Court documents unsealed Tuesday morning show the San Francisco Police Department failed to inform a Superior Court judge that the target of a search warrant was a credentialed Bay Area journalist, and therefore should have been protected by the Shield Law provisions of the California Constitution.
That isn’t quite as explicit as “freelance journalist,” but it’s close.
Judge Rochelle East, who signed the original warrant, ruled last week it was invalidbecause SFPD did not tell her Carmody was a journalist, “which he obviously is,” she said.
Thomas Burke, a first amendment and media attorney representing Carmody, said he did not blame the judge for not knowing a freelance videographer might be a freelance journalist.
“I don’t blame the courts. I blame the officers seeking the warrants,” Burke said. “She was clear in the hearing (last week) she did not know him to be a journalist.”
Burke also represents 48hills on media-law issues.
SFPD obtained a total of five search warrants against Carmody while investigating him for criminal conspiracy to steal a confidential police report about Adachi’s death on Feb. 22. Carmody said he obtained the report from a source, which he then sold to several Bay Area television stations along with footage he shot of the North Beach apartment where Adachi died.
The search warrant affidavit states a further internet search showed Carmody was not directly employed by any of the news organizations that obtained the death investigation report.
But Carmody has been working as a freelance stringer in the Bay Area for 29 years and has been issued a press pass by SFPD.
“SFPD knows who they issued press passes to,” Burke said. “They uniquely know, or should have known (that Carmody was a journalist).”
Judges have yet to rule if the remaining four warrants SFPD executed against Carmody will be unsealed. Two of those warrants were for additional cell phone data, and two were for the May 10 raids on his home and office at which police seized 68 items, including phones, computers, tablets, hard drives, and notebooks.
Until those additional warrants are unsealed, we won’t know if SFPD presented additional information to judges that Carmody was a journalist and should have been protected by the Shield Law.
Even if the investigating officers weren’t aware SFPD had issued Carmody a press pass when they sought their first warrant, there appears to be no reason for them not to have known he was a journalist by the time they obtained warrants for the raids at his home and office.
A month before those raids, on April 11, Carmody said the investigating officers came to his home to ask him who his source was. He said he refused, because he promised the source confidentiality. Carmody said the officers then threatened him with a federal grand jury subpoena.
When his home was raided a month later, Carmody said he was also questioned by two FBI agents. Why the FBI was present at the raid conducted by SFPD remains a mystery.The next public court date, for the search warrant executed at Carmody’s office, is scheduled for Friday.
ART LOOKS Pati Navalta Poblete grew up in Vallejo. But after her 23-year-old son Robby Poblete was shot there in 2014, she had such severe PTSD she couldn’t go bring herself to go back there. She had moved to Fairfield about a year before he was killed, and when driving home, she would go well out of her way to avoid going near Vallejo.
The first time she did go back after her son was killed, it was to meet with a group of elected officials to present her idea for a foundation to honor her son—and to combat gun violence. Her idea was for the foundation to promote career development, gun buybacks, and making art from the guns. Navalta, who has a background in editorial writing and communication for national and international nonprofits, had put together a three-year strategy plan.
“What they saw was a mother in grief, and I could see them thinking, ‘She’s suffering—does she know what she’s doing?’ and one said, ‘You know, you’re not the first woman who has lost a child to gun violence,’” Navalta said. “I said, ‘We’re innovative. We’re going to create career pathways for ex-offenders.’”
A friend in law enforcement told Navalta that guns taken off the street were destroyed. She wanted some kind of transformation for them. And she says her son inspired her to make them into art.
“My son’s DNA is in every program in the foundation,” she said. “He was working at Genentech learning to weld, and he wanted make art.”
Navalta says she thought the vocational and gun buy back programs would be the most tangible parts of the foundation since the number of guns taken off the streets and jobs people get can be quantified, but she then she saw the impact on viewers of transforming the guns.
“If you use art as a vehicle, you move people emotionally,” she said. “Once you’re able to touch the heart, you have a chance to shift the mind.”
