LaCENTRAL (@radiolacentral) on

They chanted:

Y como y como (And how and how)

Como es la wea ? (How is this thing?)

Nos matan y nos violan (They kill us and they rape us)

Y nadie hace nada (And no one does anything)

Forty years after the United States-funded Pinochet military regime smashed the socialist idealism of the democratically-elected President Salvador Allende, the country is deeply divided. While many Chileans fight for government recognition of the regime’s 1,000 detention and torture centers, dictatorship apologist Felipe Kast accrued 15.4% of the vote in last year’s presidential elections despite being the grandson of an actual German Nazi. The water supply, privatized under Pinochet, is rationed at the whim of corporations. In Southern Chile, the Mapuche people were among the Americas’ only tribes never to submit to colonial regime. But reminiscent of the tactics of Pinochet’s repressive DINA police forces, activists protesting the region’s rapacious foresting companies are disappeared. Abortion in the case of rape or probable lethality for the mother or fetus was legalized just last year. In all other cases, a person who chooses to terminate their pregnancy can be sentenced to up 10 years in jail, their doctor up to 15.

Chileans have little to fall back on besides their talent for protest, and it is far from limited to marches. The May 11 demonstrations were merely an exclamation point, a show of support for something even more radical currently sweeping the country, something that could bring long-awaited justice for Chilean women.

Chairs affixed to the fence outside University of Chile’s School of Law proclaim to passers-by that the school has been occupied by a coalition of feminist students. Photo by Cat Donohue

To date, 14 university and two high school campuses in Chile have been occupied by feminist students spurred to action by a rash of unanswered sexual assault and harassment denunciations in university communities. Prior campus occupations carried out by Chile’s thriving student movement and last year’s feminist takeover of Valdivia’s Universidad Austral serve as precedent. This current wave of activism started on April 27th when a coalition announced to authorities that they were seizing command of the University of Chile’s School of Law.

The revolution has arrived! I presented myself at the front gate credentials check at the School of Law, ground zero for the new wave of feminist radicalism. The day I arrived, the front door was staffed by a team of men. Unlike some of the separatist occupations that have launched since their initial takeover, the School of Law’s moment is gender-inclusive. Men can play roles in the coalition, though they are barred from being spokespeople.

I was there to meet 21-year-old, fourth year law student Emilia Schneider, one of the occupation’s spokespeople. She took a moment’s break from a day of strategy meetings to speak with me about the incredible moment of defiance in which she and her peers find themselves. We found a place to talk in a corridor of quiet classrooms, where the verses of radical Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux and folk music broke the calm thanks to the students’ sound system installed in the campus courtyard. 

My first questions were about logistics. I wanted to know just how one shuts down a campus.

Schneider told me that her campus has been occupied by student protest every year since she matriculated. This current shutdown came about when 600 School of Law students convened for a meeting at the campus student center. “We were looking to understand the situation,” said Schneider. She asserted that the meeting was not about any case specifically, but instead a general sense that things needed to change when it came to the way gender-based violence was dealt with on campus. (Since then, demands have expanded to include gender parity in curriculums. “Feminist public education is not a secondary issue, not an accessory issue, but an essential issue of how we approach radical educational transformation,” said Schneider.)

Graffiti translating to “Fire to the Patriarchy” was emblazoned on building on Santiago’s La Alameda during a recent feminist march in support of the school occupations. Photo by Cat Donohue

On April 27th, a decision was reached that a campus takeover was necessary. As spokesperson, Schneider stayed with the meeting, chanting and leading others to grab chairs to wedge in the school’s front gates as a symbol that the occupation had begun. Representatives went to the administrative offices, informing the authorities that the School of Law was now under feminist control.

Earlier this month, school administrators put out a memo calling on the students to cede their control of the campus. “The continuation of the occupation of the school properties is not an ideal way to condition the final result of the legal remedies that will be put in place,” it affirmed. Days earlier, professors delivered a signed letter of support for the movement.

Their vote of confidence multiplied. First, the strikes and occupations were limited to other University of Chile campuses; the School of Government and Public Management, then Social Sciences, then Architecture and Urbanism. But soon other campuses joined in in strikes and occupations — even a school in Iquique, a town some 2,000 kilometers north of Santiago. Walking around the capital today, you are likely to see lists of demands posted to university doorways and endless feminist graffiti. (A personal favorite: “A(r)mate” written alongside the Venus symbol.)

On the School of Law campus, students staff the occupation 24 hours a day. Visitors must sign in before entering, and accused sexual predators are denied access on the basis of maintaining a safe space. Periodically, the coalition holds votes open to the student body to revalidate the occupation — they are working on technology so that people can register their vote online. Drinking is strictly prohibited. It’s not all work; theater and music groups have been invited to perform for the occupation.

Schneider was careful to locate these efforts in a larger historical struggle. “The feminist movement has existed for a long time in Chile,” she said, citing the work of Chilean sociologist, gender studies pioneer, and ardent socialist Juliet Kirkwood. “The problem is it goes through silences, and this silence was a prolonged one.”

At the start of new action, new levels of organization are necessary. Where Schneider’s contingent initially expected to negotiate their demands with School of Law officials, unexpected levels of solidarity impel them to think now on a grander scale. There are plans to unite with representatives from the other occupations and take their issues to national authorities. “We’re going to sit down to dialogue with authorities of our universities departments, with the universities, with rectors, with the Minister of Education, with the Minister of Women,” she told me. As a result of these strategic uncertainties, Schneider said that she expects the occupation to last for quite some time.

