Campaign Trail

Cops opposing reform come in big for Trauss, Johnson, and Ho

The San Francisco Police Officers Association, which most mainstream San Francisco elected officials are running away from as fast as they can, because of stuff like this, has just dropped $100,000 into the District 4 and District 6 campaigns.

The police union, which has actively resisted reforms in the department and has been a major factor in slowing progress on use of force issues, put $50,000 into an independent expenditure campaign supporting Jessica Ho in D4 and another $50,000 into an IE backing Christine Johnson and Sonja Trauss in D6.

That just the latest in the big money pouring into those districts, much of it coming from big real-estate interests. The donations are hidden through groups like “San Franciscans for Change (D6)” and “Safe & Clean Sunset, (D4)” but records on file with the Ethics Commission show that the hundreds of thousands of dollars backing Ho, Trauss and Johnson comes from some of the biggest development interests in the city.

If you track back committees like “Progress San Francisco” and “SF Forward,” which have largely funded the D6 and D4 committees, you find that a lot of that money has come from the heir to a real-estate fortune who is also supporting efforts to keep the GOP in control in Congressand the Committee on Jobs Government  Reform Fund.

The Committee on Jobs money comes from the heirs to the Don Fisher (GAP) fortune (and the senior Fisher was a big GOP donor), along with Comcast, Allied Universal (a Pennsylvania security company) and Hathaway Dinwiddie, a giant construction company that has at least four projects currently in San Francisco.

Hathaway alone put up $100,000. Among its projects is the construction of a Marriott hotel in Mission Bay. Marriott workers are on strike.

Matt Haney, who is running in D6 and is under attack from the big money, told me he is “not surprised that we see this big money from people who want to avoid accountability and oversight, like big developers and the POA.”

He said that “most elected officials have tried to stay away from the POA, but it seems Christine and Sonja have aligned with the POA. These interests are trying to buy this election and avoid accountability.”

It’s remarkable, Haney said, that the pro-Trauss and Johnson group is called “San Franciscans for Change” since it’s funded by the people who have been calling the shots in San Francisco for years.

All of this hidden money might be a lot easier to discover in the future if a proposed “Sunlight on the Dark Money” measure makes it to the ballot and passes.

Tom Ammiano and Peter Keane are pushing a new measure to shine some light on dark money in SF politics

Jon Golinger, along with former Sup. Tom Ammiano and former Ethics Commissioner Peter Keane, filed the measure last week. It would require that committees like “San Franciscans for Change” reveal the actual names of the actual biggest donors who are paying for their literature and ads.

In the future, mailers from that group would have to say, for example, that major funding came from the POA and Hathaway Dinwiddie.

The measure is headed for the November, 2019 ballot.

New study says rent control doesn’t discourage new housing

The Rent is Too Damn High -- and a new study shows Prop. 10 won't discourage new housing

The landlord lobby – and it’s one of the most powerful interests in the state of California – is spending more than $40 million to convince voters not to support Prop. 10 – a measure that would allow (but not require) cities to impose effective rent controls.

The Rent is Too Damn High — and a new study shows Prop. 10 won’t discourage new housing

It’s gotten considerable support – the LA Times, the largest newspaper in the state, came out in favor. The San Francisco Chronicle, on the other hand, opposes Prop. 10– and makes the exact argument that the real-estate industry is pushing:

But more rent control — and more local government control — will probably further suppress the supply of housing and deepen the crisis for the state. More housing is the way out of the housing shortage. Proposition 10 is not.

That’s been a real-estate industry argument for decades: Rent control will stop (private sector) developers from building housing, and what we need is more (private-sector) housing.

But a recent study out of the University of Southern California challenges that argument.

The USC study, sponsored by the California Community Foundation, suggests that rent control tends to keep rents lower even in uncontrolled buildings, helps preserve housing and community stability – and has little discernable impact on the construction of new housing.

The study’s authors are not economists. The lead author, Manuel Pastor, is a sociologist. The two other authors, Vanessa Carter and Maya Abood, are urban planners.

But unlike the Stanford economists who put out a complex study on the economics of rent control, complete with equations that almost nobody can understand, the USC report looks at the existing literature on rent control.

There’s quite a bit of it, and much has been cited badly or used in inaccurate arguments.

The USC researchers are all about moderate rent regulations, including rent controls that exempt vacant apartments. But they suggest that different solutions are appropriate for different cities. And the most important argument they make, in the context of the Prop. 10 campaign, is that rent control does not discourage new housing:

On balance, new housing supply is more influenced by cyclicality in the local economy and other local conditions than rent restrictions (Arnott 1995; Gilderbloom 1981).