The theme of the show at YBCA is “transformation.” Navalta says artists can interpret that any way they want. Many of the pieces take the form of nature: a monarch butterfly, a solar fountain, and a tree made of rifle stocks and shell casings.
The founder of United Playaz, Rudy Corpuz, also loves having an exhibit where the pieces are made from guns.
“The spirit in the art is what’s so powerful, I think,” he said. “It sends a message that can be so damaging and destructive can be also be so amazing and beautiful.”
In December 2018, United Playaz members collected 244 guns in a buy back, which have been repurposed by 10 artists into sculptures.
“Twenty people were collecting the guns—10 ex-lifers and 10 kids—and we buried one of the kids today,” Corpuz said, speaking about 15-year old Day’von Hann, a member of United Playaz who was shot in the Mission district earlier this month. He will be honored at the exhibit’s opening. “He died from the same thing he was trying to stop. That’s why we do what we do so nobody has to go through all the excruciating pain I saw his mother going through today.”
His daughters, Mookie and Selena, attended the funeral with him, Corpuz said.
“Selena is 12 years old,” he said. “She’s supposed to be going to kick it at the park, not to funerals for her friends.”
United Playaz is now in New York and the Philippines as well as San Francisco. They have violence prevention programs, after school programs, and workforce development. They, like the Robby Poblete Foundation, have taken thousands of guns off the streets.
Navalta says when she started the foundation, she had planned for a year to get community buy-in, then focus on gun buy backs and making art the second year, then start workforce development programs. But all that happened in the first year.
“I’ll never again underestimate the power of one,” Navalta said. “Now people in Congo and Argentina and Europe are reaching out and wanting to do something similar. All that comes from just one mom in Vallejo.”
The supes listened for more than two and a half hours to testimony and expert reports on the city’s role in climate change – and it became very clear that San Francisco can’t reach its goals unless it can get a lot of Uber, Lyft, and delivery-app cars off the streets.
Climate change is a local issue as well as a global issue, and there are lots of elements. Speakers talked about everything from trees to vegetarianism, and all of those elements are important.
But from the city departments, the focus was on clean energy, buildings, and transportation.
The clean energy element demonstrated how critical is has been to shift the city’s major power supplier away from PG&E. As CleanPowerSF has become the default source of electricity, the city has made huge strides: In 2015, under PG&E, 45 percent of the city’s electricity was from renewable, non-GHG sources. By 2018, with CleanPowerSF reaching more customers, that was up to 70 percent, and if the rest of the city moves to local clean public power, that number can reach 90 percent by 2025.
The director of the Department of the Environment, Deborah Rafael, testified that it’s critical for the city to take control of the local grid – “that means public power.”
After covering this issue for more than 35 years, it’s a stunning change to see any representative of a mayoral administration say those words. The future of a sustainable climate is electricity, and the future of sustainable electricity is public control of resources.
The discussion of buildings focused on things like replacing natural gas with electricity. There was very little talk of the overall concept of growth: Should San Francisco promote, as it has, growth as an overall good – or should the city move to a more sustainable economy that might involve a lot fewer new office buildings? Rafael suggested at the end of the hearing that we need to consider “consumption” — well, yeah. And growth is part of that. Much bigger story.
I was most fascinated by the transportation element. The Municipal Transportation Agency says that half of all of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. And nearly half of all transportation in the city involves private vehicles.
The goal of the MTA is to get to 80 percent sustainable trips – that means trips on public transportation, not in private cars.
A handful of speakers, just a few, pointed out that there’s no way to make Muni work, to get people out of their cars, unless we do something to limit and control ride-hails and car-based delivery services. There are 45,000 Uber and Lyft vehicles in San Francisco. That – by definition – means we can’t improve public transit and reach the city’s goals or reducing emissions.
Muni is largely a surface-based system. Muni moves when the streets are clear; when the streets are clogged with private vehicles, Muni doesn’t move as fast.
Sup. Rafael Mandelman, who called the hearing, told me afterward that “In the name of climate sanity” the city needs to be able to limit the number of ride-hail and delivery vehicles.
