Sup. Vallie Brown has a narrative driving her campaign: She had a difficult childhood, faced evictions and homelessness, and is now working to protect the rights of tenants. Here’s what a Brown mailer says:
Vallie grew up in poverty and lost her parents early. Her father, a member of Native American tribes in Utah, died when she was 1. Raised by a single mother who struggled to overcome homelessness to provide her with a better life, Vallie moved to San Francisco in the 1980s to make a living as an artist. She quickly found a community of dreamers and doers, and working together, they began doing their part to build a safer, cleaner and more just city.
While teaching at the Hunters Point Boys and Girls Club, Vallie partnered with community leaders to protect children from toxic pollution at the decaying naval shipyard
As a renter in the Lower Haight, Vallie organized her community and partnered with law enforcement leaders to help reduce gun violence, all while rallying parents to protect John Muir Elementary from closing.
There’s nothing inaccurate about that, and I respect the challenges she has faced in life and her efforts to overcome them.
Nothing she did was illegal. But the fact remains that she was not only a victim of evictions – she was an evictor who forced very low-income tenants out of their home. For a lot of tenant activists, that’s not, and never will be, acceptable.
And her explanation for what happened is pretty weird.
San Francisco has seen over the past few decades a rash of what are called TIC evictions. The early pattern was pretty typical: Four investors buy a four-unit building (or six and six, whatever) for cheap, because the tenants have been there a long time and thanks to rent control, are paying below-market rent. The building isn’t as valuable as income property if the rents are low.
But instead of keeping the property as rentals, the investors evict all the tenants and move in as “tenants in common” – getting around the city’s condo-conversion limits by a legal trick that allows each one to own a unit.
More recently, speculators have gotten into the game, buying up property, using the Ellis Act to evict the tenants, then flipping the units as TICs for a big profit.
According to public records collected by the SF Tenants Union (and I have confirmed it all), Brown and three friends bought the property at 148-152 Fillmore for $275,000 on April 13, 1994. Within days, the group filed eviction notices against all of the tenants (three filed wrongful eviction notices at the Rent Board on April 25.) The unit Brown wound up occupying had tenants named Thomas and Eleanor Cotton; they got an eviction notice April 21.
Ultimately, all the tenants were forced out, and the four buyers occupied the place, which had all sorts of maintenance issues. Over time, Brown fixed it up, and by the time she sold it in 2004, she had bought out the rest of the owners. It sold for $2.6 million.
Thomas Cotton, an African American, was 56 at the time of the eviction, and had lived in the place since 1980. His rent was $205 a month. (That’s not far from what market rent was in the area at the time; I moved into a place six blocks away on Fillmore St. in 1984, and my rent was $265. Fourteen years later, of course, it was way below market.)
Cotton was beyond low-income – he was, in the determination of the Superior Court, indigent: He got his legal fees waived when he tried to represent himself in the eviction case. The court doesn’t waive fees unless you are very low-income.
Brown says she was pretty broke at the time, too, but she clearly could afford a lawyer to do the eviction, and Cotton couldn’t. He finally settled by agreeing to move out if Brown would waive three months back rent that he owed. (Prop. F, the law that guarantees tenants facing eviction the right to a lawyer, might have saved his home if it were in effect back then.)
Brown’s challenger, Dean Preston (who wrote Prop. F), said that “I’m shocked that a candidate with a record of evicting tenants would ever be appointed by Mayor Breed to this seat, or that she would even consider running for District Five supervisor.”
No matter how you spin it, Brown bought a building that was occupied by tenants. She was part of throwing those tenants out, through the legal process of eviction. There is no evidence that she paid them any relocation fees or helped them find other housing.
I suspect Brown might have been able to limit the damage if she just said that she did nothing illegal, that she needed a place to live, that TICs were a popular way for middle-class people to buy homes, and the eviction was unfortunate but she as an owner had the right to occupy her property.
I think it’s a scandal that TICs have been used as a way to evict long-term tenants; it’s a rotten loophole in state law, and should be illegal. Still, she could claim she did nothing that others haven’t done.
Instead, she’s presented a convoluted story.
From the SF Weekly:
Brown says they needed more income from the tenants to pay for building renovations to address problems like mold, and that she tried to work with the tenants so that they could stay. When they couldn’t settle on a rent amount, she and her co-owners moved to evict them.
Two former tenants reached by SF Weekly said they didn’t remember efforts to help them. All three tenants lost their wrongful eviction case and by the fall of that year, they all vacated the building.
But Brown thinks the ultimate problem was the lack of assistance from the city or nonprofits to help make the house livable for a cooperative, while keeping rent affordable for previous tenants. The house simply had too many repairs and they sought capital — or at least, consistent rent payments — to make those improvements, she says.
Jennifer Fieber, a director at the Tenants Union, said some of that is bizarre: “It’s the city’s fault that she couldn’t pay to fix her building?”
On Facebook, Brown says the following:
In 1994, I along with 3 friends, all in our late 20s and early 30s, bought a building in Lower Haight to live communally after being pushed out and evicted from warehouses in SOMA. We saved every last penny we had — I borrowed money for my $4,000 share of our down payment — and we were finally able to buy a building through probate court, without even seeing it first. What we found were four apartments in total disrepair; mold in the walls, holes in the floors, no heat and a leaking roof. We asked the remaining tenants to stay, but understandably given the state of the place, they had not been paying rent for years and did not want to start. I understood that becoming part of a housing collective when you don’t know each other is a difficult move to make. I also got it that they felt the building was in too bad of shape to hang on and pay rent. An Owner Move-In (OMI) eviction was the only way we could preserve their credit.
Let’s parse this for a second.
Brown and her friends bought a building that they had never seen at a probate auction for $275,000. They put up $16,000 cash and got a mortgage for the rest. They found out after they had bought it that it was a total dump and the tenants weren’t even paying rent.
She says they really wanted the existing tenants to stay, but they would have to pay rent, and they didn’t want to. So they had to go.
And in the settlement, Brown agreed to waive three months of Cotton’s back rent — which suggests that he was in fact paying rent.
Here’s the curious part:
No bank is going to give people a mortgage to buy a building with tenants in it as income property unless there’s proof that the tenants are paying enough rent to cover the monthly nut. On the other hand, if the four told the bank they were going to move in, it might be a different situation.