Gilderbloom and Ye (2007) used regression analysis of 76 New Jersey cities with rent stabilization and found that there was little to no statistically significant effect of moderate rent control on new construction after controlling for population, racial demographics, population change, income, the percentage of units that were renter occupied, vacancy rates, and unit age. Similarly, Sims (2007), in an analysis of Boston, Cambridge, and Brookline, MA, found that while building construction permits did rise after the repeal of rent stabilization in 1995, multifamily building permits actually reached their height in the mid to late 1980s—during rent stabilization.

This should be obvious to anyone who understands the economics and dynamics of housing development in the United States today.

Development isn’t driven by a need for housing; the major factor is the availability of investment capital. And since capital is now almost entirely global, the money goes where the highest return is.

Right now, that’s luxury condos in cities like San Francisco, New York, and Vancouver.

Rent control has no impact on those investment decisions, since they units that are getting build are, for the most part, going to be sold immediately and not rented out.

When the capital goes for rental units, it’s a pretty simple calculus. The investor wants to see a return – right away. In case you didn’t notice, banks and real-estate trusts no longer think long-term.

So if a rental housing project has a projected cost of $100 million, and the investor needs a 10 percent return, then the rents – net of all costs, including maintenance and taxes – have to total $10 million a year. That’s how rents are set. And rent control has nothing to do with that. What happens in five or ten years, when rents might remain the same, isn’t relevant – the investment is returning what the investors demanded. The ability to get immediate return is far more important to real-estate investors than what may happen ten years from now.

There are investors who buy existing housing with the goal of getting rid of rent-controlled tenants and raising rents, but that’s not new housing construction.

So the idea that Prop. 10 will discourage new housing in California has little basis in fact.

And of course, since a significant amount of the (private-sector) housing in California isn’t affordable to anyone who works here, and is being purchased by investors who don’t even occupy those units, it’s hard to argue that market-rate housing is going to help the crisis anyway.

I’m waiting to see how the news media that are so eager to report on any study that attacks the premise of Prop. 10 will report on one that says it might actually help the housing crisis in California.

Gascon will step down — but who will step up?

Gascon had no clear path to re-election

A lot of people in the San Francisco political world were stunned when District Attorney George Gascon announced he would not be running for re-election. I wasn’t.

I didn’t know that Gascon had an aging mother in Southern California who needed his care. Good for him to put family above politics (although, so far, he has not indicated he will step down before his term is up, which is January 2020).

Gascon had no clear path to re-election

But I do know that Gascon was facing a very difficult campaign next fall, and was in a very bad political position.

Former Police Commission President Suzy Loftus and former Commission member Joe Alioto Veronese are both challenging him from the right, saying that Gascon has been too soft on crime. They were going to try to blame him for the rash of car break-ins and open-air drug dealing.

Both Public Defender Jeff Adachi and his chief trial lawyer, Matt Gonzalez, would support Gascon, because he’s taken a lot of progressive stands, including his support for Prop. 47.

But Gascon would not get much other support from the progressive community. The left sees Gascon as a DA who refused to prosecute a long list of cops for unjustifiable killings.

So he’d be in a potentially untenable squeeze: Attacked from the right for being too liberal, and attacked from the left for his failure to hold rogue police officers accountable. There’s not much room for him to seek out support – particularly since Mayor London Breed has already endorsed Loftus, pretty much guaranteeing that she’ll have all the money she needs.

I’ve had this conversation with Gascon (only in brief moments when we have met at events) and I think he understood what he was facing. There isn’t much of a “center” in San Francisco when it comes to polarizing issues like crime and policing. He really had nowhere to go.

So now – assuming Gascon holds to his pledge and finishes out his term – San Francisco is going to have the first open race for district attorney since 1909.

That’s right: It’s been more than a century since the city has seen a DA’s race with no incumbent. Incumbents have lost – Joe Freitas lost to Arlo Smith, who lost to Terence Hallinan, who lost to Kamala Harris – but nobody has retired and left the decision to the public in 109 years.

And the progressives are going to be looking for a candidate.

Loftus is not only Breed’s chosen person, she’s pushing for a more traditional approach to crime: Prosecute and punish people for offenses like car burglary. (I don’t think at this point that Veronese is a strong contender, but you never know.)