Right now, it’s hard for the city to regulate Uber and Lyft – but that’s just because of a quirk in state law that the companies exploited. The state Legislature can easily change the situation.
Sen. Scott Wiener is trying to tell cities, in the name of the environment, to deregulate housing. It wouldn’t be easy to pass a bill allowing cities to regulate TNCs — but if San Francisco is going to have any remote change of meeting its greenhouse-gas goals, it has to happen.
I don’t think that’s an argument that’s been made in Sacramento, where our former mayor, who claims to be a staunch environmentalist, is now in the Governor’s Office.
“I would love that,” Mandelman said. So would a lot of people who ride Muni. Maybe we need a real political showdown: The future of the planet v. the profits of Uber and Lyft.
ART LOOKS Artist Isaac Haney-Owens lives in San Francisco, in the Rincon Hill neighborhood. He likes walking around. He likes the skyline. He likes the diversity of people. He likes the different architectural styles. He likes taking photos of things he finds interesting.
So Haney-Owens was a natural to curate the new Cityscape show at Creativity Explored, a nonprofit art center and gallery for artists with developmental disabilities.
“I like doing art about cities because I love cities,” Haney-Owens said at the opening of the show, where he was sitting behind a table with copies of the zine, Whipper Snapper Nerd, featuring his artwork. “I love the urban environment. There are all these different sounds and always something new to see.”
The Cityscape show has paintings, drawings, and sculptures of the city by Haney-Owen and other artists, including Lance Rivers’ watercolor of the Marriot Marquis and Coit Tower, Kate Thompson drawing of people walking around the city, Isaias Gomez’s graphite drawing of AT&T Park, and a colorful sculpture of a house by Lucinda Addison.
For the show, Haney-Owens also worked with Francis Kohler, the studio manager at a second Creativity Explored location in Potrero Hill, to transform the desk at the 16th street gallery into a newsstand.
Haney-Owens’ work in the show includes his recreations of signs from small businesses, in lots of detail, such as Al’s Cafe and One Stop Auto Parts. He’s also done digital drawings of San Francisco landmarks like SFMOMA, the Ferry Building Marketplace, and the Transamerica Building.
A couple years ago, those images were deliciously edible when they adorned chocolates from Recchiuti Confections. Jacky Recchuiti, who founded the company with her husband Michael, has been working with Creativity Explored for years, putting the artists’ work on chocolates, and Haney-Owens’ drawings of iconic places in the city have been the most popular, she says.
Jacky says they used to live nearby and in walks around the neighborhood got interested in the gallery and in the artwork there. They wanted to be involved and ended up in a partnership where they to use some artists’ work on their chocolate, with a portion of the profit goes to Creativity Explored.
The benefits go beyond money, Jacky says.
“It brings awareness to our audience of this great organization that supports the art community,” she said. “This organization really opens us up to accept all artists.”
Joaquin Torres, the director of San Francisco’s Office of Economic Workforce Development was also at the opening. The office has given $7.1 million to 36 organizations in the past two years, he says, and almost half of that went to 19 arts and culture organizations. These organizations create jobs and make the city more vital, Torres says, with arts organizations generating $1.45 billion in economic activity a year.
Torres’ mom has been blind for 10 years, so he says the work Creativity Explored is doing means a lot to him on a personal level.
“It’s exciting and really moving to me how much care and attention and detail was spent creating this space for people with disabilities to allow their identities to be defined by their art,” he said. “And it gives us so much. To look at the work on the walls and be able to view the city through their artistic lens is really powerful and potent.”
Kohler, the mentor for the exhibition and one of the teacher/facilitators there, calls Haney-Owens a great artist and a “powerhouse,” and Kohler felt curating a show was a good next step for him. He was firm about not wanting to be a co-curator for the exhibit.
“I just wanted to support Isaac’s vision,” Kohler said. “That’s why we’re here.”
CITYSCAPE, CURATED BY ISAAC HANEY-OWENS Through September 5 Creativity Explored, SF More info here.
