Featured posts

A Green New Deal protest at Pelosi’s office

Protesters block Pelosi's office to demand she sign on the a Green New Deal


While Rep. Nancy Pelosi jousted with President Trump over a government shutdown and the border wall, about 250 climate activists demanding a Green New Deal shut down entrances to Pelosi’s district office in San Francisco today for nearly four hours. Even as Pelosi gained national praise for her tough stance against Trump, demonstrators pressured her to join 35 congressional representatives who have now endorsed creating a select committee to craft Green New Deal legislation in Congress starting in January 2019.

Protesters block Pelosi’s office to demand she sign on the a Green New Deal

Lined up in front of federal building entrances, climate demonstrators held up a large yellow “Green New Deal” banner and, as one young speaker put it, urged Pelosi “to do the right thing and show real moral leadership. She has refused to do that, and we are here in a way that she cannot ignore, saying she needs to take bold climate action to protect our future.”

Today’s actions—organized by a host of groups including Sunrise Movement, Idle No More, 1000 Grandmothers, No Coal in Oakland, and a 350.org group called Youth vs. Apocalypse—come on the heels of sit-ins Monday by 1,000 young peopleat Democratic Leadership offices in Washington.

Monday’s mass effort persuaded 13 new representatives to endorse the Green New Deal select committee, including Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Jim McGovern and Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Pramila Jayapal. Packing congressional hallways, the climate activists occupied the offices of top-ranking Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and 143 demonstrators were arrested, 61 of them at Pelosi’s office.

Activists say they plan to visit congressional offices to keep the pressure on this Wednesday and Thursday before representatives depart for holidays Dec. 13.

Proposed by newly elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the bipartisan select committee (nine Democrats and six Republicans) would be charged with crafting a 10-year Green New Deal to “put millions of Americans to work transforming our society away from fossil fuels to a clean energy economy on the timeline demanded by science and justice,” advocates say.

Although Pelosi has yet to endorse Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal, other congressional backers “are starting to pour in,” said Sunrise activist Morissa Zuckerman. “They are seeing that this isn’t going away. The continued pressure is working… We hope when the legislature starts up again in 2019 there will be enough pressure” for a vote on the Green New Deal committee, she added.

Rep. Pelosi’s office was not available for comment, however in earlier statements Pelosi has supported renewing a committee on global warming and energy independence that she launched in 2007. But, as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others have pointed out, that committee had no authority to create legislation.

In a previous interview for 48 Hills, Pelosi communications director Taylor Griffin told me that any new committee “has to be discussed in a full caucus setting so all committees of jurisdiction can hear it.” Griffin added, “I don’t believe her statement was meant to be an endorsement of the Green New Deal writ large.” On Monday, Pelosi agreed to meet with activists from the Sunrise Movement, Vice News reported.

Sunrise activists insist the new committee is essential, to move from education and hearings to legislation and action. “We know that the time for discussion on climate change is over, and we need action now,” said Zoë Cina-Sklar. “We need her to be stepping up. The time for dialogue is over and the time for a Green New Deal is now.”

As Ocasio-Cortez describes on her website, the new select committee would “have authority to develop a detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan…for the transition of the United States economy to become carbon neutral and to significantly draw down and capture greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans.”

According to a 2018 report by Data for Progress, a green new deal could create 10 million jobs over 10 years, through employment and training programs in renewable energy and other sectors. “In 2017, there were 800,000 Americans employed in low-carbon emission generation technologies, and 2.25 million employed in energy efficiency. This compares to only 92,000 for coal-fired generation.” Solar industry jobs “have grown 168 percent over the past seven years.”

A Green New Deal could create a wide range of high-wage and living-wage jobs, including “clean energy technology, energy efficient goods and appliance installation services, zero-emission vehicles and charging infrastructure, building construction and retrofits, environmental remediation and restoration, agriculture, forestry, tourism, and recreation,” the report said.

As Cina-Sklar explained during Tuesday’s actions, “a really powerful element of this select committee is that it is breaking down this idea of a dichotomy between climate action and jobs, that we can have climate action that’s stimulating the economy, providing a jobs guarantee, and providing an opportunity for people who have been left behind.”

While the attention and movement are new, the idea of a Green New Deal has been around for a decade in various forms. The Green Party first proposed a Green New Deal in 2008, and again in 2016, to “transition our energy system and economy to 100 percent clean, renewable  energy by 2030, including a complete phase out of fossil fuels, fracked gas and nuclear power.” As the Green Party described, such a program could “revive the economy, turn the tide on climate change, and make wars for oil obsolete – allowing us to cut our bloated, dangerous military budget in half.”

At Tuesday’s protest, when I asked Zuckerman how a Green New Deal might be funded, she replied, “we have the money to pay for this, it just depends on how we prioritize our budget. Trump is spending it on tax breaks for the rich, and more money for the military. We spend tons of money subsidizing the oil and gas industries. The cost of paying for this pales in comparison to what we pay for climate disasters.”

Halting the epidemic of housing demolitions

Sups. Peskin and Mandelman are pushing for tighter restrictions on residential demolitions

Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Rafael Mandelman introduced legislation today that could save thousands of units of rent-controlled housing and stop the epidemic of demolition and conversion of affordable housing into massive luxury properties.

Sups. Peskin and Mandelman are pushing for tighter restrictions on residential demolitions

“This,” Fred Sherburn-Zimmer, director of the Housing Rights Committee, told me, “is a game changer.”