I suspect the progressive movement isn’t going to want to let this office go without a fight. A DA has tremendous authority to charge or not charge crimes, can set the tone for the entire criminal justice system – and the SF District Attorney’s Office has been an incubator for much higher office (see: Pat Brown, governor, and Kamala Harris, US Senator).

Gonzalez launched his political career with a run for DA in 1999. But he’s happy where he is now, at the Public Defender’s Office, and told me he’s not interested in running again.

The recent political history of the office is unusual. Hallinan won as a criminal defense lawyer, promising reform. Harris won as a former prosecutor (the background for most DA candidates). Gascon, appointed by Gavin Newsom, was police chief; he had a law degree, but as far as I know has never done a trial of any sort, much less prosecuted a case. He was a career cop.

Loftus was a prosecutor under Kamala Harris, worked for Harris in the Attorney General’s Office, and is currently legal counsel in the Sheriff’s Office. So she can easily tout her law-enforcement credentials (although most of her legal work has been in the policy area, not the courtroom).

So the idea that someone who has not spend a career doing trial work could be a serious candidate in San Francisco is not all that far-fetched.

I don’t know who that is right now. David Campos would of course be a strong candidate; he would also be a strong candidate for city attorney if Dennis Herrera decides to retire. I have heard talk about Jane Kim, who would also be a strong candidate (although she has little courtroom experience). Both Campos and Kim would have to make a decision: Is this the direction they want to go in local politics? For Kim, there’s another issue: She has run for state Senate and mayor and lost both times, and she doesn’t want to appear to be someone who runs for every office that comes up.

Then there’s David Chiu. Chiu worked as a prosecutor. I know he has been making calls about the race. But after his nasty campaign against Campos, he has little credibility on the left. 

There’s another huge element in all of this: If the GOP retains the House in November, there’s a good chance Rep. Nancy Pelosi will retire. And I know Campos would be very interested in running for that seat. (So would lots of other people in SF, including state Sen. Scott Wiener.)

So this one is way up in the air at this point. But it’s a critical office, and all over the country, progressives have been running candidates for DA. I suspect we will see something similar happening in SF.

Big donor supports GOP Senate campaign, Lindsey Graham … and Jessica Ho, Sonja Trauss, and Christine Johnson

Some of the 2018 contributions from Diana "DeDe" Wilsey's real-estate firm. Source: OpenSecrets

In the wake of the horrifying Kavanaugh hearings, it seems likely most San Franciscans are hoping that the GOP loses control of both the House and the Senate in the fall.

But a prominent San Francisco society figure has given more than $500,000 in 2018 to help keep Republicans running Congress.

Some of the 2018 contributions from Diana “DeDe” Wilsey’s real-estate firm. Source: OpenSecrets

Diane Wilsey, through her real-estate firm, gave $300,000 to the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee and $100,000 to the Republican National Senate Committee, campaign finance records show.

Wilsey donated the individual maximum, $5,400, to Sen. Lindsey Graham, a fervent supporter of Kavanaugh who called last week’s hearing and the allegations of sexual assault against the judge “despicable.”

DeDe Wilsey, patron of the DeYoung museum, is also a patron of the GOP

And she’s also pouring money into electing Jessica Ho in District 4 and Sonja Trauss and Christine Johnson in District 6.

Wilsey also gave $250,000 to Progress SF, an IE controlled by tech plutocrat Ron Conway that has spent more than $180,000 supporting Ho and another $250,000 supporting Trauss and Johnson, according to Ethics Commission filings.

The Trauss and Johnson IE that got the Progress SF money is called San Franciscans for Change.

And that’s just as of Sept. 22. There could be far more money poured into these key district races, which will determine whether Mayor London Breed has a majority to support her policies.

Candidates have no control over IEs; by law, they have to be entirely separate operations. So Ho, Trauss, and Johnson can’t return that money or influence who gives to help them get elected.

But some say it’s a bit alarming that a person who thinks the Republican Party should control Congress, and is supporting one of Kavanaugh’s strongest allies, also thinks Ho, Trauss, and Johnson should be running San Francisco.

Trauss and Johnson did not respond to my emails seeking comment. Christian Kropff, campaign director for Ho, said that “Jessica’s campaign has no control over who contributes to any IE in the race. Jessica’s campaign is focused on the issues of the district and finding solutions to the problems that district 4 residents face everyday.”

But Edward Wright, a spokesperson for the Gordon Mar D4 campaign, told me that “it’s alarming that the same people who are aligned with Trump Republicans – and especially Lindsey Graham, who has been the strongest voice to silence women – are trying to influence a San Francisco election with big money. These are not San Francisco values. The Sunset needs someone who can stand up for the people who live here.”