I couldn’t get Brown on the phone, but I got one of her campaign staffers, Leo Wallach, and he confirmed to me that “this wasn’t purchased as income property.”
He told me that the four planned at first to move into one unit, together, and slowly fix up the rest. “They qualified for the mortgage before the auction,” he said.
Brown had to do an owner-move-in eviction to get access to the property, Wallach said.
He said that when she bought out the other owners, she had to borrow against the equity in the place (which is consistent with public records) and that despite the high price tag, she walked away with “about $600,000.”
Among a lot of voters, including some in D5, a message that says a candidate started with nothing but through hard work, managed to buy property and become successful would be perfectly acceptable. (Preston, in his campaign literature, makes clear that his immigrant parents started with little but build a successful business and that he’s a homeowner.)
So why has this entire chapter of more than 20 years in Brown’s history completely vanished from her political resume?
Maybe because the idea that she evicted her tenants, and was part of a group that evicted all of the tenants in a four-unit building at a time when gentrification was transforming the lower Haight, doesn’t fit with her campaign narrative.
I understand her challenges, but in 1994 she bought a building that had tenants in it. And when you buy a building with tenants, you become a landlord — and you take on a lot of responsibilities. She voluntarily put herself in a place where she became a landlord who threw out low-income African American tenants.
That was a choice she made. Now, it’s part of the politics of this race.
“We believe the mayor knew about this when she appointed Brown,” Fieber told me.
If she did, the Mayor’s Office figured the story was old and would never come out. But in politics, the cover up is often worse than the crime.
Mayor London Breed is running essentially unopposed – but that doesn’t mean she’s popular with the electorate. A series of recent, reliable polls obtained by 48hills show that the mayor’s support has been declining rapidly over the past eight months.
No one poll can precisely pinpoint the electorate, particularly today when so many techniques are changing – polls that used to rely on random phone numbers now have to deal with cell phones that aren’t listed anywhere. Internet polling is getting better, but is still subject to biases.
But when you look at a series of polls, over time, done by top-level professionals (who are paid a lot by campaigns to get this right) and they show a single, clear trend, it’s worth noting.
Campaigns for all kinds of issues and candidates look at how the voters view elected officials. They’re looking, for example, at whether the endorsement of a certain official will help or hurt their campaign.
It’s very common to ask what voters think of the chief executive, even if the poll isn’t about the mayor’s race.
And here’s what several recent polls show:
In February, 63 percent of SF voters had a strongly or somewhat favorable opinion of Breed, compared to 30 percent who had a negative opinion.
In March, the numbers were 56/17.
In August, they were 53/22.
In October, they were 48/22.
When less than half of the electorate has a favorable opinion of a mayor, it’s a sign that that person is in trouble. When the positive reviews decline that fast, political consultants start to get alarmed.
Again: Breed will be re-elected. She will have four more years to address the crises facing the city, to bring voters around to supporting her. But right now, today, the numbers suggest her influence is declining – and that could have a major impact on two races that she has been heavily invested in.
Both Vallie Brown, the mayor’s appointee for supervisor in D5, and Suzy Loftus, who Breed just appointed interim district attorney, are counting heavily on the mayor’s support in their campaigns.
A story is unfolding in the District Five supervisor race, ignored by the news media, that illustrates the contradiction between narrative and fact that underlies so much of current politics in San Francisco.
The media, both local and national, is fixed on a discussion of San Francisco that has as it center an explanation of our outrageous housing costs that might be called “The Narrative:” A titanic struggle between Nimbys (Not in My Back Yard), usually defined as residents in existing neighborhoods who oppose new housing development and thus reduce “supply” resulting in high housing costs and Yimbys (Yes In My Backyard), pro-development “market urbanists” who want to remove all regulations by eliminating local approval requirements of major developments — thus, goes the narrative, increasing supply and lower housing costs.
According to this narrative, Nimby’s have prevailed at the local level with the resultant lack of supply of housing (and, most recently, office buildings) which, it is asserted, is solely responsible for high housing prices in San Francisco.
48 Hills has been almost alone in the media countering this factually bogus narrative by publishing pieces that show a huge “housing development pipeline” of some 73,000 housing units existing in San Francisco (pipeline snapshot), that transit investment lags far behind currently approved housing development — making the assertion that these high density market priced developments are “transit friendly” dangerously wrong (transit funding deficit) — and that over-production of tech office space is far more responsible for the housing crisis than concerns of current residents (jobs housing linkage).
All these facts are ignored by the major media in favor of pushing neoliberal, development de-regulation policies built on the myth of all- powerful resident opposition.
Actually, market-rate housing developers themselves are far more effective in delaying the construction of approved projects than are residents as they seek to manipulate the market by avoiding over production, engage in internal suites between partners that delay constriction (Park Merced), struggle with toxics (the Naval Shipyard), or simply seek the entitlement of a housing project with the intention of not building the housing but selling the entitlement.
Both state and city development advocates refuse to require developers to actually build the approved housing through the imposition of a “use-it-or-lose-it” clause pushed by affordable housing advocates that would require actual construction within a reasonable time frame or have the permit voided. State Sen. Scott Wiener refused to include such a requirement in SB 35 or his stalled SB 50.
What kind of a “housing crisis” is it that will be resolved with legislation that offers density bonuses and mandatory “by right” approvals to developers but never requires them to actually build the housing?
What Nimbyism really looks like in San Francisco
Yet, there is such a thing as Nimbyism in San Francisco – and it’s both powerful and persistent. But it’s not centered on opposition to high-end market rate housing; instead, it’s focused on housing and services than address the needs of low-income San Franciscans.
While community opposition has sometimes prevailed against market-rate housing proposals, it’s far more common that resident appeals and lawsuits are more often directed at residential treatment facilities for folks with developmental and mental health issues and permanent affordable housing for transition aged youth and even senior housing. This is especially true if the proposed development is in an upper income neighborhood. Well-heeled opponents to a navigation center in Mission Bay are simply following the lead of other well-off San Franciscans seeking to protect their “safety” and “property values.”