The bill would define any loss of residential housing as a “demolition,” and would more strictly codify the city’s rules limiting demolition of residential structures. It would bar landlords from combining two or three units into one and would halt so-called “serial permitting” of demolitions, in which a property owner gets a series of permits for small changes that in the end add up to the effective demolition of a housing unit.

Peskin said he introduced the bill in response to the city’s own reports showing that SF is losing affordable housing almost as fast as it can build it. “It’s shocking news,” he told a press conference outside of City Hall. “For every two new units we build, we lose one.

“The time of two-steps forward, one step back is about to be over.”

Peskin pointed to a building on Vallejo Street that originally had three rent-controlled. It was purchased and converted into a luxury five-bedroom house with a pool on the roof. A building at 50 Oakwood that had two rent-controlled units and room for a third was converted into a single luxury house.

Apartments at 50 Oakwood became a single-family luxury house

“Middle-class housing is being turned into mansions,” Mandelman said.

Sherburn-Zimmer said that the city is “bleeding rent-controlled units. … There are so many ways that we let developers do whatever the fuck they want. It’s counter-productive to just talk about building new housing when you can’t protect the housing you have.”

Central Soma: The fix is in at City Planning

The future of Soma from Potrero Hill. City Planning Dept. image

Mayor London Breed has now signed the legislation approved by the Board of Supervisors approving the Central Soma Plan that will spearhead the “Gig Economy” transformation of “San Francisco over the next 20 years.

The future of Soma from Potrero Hill. City Planning Dept. image

This plan is an incomplete comprise between the Planning Commission’s “Downtown Expansion” agenda to achieve its top-priority “Growth Accommodation” mission for San Francisco’s future and our Soma Communities’ top-priority “Community Building” and “Economic Justice” Goals (for a Summary of the Plan’s many important features and how they evolved, see our TODCO Facebook post.)

The biggest visible consequence of the Central Soma Plan will be construction of more than 5 million square feet of new tech offices in new office projects on a half-dozen “key sites” between Second and Sixth Streets. That amount of office space is equal to more than three new 1,000-foot Salesforce Towers, though none of them will be more than 300 feet in height.

Thanks to the limits of the 1986 voter-approved Proposition M Annual Limit on Office Development, it will take at least four years for all seven of these currently proposed office complexes to secure initial approval for their projects from the Planning Commission — which the mayor controls by appointing a majority and nominating the director of planning.

But none of these big developers want to wait four years, of course.

I know for a fact that just a year ago, the week before his sudden passing, Mayor Ed Lee decided which of the big developers would get to build their massive Central Soma office projects first. Mayor Lee’s list was totally based on political considerations, not project merit or community benefit. But – of course — that list no longer applies.

Will 2019’s Central Soma office project approvals be determined by a similar new political list — a year when, by the way, Mayor Breed is running for re-election? Is Planning Director John Rahaim lying when he claims otherwise? Word on the “developer street,” supported by J.K. Dineen’s recent reporting in the Chronicle, is that a decision has already been made in the Mayor’s Office:

First will be the Kilroy Flower Mart project at Fifth and Brannan Streets – the biggest of them all with at least 1,700,000 square feet of tech office space – although there is no urgency at all to rebuilding the current Mart as it proposes.

Second will be the Tishman Corp. project just across Fifth Street, with 922,000 square feet, even though its community benefit proposals remain very murky aside from new public open space.

Third will be the One Vassar Project at Second and Harrison Streets of the very influential developer Lawrence Lui, with 421,000 square feet, despite the controversy with its condominium neighbors over its view-blocking tower.

After that in some order will be the Tennis Club site project of TMG Partners, with 824,000 square feet of office space, and the smallest, the Strada Investment Co. project on a parking lot at Fourth and Brannan Streets, with 350,000 square feet.

And last … will be the Boston Properties (owners of Embarcadero Center) project, with 435,000 square feet, given that company’s unique political support for Progressive supervisors Jane Kim and, just recently, Matt Haney.

Combined, all these developments total almost 5 million square feet of new Tech Industry office space. They will “accommodate” at least 20,000 new tech workers — creating a demand for 10,000-15,000 new housing units, almost half of which need to be affordable to lower and middle-income households – but where?

Is this political “scuttlebutt” true? So far, all we know for sure is that the Planning Department has NOT put any process or guidelines in place to take community input from Soma or anywhere else before deciding how to prioritize which of these big developers get these very, very valuable Prop M development rights first.

Adding it all up, it sure looks like “the fix is in” at the San Francisco Planning Commission.

What is the way it should be done instead?

After a fair and open public process where the all of the community and public can all present their priorities for what kind of San Francisco office developments should have top priority for allocation of Prop M office project approvals, the Planning Commission would adopt new rules to apply such priorities to which developer can build first. And those rules would give top priority to proposed office developments anywhere in the city that:

  1. Include a site that will be deeded to the city for future development of nonprofit affordable housing.
  2. Maximize the percentage of their site area that will be permanently set aside for below-market space for PDR/arts uses, nonprofit services, legacy and heritage businesses, and neighborhood-serving retail tenants.
  3. Incorporate as part of their project new community facilities (other than simple open space) that will be deeded to the city at no cost.
  4. Agree to require their future Tech Industry tenants to participate the Community Good Jobs programs now proposed by the Jobs for Justice Coalition and pending for approval as city policy.

And if the Planning Commission refuses to do this, then there should be a November 2019 ballot measure that will make them do it – even if that reverses their politically-motivated project approvals before that date!