Matt Haney, who is running in D6, told me that Wilsey “does not sound like someone who shares my values, so I should not be surprised that she is spending all this money to defeat me. Her donations ago against SF values. It’s ironic that they are calling their IE San Franciscans for change, because I don’t think this is the kind of change San Franciscans want.’

Haney noted: “It’s important for people to understand where all this TV and direct-mail money is coming from.”

Big Tech, Real Estate money pours into D6 and D4

You can tell a lot about a politician by what they have done in previous offices – a School Board member running for supervisor has a record, a supervisor running for state Senate has a record, a state legislator running for Congress has a record.

In the hierarchy of evaluating candidates for office, a past record is pretty high up.

Big Tech and Real Estate money is pouring in to attack Matt Haney and Gordon Mar

You can learn a little (often very little) about a candidate by what they say they are going to do, particularly when those statements are intentionally vague (“I support affordable housing and tenant rights). You can learn a little from that candidate’s endorsements, from the people who are willing to come forward and say this person will do a good job (but endorsements can also be driven by complex politics).

You can learn a bit about a candidate from looking at their campaign contributions, but only if you see a clear pattern. The fact that a lobbyist for a real-estate developer gave $500 to a candidate for supervisor doesn’t mean that candidate is going to do exactly what that developer wants (especially if a lobbyist who opposes that developer’s projects also give $500.) That’s the reason we limit contributions to $500; no one donor is all that powerful.

But you can learn an immense amount about a candidate be looking at the $50,000, $100,000, and higher donations that independent-expenditure committees, which have no limits, are pouring into a race. People give $500 to candidates for a lot of reasons, including friendship, ideology, a need to get access … Nobody puts up $50,000 for a candidate unless they are pretty confident that candidate will do what they want.

That doesn’t mean bribery: Big donors give big money to candidates who are simply ideologically on their side. But it does tell you a huge amount about where that candidate will be on the issues: these mega-donors are no fools, and they don’t put that kind of money into a race unless they are pretty confident they are supporting someone who will vote the way they want.

So it’s valuable to look at the recent Ethics Commission filings by a group called Progress SF, which is the money arm (or one of the money arms) of Big Tech and Big Real Estate.

If you aren’t happy with the direction of the city right now (the rent is too damn high), you can pin a lot of the blame on the people who fund Progress SF (and the elected officials who they helped put in office.)

Progress SF, which is directly connected to plutocrat Ron Conway, just dumped $100,000 into supporting Christine Johnson and Sonja Trauss in D6.

That’s big money in one district – and since these IEs tend to be used for negative attacks, it’s clearly aimed at Matt Haney, a School Board member and progressive candidate to replace termed-out Sup. Jane Kim.

Johnson has a record on the Planning Commission, and it’s generally been pro-development. Trauss has no record in office, but is a leader in the Yimby movement that encourages radical reductions in zoning laws to allow almost unlimited new housing construction.

The group also put $50,000 into a committee called “Safe and Clean Sunset Coalition,” which is supporting Jessica Ho for supervisor in D4. Again: Look for this group to fund attacks on Gordon Mar.

But here’s what’s odd about that: The largest single donation to the Big Tech and Real Estate PAC, records show, is SEIU United Healthcare Workers West, which put up $250,000 of its members money to help attack Mar.

That same union has endorsed Mar.

What’s going on there? Not clear, but UHWW leadership is close to Ahsha Safai, who wants to be board president, and Ho would be far more likely to vote for Safai than Mar.

The Ex reports that Safai has been making calls on behalf of that committee.

The second-largest donor to the super PAC is Diane Wilsey (big Real Estate) $100,000.

All told, the superPAC now has more than $400,000 to spend.

So we know that people who want Board President Ahsha Safai and want to see limited regulation of the tech industry and limited controls on real-estate don’t want to see Haney or Mar elected.

This is particularly relevant because if Prop. 10 passes, the supes could be in a position to do what the real-estate industry has fought bitterly for 40 years: Impose rent controls on vacant apartments.

Whatever any of the candidates may say right now, we know what the Big Money thinks they will do.

Is everyone at City Hall incompetent?

I will stipulate that the BART Station at 16thStreet is dirty. But it seems a bit of a stretch to say that because of that problem, San Francisco’s entire city government is incompetent. Particularly since the city doesn’t manage that plaza anyway; it’s BART’s property.

But here we have a rant by Chronicle columnist Heather Knight, who says that San Francisco is no longer the City That Knows How, and that “there are still some folks in San Francisco who are competent and cutting edge – they just don’t work in government.”