The California Department of Housing and Community Development wants to know what you think the most important issues in your community are. And there’s a survey! It’s right here. Most of the questions have re-set answers, and most of it is not terribly helpful, but there are a few blanks you can fill in.
I wrote that the most important things the state could do to improve my community are repealing the Ellis Act and Costa Hawkins, allowing commercial rent control, and allowing cities to impose income taxes on corporations and rich individuals.
You, of course, can make your own statements. I don’t suspect anyone will really be listening, but it’s worth the five minutes.
The Land Use and Transportation Committee will hold a hearingMonday/22 on the climate emergency and the city’s need to make deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The Department of Environment will make a presentation on its recent Pathway to Net Zero Emissions report, which you can read here.
The report breaks down the city’s emissions into three major areas, buildings, transportation, and waste. It starts off with an ambitious assumption that by 2030 nearly all of the city’s electricity will come from non-GHG sources.
That’s possible – but unlikely unless the city can get rid of PG&E as its primary supplier of electricity.
Most the buildings section talks about shifting from natural gas to electric power (although construction also causes a lot of emissions, which really isn’t addressed in the report). Again: This all depends on establishing a renewable energy base, since electricity that’s generated from PG&E’s fossil-fuel plants isn’t any cleaner than existing natural-gas systems. (The same goes for electric cars – they’re only “clean” and GHG neutral if the electricity they use to charge their batteries comes from renewable sources. Right now, a lot of it doesn’t.)
Then we get to transportation – where the report ignores one of the biggest issues facing the city: Uber and Lyft, which are encouraging people to get off public transportation and into cars. From the study:
San Francisco is fully committed to implementing its Transit First policy, which focuses on getting people out of cars by increasing the share of trips made by sustainable modes such as biking, walking and transit.
Actually, San Francisco has not been fully committed to that policy. San Francisco under Mayor Ed Lee allowed the so-called Transportation Network Companies to proliferate and grow until the state was able to take over and keep the city from regulating them. Now, the streets are choked with cars, and every other one seems to have a Lyft or Uber sticker on it.
The report admits that the city is having trouble with its transportation emissions:
Despite this progress, success in reducing transportation-related emissions has been slower. Since 1990, emissions from the transportation sector have decreased by only 10%. In 2017 San Francisco’s rapidly evolving transportation sector was responsible for 46% of citywide emissions, with most of these (71%) coming from private cars and trucks that also cause severe traffic congestion, safety hazards, and negative impacts on quality of life.
But it says nothing about Uber, Lyft, Postmates, Uber Eats, or any of the other car-based transportation and delivery apps.
There’s a vicious cycle here. If cars jam the roads, then Muni – which is largely a surface-transport system – can’t get through. Then more riders complain that Muni is too slow and take an Uber. Then the streets get more crowded and Muni goes even more slowly.
The hearing starts at 1:30pm in the Board Chamber.
Land Use will also be looking at the longstanding issue of employee cafeterias. Sup. Aaron Peskin has been trying for months to get regulations limiting the ability of tech companies to build onsite cafeterias, which ensure that small local restaurants in places like mid-Market suffer because workers never leave the office.
The latest manifestation isn’t a total ban on cafeterias, but a requirement that the Planning Commission issue a conditional use. That requires a hearing and can be appealed. It’s a step.
The Rules Committee is looking at ways to help small businesses who will lose money because of the city’s ban on flavored tobacco products (that is, Juul). Sups. Shamann Walton and Sandra Lee Fewer, who supported the ban (it was Walton’s bill), want the Small Business Commission to convene a working group to look at how to deal with the estimated $50 million a year in losses that the legislation could cause.
There’s a larger issue here.
Small businesses in San Francisco are getting hammered – by high rents, by greedy landlords ending leases, by Amazon, by Uber Eats (these delivery places take a big cut from the restaurants) … it’s no secret that there are vacant storefronts all over town.
I’m not a fan of Juul, which made a point of marketing to kids, hooking a new generation on nicotine just as the nation was making progress in the battle against youth smoking.