Screen Grabs: Robin Hood, Spider-Verse, The Quake …

Errol Flynn in 'Robin Hood'

SCREEN GRABS There’s a rather large number of films we didn’t get (and/or want) to see in advance opening this week, including Once Upon a Deadpool (a recut, more family-friendly re-release of Deadpool 2 from earlier this year); YA fantasy Mortal Engines; The Mule, a crime drama starring and directed by Clint Eastwood that, unusually for him, hasn’t gotten any awards push at all; and Mary Queen of Scots, with Soairse Ronan as that ill-fated monarch and Margot Robie as Elizabeth I in a purportedly handsome but problematic costume epic. 

Not made available for critics was Lars von Trier’s already-notorious The House That Jack Built, a long, gory serial killer tale opening in an R-rated version toned down from the unrated one that played U.S. theaters for just one day a couple weeks ago. 

Never fear, there’s a lot more opening this week, much of which we did pre-screen for your benefit. All the below open Friday, unless otherwise noted:

Roxie Animation: Hayao Miyazaki and Liyana
The Roxie has turned into a hub of international animation of late, with two new features arriving this weekend that reflect that programming trend. Never Ending Man is about Hayao Miyazaki, the renowned master of the hand-drawn ‘toon form (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, et al.) whose announced retirement in 2013 at age 72 was an occasion for mourning for many. But despite his prior resistance to computer-generated imagery, he found himself drawn back into a new project by a group of enthusiastic young animators. Originally a Japanese TV special, Kaku Arakawa’s non-fiction feature chronicles Miyazaki’s somewhat tortured return to the creative hot seat. 

Playing just Saturday and Sunday is Amanda and Aaron Kopp’s Liyana, which combines documentary and computer animation to depict S. African storyteller Gcina Mhlophe’s collaboration with five Swaziland orphans—and the original “fairy tale” they concoct. Roxie. Never Ending: Opens Fri/14, more info hereLiyana: Sat/15-Sun/16, more info here

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Though arguably the most ridiculously over-milked superhero in the whole comic-book-movie universe, Spider-Man turns a new page with this justifiably praised new animation feature that wreaks playful havoc both with his mythological conventions, and with the boundaries between his familiar stomping-ground media. Toying with all kinds of imagery, from graphic-novel panels to the truly psychedelic, this semi-satirical, kinda-post-modernist new adventure is definitely a “marvel” (sorry) in design terms. It’ll be a dream come true for fanboys (and -girls) of all ages. However, if you’re not really much of a Comic Book Guy at heart, you may find its very busy two hours too much of a good (but still somewhat hollow) thing. At area theaters. 

The Quake
2015 Norwegian hit The Wave revived 1970s disaster-movie tropes with admirable success in a straightforward tale of a tsunami hitting a small town. In this sequel, the first film’s ignored whistleblower (Kristoffer Joner) is revealed as since having become a recluse, torn by guilt over not saving more people even though he did manage to rescue his family. Now he realizes a major seismic event is about to hit Oslo. Of course, once again no one heeds his warnings until it’s too late, and his family members all find themselves in possibly lethal individual perils. 

Directed by John Andreas Andersen (replacing the original’s Roar Uthaug) this is just as good as the prior movie, in exactly the same ways: If you can get through a tolerably talky buildup to the point where crisis strikes, there are fine cliffhanger setpieces with ripping FX. It’s not a particularly sophisticated kind of thriller, but it’s better-crafted and more pandering than your average Hollywood equivalent these days. Opera Plaza, Shattuck Cinemas. More info here

Bathtubs Over Broadway
Good fun for musical theater addicts as well as general aficionados of the weird, Dava Whisenant’s documentary trains focus on a subterranean showbiz strata that is largely forgotten now, and eluded popular notice even at its peak. For several decades there existed a whole “alternative Broadway” of revues created for corporate conventions—original shows designed to entertain visiting businesspersons of a particular industry (whether agricultural, home-appliance, or whatever), then never be heard of again. In some cases limited “original cast recordings” were made as souvenirs for the attendees; very rarely, someone shot some footage of the act. 

Yet these throwaway “musicals” celebrating the joys of wheat, toilets, copy machines, and such often attracted top theatrical talent, lavish production budgets, and future stars (like Chita Rivera and Martin Short, both interviewed here) at the start of their careers. In fact, some musical-theater types wound up spending years in these shows, whose employment could be more dependable (and even lucrative) than Broadway itself. Structured as a sort of detective story, driven by latterday collectors who scour the Earth for the few remaining artifacts of these singing, dancing industrial oddities, Bathtubs is a hoot. Opera Plaza. More info here

Ben Is Back
The breakout star this year most likely to have a very long career ahead of him—after all, he’s just turned 22—is Lucas Hedges, whom most people first met as the nephew in Manchester by the Sea. Last year he appeared in Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. His good taste in projects was further underlined by three 2018 movies, all of which he was excellent in: As the bullying older brother in the lamentably under-appreciated Mid90s; as the evangelical family scion dispatched to a “gay conversion therapy” program in Boy Erased; and now as a teen struggling to stay sober in his father Peter Hedges’ (Pieces of April) new feature. 

When Ben shows up unexpectedly on his mother (Julia Roberts) and stepfather’s (Courtney B. Vance) for Christmas, he sparks as much worry as welcoming: Did he really get permission to leave his rehab facility? After numerous prior failures, can he really be trusted to stay off drugs? 

Ben Is Back arrives just weeks after the thematically very similar Beautiful Boy. Comparisons are inevitable, and not all that flattering: Boy is flawed but feels organic in a way that the earnest but more contrived Ben does not. Writer-director Hedges errs in pushing the initially strong, intimate psychological study towards a half-assed sort of crime melodrama in its second half. Worse, he’s over-tailored it to his star—not son Lucas, but Roberts. She’s fine, but eventually the movie feels rigged so her character can run the gamut of Oscar-worthy histrionic emotions, from brave smiles to anger to hysteria and so forth. 