Our Millennium Tower is sinking, leaning and spontaneously cracking — one window, at least. Our new $2.2 billion Transbay Transit Center has been open only a month, and the walkway around its rooftop park is already crumbling. Muni’s effort to repair the Twin Peaks Tunnel resulted in a citywide bus meltdown and the death of a worker.

Just FYI: The Millennium Tower isn’t “ours.” It was built by a private developer. The city didn’t come up with the plans or decide to save money by failing to sink pilings into bedrock; that was Millennium Partners.

The accident that killed a construction worker in the Muni tunnel wasn’t the result of Muni’s negligence; that was a private company, one with a dubious past.

The walkway that is crumbling? Built by a private contractor, which is now on the hook to fix it.

The city, in retrospect, shouldn’t have approved the Millennium Tower and perhaps should have hired a different private contractor for the Muni job and the Transbay Terminal. But it seems to me that the real incompetence in all of these examples was in the private sector.

But, Knight says,

San Francisco has so little know-how these days, it can’t even do the most mundane tasks well, like keeping a BART station plaza clean.

Actually, that’s not San Francisco’s job, either: BART – a separate government agency with its own elected board — has jurisdiction over and responsibility for its own stations, including the 16thStreet Plaza.

Knight says that Lava Mae, a private nonprofit that provides bathrooms and showers for homeless people, is an example of an outfit that is doing a great job. I agree; Lava Mae is a wonderful organization that does something that really helps people. But it doesn’t house anyone.

I am not here to defend the elected and appointed officials who are running our city. More than a decade of policies aimed at supporting the private sector, particularly the tech sector, and the profits of private developers have created a housing and transit nightmare in this town.

But I don’t think that was because Mayor Ed Lee or his allies on the Board of Supervisors and his appointees on the Planning Commission were too dumb, clueless, or addled to do their jobs. They were perfectly competent a crafting and implementing policies that made homelessness such a difficult problem.

It’s easy to blame everything on public-sector bungling, and there’s plenty of it. But there’s also just as much or more private-sector bungling – and private-sector avarice, intentional harm, and criminal behavior.

And when all we read is that San Francisco can’t even keep (someone else’s) train station clean, it makes people wonder if we should, for example, raise taxes on a small number of rich corporations to pay for (public-sector) homeless programs like supportive housing – which, as Heather Knight knows, work exactly the way they are supposed to.

I can see the Chamber of Commerce using this article to argue against Prop. C: Gee, we already spend a lot of money on homeless services, and the city can’t even keep (someone else’s) BART plaza clean. We heard the same arguments against public power (and CleanPowerSF is working very well).

So let’s keep some perspective here.

I don’t have any idea what motivates someone like Josephine Zhao, who dropped out of the School Board race in the wake of a long string of transphobic and homophobic statements. But I suspect some of her supporters, starting with state Sen. Scott Wiener, let her know that they couldn’t stick with her once the extent of her comments became public.

I do know this: Zhao’s horrifying comments about trans people are not recent news. We first pointed out in 2016that she had opposed a bill allowing students to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. (I had excellent translations of her comments from the Chinese language press.) In early August, we brought the issue up again.

And we asked then, and I continue to ask now: Wiener knew about her comments and her attitudes for at least two years. So did Mayor London Breed. Why did it take this long, and require Mission Local to use nine Cantonese translators of her more recent social-media posts, before these local officials realized they couldn’t keep trying to defend her? And will anybody hold them accountable for sticking with Zhao all this time?

And while Wiener sent out a statement saying he supports her withdrawing from the race, I have seen nothing from him, Breed, or any others formally withdrawing their endorsements.

It’s too late to take her name off the ballot. She still has gobs of campaign money. Which leads Joe Eskenazi to ask: What happens if she still wins?

The Board of Supes approved Mayor London Breed’s two appointees to the Police Commission last week after both gave surprisingly vague answers to questions about the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Damali Taylor, a former prosecutor who now works for O’Melveny and Myers, and Dion Jay Brookter, deputy director at Young Community Developers, both were approved and will now join the commission, which has been short two mayoral appointees.

Board president Malia Cohen said they were completely qualified for the job, and urged her colleagues to support them.

But Sup. Jane Kim had a question for the candidates, and it seemed pretty much a softball, something that anyone who wants to be on the SF Police Commission would be able to answer simply:

Should the SFPD once again join the federal JTTF?