They have the attention of the country, and I hope the world will also be watching to see what is accomplished from these strikes, to see what women and their allies can do in the face of injustice. “It’s a historic accumulation of what has happened,” Schneider said. “We haven’t invented anything, we are a part of history.”

Muchas gracias a Chile y a Michele Threadquist por su ayuda con ese artículo.

The new POA leader: Same as the old boss

The Police Officers Association, which has been the largest obstacle to reforming the department, appears to be in a bit of turmoil as the head of the union just stepped down in the middle of the campaign to pass the group’s Taser measure.

POA president Martin Halloran, whose bluster and defense of police misconduct helped undermine the union’s image at City Hall and among the general public, has been replaced with Tony Montoya, a sergeant who has been working undercover out of Mission Station.

Montoya, the Chron says, is “notably less brash” than the two previous presidents, Halloran and Gary Delagnes.

However, he’s had disciplinary issues.

In 2003, he served a 30-day suspension – a serious form of punishment that is one step from dismissal – after the department found that he had failed to report the brutal treatment of a prisoner. More recently, in 2015, an African American college student sued the city alleging that Montoya,working as an undercover sergeant, pulled him over for a traffic stop, dragged him from the car, and with other officers, beat him so badly he would up with multiple injuries including a concussion.

The complaint described the incident as an example of racial profiling.

The city’s longstanding policy forbids undercover cops from doing traffic stops – largely because that’s been a major source of profiling incidents.

The suit was settled for $40,000.

I can find no record or evidence that Montoya faced any type of discipline for the incident.

But that history has not been an impediment to his rise at the POA, which routinely tries to excuse improper conduct by officers.

The POA has lost considerable political capital and credibility in the last couple of years. Only one candidate in this mayoral race – Angela Alioto — even sought the POA endorsement. Chief Bill Scott, Mayor Mark Farrell, and most of the supervisors are opposing the group’s ballot measure, Prop. H, which would mandate that all officers get Tasers and would significantly loosen the regulations on the use of the stun guns.

In recent contract talks, the POA sought a 12 percent raise over three years for its members – but city officials, from the mayor on down, argued that such a hefty pay hike should be linked to a promise that the organization would not seek to undermine the reforms proposed by the Obama-era Justice Department.

The cops could have gotten more money; the city was prepared to concede higher wages – in exchange for a promise that the POA wouldn’t be an obstacle.

But the matter wound up in arbitration, with an arbitrator deciding in favor of the city on a smaller raise (but refusing to force the POA to accept the reforms.)

And even if Prop. H wins, it’s not clear that a majority of the supervisors will vote to fund the multimillion-dollar purchase of Tasers.

So what I’m seeing is not new leadership at the POA – it’s a continuation of the problems that we have seen with that organization for decades. And the rank-and-file cops, who just saw their leadership give up higher wages because they insisted on blocking reforms that everyone else in the city thinks are a good idea, may not be all that happy in the end.

And if Prop. H loses, the POA will have a lot of explaining to do.

Dark money floods into SF mayor’s race

Image from the Brennan Center

Dark money is flooding into the SF mayor’s race.

The latest cash to drop on the scene: $100,000 for a new committee called “Voters for a Real Change, Opposing Mark Leno for Mayor.” That money will go for late hit pieces attacking Leno – and we don’t know who is paying for it.

Image from the Brennan Center

On forms filed with the SF Ethics Commission, the superPAC lists just one contribution – from “Safe and Affordable San Francisco.” That’s a state PAC, so it won’t have to disclose its donors until May 24.

The state form lists a phone number, which connects to Deane and Company, a firm that does “political reporting and treasury services.” The person answering the phone at Deane said she couldn’t tell me anything about who this client is.

But there was a committee in San Francisco two years ago called “San Franciscans for a Safe and Affordable City.” That was funded almost entirely by Ron Conway.

Leno issued a statement today calling on the organization to disclose its donors:

This is a move straight out of the Super PAC Playbook: misleading ads funded by real estate speculators, greedy billionaires and shady special interest groups who are trying to stop the fundamental change this campaign will bring to City Hall. “Next comes the billionaire-funded commercials, starring their celebrity millionaire friends, dazzling voters to distract from the issues impacting our city every day. We’ve seen this before — don’t be fooled again.

Conway’s wife, Gayle, has put $200,000 into a superPAC attacking Jane Kim.

So it certainly appears that this one plutocratic tech mogul is again trying to buy a San Francisco election – with negative ads.

A state PAC called Progress San Francisco has put more than $200,000 into a superPAC that is called “San Francisco for London Breed, 2018, Sponsored by San Francisco Firefighters Local 798.”

Most of the money in that committee did not come from the firefighters union. Evan Williams, the founder of Medium, put up $50,0000. Chris Cox, a senior exec at Facebook, put up $9,000.

But the biggest money is from Progress San Francisco, which is also astate PAC that won’t have to disclose its donors until late May.

But in past elections, that group has been funded almost entirely by Conway, other Big Tech companies, and real estate interests.

Conway recently sent out an email to his cronies telling them how to put money into supporting Breed– and included the filing deadlines, making clear that big money could come in and not become public until the very end (when many people have already voted).