The result is a film whose many strengths end up undermined from within. But it’s still worth seeing for Lucas Hedges, who is the real deal, and who never hits a false note in a quiet, anguished turn that might easily have been geared towards showy acting bravado. At area theaters. More info here

The Adventures of Robin Hood
Kevin Costner was bad enough, but the recent flop Robin Hood was so painfully, clumsily “revisionist” (Matrix-style costumes? Jamie Foxx as Little John?!) that you could feel all Sherwood Forest wilting in despair. Ergo it’s a particularly good time to revisit this arguably best of all such cinematic representations—rivaled only by Douglas Fairbanks’ 1922 version. It was certainly the best role for Errol Flynn, a limited actor but a figure of athletic joie de vivre who could actually make those green tights seem kinda dashing. 

The Technicolor 1938 hit, Warner Brothers’ most expensive project to date at the time, remains a jaunty delight, with a peerless support cast: Olivia De Havilland as love interest, Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains as bad guys, Eugene Pallette and Alan Hale among the “merry men,” Una O’Connor a very merry woman, etc. Its co-feature is a little obscurity from four years later called Casablanca, also directed by Michael Curtiz. Grab these good times at the Castro while you can: The following three days of its calendar are occupied by Bohemian Rhapsody, one of the worst (if also most popular) movies of 2018. Sat/15, Castro. More info here

Christmas Evil
There have been a lot of Yuletide-themed horror movies since, most of them heavily tongue-in-cheek. But Lewis Jackson’s feature was somewhat pioneering in 1980, and it remains a quirkier, better deadly-Santa movie than the more widely seen slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night, which arrived four years later. Harry Stadling (Brandon Maggart) is a sad sack, an insecure child-man obsessed with Christmas to a degree inappropriate for a grownup. Duly employed at a toy factory, he’s ridiculed by coworkers, abused even by the brattier local children. When Harry’s tether finally snaps, he dons his Santa suit and doles out some serious consequences to those who are more naughty than nice. 

A black comedy “fairy tale” with a sad misfit center, this John Waters-endorsed cult film was the final feature for Jackson, whose prior ones were lowly sexploitation obscurities. It was originally released as Better Watch Out—a title more recently used by another good Christmas horror comedy worth digging up, Chris Peckover’s 2016 Australian/U.S. film. Tues/18, Alamo Drafthouse. More info here

Doormat Division: Our local teams could still be the worst ever

Three and 10? 3-10!??  With just three weeks to go in the run to the Moldy Carpet trophy, the worst our gridiron losers can offer is a possible 3-13 record. The Raiders and the 49ers both won yesterday, right after the local rag, the SF Chronicle, chronicled how their combined 4-20 record had a shot at being the worst of all time in the Bay Area.  It still does at 6-20, but they have to lose all their remaining games. Should they both win again, horrors, the worst the Doormat Division can get is 4-12, which hasn’t happened since 2003, when the Giants, the Cardinals and the Chargers all went 4-12.  Clearly, teams just aren’t bad enough this season. Where’s the tragedy, the pathos, the misery?


NFC              W-L        PF       PA       DIFF

Santa Clara    3-10       275    350        -75

Arizona         3-10        178    327        -149

Atlanta          4-9        316     367        -51

NY Giants      5-8         307     331       -24

Tampa Bay    5-8         332     383        -51

Detroit          5-8         271     319       -48

AFC              W-L        PF       PA       DIFF

Oakland         3-10      244     388      -144

Jacksonville   4-9        212     273      -61

NY Jets          4-9        270     330      -60

Buffalo          4-9        201     320      -119

Cleveland      5-7-1     292     397      -90


The Failcons just keep on losing, five straight now, climbing into a solid third place in the Doormat NFC with a complete game of non-competitiveness. Losing to the Packers takes some effort these days. You can’t just waltz out there and get creamed. Falcons five-game skid started with a loss to the Browns (28-16), the kind of loss that starts losing streaks- losing to what you think is the worst team in football. But guess what?  It’s YOU.

Packers win first game under new coach. Packers will now fire the head coach every week until they lose a game. Then, they’ll fire the GM.


Doormat Perfection: The Bags scored their first points on a safety (muffed punt by the Titans), took the ensuing punt-off and drove to the Titans 4-yard line, where they killed the motor, and left the pigskin on the 1 for the Titans.  On the next play, Titans RB Derrick Henry galloped 99 yards for a touchdown.

And we’re done here.


Break up the Giants!  Winners of two straight, the Giants, at 5-8 have a mathematical shot at the playoffs, however difficult that math may be.  The Skinnies, without Alex Smith, have Doormat Finish gleaming on their team bus.  Basement All-Star March Sanchez started at QB for Washbag, and guided the team to:  punt, punt, punt, pick-six, punt, punt, interception (resulted in TD in 3 plays), punt, punt, punt, somebody stop this.

QB Josh Johnson- remember him from Tampa Bay?- came in and ruined the shutout, bagging two TDs in the 4th quarter.  Redskinks (6-7), losers of four straight and a clear shot at 10 losses, have to contend with the plummeting Baguars next week.  Be there.