While these neighborhoods usually support-pro development ballot measures and candidates, they uniformly oppose the location of affordable and supportive housing and services next door to them. This is the dirty secret of San Francisco politics that forces “moderate” candidates to demand solutions to homeless camping, open drug use, and the “mentally ill” while, after being elected, voting against the actual projects and programs that will solve the problem.
Perhaps the clearest example of this phenomenon can be seen in District 2 in the opposition to a TAY housing proposal mounted by residents of the district and supported by its pro-development Supervisor Mark Farrell.
In 2010 Community Housing Partnership, a community based non-profit housing developer created by the Coalition on Homelessness and the Council of Community Housing Organizations to provide permanently affordable housing to homeless people and provide employment and training opportunities in the building development and management process, bought the vacant 29-room Edward II Inn on Scott Street in the Marina District in the heart of D2. CHP’s proposal was to address the growing and persistent problem of 18 to 24-year-olds that had aged out of foster care — “transition aged youth” — and were ending up on the streets of Polk Gulch and the Tenderloin in distressing numbers. CHP proposed to rehab the existing building for 24 affordable group housing units with shared cooking and common spaces and one resident manager unit for a total of 25 units in the existing building.
CHP did its political due diligence and sought out the support and advice of Mayor Gavin Newsom, then engaged in his run for Lt. Governor. Newsom was the former supervisor from the district and promoted himself as an innovate, urban homelessness “expert.” CHP wanted his active advocacy for the project and his advice on who to talk to in the neighborhood. His advice was to hire a former staffer as a consultant as he was too busy advancing his political career. He avoided public support of the proposed project.
In November, 201, as Newsom was elected Lt. Governor a new supervisor was elected for District 2, Mark Farrell.
Farrell immediately joined the “moderate” caucus of the board — then led by Supervisor Scott Wiener — and joined with Wiener in proposing various measures to “protect the middle class,” such as unlimited conversions of rent controlled apartments to condos even through rent control, with no means testing, is perhaps the city’s most effective middle-class housing program.
With no help from Newsom, CHP began neighborhood meetings in 2011. It soon became clear that Marina residents, true to their voting history of supporting Newsoms Care Not Cash and Sit/Lie ballot measures and opposing the first three affordable housing bonds placed on the ballot, were adamantly opposed to the proposed housing for the TAY population. It also became clear that while Farrell supported “market based” solutions for “middle income” residents he was not supportive of publicly financed housing for low-income youth at risk of becoming homeless.
The Planning Commission, on a vote of 6-1, with then Commissioner Michael Antonini in opposition, (he was an outspoken pro-market rate development advocate and Republican County Committee member), approved the project in July, 2011. The neighbors appealed the measure to the supervisors, and on a vote of 10 to 1 in August, with Farrell casting the lone vote against the project, the appeal was denied. Another three years were taken up with court suits and challenges, but in 2014 the 25 units were finally open.
As supervisor, Scott Wiener demanded and got the transfer of a surplus city-owned property from being a site for housing for homeless people to a gated “community” garden — which he argued better served the needs of its neighbors. He stood aloof from a nasty fight in the Castro to provide TAY housing in the neighborhood once local Nimbys raised a fuss over a proposal for such housing. Yet, according to The Narrative, Wiener is on the side of the angels. Go figure.
The folks opposed to the Embarcadero Navigation Center have been made to be the face of San Francisco Nimbyism on the pages of The New York Times. But as is usual in Times reporting on San Francisco it never lets the facts get in the way of The Narrative. In a recent opinion piece, the writer citing various recent events in SF including the opposition to the Nav Center, states boldly that Wiener’s SB 50 is the salvation to what he calls ” …nakedly exclusionary urban restrictionism is a particular shame of the left”! (exclamation point added , see NYT’s uninformed slur).
The opponents to the Nav Center never objected to the thousands of new market-rate units that have been added to their neighborhood, just the temporary beds for poor people, a distinction that escapes The New York Times. SB50, of course, has nothing to do with Nav Centers and everything to do with more market-rate housing to which the good folks have no objection. Again, go figure.
Talking Yimby, acting nimby
For moderate politicians in San Francisco, especially if running in left liberal or progressive areas of the city, there is a new political play book — talk like a Yimby, but quietly act as a Nimby because Nimby votes get you elected but developer money funds your campaign. This is especially true in the case of Sup. Vallie Brown running against Dean Preston in D5
Brown is a political moderate, appointed by a political moderate and running with the support of developers and the Yimby party (see Browns Real Estate Money). Her problem is that she is running in D5, one of, if not the most, left-liberal voting area of the City. She is well known in the district having served as an aide to Ross Mirkirimi when he was D5 supervisor.
Dean Preston is a tenant advocate lawyer. He ran the most effective statewide pro tenant organization in Sacramento. He drafted and led the successful effort two years ago to require legal representation for tenants facing eviction. He has joined with neighbors and merchants in placing restrictions on chain stores along Divisadero. He helped lead a community effort to amend a “stealth rezoning” of Divisadero Street done by then-Supervisor Breed, which massively increased allowed density in the area but did not increase the affordability level required of the new high-density development.
In her first major act as supervisor, Brown attacked the effort of requiring maximum affordability from market rate developers who received a density bonanza on Divisadero Street, parroting the Yimby argument that requiring maximum affordability would stop development of “much needed” housing even if no one in the community could afford such housing (go here for all the details). She introduced legislation that rejected the community proposal and required developers of pipeline projects that received well over 100 percent density increases the same affordability level – 20 percent — as is required citywide where no density bonus was granted.
She supported the mayor’s proposed charter amendment, strongly advocated by Yimbys, that would have allowed market-rate development on public land, a measure rejected by a majority of the board.
But being the supervisor from District 5, arguably the most consistent left/liberal voting area of the city, she has had to draw at least some differences between her and the Breed/Wiener axis. Significantly, she supported Proposition C last year while Breed/Wiener opposed it.
Haight and Stanyan: Ground Zero in the Nimby war in the Haight-Ashbury
One of the funding targets of Prop C was building extremely-low-income housing for transition aged youth, a population long targeted for removal by Haight-Ashbury Nimbys. The epicenter of the decades-long debate in the neighborhood was the corner of Haight and Stanyan, both the Golden Gate Park side at Alvord Lake and the eastern side at the McDonalds.