Then there’s the Edwin Lee Democratic Club PAC, which has spent more than $140,000 supporting Breed. The money for that PAC comes from the same Big Tech and real estate interests: Progress San Francisco put up $40,000, Pilot Construction Management put up $50,000, the Association of Realtors put up $20,000 … you get the picture.

Big Tech and real estate, through all sorts of shell committees and hard-to-track operations, is pouring what could well be in the millions of dollars into supporting London Breed.

Among other things, this suggests that the race is tight: Nobody wants to waste money in politics, and if Breed was running away with it, we wouldn’t see this last-minute huge cash blitz

 

The SF Chronicle continued its almost unbelievable bias against Jane Kim and Mark Leno Tuesday with a story on what appears to have been a fairly mild debate at the Commonwealth Club.

Some examples:

Breed and Alioto took pains to mention that they grew up in San Francisco and attended school here, but didn’t take the next step and mention that Kim, who was born in New York City, and Leno, who is from Milwaukee, both moved here as adults.”

This fits exactly into the narrative Breed’s allies are trying to use to attack Kim, and the Chron has already had to apologize for it once.

“Leno and Kim are combining hoping to freeze out Breed …. They are both desperate to be mayor.”

But Breed is not “desperate to be mayor?”

Then the paper said Breed said “London Breed is my number two choice and London Breed is my number three choice,” without ever explaining that those number two and three votes would be disqualified under the ranked-choice voting system.

Even veteran Chron watchers are wondering: What is going on here?

Screen Grabs: Kim Novak live, Jim Carrey gets scary …

Kim Novak

SCREEN GRABS This weekend brings local impresario Marc Heustis’ first Castro Theater event in some time, and it’s one he’s been chasing for considerably longer: A tribute to Kim Novak, one of very few stars from “golden age” Hollywood who is still with us. Her rare in-person appearance will be even more special because she is, of course, the star of perhaps the single most celebrated San Francisco-set movie ever: Hitchcock’s Vertigo, in which she played the woman—or women—with whom James Stewart’s former police detective is obsessed. 

An Oregon native who broke into the movies after being a model (she was crowned “Miss Deep Freeze” by a refrigerator company for whom she worked at trade shows), Novak was one of the last great star creations of the old Hollywood studio system, promoted as a successor to Rita Hayworth and rival to Marilyn Monroe. Fighting that kind of sex-kitten promotion—and the control of Columbia Pictures’ bullying chief executive Harry Cohn—she nonetheless had some popular and critical triumphs, notably including the film versions of stage hits Picnic and Bell, Book and Candle. (Vertigo itself was neither popular or praised in its initial release, its stature instead slowly rising over the ensuing decades until a 2012 Sight & Sound critics’ poll named it the best film of all time, knocking Citizen Kane out of that slot.)

The collapse of that “classic” studio system left her career somewhat rudderless amidst the drastic changes in audience taste and film content of the 1960s. In the 1970s she began taking on the occasional TV project, and in 1986 had a successful stint playing a character not unlike her Vertigo heroine in the prime-time soap opera Falcon Crest.

Though she hasn’t acted in over a quarter-century, Novak will have plenty to talk about: She’s worked not only with Hitchcock but such other directorial luminaries as Billy Wilder, Otto Preminger and Robert Aldrich. Her costars have included Frank Sinatra, Jack Lemmon, Elizabeth Taylor, Fred Astaire, Kirk Douglas, Zero Mostel, Dean Martin, Angela Lansbury, Charles Bronson, even David Bowie. 

The 7pm Sunday Castro event—featuring clips, an onstage interview, live performances, and Vertigo—may well be sold out by showtime. However, never underestimate how far money and determination can get you. If you’re short on either, there’s still a free noon showing of Picnic.  

Also a suspense tale involving forbidden love and mysterious death, but offering no competition to Vertigo, is the oddest opening of the week. That would be Dark Crimes, a 2016 English-language movie by a Greek director (Alexandros Avranas) that was shot in Poland, with a mirthless Jim Carrey oddly cast as a Krakow police detective investigating a murder tied to an underground S&M sex club. You might wonder why Carrey signed on for this particular project…but then it’s a bit of a puzzle why anyone did. The gloomy thriller manages to be mildly distasteful without even having the energy to cash in on its lurid subject. However, if you catch its run at the Roxie, be sure afterwards to read this article about the real murder case it’s (quite loosely) “inspired by.”

Other specialty openings this week include Boom for Real, Sara Driver’s documentary about the pre-fame years of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat; Argentinian drama The Desert Bride, with Chilean star Paulina Garcia (Gloria) as a longtime domestic servant shaken when her post evaporates; Timothy McNeil’s indie Anything, in which John Carroll Lynch is a widowed newcomer to L.A. whose horizons are widened by Matt Bomer’s transgender neighbor; and Pope Francis: A Man of His Word, a tribute to/message from the progressive pontif. If nothing else, the latter is certain to be the most popular movie Wim Wenders has directed since Wings of Desire three decades ago, if not ever. 