But I do think the city needs to consider why the big corporations get all the support and tax breaks, and the small businesses that make this city worth living in get nothing.
Perhaps this should go beyond just Juul – sorry, merchants, but selling poison to kids is just not okay – and look at how some of the handouts that have gone to corporations that don’t need them can be redistributed to small businesses that do.
The Planning Commission takes up Thursday/25 a massive project at 88 Bluxome, which will use nearly all of the city’s Prop. M office allocation for the next year. The project includes 775,000 square feet of office space, much of it already leased by Pinterest, and 106,000 square feet of affordable housing along with a new community recreation center and retail.
The numbers all sound impressive until you stop to look at them.
A building with 775,000 square feet of office space will attract around 3,100 employees. According to the best estimates, 33 percent of them will need affordable housing. That means the building will create the demand for about 500 units of affordable housing.
The promise of 106,000 square feet of affordable housing is lovely – except that even if those are pretty small units (500-600 square feet, way to small for families) we’re talking maybe 175 units.
That’s way less than half of what’s needed – meaning the city would be on the hook for the rest. Let’s see – we’re short 325 units, at about $700,000 a unit … that’s about $220 million, or a third of the mayor’s entire fall housing bond.
Just for this one project.
But I bet it sails through – because the sponsor is TMG Partners, whose partners give big chunks of money to a long list of local politicians (and right there on the top of the TMG Advisory Board is plutocrat Ron Conway, who was a big supporter of Mayor London Breed.
And we wonder why there is a housing crisis in San Francisco.
One of the most important – and desperately needed – land-use measures in years could be on the March, 2020 ballot.
The Yerba Buena Neighborhood Consortium is promoting an initiative that would directly link new office approvals to affordable housing growth. It’s such a simple concept: The city would not be able to approve new office space when there’s no place for the new workers to live.
The problem is obvious. According to the city’s own figures, for every 875,000 square feet of new office space that’s built and occupied, 3,676 new workers are attracted to the city, and need 1,785 housing units.
That’s the amount of new space allowed every year under the 1986 growth-control measure Prop. M. It’s about the size of one new big project; the Transamerica Building has about 600,000 square feet
As the consortium points out, 33.5 percent of those new units need to be affordable to low, moderate, and middle-income workers. That’s 598 affordable units.
According to a consortium statement, the city is failing to meet the state-mandated needs for affordable housing:
After three years, San Francisco has produced 215 percent of the market-rate/luxury housing needed for this growth, but unly 68 percent of the affordable housing. We can’t go on like this. The consequences of the 32 percent affordable housing production shortfall are devastating the city. Low-income and working-class residents of the city are being pushed out of their long-time neighborhoods and many middle-income residents can no longer afford to live here.
Under the “Balanced Development Act, the amount of allowable office space would be reduced by the same amount that the city falls short of affordable housing. In the current situation, only 68 percent of the 850,000 square feet a year could be built.
That, of course, would give developers who get very rich building and leasing office space an incentive to help with the affordable housing crisis. And if they don’t? Then office growth will slow, and at least the situation won’t get worse.
(It fits with what I call the Hippocratic Oath of housing policy: First, do no harm. You could also call it the Theory of Holes – when you are stuck in a hole, stop digging. Or as John Elberling, who runs Todco, has said to the Planning Commission, it’s time to stop pouring gasoline on the fire.)
But this is the first time in the current housing crisis that a serious policy proposal has come forward to address the “demand” side of the “supply and demand” equation that the Yimbys love to talk about. Rather than attracting huge numbers of new residents to a city that already has a housing crisis, and then later trying to scramble (at considerable expense) to catch up, why not make sure that when new tech companies move here or expand here, there’s enough housing built in advance (or at the same time) to accommodate the needs?
That would seem to be the essence of what is kindly called “city planning.”
The concept polls well: The consortium reports that a recent survey of likely voters supports the idea of a limit on office space until affordable housing is available by a 2-1 margin.