The Bills and Jets split their season series, keeping a cordial relationship going out on the Basement patio, burning a weenie, dumpster diving in the alley, and sharing the last stale can of Busch Light. Not that the Jets didn’t try to lose this one. After their halftime brainstorm (ow!) the Jets deftly fumbled the kickoff, planting the Bills firmly at the Jets 13-yard line. The Bills saw through that, and killed the ‘momentum’ and escaped with a FG, keeping the Jets within a TD (20-13). The Nyets countered with an interception, but the Bills refused to take the bait, and punted. The Jetskis couldn’t stop the downhill effect, and scored a TD, but promptly got the Bills downfield, only to be thwarted when the Bills shanked a field goal attempt. 20-20.  One more Jets three-and-out produced a grinder drive for the Bills and they got a 3-point boot hung on their necks. 23-20, Bills.  With the game clock dwindling down,the Jets then got guided masterfully down the field, with the golden play the 37-yard bomb by Jets QB Sam Darnold (darn old what?) to the Bills 4.  Bills burn a time out contesting the completion. It takes four tries, but the Bills get the Jets into the end zone ozone. Bills finish up with long bomb interception by Josh Allen.  Jet and Bills tied at 4-9 and still have a shot at winning the Moldy Carpet.

49ers 20, BRONCOS 14

I don’t know…Broncos coach Vance Joseph just looks unhappy. Like he has no friends. He needs to work on his grouchy look. Just doesn’t look ‘coacherly.’

The Greg Kittle Show, brought to you buy a clueless defensive strategy and execution by the Bronco defense, came up four yards short of the all-time record for a TE receiving yards. ALL IN THE FIRST HALF. 49ers botch getting Kittle just one more five-yard reception.

Broncos off-sides specialist Von Miller stacked up THREE of them yesterday. Not to worry, the 49ers tackles practiced for it all week, complete with the ‘whoa there’ effect after the refs blow the whistle.

For 3-10, the Whiners looked like a defensive brick wall yesterday. With top Bronco receiver Emmanuel Sanders sidelined, the Whinos played man-to-man tight D, bumping the young Bronco receivers at the line of scrimmage on every play. It worked and nobody gets fired this week.


Holy Crap, the Raiders won a game. Pittsburgh QB Ben Rothlisberger had to leave the game with an owie, and that tilted the whole field.  Ben’s pretty hefty. Great game that brought back some memories of the incredible rivalry these two teams have had over the years.


STIFF OF THE WEEK: If they’d just lost at least one game to the 49ers, the Cards would be a shoo-in for the Moldy Carpet trophy.  As it is, they still look promising. Tied at 3-10 now with the Whiners, the Cards brought home the misery yesterday with a meagre field goal and a pick-six that decided the whole thing. Lions got a TD chipped in in the 4th quarter to round out the ‘scoring.’ Lions at 5-8 and teetering on respectability. They go to Buffalo next week, so watch out. Cards should lose all three remaining games: Falcons (no gimme), Rams and Seahags.


Pretty soon, we won’t have to write about the Brownies anymore. Winning yet again with some late heroics, the Blanks have thrown more footballs into the stands after a touchdown than any other team this season. Guys, I know it’s new to you, but it really is a regular part of football.

aaaAAAAAAnd That’s the View From the Basement!!!!!

Behind the battle for board president

Sups. Hillary Ronen and Sandra Lee Fewer, who have always been close, at a rally in support of Prop. C

When I was a young reporter at the Bay Guardian, the editor, Bruce Brugmann, told me not to bother writing stories about how “the left is in disarray.”

In this town, he said, the left is always in “disarray.” The progressives are energetic folks with a lot of passion and ambitious agendas; they don’t tend to like backroom deals, so they argue in public. It’s not always pretty but it’s way better than the way the other side does it, which is cutting hidden deals with players who we never see. In the end, the left often comes together — and when it doesn’t, there’s sometimes a good reason.

Sups. Hillary Ronen and Sandra Lee Fewer, who have always been close, at a rally in support of Prop. C

So now Joe Eskenazi at Mission Local has the left in disarray over the next president of the Board of Supervisors. “Progressives,” his headline says “are already at each other’s throats.”

More: “Progressives are the team that carries the ball down the field then fumbles it at the 5-yard-line.”

That has, indeed, happened – former Sup. Chris Daly used that metaphor when the board elected Ed Lee mayor. But the progressives have also scored more than a few six-point attempts of late – free city college,  a tax on the city’s biggest corporations to address homelessness, and a majority, which could be a supermajority – on the board, all in the past two years.

And now there’s an open, and yes, contentious, campaign by several progressives who want to be board president. That’s not unprecedented – Aaron Peskin vied with Sophie Maxwell and Matt Gonzalez for the job in 2003, and there was lobbying on all sides. Peskin ultimately sided with Gonzalez, after seven rounds of voting. The left was not bitterly divided; Peskin and Gonzalez remained close, and Peskin was elected president unanimously two years later.

David Chiu and Ross Mirkarimi contended for the job in 2009, when Peskin backed Chiu, who had just been elected to the board. When Chiu emerged with the votes, he said, “well, this is a surprise.” It wasn’t: There was much behind-the-scenes lobbying and the vote was wired before the meeting started.

And this time around, unless there’s another serious progressive fumble, somebody from the left camp will be elected board president.

The fumble could come only if the folks on the left get so mad at each other that they lose all sense of political reality. Mayor London Breed, I am reliably told, has made it clear she wants Shamann Walton to be the next president. But several members told me that putting someone who just got elected in the top spot isn’t a great idea; nobody really knows how a new member will vote on the key issues.

Besides, “the mayor doesn’t get to pick the president of the board,” Sup. Rafael Mandelman told me. And there are seven board members who got elected without the support of Breed.