An important note: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s newly rediscovered five-part 1972 German TV series Eight Days Don’t Make a Day (written about in last week’s column) is playing the Drafthouse in its entirety each day this weekend, Friday through Sunday. If you missed it at the Pacific Film Archive the week prior, here’s your chance to see one of RWF’s least-known but arguably best (and certainly most accessible) works. Fri/18-Sun/20, Alamo Drafthouse. More info here

Elsewhere (all opening Friday): 

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY 
Personally I’d rank Kubrick 1968 masterpiece higher than Vertigo, but then designations like “best movie of all time” are kind of inherently ridiculous, eh? Still, there’s nothing ridiculous about this sci-fi mindtrip, which has dated remarkably little in fifty years. If you’re thinking, “Didn’t this play the Castro in 70mm not all that long ago?,” you would be right. The occasion (beyond that half-century anniversary) for this 11-day revival run—which is interrupted by Novak’s event and a few other programs—is that a new print was struck from original-camera-negative elements, resulting in an “unrestored” experience closer to the one audiences had in ’68 than has been possible since. This “un-restoration” was overseen by none other than Christopher Nolan, a latterday sci-fi screen specialist who no doubt sees it as a standard to aspire to—and well he should. Fri/18-Mon/28, Castro. More info here.  

THE SEAGULL
The list of good films based on Chekhov is very short—the last major addition was Dover Koshashvili’s 2010 The Duel, drawn from a novella rather than a play. But it gets a little longer with the arrival of this adaptation by playwright Stephen Karam and Broadway director Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening, American Idiot). (Read our interview with Mayer here.)

Annette Bening plays the insufferably vain veteran actress Irina, whose summer trip to her family’s country estate underlines her neglect of them (including Brian Dennehy as ailing brother Sorin)—and her terror of aging, which is reinforced by writer lover Boris’ (Corey Stoll) attraction towards the jeune fille (Saoirse Ronan’s Nina) her angst-ridden son Konstantin (Billy Howle) loves. Others in the fine cast include Corey Stoll, Mare Winningham, Jon Tenney, and Elisabeth Moss in a scene-stealing turn as Masha, the original Debbie Downer. Prettily mounted but bruisingly concise in capturing Chekhov’s tragicomedic breadth, this is a very good film—which is to say, something more than just good theater transposed to film. At area theaters.

BEAST
An English oceanside village is more like a prison for Moll (Jessie Buckley), a young woman who’s regarded as unstable because of one ugly incident years ago—though these days it’s the suffocating control of her mother (Geraldine James) that’s impacting her mental health, if anything. Unsurprisingly, Moll falls hard after a chance encounter with Pascal (Johnny Flynn), a handsome, somehwat mysterious man whose rebellious, confrontative nature suggests the person she’d like to be. 

But even as their romance rapidly heats up, there are reasons to worry: The main one being that Pascal is a prime suspect in a rash of young women’s murders in the area. This compelling first feature by writer-director Michael Pearce is a true psychological thriller, in that the psychology takes precedence over the thriller mechanics—although there’s quite enough of the latter to satisfy. It’s a complexly disturbing tale that never feels routinely exploitative or contrived. At area theaters. 

Campaign trail: Alioto, Breed seek GOP support …

Angela Alioto’s surprising announcement that she wants to radically weaken the city’s Sanctuary ordinance has already cost her political support.

Mark Leno announced Friday that he was rescinding his endorsement for his third choice. The [email protected] Young Democrats and Latino Democratic Club denounced her in a Medium piece.

And all of us who follow local politics were shaking our heads, wondering: What is this about?

Alioto told the Examiner she wants to collect signatures for a fall ballot measure that would

 allow law enforcement to report undocumented immigrants to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement if the person has been booked into County Jail on suspicion of a felony, or booked on a lesser crime than a felony but had a previous felony conviction.

The proposal would also permit city agencies including police to report undocumented immigrants who were previously convicted of a felony.

Is Alioto going to organize her own campaign to collect signatures, and pay for it out of her own pocket? Or will she work with the Police Officers Association, which has endorsed her, to try to bring a Trump-style ballot measure to San Francisco?

It’s too weird – but it also signals that she is going hard for the right-wing vote.

So, apparently, is London Breed, who is the beneficiary of a letter from Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, George Schultz, that apparently has gone out to Republican voters. Schultz calls Breed “the right leader at the right time.”

The letter says Breed will “add 200 more police officers” and “lead with fiscal responsibility, with a keen eye on the budget.”

Seriously? You want this guy’s support?

The letter was paid for by the Breed campaign.

The Breed campaign did not respond to my request for comment on the letter.

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez at the Ex quotes Breed saying that

Secretary Shultz is not only an American hero and a great San Franciscan, he represents a dignified, collaborative brand of policy thinking that transcends today’s petty partisan politics, and I’m proud to have his support.

From Joe:

I wonder if those viewpoints includes Shultz’ one time “joke” with President Ronald Reagan that they should send then-Libyan Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to San Francisco, which was first reported by the Washington Post in 1986.

“Why not invite Qaddafi to San Francisco, he likes to dress up so much?” Reagan reportedly joked, to which Shultz answered, “Why don’t we give him AIDS!” The Post reported laughter following the “joke.”

Then-Supervisor Harry Britt, a noted champion of LGBT rights in The City, publicly shot back at Shultz.

“Perhaps we should send Mr. Shultz to Libya,” Britt told the Associated Press. “He might be more comfortable there with the sensitivity toward human life that the Libyan Government displays.”

 

Meanwhile, an event organized by District Five residents who are concerned with the future of Fillmore Street had to shut down early Saturday after supporters of Breed arrived and shouted down speakers.

Agonofir Shiferaw, former owner of Rasselas Jazz Club, told me he invited Sup. Jane Kim and Mark Leno to address the event at Origin on Fillmore to see what the progressives had to offer the community.