As far back as the days of the Diggers and the Summer of Love, neighborhood Nimbys, then led by a group called the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association, demanded police sweeps of Haight Street and health department inspections of communes and the Diggers free food program in order to drive out the hippies.
Led by Republican County Committee member residents and some Haight Street merchants, the Nimbys created a lasting set of relationships between certain city departments (the SFPD and the Recreation and Parks department) which shared their aversion to the hippies. Rec-Park repeatedly opposed both free concerts in Golden Gate Park and denied performance space for the Mime Troop, because both gave “aid and comfort” to hippies.
During the summer of 1988, the administration of Mayor Art Agnos became involved in a fierce battle at Alvord Lake over the free food give-away done daily by a group called Food Not Bombs.
Food Not Bomb is a loosely organized group from Cambridge, Massachusetts made up of volunteers dedicated to providing free vegan food to poor and homeless people with the clear aim of embarrassing local officials into action needed to address urban poverty and homelessness. Its leader and chief spokesperson, Keith McHenry, was an adept organizer and press agent. Alvord Lake was a great visual backdrop for McHenry’s message and he got a lot of coverage — much to Agnos’s embarrassment.
A new set of Nimbys, made up of the newly arrived yuppies who were moving into the rapidly gentrifying Haight-Ashbury, found the Haight and Stanyan scene simply unacceptable. Citing the now discredited mass incarceration theory of “broken windows” in which the police were urged to go after petty infractions such as handing out free food in the park or sitting on sidewalks and make arrests thus averting escalation to more series crimes by “undesirables,” the Cole Valley Improvement Association demanded that the food distributions be ended. The Health Department was enlisted to inspect Food Not Bombs food preparation practices — but with the help of the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council and other neighborhood based social service agencies, the requirements of the Health Department were met and Food Not Bombs continued to offer free food.
But the police captain of Park Station took the issue on as a personal crusade, much to the delight of CVIA — and citing Rec and Park department complaints about the food give away started arresting Food Not Bombers.
McHenry soon made a media issue of the arrests. In August, 1988, the issue escalated well beyond Agnos’s control with the police mobilizing more than 150 officers to make mass arrests after a rally called by McHenry. Ultimately, some 1,000 arrests were made and the Food Not Bombs operation was suppressed and Amnesty International was involved in the defense of what they called “prisoners of conscience.” It was a major embarrassment for Agnos and was a contributing reason he was defeated in 1992 by a former chief of police.
For the next 30 years, the struggle was joined between street youth and the services that were established to deal with them and neighborhood Nimby assisted at key times by the SFPD and Rec-Park. That battle spilled over to seemingly unrelated issues and at times became the source of hotly contested city-wide ballot measures.
In 2008, a proposed mixed-use development of 62 units of market-rate housing, a 34,000 square-foot Whole Foods and a massive three-floor, 180-space underground parking garage at the north east corner of Haight and Stanyan was drawn into the battle when the developer, seeking the support of both the HAIA and CVIA, included an “observation deck” overlooking Alvord Lake to allow for “monitoring” of the area.
A major talking point for the development was that the market-rate housing and up-scale Whole Foods would displace the existing street occupants. Neighborhood Nimbys had no problem supporting the project. The refusal of the developer to adequately address the impacts of the garage on public transit — both Haight and Stanyan are transit preferred streets — stalled the project until the Great Recession killed its financing.
In 2010, HAIA and CVIA and their allies in the SFPD (namely then-Chief George Gascon) put the Sit-Lie Ordinance on the ballot, namely to control the street population at Haight and Stanyan. The measure was a direct slap at then Mayor Newsoms “Care Not Cash,” as it was a full admission of its failure. Never able to resist slapping homeless San Franciscans, Newsom fell in line and campaigned for the measure. Sit Lie passed, becoming the third or fourth local law that prevented people from hanging out on public streets. Within five years it was obvious that, as predicted by its opponents, it was a failure.
In August, 2017, Mayor Lee’s office announced that the city was close to concluding a deal to buy the troubled McDonald’s site at Haight and Stanyan for the development of affordable housing. McDonald’s had been under increasing fire from both city officials and neighborhood residents over its operations. The new managers response had been to seek more car-oriented customers by building a drive through check-out lane, a proposal tried a decade earlier that created widespread community opposition and was turned down by the City. HANC and others made clear in 2015 when the new proposal was made that it was still a non-starter. The idea was dropped, and sometime later discussions begun for the sale of the 38,000-square-foot site to the city.
At a October 2017 monthly meeting of HANC (the only neighborhood organization in the Haight-Ashbury that holds regular meetings open to all) dedicated to a general discussion of the situation it was agreed to form a community planning committee to devise a plan for the site. Within weeks the first community planning meetings were held for what was to be later named the Coalition for a Complete Community. In November, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development held the first official meeting on the site announcing a mandatory environmental analysis of the site required to use federal funds for its purchase. MOHCD also announced that the entire development process would take some seven years, and they would seek some sort of “interim use” of the site until funding would be available for its permanent development. In January, 2018, the supervisors passed a resolution authorizing some $15.5 million for the acquisition of the site “for permanently affordable housing.”
Housing for youth, seniors and families that’s affordable for households earning up to 80 percent of area median income
Services for residents and the community
Locally owned retailers who employ residents at 730 Stanyan
Making transit-first development a reality with no auto parking on site
Active interim use with services and activities for all our community
Surprisingly, both CVIA and HAIA members, in attendance at the two well attended CCC neighbored meeting in April and May of 2018 called to amend and endorse both the “vision statement” and the interim use proposal, raised no objections.
But the old war for Haight and Stanyan was not over, as Vallie Brown was soon to learn.
Before the first neighborhood meeting was held by MOHCD in November, 2017 the captain of Park Station warned readers of her weekly newsletter that they should attend the meeting in order to learn what kind of homeless program was being planned for the site! It got CVIA and HAIA members attention and much talk at that first city sponsored meeting centered on their opposition to a navigation center for the site.