Hillary Ronen wants the job. She’s campaigning for it (just as, for example, Rep. Nancy Pelosi is campaigning for the job of speaker of the House, and Rep. Barbara Lee campaigned for the job of Democratic Caucus chair). Ronen is asking her allies to call other supervisors on her behalf; does anyone seriously think the Pelosi hasn’t been doing the same thing? Or that the same thing didn’t happen in past campaigns?

From Eskenazi:

In the short-term, both Peskin and Fewer are irate (though Ronen claims their anger is “a tactic.”) Unlike the mayor, who is mayor of all of us, the board president is an inward-facing position; he or she is the president of the board and selected by only members of the board. An astute board president can leverage the ability to choose committee assignments, introduce legislation, and make appointments into real power. But this is still a highly administrative and internal position.

As such, union leaders dialing up a supervisor to voice their opinions on who should be board president might be asked to consider how they’d respond if a supervisor called them up to voice his or her opinions about who should be leading the union.

Actually, Peskin told me today that’s he not “irate” at all. I couldn’t reach Fewer, who has always been close to Ronen.

But this isn’t an internal union election. The people who vote for board president are elected officials. This is, by law and by any reasonable standard, supposed to be an open process, where the public has a chance to weigh in.

There will be public comment on the matter. There should be public discussion. It makes a difference.

On a day-to-day basis, the board president doesn’t control the agenda the way the speaker of the House does. Individual supervisors have a tremendous amount of power to push legislation, even if they aren’t on the same political team as the president. The biggest specific duty of the prez is assigning the supes to committees, and some committees (Budget and Finance, Land Use and Transportation) have more direct power.

But unlike committees in Washington and Sacramento, the chairs of the SF board committees don’t tend to tie up or kill legislation unilaterally or refuse to schedule hearings. If a board member really wants a bill to come to the full board, it usually does.

The issue here is more political. The board president is the second-most-important person at City Hall, the one who takes over if the mayor dies and the public face of the supervisors. Choosing a president sends a message of how the board wants to operate over the next two years. And, as we’ve seen with Ammiano, Breed, and Chiu, the presidency gives a board member the exposure to seek and win higher office.

Ronen is the most progressive member of the board, an outspoken activist and fighter. As Eskenazi put it:

Ronen is viewed by her colleagues “as someone who doesn’t want to be nice. She wants to get things done,” says a fellow supervisor. “She wants to lift up the most marginalized among us. There’s no time to waste. And if that requires pissing off some of her colleagues, so be it. I respect that. Will this colleague be voting for Ronen for president? 


So wait: We are supposed to say that the board president should side with her colleagues instead of standing up for the most marginalized among us? Why is that a positive thing?

Why, in this era where women like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez have been elected to Congress on a platform of challenging the existing power structure and breaking open the secretive processes that have defined Washington for generations, should San Francisco say we need leaders who are cautious?

Mandelman told me he hasn’t decided who to vote for, but one factor is “we need someone who will be somewhat discerning about picking battles.”

David Campos, the chair of the SF Democratic Party, had a different take: “The party and labor worked hard to elect a progressive majority on the board,” he said. The message of the board vote, he said, should be to push for real, dramatic change.

“I have yet to see a credible argument against Hillary,” he said.

Theargument out there is that Ronen is too progressive, too “emotional,” too willing to push the envelope – and that she has pissed people off by her aggressive campaign for the job. 

Ronen told me that the same standards haven’t been applied to male candidates. “In my years as a lawyer, and organizer, living in a couple of countries, I’ve never seen this level of sexism,” she said.

Here’s the bottom line: Ronen has at least four votes. Norman Yee and Fewer could put a coalition together with a few votes for either (Yee running as the avuncular peacemaker, Fewer as a progressive woman who some see as less confrontational than Ronen.)

And if Walton is the mayor’s choice, he will have the backing of her supporters.

In the end, it’s a campaign. When the moderates are in control, they cut the deal early and tell everyone that this person is the next president. The progressives tend to believe in democracy, unpleasant as it sometimes is. I can’t get too offended at candidates for a public job trying to round up supporters.

When Breed was seeking a board vote to put her in the mayor’s office, her backers not only lobbied for her, but secretly bullied and threatened people, saying they would destroy the careers of anyone who stood in her way. That’s not remotely going on here (there is nobody on the left who has the capacity to threaten someone’s job the way the billionaires like Ron Conway do). So let’s back off a bit from the progressives being “at each other’s throats.” 

The only way they fumble is if they can’t get over a campaign and decide to elect a moderate out of spite. That would more than a fumble; that would be snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory.


Join us for our Best of the Bay holiday party this Thursday!

Join the 48 Hills staff + this year’s Best of the Bay winners for a warm and welcoming holiday party and winners celebration, this Thursday the 13th, 6pm-8pm, and the legendary Stud Bar in SoMa!

We’ll have music, entertainment, nibbles, and a free glass of champagne for everyone, while supplies last! Come down and hobnob with Tim, Marke, and the BEST people and businesses in San Francisco! Here’s the Facebook invite, too

The Stud, 399 Harrison, SF.
More info here

Best movies of 2018? Film Critics Circle makes its picks

Spike Lee's 'Blackkklansman'

I love the idea of a film critics’ circle. I think, naturally, of a number film lovers sitting around a warm DVD player, knitting brows, sipping tea, petting a purring calico, and gently bitching about camera angles.