“For the past six years, nothing has happened on Fillmore, and 14 businesses have closed,” he said. “I wanted to hear what the progressives had to offer.”

According to video posted on Facebook, Kim got to speak for a few minutes, and when she asked for questions, Ace Washington, a City Hall regular who is supportive of Breed, asked Kim how she expected to accomplish all the promises she was making.

Fair question, and Kim was ready to answer – but at that point a group of Breed supporters told Washington to “not get started with these white people” and shouted him down.

“This is London Breed’s house,” one of the Breed supporters said. He later referred to Kim with a nasty racist slur.

They asked why Breed wasn’t invited to the event. (Shiferaw told me that Breed has been District 5 supervisor for six years, and he wanted to give the other candidates a chance to address the issues he felt she was ignoring.)

A few people tried to calm things down, but the Breed supporters wouldn’t back down. At one point, one of them said “they’ve called the police.”

Yayne Abeda, who was one of the moderators, said “nobody has called the police.” Then she declared the event over.

The Breed campaign issued this statement, through spokeswoman Tara Moriarty:

Board President Breed was not invited to the event in the Fillmore and did not attend.

She condemns racism and intolerance of any kind.

London Breed has never been anything but respectful to Supervisor Kim, and they maintain a positive professional relationship even against the rigors of a hard-fought mayoral campaign. She has even praised Supervisor Kim for her approach to the mayoral campaign in editorial board meetings. Supervisors Breed and Kim are not the problem.

Furthermore, on this campaign, London Breed has been the target of hate speech and threats leveled by her opponents’ supporters. She does not hold that ugly behavior against her opponents, nor does she believe they’re responsible for behavior they can’t control. She believes all of the candidates in this race are better than that.

Breed did, indeed, not attend, but her former chief of staff, Conor Johnston, was outside holding a sign.

Moriarty at press time had no provided me with any public examples of a self-identified Kim or Leno supporter issuing threats or using hate speech.

Kim posted the following on Facebook:

There have been a lot of comments in response to an event I attended yesterday which was ended abruptly. Unfortunate statements, including ethnic slurs, were directed at me, as an Asian-American.

I do not take these comments personally and we cannot let this divide us.

We must also acknowledge that there continues to be a lot of pain and anger along the fault lines of race, gender, and sexuality. 

Race and gender are inextricably linked to poverty, economic insecurity and access to quality housing, education and even justice itself. 

This is why I have devoted my career, as an organizer, civil rights attorney and now as an elected official to heal our historic divides and address inequitable access to justice in our city and nation.

We have enough xenophobia, homophobia, anti-Black sentiment and division coming from the White House — San Francisco has to stand together against systematic intolerance and support the real, hard work to make San Francisco a safe and diverse community for all its residents. We cannot allow our communities to get pitted against each other. We are better than that. 

This is the work we need to do and I am committed to continuing to take this on with you.

Campaign trail: Leno, Kim issue joint endorsement ad …

Mark Leno and Jane Kim appear at a joint press event

For the first time in history, two major San Francisco mayoral candidates are running a serious, all-out ranked-choice voting strategy—and the outcome of the election will test whether that system works.

In a press conference this morning, and a newly released ad, the two candidates appeared together to call for a fundamental change at City Hall.

Mark Leno and Jane Kim appear at a joint press event

“This is an historic moment,” Kim said. “We need to stand together if we believe in change.”

The two candidates also denounced the attacks coming from superPACs supporting London Breed.

Although Breed would not agree to join Leno and Kim in the “clean money pledge” to reject independent-expenditure money, she did promise to denounce any attacks on other candidates.

“But we have not heard from Sup. Breed,” Leno said.

Leno noted that so much superPAC money has come in for Breed that the spending caps have been lifted for all the candidates. “We didn’t put in place campaign finance reform to spend more money,” he said.

The Big Tech and Big Real Estate folks who are funding the pro-Breed campaigns “are investors, making investments for favorable treatment at City Hall,” he said.

In the ad, Kim and Leno say they are opponents – but agree that “you should choose the next mayor, not the billionaires.”

It’s no secret that RCV could determine the next mayor; in fact, it’s likely that the second-place votes of the third-place candidate will decide the election.

The Chron, just hours after the press conference, posted an apoplectic editorial charging that Kim and Leno are “gaming the system” and that their alliance “projects an element of desperation.” (The editorial also complains that ranked-choice voting prevented Don Perata from becoming mayor of Oakland – and if anyone thinks that was a bad outcome, just read this.)

The Chron’s argument is beyond bogus: This is the way RCV is supposed to work. It used to be called “instant runoff voting,” which is a good description: Without RCV, if Breed came in first and either Leno or Kim came in second, there would be a runoff among the top two. And if Leno was in the runoff, Kim would endorse him; if Kim was in the runoff, Leno would endorse her. It’s just that under this system, you have to do that in advance of the election.

The Chron, which seems to be willing to say and do almost anything to get London Breed elected mayor, may not like RCV. But what Kim and Leno are doing isn’t “gaming the system;” they are playing by the rules, and doing what the system was designed to do.

London Breed’s allies are doing the same thing: State Sen. Scott Wiener has endorsed both Leno and Breed.And I know the Breed has reached out to other candidates in the race looking for similar endorsements – as she should. If, for example, Angela Alioto endorsed Breed and Breed endorsed Alioto, it would help both candidates.