This was an odd argument, since no homeless service provider was proposing a navigation center for the site, preferring service space and permanent housing for homeless people. Breed had made herself very clear in her re-election campaign for supervisor in 2016, supported by members of both CVIA and HAIA, that she did not support a nav center for the Haight-Ashbury. Moreover, as supervisor, she had supported a program, “Take It To the Streets,” which provided housing outside the neighborhood for Haight Street youth doing clean up in and around Haight Street. In short, she had a proven record of not seeking housing for homeless youth in the Haight Ashbury.
For most of the homeless youth providers and other observers of the navigation center program, the real concern was not for more beds in navigation centers, but for more bedrooms in permanent affordable housing. Under the Lee administration, the affordable housing program administered by MOHCD and supported by Supervisor Breed had changed its emphasis from producing affordable housing for extremely low-income San Franciscans to producing housing for “moderate income” households earning 100 percent to 120 percent of the Area Median Income. Between 2014 and 2018 only 120 units of housing was produced at 30 percent of AMI or below
Meanwhile some 900 beds had been created in Navigation Centers between 2017 and 2019 raising the real question of just where folks were to find exits to these supposed temporary centers.
On August 27th ,2018, a month after she was appointed supervisor, Brown met with the Steering Committee of the CCC to discuss the 730 Stanyan site. While she had not attended any of the neighborhood meetings on the project, she claimed responsibility for the city’s purchase. She was strongly supportive of the CCC’s concept of three populations being housed at the site — “it’s how we live in neighborhoods”– and stated her support for supportive services to be incorporated in the final development. Specifically, she told the CCC she was in support of TAY housing and services to be included in the development and thought providing services to TAY and seniors as part of an interim use also made sense to her. She took the opportunity to announce that because of her commitment to TAY housing and services she would be supporting Proposition C, the business tax for housing and services for homeless San Franciscans that included specific set-asides for TAY housing and services.
Having achieved what appeared to be broad neighborhood support for a conceptual plan for the interim and final use of the site, the CCC proceeded to submit an interim use proposal to MOHCD that was centered on the provision of services and recreational activates for families, seniors, and youth.
It then appeared that a competing proposal for an interim use was being made by Street Soccer, a national program in 17 cities seeking to, according to its mission statement, “fight poverty and empower underserved communities through soccer.” Its Bay Area Board, however, was very long on corporate and tech types and very short on poor people (see www.streetsoccerusa.org/our-boards/) . None of the youth service providers in the neighborhood had ever heard of them and all were in support of the CCC proposal.
But Street Soccer did have friends in the neighborhood: Rec and Park and the captain at Park Station. The captain, again using her weekly newsletter, argued that youth soccer would be a great interim use for the McDonalds’ site. Rec and Park, who had “partnered” with it at Civic Center to “make Civic Center public spaces safe, welcoming and fun” see Street Soccer San Francisco) and routinely promoted its events on its ENews posting, did the captain one better and got a staffer made part of the RFP selection committee that would pick the winner.
The Street Soccer proposal got two other supporters: CVIA and HAIA. In a letter sent to MOHCD in April, CVIA and HAIA attacked the CCC’s proposal as being from “obstructionists and a vocal minority that no longer represents the demographics of the neighborhood” that would put the Homeless Youth Alliance in charge of the TAY service portion of the proposed interim use while “HYA has historically shown themselves incapable of managing crime, drug and quality of life issues that arises from the congregation of people near their services…” The old MAGNET argument back in play!
The letter concluded with asserting that “collecting so many service providers in a single location, especially one buttressed by large parks, can prove challenging. For example, the combination of Larkin Street Youth, Lava Mae mobile showers and the Pit Stop…at…Buena Vista Park has proven increasingly difficult,”
The CCC proposal was supported by the Haight-Ashbury Merchants Association, Affordable Divisadero, District 5 Action, the Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council, AcroSports, Safe and Sound, UCSF Health, Haight Ashbury Neighbors for Density (HAND is our astroturf Yimby group!), Larkin Street, Huckleberry Youth Programs, the Institute on Aging, the Homeless Youth Alliance, Urban Sprouts and some 180 individuals who live and/or work in the neighborhood. The Street Soccer proposal was supported by CVIA, HAIA, the Buena Vista Neighborhood Association, HELP USA from New York, and The Shared Schoolyard Project of the SFUSD.
Preston supports the CCC plan.
Then, after the city had conducted interviews and weighed both proposals for almost three months, Kate Hartley the Director of MOHCD announced in May that the “entire interim use was on pause” and the RFP was cancelled. The reasons given were that the bond measure on the ballot in November (planned for well over a year) would mean faster funding of the site and “the impact of the DPW work on Haight Street has been worse than expected. Merchants have been vocal about their needs for more parking and Supervisor Brown is sensitive to that.”
She simply failed to acknowledge that the CCC proposal was endorsed by the merchants and that it included parking for Haight Street shoppers.
Two months later, Vallie Brown, in full campaign mode, spoke at a HAND meeting at which a member of the CCC steering committee attended. At the August 16th meeting, Brown stated that she wants to find housing for homeless youth but does not want them to live in the Haight because “it causes recidivism.” She spoke approvingly of a Human Service Agency program that housed homeless youth in Merced “completely away from this area.”
And thus the full circle of the Yimby/Nimby dance. In August, 2018, Brown loved the idea of permanent housing and services for homeless youth at Stanyan and Haight; “its how we live in neighborhoods” she said then. In August, 2019 before a Yimby groups, she said she opposes permanent housing for homeless youth in the Haight-Ashbury because she fears they will fall upon bad habits and embraces housing for homeless youth somewhere else in California.
There are Nimby’s in San Francisco. That’s a fact. But they are the exact opposite of the fictitious folks of The Narrative. They oppose only housing and services for poor people, willing to support market rate housing if it shifts the “demography.” Time and again, these Nimbys are assisted by city departments, especially the SFPD.
Because of a strange loophole in the city’s campaign finance laws, the spending limits for both Sup. Vallie Brown and her D5 opponent, Dean Preston, just went up from $250,000 to more than $400,000.
That happened because one independent expenditure committee spent $777 supporting Brown.
A Sept. 30 notice from the Ethics Commission showed the cascading increases in the spending limits, which are now at $400,000 for Brown and $450,000 for Preston.