I don’t know if that’s far from the truth, but I do know that the esteemed members of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, founded in 2002, are far more clued-in to the film scene than the Oscars’ Academy (plus you get a more local perspective, of course). Here are this year’s picks for their favorites from a surprisingly strong year in movies. You can still check many of them out in theaters before Netflix swallows them whole, and see the full list with nominees at the SFFCC site

PS Our very own film critic Dennis Harvey is in the circle, and has reviewed these films. Read his weekly column, Screen Grabs

Marlon Riggs award for “courage and innovation in the Bay Area film community”: Bay Area musician/activist/filmmaker Boots Riley, who released his debut movie Sorry to Bother You this year.

Special Citation Award: The Endless (a genre-bending story of emotionally estranged brothers starring and directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead)

Best Actor: Ethan Hawke, First Reformed (searing performance as a tortured priest confronting oblivion)

Best Actress: Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (change-of-pace turn as real-life writer Lee Israel)

Best Supporting Actor: Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther (complex villain Erik Killmonger)

Best Supporting Actress: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk (the quietly strong maternal figure of this James Baldwin adaptation)

Best Original Screenplay: First Reformed (Paul Schrader’s career-culminating story of environmental and existential despair)

Best Adapted Screenplay: BlacKkKlansman (Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee’s electrifying adaptation of the Ron Stallworth book)

Best Cinematography: Roma (director/DP Alfonso Cuarón’s black-and-white evocation of his childhood in Mexico)

Best Score: BlacKkKlansman (majestic jazz score by Terence Blanchard)

Best Production Design: Black Panther (Hannah Beachler, Marvel meets afro-futurism)

Best Editing: The Other Side of the Wind (Bob Murawski and Orson Welles’ classic-saving cut of the lost Welles masterpiece)

Best Animated Feature: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse (directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman)

Best Foreign Language Film: Roma (director/DP Alfonso Cuarón’s black-and-white evocation of his childhood in Mexico)

Best Documentary Feature: Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Morgan Neville’s heart-tugging documentary about children’s television pioneer Fred Rogers)

Best Director: Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman (electrifying adaptation of the Ron Stallworth book)

Best Picture: Roma (director/DP Alfonso Cuarón’s black-and-white evocation of his childhood in Mexico)

A new housing ‘compact’ looks a lot like a developer’s dream

With State Sen. Scott Wiener’s new housing bill now pending, a group convened by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission has released a draft plan to solve the region’s housing crisis – and some of its key conclusions are linked to Wiener’s vision.

The group is called CASA, and MTC calls it the Committee to House the Bay Area. It’s led by philanthropic, nonprofit, and private-sector people and some of its members are elected officials.

The group has spent the past 16 months trying to come up with what it calls a grand compromise, a Bay Area “Compact” that brings together the best practices and ideas from around the country. The concept, released in draft form this week, is designed around three concepts: Producing new housing, preserving existing affordable housing, and protecting vulnerable communities. (You can download the pdf here).

And indeed, it includes what for much of the Bay Area would be pretty dramatic tenant protections, including an immediate 8 percent cap on rent hikes, rent control and just-cause eviction protections everywhere, and a right to counsel for any tenant facing an eviction.

The language specifically states that rent controls would not apply to vacant apartments, enshrining the principle of the Costa-Hawkins Act that tenant groups tried so hard to overturn in November.

But since most Bay Area cities have no rent control at all, the proposal is a step forward.

The proposal also calls for $1.5 billion a year in spending on housing in the region, which is a good start.

Still, when you look at the draft report, it’s clear that the goal is to allow developers to add a lot more market-rate housing in areas that are already choked by market-rate housing – and some areas that are highly vulnerable to displacement pressures – without adequate protections for existing residents.

“We [should] house the Bay Area with racial equity within a frame of doing no harm, of protecting at-risk communities and breaking open those exclusive communities that refuse to build housing at any level,” Fernando Marti, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, testified at a Dec. 3 hearing on the plan. “What I see in this plan is a map that says we are going to break open development, we are going to break open the low-income areas of Santa Rosa … it’s not policies that target cities like Lafayette… and cities like Palo Alto and Cupertino that approve commercial development without any housing.”

Marti said that there has been little discussion in the plan about the difference between “hot markets” like San Francisco with 45,000 units of housing that are entitled but haven’t started building, or San Jose, where SPUR reports that there’s a glut of approved luxury condos.

“Those are not the places we should be upzoning and streamlining,” he said.

The Compact, like so many other proposals and discussions, calls for more housing “at all levels.” The reality is that the private market won’t provide housing at any but the top levels. So the remainder – which most experts agree is far more than half, probably more than 60 percent of all new housing – has to be built outside the private market.

That’s where the connection to Wiener’s bill comes in.

The measure he is proposing, which is embedded in the CASA report, is all about private-sector solutions, about “streamlining” permit approvals and overriding local zoning to allow a lot more density along transit corridors.

The Wiener bill has another twist that observers are still trying to figure out: It allows for increased density in any “job-rich” area. Here’s the actual language:

Job-rich housing project” means a residential development within an area identified by the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Office of Planning and Research, based on indicators such as proximity to jobs, high area median income relative to the relevant region, and high-quality public schools, as an area of high opportunity close to jobs.

That, it appears, is Wiener’s effort to stave off criticism that his proposal exempts suburbs that don’t have good transit. But it’s all on the supply end: There’s nothing in the bill that limits new office development unless there is housing available for the workforce.

In the meantime, it’s still unclear: Would most of Berkeley, for example – a city that has high median income and high-quality public schools and is near San Francisco, which has a lot of jobs — be upzoned, even though Berkeley has not approved large tech office complexes?