The level of craziness at the Chron is starting to reach high tide. What’s going on? Maybe Ron Conway’s ties to the Hearst Corporation are in play here.

Hearst, of course, owns the Chronicle — which has Conway on the board of its VisionSF program.

Conway is a huge supporter of London Breed. He’s also known as a bit of a bully who tries to push people around.

The Police Officers Association has a new mailer out urging support for Prop. H, the mandatory Taser measure, and it’s full of remarkable claims that have little basis in fact.

The mailer, which claims the stun-guns will help “to keep our streets safe,” states that the weapons will “reduce police shootings … decrease the need for firearms and save lives in the process.”

That’s not even remotely true. This myth that cops will use a Taser instead of shooting someone defies both law and logic. The only time they might use a Taser instead of a gun is in a situation where they shouldn’t be using a firearm in the first place.

Then it says that Tasers have been “delayed by bureaucracy: The last four police chiefs over 13 years have fought for this right. Break the cycle today.”

Actually, the Police Commission has already voted to approve Tasers. And the current chief of police, Bill Scott, who wants Tasers for the force, is against Prop. H.

The most astonishing element of this ad: Wiener, and Sups. Jeff Sheehy and Catherine Stefani, have signed on as endorsers. You have to wonder if they have actually read the measure and have any idea what it’s about – because nobody who is actually involved in managing the Police Department thinks this is a good idea.

Alioto has just tossed away whatever remnants of possible support she might have received from her one-time progressive base. She announced today that she’s going to push for a ballot measure to block Sanctuary City protectionfor anyone who has been arrested on suspicion of a felony, or anyone with a felony conviction who is charged with a misdemeanor.

That’s a huge number of people, many of whom will wind up not being convicted of anything at all, much less a felony.

From the Ex:

“The existing Sanctuary City Ordinance is a magnet for felons across America to come to the safe shores of our City,” Alioto said in a statement. “It makes San Francisco a more violent and unsafe city.”

Alioto declared her intent late Wednesday to collect the 9,485 signatures needed to place the measure on the ballot, criticizing San Francisco’s current sanctuary city policy for allowing “murderers, rapists, child molesters and other felons safe harbor in our city.”

Actually, we’re not talking murders and rapists here: The SFPD has a habit of arresting people and booking them on the highest possible charges; often, those charges are dropped or reduced within days.

And there are all sorts of felonies that are not violent; Jose Ines Garcia Zaratehas a felony record – for crossing the border too many times. Under Alioto’s proposal, if he was arrested for sleeping on the street, he could be turned over to ICE.

Combined with her support for Prop. H, and the endorsement of the SFPOA, Alioto is shifting strongly to the right, hoping, I guess, that the combination of her father’s name (he was a pretty right-wing mayor) and her new politics will convince Republicans and conservative Democrats to forget that she once supported progressive issues, and vote for her as the most prominent conservative in the race.

But I’m not sure there are a lot of votes there.

The Civil War, from another side, in ‘Father Comes Home from the Wars Parts 1, 2, and 3’

Eboni Flowers as Penny and James Udom as Hero in 'Father Comes Home from the Wars, parts 1,2, and 3' Photo by Joan Marcus

ONSTAGE A historical epic, a taut thriller, a chamber melodrama, a heart-warming comedy, a social scalding: Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks wrings a lot from her enthralling Father Comes Home from the Wars Parts 1, 2, and 3 (through May 20 at ACT) from 2014.

Her strategy? Start with a rock-solid premise: What if you were a slave who was promised freedom if you accompanied your master into the Civil War, fighting against the Yankees? There are enough ironies in that horrible situation, one actually faced by dozens of enslaved men called Body Men, to fuel the three-hour running time and keep you glued to your seat. (There are six more parts to Father coming, although Parks says she’s in no hurry to write them.)

A chorus of enslaved people—Second (Rotimi Agbabiaka), Third (Safiya Fredericks), Leader (Chivas Michael), Homer (Julian Elijah Martinez) and The Oldest Old Man (Steven Anthony Jones), Hero’s surrogate father—place bets over whether Hero will accompany The Colonel to the Civil War. Photo by Joan Marcus

From there, Parks lets her crystal clear and ingenious plotting unfold in unexpected and searing directions. Many contemporary African American artists have found that an Afro-Surrealism rooted in absurdism and metaphysics is the only tolerable way to approach the phantasmagoria of the Civil War. But Parks plays it mostly straight: Despite obvious callbacks to Homeric epics the Odyssey and the Illiad, a hyperreal but completely plausible plot twist in part 2, and the introduction of an irresistibly charming, totally impossible character in part 3, there’s no magical escape hatch for either the audience or the artist from the horror or the humanity of that still simmering American inferno.

That doesn’t mean Father is shorn of poetry or beauty. Parks’ trademark jazz-inflected dialogue pulls from both the classic (slave dialect, epic poetry, biblical passages) and the contemporary (“True dat,” “jet”) and gives the play a striking texture. The tone can shift on a dime, and you’re never quite sure from one minute to the next if Parks is sending up stereotypical expectations of how enslaved people should behave and talk—the plantation, where much of the action takes place, is of full of cliches that run deeper than you think—or celebrating a culture of simple humor, friendly rivalry, and cheering romance, guarding itself against sudden terror.