Let’s remember: The JTTF requires – doesn’t suggest, it requires – participating local agencies to spy on their residents based on their religion or ethnicity. The Asian Law Caucus, Council on American Islamic Relations, the ACLU and numerous other groupspushed the city to pull out of the task force, and last year, the city did that.

Kim simply asked: Should the city rejoin the JTTF?

At first, Taylor said that she couldn’t answer that question because she didn’t want to comment on something that might come up before the commission. That’s just ridiculous; this isn’t the US Supreme Court, and there’s no reason that a candidate for the commission can’t say how she would vote on an upcoming issue.

Kim pushed her; she said she would have to review the actual proposal. But, Kim noted, we know what the actual proposal is: It’s a Memorandum of Understanding that requires local officers to spy on people, without probably cause, just because of their race or religion.

Taylor said she was against the idea of spying on people – but she wouldn’t say, specifically, that she would reject any effort to rejoin the JTTF.

Brookter at first seemed to indicate that he wanted to pursue an effort to rejoin the federal spy group. Then he backed off, saying that he wanted to sit down with all of the parties, to examine what the actual issues are, and then make a decision.

Again: We already know what the issues are.

In the end, Kim managed to get both candidates to say that they would oppose any program that involved warrantless spying and racial profiling. And the supes approved the two nominees.

But it’s a bit alarming that it took that long and was that difficult. This is an easy one: The answer is no.

Didn’t Mayor Breed know that – or did she even ask her nominees about it?

The Prop. C job-loss myth …

Prop. C rally in Dolores Park

The Chamber of Commerce, the cops, and some big tech companies are attacking Prop. C, which would tax a small number of companies to pay for housing homeless people. Their line, which has already come out in ballot arguments and will no doubt be appearing in mailers and other types of advertising: Prop. C is “the biggest proposed tax increase in San Francisco history and could cost the city a large number of middle-class jobs.”

Prop. C rally in Dolores Park

Never mind that the tax would impact only a small number of businesses, and would only be levied on gross receipts of more than $50 million.

Where did the “cost the city jobs” line come from? From a very dubious study by the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, which doesn’t normally do these sorts of studies – which shows, since the document is beyond unprofessional.

Here’s what I find astonishing: There is no evidence, not a single bit, cited in the “study” to show that a single “middle-class” job will disappear. The tax would hit hardest on really big law firms, really big tech companies, really big banks and financial services outfits, and really big retail – except that retail would pay hardly anything. If a retail outfit grossed $51 million in a year, that company would pay exactly $1,750 in Prop. C taxes.

Not the kind of thing that’s going to cause Safeway to move out of town (or even to lay off existing workers).

And of course, most of the companies that would pay the tax just got big tax breaks from the Trump administration – tax breaks that have not so far led to more job creation,much less to higher pay for middle-class workers.

BTW, there’s a ton of data on corporate relocations out there, none of which is cited in this study. The number one factor tends to be the available labor pool; the cost of office space is also a big factor (and the tech boom, not taxes, has driven up the cost of office space in SF). So is access to a “cluster” of similar companies (and big law, finance, and consulting firms that serve certain industries want to be near their clients).

Big manufacturing goes where labor is cheap and there are fewer environmental rules, but we aren’t talking big manufacturing here anyway; there is no manufacturing company in SF that would be impacted by this tax.

Very few headquarters companies like the ones that would be hit by Prop. C would pay the huge cost of relocating because of a very modest tax increase. You think Salesforce, that just put its name on a huge new office building, is going to Texas to avoid the Prop. C tax? Not a chance.

But let’s assume – despite an utter lack of data to support the premise – that some companies eliminate some jobs because of this tax. Where is the tax money going to go? It’s going to go into programs that … create middle-class jobs.

The biggest employer of unionized middle-class workers in SF is government. The city actually creates more middle-class jobs than a lot of private-sector companies, and if you spend $300 million a year on housing programs, you are going to create a lot of those jobs. There will be more caseworkers, outreach workers, building managers, substance-abuse counselors, social workers – and construction workers, because building housing for homeless people also creates unionized middle-class jobs.

But like so many of these bogus “job loss” studies, the OEWD folks never accounted for any of those new jobs that Prop. C would create – and it’s not only possible but likely that the net impact of Prop. C will be far MORE middle-class jobs in San Francisco.

Now if we can just pass Prop. C and Prop. 10, maybe those workers will be able to find a place to live.

Now that Mayor Breed has made endorsements in all five supe races, we can expect that Ron Conway and his Big Tech Money PACs will soon follow.