How did that happen? Well, under the city’s public finance law, once an outside expenditure committee spends enough money that, in combination with the candidates spending, it breaks the limit, then the opposing candidate gets to spend an extra $50,000.
But spending an extra $50,000 would put Preston over the limit, so then Brown gets to spend an extra $50,000. And this goes back and forth until both candidates are approaching double the original limits.
The strange element of all of this, which has been in issue in the past, is that the laws are supposed to discourage outside, independent dark money: The idea is that if one candidate has huge deep-pocketed backers, the other candidate should have the right to compete.
But in the end, a big IE expenditure on behalf of, in this case, Brown, also allows her to spend more money.
More curious: the same day the Ethics decision came out, Brown filed a notice that she had already spent $272,000 — $22,000 above the cap.
This also happened in the mayor’s race. In February, campaign-finance activist Jon Golinger wrote to the Ethics Commission and asked the members to close that loophole, saying the law
“effectively require[es] the Ethics Commission to raise the Individual Expenditure Ceiling of candidates who are benefiting from outside Independent Expenditure funds. That is the opposite of the intended goal of the public financing system, which is to incentivize candidates for
participating in it rather than encouraging IE spending outside the system.
But the commission took no action.
So with five weeks to go until Election Day, the D5 race is going to get even more heated.
“We understand JUUL’s leadership has decided to cease support for the campaign as part of a larger review of the company’s policies. Based on that news, we have made the decision not to continue on with the campaign.”
But with absentee ballots dropping in just days, and the measure still on the ballot, opponents were less than thrilled.
Larry Tramutola, campaign manager for the No on C effort, noted:
Juul‘s Prop C campaign has been deceptive from the very beginning — so we can be forgiven for being skeptical.
Little of what Juul has said about Prop C has been true.
The political reality is that Juul’s campaign already shattered spending records for a corporate-sponsored committee — and that was 45 days before the election. Juul has outspent the No on C coalition by a ratio of 7.5-to-1. Juul’s ads are still on the air as of right now. And Juul has portrayed Prop C as a crackdown on e-cigarettes in San Francisco — when in fact it’s the exact opposite.
Prop C can’t be withdrawn from the ballot at this point. And there would be nothing to stop another Big Tobacco giant from coming in to spend millions to pass it — and that isn’t unheard of in the Big Tobacco playbook.
This could very well be yet another of a series of lies and exaggerations from Juul and Big Tobacco. Until they return the $7 million unspent dollars that is in their political account, until they suspend their mail, their advertising, their paid phone calls and lay off their consultants, we do not believe them. If in fact they are suspending their campaign, it means they have polled and realize San Franciscans are rejecting Proposition C and they are looking for a graceful exit.
It’s clear that Yes on C has not decided to apologize or start running ads that say that the measure is a bad idea. They are reeling from the bad publicity, but at this point, I have heard, the polling is still close.
But if the No on C campaign can spend money in the next month, and Yes on C is done, it’s hard to see this measure passing.
The latest campaign-finance numbers are in, and they include some surprises – and some information that should surprise nobody.
Juul Labs has spent $11.5 million to pass Prop. C, the measure that would overturn the city’s ban on vaping.
There’s another $1.2 million in unpaid bills that Juul will put up the money to pay. And Election Day is still more than an month away.
The money has gone for TV ads, literature, phone banking – and political consultants. Whitehurst Mosher Campaign Strategy and Media, a firm run by John Whitehurst and Mark Mosher, took in more than $2.1 million from Juul.
Not all of that cash goes right to the principals – some of it is spent on campaign materials. But Mosher, who is running the Yes on C effort, is doing very well this fall with the tobacco money.
The 11.5 million (so far) is a record for a single private company spending money on a San Francisco ballot initiative. The second-place campaign? An effort by R.J. Reynolds, also a tobacco company, to overturn the city’s ban on flavored vaping products in 2018.
Some of the Yes on C ads and talking points, Sup. Shamann Walton argues, are in violation of federal law. In a Sept. 17 letter to the Food and Drug Administration, Walton says that Juul’s operatives are making statements about the safety of the vaping devices and their efficacy in smoking cessation that have not been approved by the federal regulators. He cites a video of Juul consultant Tom Hsieh Jr. appearing at the Eastern Neighborhoods Democratic Club:
The “Yes on Proposition C” campaign proponent appearing in the video is Mr. Tom Hsieh, a paid consultant to Juul through Hsieh and Associates, according to Juul’s campaign finance statements … Juul’s paid consultant represented that vapor products are “a legitimate off-ramp for people who are addicted to cigarettes.”
[From Hsieh]: So, I want to separate some of the fiction and help give you some facts. I’m hoping by the end of this short presentation you’ll see vaping products in a whole new light. This is the truth about vaping products. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about it. The bottom line is it’s a legitimate off-ramp for people who are addicted to cigarettes.
Juul’s consultant then drew parallels to harm-reduction policies in the realm of public health, for which San Francisco has been a long-recognized national leader. His statements made health-related claims about cigarettes that unequivocally characterize e-cigarettes as “less harmful.”
[Hsieh]: “People are switching from something that has carcinogenics [sic], the tar, the formaldehyde and everything that’s related to a burning cigarette, and switching to a vaporize product that is less harmful.”
These are modified exposure and modified risk claims that can only be made after the FDA has issued an order specifically authorizing them. To the best of our knowledge, Juul has not yet submitted an application to make such modified risk and modified exposure claims, much less been granted permission to make such statements by the FDA.
The Yes on C campaign is now having to face the reality that hundreds of people have been hospitalized from the use of vaping devices, nobody knows exactly why, and California health officials are urging everyone to stop vaping immediately until there’s better information.
But win or lose, the consultants who take Juul’s money will do just fine.
In District Five, both candidates have raised a lot of money, and both are up against the spending cap of $250,000. Sup. Vallie Brown, the incumbent, has already spent $231,000 in 2019 and $16,000 in 2018, which puts her right up against the limit. That means she can’t spend any more money this all. Dean Preston, her challenger, has spent $203,000, along with $28,000 in 2018.
Most observers expect that the Brown campaign will benefit from a large independent-expenditure effort, but so far that hasn’t happened. The IE supporting her has only $10,000 in it.