Smith (Tom Pecinka, left), an imprisoned wounded Union captain, is guarded by The Colonel (Dan Hiatt). Photo by Joan Marcus

Here’s the bare bones. In Part 1, the small slave community on a Texas plantation agonizes over whether the prevaricating Hero (a fantastic James Udom) will follow The Colonel (Dan Hiatt) in war. Hero’s been promised his freedom before—at the tragic expense of another slave, Homer (Julian Elijah Martinez)—but after betraying Homer, Hero was himself betrayed. Will he fall for it again? Does he even want freedom, or know what it truly is? (This, I feel, is a genius insight of the play: Slavery so degrades people that the concept of freedom can be terrifying.) Meanwhile, everyone’s looking for Hero’s dog, Odyssey—or “Odd-See,” because his eyes “go this way and that.”    

Part 2 is a tense standoff in the woods a short distance from the boom of cannons, as The Colonel and Hero, who has indeed gone to war, watch over captured Yankee captain Smith (Tom Pecinka). The narrative and moral suspense ratchets up as the Colonel plays sick games with the other two, and opportunities keep opening for Hero to seize his freedom. The implications of “owning oneself” are overwhelming, in a society that puts a price on everything.

Odyssey Dog (Gregory Wallace), Hero’s faithful pet, appears with updates on Hero. Photo by Joan Marcus

In Part 3, Hero, now renamed Ulysses after the general, returns to the plantation and his beloved Penny (Eboni Flowers, heart-rending) to find much has changed. Odd-See the Dog (a perfectly canine Gregory Wallace) returns and plays a crucial role in the melodrama that follows, with as much romantic turmoil as a telenovela, full of wonderfully funny moments and some of great philosophical gravity—what is freedom when you’re left with nothing in a capitalistic society?

Those economic concerns are one of the wonders of the play, which offers a taut Marxist gloss on the price of bodies and ideology. Another great strategy is the deployment of enslaved people, both runaway and enchained, as a Greek chorus—Rotimi Agbabiaka, Safiya Fredericks, and Chivas Michael are a fabulous ensemble who simultaneously comment on and contribute to the action. Minimal sets by Riccardo Hernandez and moody washes of lighting by Yi Zhao abet director Liz Diamond’s straightforward, uncluttered direction. 

Wearing a worn Confederate Army uniform, Hero (James Udom) finds himself fighting in the wilderness during the Civil War. Photo by Joan Marcus

Steven Anthony Jones as the plantation’s “Oldest Old Man” (his role as father figure brought home the realization that this family could be torn apart at a moment’s notice) and musician Martin Luther McCoy, punctuating the stage business with lovely blues snippets written by Parks herself, round out the cast. While the Homeric references didn’t quite add anything for me (you’ll recognize several plot points from both the Odyssey and the Old Testament), they provided some great wordplay and a solid framework. I also missed some of the dazzling linguistic experimentalism Parks has brought to famous works like Topdog/Underdog and Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom, but that concentrated brilliance might be tiresome in an epic such as this.  

In a month that swerved crazily from Kanye West’s ridiculous pronouncements that slavery was a choice and Donald Glover’s sensational but highly problematic indictment of the country’s racist legacy in his “This is America” video, spending company with Parks’ deep, long, unwinding expressions of the historical black experience was emotionally refreshing and intellectually invigorating. 

FATHER COMES HOME FROM THE WARS
PARTS 1, 2, AND 3
Through May 20
ACT’s Geary Theatre, SF
More info here

Puff: In Mendocino, Flow Cannabis Institute dreams big (and artisanal)

Press and marijuana luminaries gather for a tour of the Flow Cannabis Institute.

PUFF A few weeks ago, on a beautiful, sunny day in the rolling hills of Mendocino County, Flow Kana opened the doors of its new venture, the Flow Cannabis Institute. Nestled inside an old winery in Redwood Valley, the institute’s mission is to help small, local farms keep up with their larger competitors in the exploding marijuana market.

With its “Respect the land and the medicine that it produces” mantra, Flow Kana is positioning itself as a leader of “artisan cannabis.” (It’s also got some canny marketing ideas: For Mother’s Day, a current marketing campaign suggests, why not help mom find a favorite strain by gifting her some pre-rolls or eighth jars? Of course they’re calling it  “Mama’s li’l helper.”) The new institute will be a center of processing, manufacture, education, and leisure—a full complex of cannabis bliss.  

But I was here to see how how its small grower process worked. The proposition is for the institute to serve as a kind of umbrella company that will shepherd a farm’s cannabis crop, after it’s harvested, to established market. A tour for the press and marijuana luminaries gave us a sneak peek.

Basically, a farmer delivers their marijuana crop to the institute for storage in a temperature and climate controlled environment. When the time is right, the institute will test, trim, sort, weigh, package, label, box, and distribute the marijuana to dispensaries for the farmer. The institute also hopes to showcase the best sustainable farming techniques available.

Inside the processing room at the institute

I asked some of the experts at the event if this was a good model, and they all agreed it was. It just depended on whether the institute could pay the farmers enough while still having money for everything else they want to do.

The sprawling 80-acre property houses the 85,000-industrial-square-foot institute, a number of historical buildings, some giant art pieces, a pool, spa, and the infamous Mad-Dog Saloon. Companies can have retreats, throw parties, or use it as a weekend getaway to relax and learn the newest in cannabis horticulture.