That, of course, is before the developers and the tech industry start pouring millions of dollars into misleading ads that will talk about damaging the city’s economy. We’ve heard that over and over whenever there are growth-limit measures.
But this new measure doesn’t need to block new office space. It just says that housing has to be available for the new workers – before the buildings go up.
It’s a model that could be exported to places like Mountainview and Palo Alto, which love tech office space but not housing. It’s a much more logical approach to the problem that the Scott Wiener policy direction.
And like many smart policies, it could be starting in San Francisco.
Judge Rochelle East ruled the warrant was inconsistent with the California Constitution, which protects journalists from being forced to disclose sources or unpublished material except in cases where it may interfere with a criminal defendant’s right to a fair trial.
Although it may be difficult in some circumstances to determine who is a journalist and who isn’t, East said this wasn’t one of them, and noted the San Francisco Police Department had issued Bryan Carmody a press pass.
“Clearly he is a journalist,” East said. “The search warrant should never have been issued.”
East said the police officers who applied for the warrant didn’t tell her that Carmody was a journalist, and ordered SFPD to destroy any evidence it obtained.
She further ruled SFPD must release the 11-page search warrant and probable cause affidavits by Tuesday – with the exception of a single paragraph that identifies a confidential police informant, who East said would likely face retribution if their identity was revealed.
The ruling only applies to one warrant issued by East for Carmody’s cell phone records during a 26-hour period beginning 8:33 p.m. the night Adachi died, on Feb. 22. Four additional judges also issued four other warrants – one for his home, one for his office, and two more for additional cell phone records.
Thomas Burke, a first amendment and media attorney representing Carmody, filed a motion in May asking the search warrants be quashed and the 68 seized items from Carmody’s home and office —including phones, computers, tablets, hard drives and notebooks – be returned. Separately, the First Amendment Coalition filed a motion to unseal the probable cause memos SFPD presented judges to obtain the warrants.
Burke also represents 48hills on media-law issues.
Thursday’s decision was the first of those rulings to be issued.
Last week, Judge Victor Hwang, who signed off on the warrant to search Carmody’s office, deferred issuing a ruling on the warrant until next week, after raising questions if the Attorney General’s office was investigating the matter. The Attorney General’s office did not respond to multiple requests asking if they had taken over any aspect of the investigation.
Duffy Carolan, an attorney representing the First Amendment Coalition, said she expects the remaining four judges will ultimately rule similarly.
“It’s the same issues, the same parties, so it really should be the same outcome,” she said.
Burke said he wasn’t surprised East said she didn’t know Carmody was a journalist when she signed off on the warrant, and suspects the other four judges didn’t know, either.
“I don’t think they would have issued the warrants (if they knew),” he said. “I think they would have said, ‘Wait a minute, this is a journalist?’”
“It never should have happened – it was outrageous that it happened,” Burke added. “I keep saying ‘outrageous.’ I don’t think you can over-use ‘outrageous’ in this circumstance.”
When Amy Winehouse passed away in the summer of 2011, the British jazz singer joined the 27 Club, a notorious group of brilliant, talented, and fatally flawed vocalists including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain, whose drug- and alcohol-fueled lifestyles left their devotees mourning them far too soon.
Fans admired Winehouse’s soulful voice and sincere songwriting on her debut album, Frank (2003) and top-seven follow-up Back to Black (2006) as well as her unique style—signature B-52 beehive, heavy winged eyeliner, and skin-tight cocktail dresses. But they identified and connected emotionally with her struggles.
The six-time Grammy winner’s mix of brilliance and insecurity inspired one of the many supporters, who offered tributes—flowers, teddy bears, and candles—outside her Camden house in the days following her death to leave a card that simply stated: “You might not have survived, but you did your best.”