There are already two polls I have heard about – one citywide online poll that, according to the person who tipped me to it, sounded like it came from a pro-Breed position. The other, in D4, was testing ways to attack Gordon Mar.

No idea who paid for the polls; if the Jessica Ho campaign is doing a push poll on Mar, the expense hasn’t shown up in her financial statements yet (but that’s not surprising since the last filing date was in June). But I can hazard a good guess: It’s not the Ho campaign, it’s one of Conway’s PACs.

Progress San Francisco spent nearly $1 million this spring attacking Leno and Kim and supporting Breed (mostly, attacking). That’s the way politics works now: The candidates all claim to be taking the high road, avoiding nasty hit pieces, while the well-funded PACs do the dirty work.

This will continue to happen, and continue to work, until the voters start to realize that campaign finance matters.

Matt Haney at the Local 2 rally: The Chron has no problem with his opponents “gaming the system.:

It’s not surprising, much less scandalous, that two candiates in D6 are running a ranked-choice-voting campaign against the front-runner. That’s how RCV works; if Sonja Trauss and Christine Johnson want to endorse each other, in the hope that one of them will get enough second-place votes from the other to beat Matt Haney, fair enough.

That, of course, is exactly what Jane Kim and Mark Leno did in June, when they worked the same type of strategy in an effort to defeat London Breed for mayor.

What’s so interesting this time is that the Chronicle seems to be just fine with it.

Remember, back in May the paper ran an editorial denouncing Kim and Leno, saying they were “gaming the city’s ranked-choice election rules in an unprecedented way.”

There is no such editorial this time around. And this time around, Breed is endorsing Johnson and Trauss.

Which means, I guess, that according to the Chron, it’s “gaming the system” when you don’t like the political agenda of two candidates, and it’s just fine when you do.

Joe Eskenazi at Mission Local has a detailed follow-up to the story we broke on Mayor Breed and Sen. Wiener endorsing a candidate with a history of transphobic statements. Zhao has since said she’s not transphobic and that

“I was a recent citizen then. I became a citizen in 2011; the incident took place in 2013,” she says. “Someone took me to a press conference. I only knew one person there. I apologize I got sucked into it.”

But here’s Eskenazi:

In 2013, Zhao was already in her mid-40s. And, far from mere “remarks she made to Chinese newspapers,” or a singular “incident,” Zhao in September 2013 was a featured speaker at a press conference denouncing AB 1266. She was there alsongside a number of speakers representing reactionary organizations including the Pacific Justice Institute — which is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “an anti-LGBT hate group.”

At that event, Zhao was quoted in the Chinese-language press as claiming that AB 1266 would protect the 2 percent of students who are transsexual, but would “offend and infringe on the rights and privacy of 98 percent of students,” leading to “violence” and even “rape.”

Weeks later, she repeated these claims on Chinese-language radio, urging listeners to sign a Pacific Justice Institute-organized petition to repeal the legislation. She instructed listeners to download the petition from the radio station’s website and mail it back to the station — indicating, far from being “sucked into it,” she was playing no small role in organizing and perpetuating this recall drive.

It would be nice if Zhao were consistent about her beliefs — but I am still a bit stunned that Wiener and Breed have continued to stand by her.

Prop. C kickoff puts politicians in the spotlight: Whose side are you on?

A large, festive crowd showed up for the Prop. C kickoff

The Yes on C campaign, representing the most important issue on the November ballot, held a rousing kickoff today – and the debate is going to put the spotlight on local elected officials.

So far, the six progressive supervisors – Sandra Lee Fewer, Jane Kim, Rafael Mandelman, Aaron Peskin, Hillary Ronen, and Norman Yee – have all endorsed it. The five others have not.

A large, festive crowd showed up for the Prop. C kickoff

This is going to be a defining issue in the future of local politics, a chance for organizations, officials, and individuals to tell us which side they’re on.

This fall – but also for years to come – political groups like the Tenants Union, the Harvey Milk Club, the League of Pissed Off Voters and others will be asking candidate for every office: Where are you, or where were you, on Prop. C?

Every progressive group in the city, and every credible community-based housing organization, is on board.

The Chamber of Commerce and the big landlords are against it.

So where are our elected officials and candidates now?

Mayor London Breed has said nothing, and abstained when the issue came up at the Democratic County Central Committee, where both Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Jackie Speier vote in favor of endorsing Prop. C.

Sup. Vallie Brown, recently appointed by Breed in D5, has not taken a position on the issue. She told me by email:

“I’ve been digging into the details of Prop C. I’ve talked to a few folks about it and I’m reaching out to others for more information.”