At the opening ceremony party, there was a Wild West theme to go with the saloon, with free food, a bar and live music. Inside the saloon, patrons ordered pre-rolls made to their specifications or used available bongs. This was a far cry from saloons of yore, but it sure was fun and educational sitting there watching the budtenders roll joints.

Off to the saloon

(Side note: This is where marijuana party rules kick in. 1. Do not smoke all of anything at one time when you first get there. 2. Eat in stages because once you get too high, eating brings you down. I made multiple trips to the pizza oven throughout the event. 3. Drink more water than booze. 4. Don’t eat or drink any tincture or edible given to you by a really buzzed stoner. If that concoction made a pro that messed up, just imagine what it will do to you! Say “Thank You” and put it in your pocket for later.)

At the end of the event, it was easy to see how much work and effort Flow Kana made getting this far with their dream institute. The testing facility and storage spaces were still under construction, and there was still plenty to complete.

As we see so many marijuana farmers and companies going under because of the changes brought on by legalized adult usage, it’s nice to see a company trying to do something to save the small farmers and help them flourish.

I’m eager to see what comes next at the Flow Cannabis Institute. Now, it’s time to light up!

Why the cops get a raise without accountability

The city is unable to hold the SFPD to high professional standards

An arbitration panel has decided that the San Francisco cops don’t have to back off from their efforts to delay or block reforms and will get a nine percent raise anyway.

The decision undermines the position of the mayor, the supervisors, and many of the city’s communities, who have been frustrated by the Police Officers Association and its constant resistance to reasonable changes in department policies.

The city is unable to hold the SFPD to high professional standards

But none of the city’s elected leaders had any say in the final deal. Because the POA and the city couldn’t come to agreement on contract terms, the entire contract was turned over to an arbitration panel consisting of one city rep, one POA rep, and a professional arbitrator acceptable to both sides.

Not surprisingly, the POA rep wanted a 12 percent raise over three years – and objected to the proposal that the union refrain from using its “meet and confer” rights to block changes listed in the Justice Department’s report on SFPD policies and practices.

Carol Isen, the city’s employee relations director, represented the city on the panel; Gary Delagnes, a former president of the POA who is a now a union consultant, represented the cops. The swing vote was Arbitrator David Weinberg.

Weinberg sided with the city on the economic issues. But nobody would have made that much of a fuss over whether the cops got 3 percent a year or 4 percent a year.

The real issue was the way the reform policies will be implemented – and whether the POA will have an effective veto, or at least the ability to delay the changes for months if not years.

The issue involves the concept of “meet and confer,” which is in state labor law. Under union contracts, when management imposes changes to work rules, they have to give the union a chance to respond, and if necessary, challenge those changes.

Which is fair.

But the POA considers reforms in things like the Use of Force Policy to be issues that the city has to meet and confer over – and that’s a stretch at best. Those policies aren’t work rules (like hours in a shift); they’re life-and-death rules that are in the discretion of civilian policy makers. And the POA has consistently used “meet and confer” to delay or derail reforms.

In fact, the POA has argued that it has the right to demand arbitration over policy changes that have been outlined by the Obama-era Justice Department as best practices for the city.

The background, of course, is the long list of people, mostly young people of color, shot and killed by the SF cops over the past few years. Those killings forced the city to ask the Justice Department to come in and review what was happening at SFPD.

The city’s proposal was simple: If the issue involved one of the recommendations in the DOJ report, the POA would have 14 days to respond – but if the city and the POA didn’t agree, the POA could not demand arbitration.

The POA response was apoplectic. In both its membership journal and in Delagnes comments in the arbitration hearing, the group said that the reforms were “politically motivated” and said that Supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer, Hillary Ronen, Malia Cohen, and Norman Yee were driven by “a singular lie” when they supported the city’s position.

The POA, Delagnes said, has never opposed the reforms – a position completely at odds with his organization’s decision to put Prop. H on the ballot.

So now the POA stand on reforms becomes law, and the supervisors and the mayor have no ability to challenge it. Why?

That story goes back to 1990, when the POA urged the supervisors to put a measure on the ballot, Prop. D, that would require binding arbitration for “wages, hours benefits, and working conditions” for cops and firefighters.

Mayor Art Agnos opposed the measure; so did the police chief at the time, Frank Jordan, who argued that an “amateur” arbitrator shouldn’t make policy decisions for the Police Department. Sups. Terrence Hallinan, Nancy Walker, Willie Kennedy and Richard Hongisto voted against it. The rest, including Harry Britt, the most progressive voice on the board, voted Yes.

Dianne Feinstein supported it. So did Willie Brown.

Agnos, on the other hand, wrote that the law “overturns policies … protecting against INS [now ICE] harassment and [puts] policies prohibiting the use of rubber gloves at AIDS demonstrations (yes, the cops used to do that) and limitations on intelligence gathering in peril.” Back then, the SFPD had an intelligence unit that spied on protesters.

Prop. D, Agnos said, “jeopardizes civilian oversight.”

He was one of the few who figured this out at the time. Now, we have a situation where a law that was presented as a pro-labor measure has become a way to block reforms and keep bad, old, policies and dangerous, retrograde police procedures in place.

On the other hand, at least City Hall stood up this time and said that the way the POA is acting can’t be endorsed. None of the top candidates for mayor have sought or accepted the endorsement of the POA.

But for now, the reforms that most of the city agrees are badly needed may be delayed by a 1990 measure that passed because most of us back then had no idea what it would mean in 2018.