Here’s what’s not surprising: According to my analysis, of the $61,000 Brown raised in the most recent period, from July 1 to Sept. 21, more than a third (about $22,000) came from either real-estate or development interests. Most of those contributions were at the maximum $500 level.
Preston, a career tenant lawyer and activist, has almost zero money from the real-estate industry.
The race for the District Attorney’s Office shows some fascinating numbers.
Chesa Boudin, a public defender running on a platform of criminal justice reform, has raised $500,000, significantly more than Suzy Loftus, who has the support of the mayor and the mainstream Democratic Party establishment and has raised $320,000 this year, but with her 2018 money has just over $500,000.
That’s a sign that Boudin’s effort has attracted both local and national attention. There’s also an Independent Expenditure committee for Boudin, affiliated with the SF Rising Action Fund, that has raised $86,000, mostly from criminal-justice reformers.
Leif Dautch, a deputy attorney general, has raised much less – only $137,000 to date – but he has a big independent-expenditure effort backing his campaign.
Ethics Commission filings show that the SF Deputy Sheriff’s Association PAC has spent $93,000 promoting the Dautch campaign. The Peace Officers Research Association of California, a statewide cop lobby, put $10,000 into the PAC. The Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers Association (prison guards) put up another $5,000.
And $15,000 went to this group, which by law has to operate entirely independent of the Leif Dautch campaign, from David Peterson, a retired TV executive who lives in Marin County. He’s also Dautch’s father-in-law.
The big outside money is starting to flow into the District 5 supes race.
We heard last week that someone was paying for a poll aimed at finding ways to attack challenger Dean Preston. And an independent expenditure committee called “Friends and Neighbors of Vallie Brown for Supervisor” was set up a month ago, but until yesterday, it was an empty shell.
Not any more.
On Sept. 16, the Washington, DC office of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which has always been close to PG&E, has long supported London Breed, and has been one of the leading funders of conservative politicians in the city, put up $10,000 for the IE, Ethics Commission filings show.
That could have paid for the poll. It could also be seed money for future attacks on Preston.
This is probably just the start – that IE will probably collect a lot more money in the next few weeks.
As the IE spends money, the cap for spending for both candidates will be lifted. That’s a bit unfair: If an IE is spending money supporting Brown, why should she then be allowed to spend more money for her campaign?
But the rules say the spending cap goes up for both.
With less than three weeks before vote-by-mail starts, this is going to get crazy.
San Francisco District Attorney candidate and Deputy Public Defender Chesa Boudin stood alongside criminal justice reform advocates today to announce a racial bias policy that he said would fundamentally reshape San Francisco’s criminal justice system as we know it.
“In every facet of American life, we have racial prejudice and racial bias. It is infecting our country. And the place where it’s the most tragic, damaging, and obvious is the criminal justice system,” Boudin declared.
Activist and former Oakland mayoral candidate Cat Brooks spoke shortly before Boudin announced his plan to emphasize the importance of pushing for radical and systemic reform as well as looking at people’s track records to see if they have lived up to progressive values.
“As California goes, so the country goes… We’ve got to get it right,” Brooks said.
Boudin was also joined by Phelicia Jones (Justice for Mario Woods Coalition), Kevin Ortiz (Vice President of SF Latino Dems), Maria Cristina Gutierrez (Mothers on the March), and John Crew (former director of the Police Practices Project for ACLU NorCal). All the featured speakers highlighted the urgent need to create more accountability as well as reform our broken, punitive, and racist criminal justice system, as it disproportionately harms Black, Brown, LGBTQ+ and other vulnerable communities.
According to Jones, African American residents make up about 3 percent of the total population of San Francisco, yet make up 50 percent of the population in San Francisco’s jails.
Boudin’s campaign also highlighted some striking points to show how racial bias is deeply entrenched in our criminal justice system. According to the campaign, Black San Franciscans are more than seven times more likely to be arrested than their white counterparts and are 11 times more likely to be booked into county jail. Additionally, Black and Brown people are more likely to be stopped by the police and searched without their consent, and are more likely to be harmed at every stage of the criminal justice system process.
Ortiz has firsthand experience with the traumatic, costly, and drawn-out criminal justice process that impacts so many Black and Brown communities not only in San Francisco but across the country. He disclosed that he is a survivor of police brutality at the hands of the SFPD, but has used his experience with the system to become active in his community and fight for more transparency and equity for communities that are overpoliced and over-incarcerated.
“No one talks about the trauma of having to deal with these cases. For me, it took three years. In order to make the system more fair, it has to be transparent,” Ortiz told us.
Though Boudin’s plan is more elaborate and extensive, he emphasized the following steps to eradicate racial bias from the criminal justice system:
Transparency: Boudin promised to publish every data point in the possession of the DA’s Office, which may include the demographics of people stopped, arrested, jailed, convicted, and sentenced to increase the transparency and accountability of every agency involved in the system in order to reduce racial disparities.
Require a racial impact statement:In open court and before the judge, Boudin said, prosecutors should be required to state on the record the racial bias statistics relevant and appropriate to the stage of the case being addressed.
Implement race-blind charging and plea bargaining:Building off of Gascón’s recently introduced policy, prosecutors should not know the demographic information of people before filing charges. Boudin wants to take this policy further and extend this same process to plea bargaining.
Stop prosecuting racist gang enhancements:When a person is convicted of a felony, they may be sentenced to prison time. However, according to Boudin’s campaign, California law (Penal Code 186.22, as part of the STEP Act), allows prosecutors to seek additional prison time beyond the felony when the person accused of the crime is found to be gang-involved. Boudin said wants this mechanism stopped, as he believes it is racist and overly punitive.
Building the most diverse DA’s office in the country: The DA’s Office, Boudin said, should reflect the diversity of San Francisco and the people served by the Hall of Justice, which includes people personally impacted by the criminal justice system.
Boudin said he hopes that this plan will achieve two broad goals. “The first goal is to significantly and measurably decrease racial disparities at every step of the system. The second, which is critical and related to the first, is to rebuild and restore the trust between over-policed communities and those who are supposed to be serving them,” he told us.
With a little less than two months left until November 5th, the race for District Attorney is shaping up to be one of the most pivotal races in San Francisco’s election.