Classically trained singer Mia Karter has taken her tribute to the late singer’s iconic music and style to the next level with The Winehouse Experience, a nine-piece ensemble complete with a horn section and choreographed background singers that honors Winehouse’s warm vocals, soulful songwriting, and signature style with faithful renditions of the original hits, including “Rehab,” “You Know I’m No Good,” and “Back to Black.” They also play the classics that Winehouse herself covered, like “It’s My Party,” “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”
I spoke to Karter, who’s bringing The Winehouse Experience to San Francisco (Sat/20 at the Swedish American Music Hall) about Winehouse’s enduring musical appeal, resonating with her troubled life, transforming into the singer, and what she thinks of the on-again, off-again Amy Winehouse hologram tour.
48 HILLSWhen did you begin covering Amy Winehouse?
MIA KARTER I began covering Amy Winehouse when I played in nightclubs and bars, and then I started The Winehouse Experience in May of 2014.
48 HILLSWhat appealed to you about her when you first became aware of her?
MIA KARTER Amy and I share a similar vocal style. She is truly a jazz singer. Motown, soul music, all of the genres she pulls from have depth and emotion with layers of production that convey so well in a live setting.
48 HILLSWhat was it about her music and-or her personality that resonated with you?
MIA KARTER As an independent female artist, Amy’s style was unique, but also classic. Her musical roots run deep, while lyrically she challenged the status quo. She spoke about her addiction and she told the dark side of the story of love in a way that was brutally honest and poetic. It made some people uncomfortable, but it resonated with me.
48 HILLSHow did you learn of her death and how did that impact you?
MIA KARTER I learned of Amy’s death on the news; it was tragic. I think it’s always devastating when a young artist who has barely begun sharing their talent, is lost. Amy had so many more songs to write. Doing this show really demonstrates how influential she was because her fans adore her and they keep coming out.
48 HILLSYou have such a beautiful voice and have done your own music. Why start an Amy Winehouse tribute band as opposed to just focusing on your own material?
MIA KARTER I have written and recorded lots of my own material over the years. Originally, the tribute band was put together to perform a couple of shows. I never expected it to have the success it did. The reception has been so wonderful, so we have continued.
Amy’s fans are devoted to her and it’s truly an honor to bring her music to the stage with an incredible group of talented musicians and give them the chance to experience it.
48 HILLSHow do you transform into her each night? What goes through your mind when you’re performing as her? Are you, in some way, embodying her?
MIA KARTER Hair and makeup is an intensive two-hour process. I do not consider myself to be embodying her; I am paying tribute and celebrating her music and her legacy.
48 HILLSWhat do you think about the Amy Winehouse hologram tour? Is it appropriate or inappropriate and why?
MIA KARTER I’m not sure how I feel about it, but it’s a little bizarre. I’m not sure you’ll be able to get the energy that you get from a live artist interacting with the crowd and the band.
THE WINEHOUSE EXPERIENCE Sat/20, 7:30pm, $20-$30 Swedish American Hall, SF More info here.
The Board of Supes will vote next Tuesday on a Charter Amendment that would create a Homelessness Commission, setting up a fall ballot campaign over a plan that Mayor Breed at this point opposes.
The measure would move the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing out of the Mayor’s Office and put it under the new commission. Three of the seven commissioners would be appointed by the mayor, three by the supes, and one by the controller.
Sup. Matt Haney, the author of the measure, has gone out of his way in the past few weeks to negotiate with the Mayor’s Office and try to find consensus. The initial legislation gave the seventh (and potentially swing vote) appointment to the School Board, which is independently elected. This version gives that seat to the controller, who is appointed by the mayor.
He amended the bill to make clear that the commission can’t change eligibility rules and has no authority over contracts during a shelter emergency.
But none of that was enough.
“It’s unfortunate,” Haney told me. “We worked with them to make changes, but the mayor is still against it.”
That’s not a surprise to me: The new commission would take authority away from the mayor and would open up the entire department and its operations to far more public scrutiny.
Two of the commissioners would have to be people who have experienced homelessness. Two would have to be experienced service providers.
And the commission would – like all commissions – hold regular public meetings where the public could comment on the state of the department and could require the department head to answer questions.
“This is a way to get more accountability,” Haney said.
Breed and other opponents of the plan are going to argue that a new commission will just create more delays and bureaucracy. But Haney said that “our current system leaves things to the bureaucracy.”