Add in the state’s density-bonus laws – and the Housing Accountability Act changes of 2017 – and this package could eliminate a tremendous amount of local control over housing.

That’s critical for several reasons. Local zoning laws in places like San Francisco are often used to force developers to build significant amounts of affordable housing. Under the CASA plan, the state would “monitor inclusionary standards … to ensure that IZ does not suppress local housing production.”

That could turn into a huge developer giveaway. Every developer starts off arguing that anything more than a very small percentage of affordability will prevent the project from “penciling out.” In San Francisco, nearly every time the supervisors have said that a project won’t go forward without more affordable units, the developer has caved.

If the state regulators side with the developers, the city’s ability to enforce affordable housing rules will be undermined.

San Francisco right now has met (and is on track to far exceed) its state-mandated regional housing goals for market-rate housing. It’s far behind in its goal for affordable housing.

Peter Cohen, co-director of CCHO, told me that the current draft of the CASA plan “is very disappointing.” It reduces the affordable housing requirements for cities like San Francisco and in many cases is “just straight [developer] giveaways.”

The CASA proposal has no weight of law, and would require extensive state and local legislation to be implemented. But it sets a tone for the debate over the region’s future – and could encourage more Wiener-type bills in Sacramento. (In fact, I can see much of the pro-development agenda making it through the Legislature without any of the tenant protections.)

And it would put a lot of decisions in another set of unelected boards (like MTA).

This whole discussion is missing the much larger question: Why do we keep saying that growth is not only inevitable but good? What if, instead of all these rules to mandate housing for tens of thousands of new tech workers, the region adopted a version of SF’s 1986 Prop. M, and put a cap on the amount of new office development that can be approved every year?

It’s been successful in slowing what was often out-of-control office growth in this city. For a while, it was successful at preserving other types of industry, and jobs in other then finance, insurance, real-estate and the tech sectors.

Maybe we need to do the same thing for the region, or the state.

Maybe we should at least talk about it.

SF keeps losing affordable housing

The maximum affordable housing the city is getting is 18 percent, and that's going to drop

The latest Housing Balance Report comes before the Board of Supes Land Use and Transportation Committee Monday/10 and the news is as bleak as ever: In the past ten years, San Francisco has built 6,577 affordable housing units – and lost 4,263, mostly to evictions and Tenancy in Common conversions.

That means every time the city creates two affordable units, it loses one.

The maximum affordable housing the city is getting is 18 percent, and that’s going to drop

“There are a lot of numbers thrown around these days about housing,” Peter Cohen, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, said in a press statement. “Here, in this Housing Balance Report, authored by the Planning Department we have the real story, from the city’s own building permit data, planning data, and Rent Board data.”

The message: SF is never going to solve its housing problem unless the city can stop allowing existing affordable housing to be taken off the market. It’s far, far cheaper to protect existing rent-controlled housing than to build new housing.

The report, which you can read here, is just the latest evidence of the failure of city housing policy. San Francisco is, of course, limited by state law – the city can’t ban Ellis Act evictions or impose rent controls on vacant apartments. Instead of fighting to change those things, our state legislators are pushing to mandate more market-rate housing.

But the city now has a huge budget windfall – and the supes will be discussing how much of that money can go to implementing Prop. C and buying up small sites that are vulnerable to Ellis evictions and TICs.

The hearing starts at 1:30 pm.

The committee also finally gets to consider the proposal by Sups. Ahsha Safai and Aaron Peskin to ban employee caefterias from new office buildings. The idea is to help local small businesses by encouraging tech workers to go outside of their office cocoons and actually buy lunch and interact with the community where they work.

The Budget and Finance Committee will hear a report Thursday/13 from the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector on the findings of the Municipal Banking Task Force. The task force has issued a draft report, which you can read here. There are models that require a public subsidy, and models that make a pretty fast profit.

The report is primarily financial, and doesn’t spend much time looking at what a municipal bank could do, for example, to finance affordable housing. But it’s clear that the concept is feasible, and could radically change the way the city and a lot of residents interact with the financial sector.

The meeting starts at 10am; the hearing is at the end of the agenda.

Mayor London Breed will appear at the full board meeting Tuesday/11 to begin (public) discussions over how the city should spend the $181 million in state money that’s suddenly on the table. The mayor has suggested that much of that funding should go to implement Prop. C (which she opposed). Some, including incoming Sup. Matt Haney, say that since it’s education money, some should go to increase teacher pay at SFUSD.

This will be the first time the supes and the mayor together have an open discussion on the topic. It’s why we have Question Time.

The board will also consider, in a special Committee of the Whole, whether to put a Charter Amendment on the Nov. 2019 ballot to preserve free City College for the indefinite future. We’re talking about a budget set-aside, and a lot of supes don’t like budget set-asides, which I understand – but in this case, the voters passed a measure that should (assuming the city survives the court challenges) provide a steady stream of revenue for the $15 million a year or so it would cost to allow low-income and working-class San Franciscans to get an education.

And the board will consider legislation that seeks to prevent the owners of single-family homes and condos to use massive rent increases as a tool for eviction – like this.

The Yimbys lost big-time in the November SF election – but that doesn’t mean they have lost the political support of some of the city’s most powerful officials. It’s worth noting that among the hosts (and presumably speakers) at the Yimby Action annual gala Tuesday/11 at the Swedish American Hall are Mayor London Breed, state Sen. Scott Wiener, state Assemblymember David Chiu, and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff.

All are now part of the Yimby agenda.