Boudin is running against former Police Commission President and prosecutor Suzy Loftus, as well as the other two contenders, Leif Dautch, a deputy state attorney general, and Nancy Tung, an Alameda County prosecutor.
Somebody has paid for a poll in the D5 supes campaign that is clearly testing messaging that might be used against challenger Dean Preston – and it raises issues about campaign spending limits.
A source tells me that the phone poll included questions about Preston and incumbent Sup. Vallie Brown. The Preston campaign tells me they didn’t conduct the poll. I haven’t heard back from the Brown campaign.
Polling isn’t cheap, and if this survey is in the field right now, somebody paid in the neighborhood of $20,000 it.
And that’s interesting because as of today, both Preston and Brown are very close to the campaign-spending limits, and if the Brown campaign paid for the poll, it might put them over. More on that in a moment.
In a lot of these campaigns, polls like this are designed to help independent-expenditure committees design attack ads. Some outside groups do general polling every now then, and there are other campaigns that may be seeking to test the will of the voters for November – but that’s not what this is.
Jim Stearns, a political consultant who works with the Preston campaign, told me that this is “clearly a D5 campaign poll.”
And there’s an independent-expenditure group set up to help Brown – but as of tonight, it has reported no contributions or expenditures.
So we don’t know who paid for the poll, but here are some of the questions, as recorded by a source:
Is this statement about Dean Preston very convincing, somewhat convincing, not at all convincing?
He lived in the district for 20 years
He founded Tenants Together and supports tenants rights groups and is for tenants protections
Dean believes everyone should have a home
He supports the Green new deal and Medicare for all
Endorsed by Tom Ammiano, several of the members of the Board of Supervisors, Jane Kim, the Tenants Union, the Sierra Club, and Democratic Socialists of America
Statements about Vallie Brown
She was a legislative aide (didn’t say to who)
30-year resident in the neighborhood
She worked for affordable housing and safer streets
A neighborhood leader appointed by mayor London Breed
Endorsed by mayor London Breed, five of the current supervisors, SEIU, Alice B Toklas Club, San Francisco Democratic Party
The poll then listed three possible negatives for Brown – and six potential negative attack points on Preston (including that he “identifies as a Democratic Socialist” and that his policies are “too extreme for the Democratic Party.”) I suspect those won’t work all that well in D5.
But there’s no doubt from the questions that this is a poll commissioned by a pro-Brown group.
So here’s the context: Candidates for supervisor who accept public financing have to agree to spending limits of $250,000. But if an IE campaign starts spending money for or against one candidate, the spending limits are lifted. The weird loophole: If an IE spends $500,000 supporting Brown, then Preston can spend more money, supposedly to level the field – but so can Brown.
At this point, both candidates have spent close to the limit. If the IE never materializes, that could mean neither candidate can do last-minute mail or other campaign ads and most of the final month will be volunteer work. That could give Preston, who has a more energized volunteer base, an advantage. (Of course, Brown has the advantage of incumbency.)
But somebody is out there spending money, and it’s clearly someone who wants to attack Preston. We’ll know soon – vote-by-mail ballots drop in three weeks.
In a court hearing Friday morning, Judge Harold Kahn said there was legal uncertainty about what the effect of the proposition may be if it passes and therefore the “may” language suggested by the City Attorney’s Office to the Ballot Simplification Committee is appropriate.
“This is an issue of the proponents own making,” Kahn said, adding that Juul could have included language in their initiative making their intentions clearer. “But they didn’t, and now we have a lack of clarity.”
“Lack of clarity is best described as ‘may,’” he said.
James Sutton, an attorney representing Juul, asked for an additional sentence to be included in the ballot digest saying proponents of Prop. C don’t believe it will overturn the flavor ban, but Kahn denied the request.
“What you’re basically asking (for) is Proposition C’s proponents want their best argument put on the ballot digest,” he said. “That doesn’t seem right to me, just like it doesn’t seem right to me that the opponents would want their best arguments put in the ballot digest.”
Kahn did approve a request from Juul to change language describing the supe’s ban of e-cigs as outlawing “the sale of electronic cigarettes that lack required FDA authorization.” Juul argued that particular phrasing falsely implied that the FDA requires e-cigs sold on the market today to have already undergone authorization.
After some back and forth about the wording, Kahn agreed to change that language to “until they receive FDA authorization.”
“I recognize it’s not the smartest thing to do, to come up with the ballot question (language) off the top of my head – but you’ve given me no choice,” Kahn said from the bench. “I understand the ballot question is going to the printers this afternoon.”
“I think overall it’s a win for our side,” Louise Renne, a former city attorney and opponent of Prop. C, said outside the courtroom. “Those of us who are No on C believe that should C win, they would turn around the next day and try to get rid of the flavor ban.”
Sutton said he was pleased with the ballot digest changes about FDA authorization, but insisted Juul had no intention of overturning the flavor ban.
“The city attorney wrote the official summary of the measure in May, and didn’t call out his argument about the flavor ban. If he had, we would have stopped the presses – we would have added something about the flavor ban in there, and we would have started again.” Sutton said. “He didn’t do it until the campaign started, and they did polling, and he figured out the flavor ban was such a good argument against it. That’s the bullshit here.”
Aileen McGarth, an attorney with the City Attorney’s Office who argued the case, rejected those assertions.
“The flavor ban has been on the books for a year, and was the subject of a hotly-contested, well-publicized referendum,” she said. “The initiative proponents are well aware of it. I don’t see any way that they can say they didn’t know they might have had to put preservation language about the flavor ban in the initiative given that state of affairs.”
Juul has spent $4.6 million on the Yes on Prop. C campaign to date, according to campaign filings.
Now that a ruling has been made, the ballot can finally be sent off to be printed by the city’s vendor, K&H Printers in Everett, Washington.
But John Arntz, director of the Department of Elections, said making changes to the ballot this close to an election isn’t as simple as just editing a document in a word processor and clicking “send.” The changes ordered by the judge first need to be translated into the other languages that appear on the ballot – Spanish, Chinese, and Filipino – then typeset and proofed again.
“We’ve already waited a week to get the ballots to the printer. We’re waiting for [the written ruling] so we can get on it,” Arntz said Friday afternoon.