Adding a new commission by definition requires a charter amendment.
The Coalition on Homelessness supports the idea. The Homeless Emergency Services Providers Association supports it.
And so far, five supervisors support it: Haney, Shamann Walton, Aaron Peskin, Hillary Ronen, and Gordon Mar. Two of the progressives are still undecided – and neither Sup. Rafael Mandelman nor Board President Norman Yee has responded to my calls.
But this is exactly the sort of accountability measure that you would expect the progressive majority on the board to support. I don’t see how both Mandelman and Yee can oppose it without infuriating a lot of their supporters.
I am told that the mayor is putting a lot of pressure on the supes – because a ballot measure could also be seen as a referendum on how she is handling the homelessness crisis.
I have seen no polling on this, and I don’t think there is any, but I bet if you asked San Franciscans whether they think the mayor is doing a good job on homelessness, the vast majority would say no.
And if the measure gets six votes, I wonder if, and how, Breed is going to campaign against it. What’s wrong with more public input and accountability on one of the biggest problems facing the city? (Remember how the mayor opposed Prop. C, the homeless funding measure, saying we needed more accountability and an audit of how the current money is being spent? That’s exactly what Haney’s proposal would do.)
There’s only one more shot at this – if the supes can’t approve it Tuesday/23 they will miss the deadline for the fall ballot. And Mandelman and Yee are the swing votes.
UPDATE: Mandelman told me today that he is “undecided but skeptical.” He said he wasn’t sure the city needs another commission in the Charter. However, one source told me Sup. Sandra Lee Fewer is supporting the measure, which would make six votes, but Fewer has not responded to my call seeking confirmation of that.
It’s very, very clear that the mayor is trying to derail this. The vote will be a key test of the power and solidarity of the progressive majority on the board.
California tax law is weird, and Prop. 13 makes it weirder. And for commercial property owners, there are all sorts of loopholes.
Then there’s the Mills Act.
By many accounts, the Mills Act is a good law: It allows individuals and corporations that buy historic properties a tax break if they improve and maintain the historic nature of the place. The Mills Act gives owners an incentive to preserve historic property, which can be an expensive proposition.
In San Francisco, the Assessor’s Office has never been a big fan, since it gives owners a tax break. And since it was passed in 1972, it wasn’t used much in this town.
But when Aaron Peskin, who has always been an historic preservationist, was first elected supervisor, he started looking for ways to use the law to protect landmarks. He was the first to push for Mills Act designations.
And now he’s the first to push to undo one of those – at the old Chronicle Building at 690 Market Street.
No doubt it’s a historic structure. From the city’s 2009 Mills Act contract:
The building includes … a nine-story plus mezzanine office towner designed by Burhan & Root and constructed in 1889 … reconstructed in 1907 by Willis Polk.
Sometime in the 1950s, Peskin told me, the owners covered the building with some sort of aluminum siding that obscured the original details. When a company called RC Chronicle Building LC bought it in 2004, they agreed to get rid of the siding, restore the place to its previous look – and by the way, in 2007, added a whole bunch of high-end residential condos to the top.
RC Chronicle Building LC is registered in Delaware as a foreign company. It takes a little work to figure out that the RC stands for Ritz Carlton, and that the entire operation is now owned by the Marriott Corporation. Which isn’t hurting for money.
The Mills Act allows owners to claim tax breaks for ten years – and it automatically renews year after year if nobody does anything. In the case of 690 Market, the owners are saving $525,000 a year – that’s $5.2 million over ten years – by presumably protecting an historic structure.
But once they fixed it up, about a decade ago, they haven’t done much of anything, Peskin told me. “Good for them for restoring the place,” he said. “But at this point, they clearly don’t need a tax break forever.”
So the Government Audit and Oversight Committee will hear a proposal Thursday/18 to end the Mills Act designation for the Chronicle Building. Peskin told me he is going back over all of the existing Mills Act breaks to see if the owners are currently doing anything to improve or protect the property – and if not, it time for the tax breaks to end.