I suspect we will hear the same from others allied with Breed over the next few weeks, at least until the mayor makes her position (or non-position) clear. But I have to say: There’s not a lot of details to dig into. Prop. C is very clear: It would add a very small tax to the biggest businesses in town – the tax would only apply to gross revenues of more than $50 million – and pretty much every company in that category just got a much greater tax break from Trump.

That money would go to make a real impact on the homelessness situation in San Francisco.

At the rally today, Deepa Varma, director of the Tenants Union, said she’s often asked what it would really take to address the homeless crisis.

“I say, it’s a big problem. We’d have to tax the rich and build a whole lot of housing … and guess what – we’re doing it!”

Dean Preston, who is running in D5, told me he sees nothing complicated about it:

I believe we should tax the richest corporations – who just got a massive tax cut from Trump and the GOP – to fund desperately needed solutions to homelessness. That’s why I’m 100 percent supportive of Prop. C and will do everything I can to help pass this measure.

Sup. Katy Tang, who is not running for re-election, wrote a ballot argument against Prop. C. Jessica Ho, Tang’s aide who is running in D4, declined to answer a question about the measure for the League of Pissed-Off Voters questionnaire.

Gordon Mar, who is also running in D4, is a strong supporter of Prop. C.
In District Two, the incumbent – Catherine Stefani – and her main challenger, Nick Josefowitz – both have so far ducked the question. Neither responded to the League on that issue. I have contacted both of them, and will let you know what they say.

In D6, Matt Haney is a big supporter of the measure, and was at the rally today. Christine Johnson, also a candidate, did not respond to the League or me. Sonja Trauss is a founder of the Yimby Party, which is struggling with the issue; she told the League she supports Prop. C, although she wasn’t at the kickoff and hasn’t been involved in the organizing work.
In D10, candidate Tony Kelly was at the rally today and has made Yes on C a part of his campaign. Shamann Walton has also endorsed the measure.

Theo Ellington didn’t respond to the League or me.

Lots of candidates are doing campaign kickoffs and seeking endorsements and support. Prop. C is ahead in the only poll I’ve seen, and it’s a real solution to the problem that everyone agrees should be at the top of the city’s agenda.

Let’s see who is willing to stand up to the landlords and side with the community, and who isn’t.

DSA’s Shanti Singh had the best line of the rally

The best comment of the rally today came from Shanti Singh, vice president of the SF Democratic Socialists of America. DSA played a key role in getting this on the ballot, and will be actively involved in the campaign.

Singh talked about Prop. 10 (the Yes on 10 and Yes on C campaigns are working together) said that the landlords argue that rent control ultimately leads to gentrification and higher rents. “If that’s the case,” she said, “why aren’t they all in favor of it?”

Prop. C will define progressive politics in SF

Jennifer Friedenbach, director of the Coalition on Homelessness, fires up the crowd at a rally to celebrate a successful signature-gathering effort for what is now Prop. C

The most important measure to address homelessness in San Francisco in years now has a ballot designation: It’s Proposition C.

And on the state level, voters will be able to weigh in on a measure that could have just as big an impact on homelessness: Proposition 10, which would allow cities to impose effective rent controls.

Jennifer Friedenbach, director of the Coalition on Homelessness, fires up the crowd at a rally to celebrate a successful signature-gathering effort for what is now Prop. C

Already, the landlords and their allies are attacking both. A memo from the city’s Office of Workforce and Economic Development argues that Prop. C would drive middle-class jobs out of town – which is not only nuts but defies the mission of OEWD. The tax would impact overwhelmingly companies that just got a big Trump tax break – and the idea that a minor additional fee on their massive gross receipts would cause them to move defies all history and evidence.

Of course, the conservatives at City Hall and their allies at the Chamber of Commerce are saying that we already spend a lot of money on homeless services – which is true. But while I often disagree with Randy Shaw, his report on how that money is spent is absolutely clear and accurate:

Despite story after story going back at least two decades, many still fail to understand that the bulk of the city’s homeless budget serves those already housed, not those now on the streets. As I wrote in 2014, “Since the 1980’s, the media has created an impression—now shared by the public and some supervisors—that you can simply divide homeless spending ($165 million) by the homeless numbers (7000) and then give that amount of money (over $20,000 per homeless person) to get them off the streets. But most of SF’s “homeless budget” is spent on people already housed. The city is not spending $165 million on 7,000 reported homeless, but on thousands more living in supportive permanent housing.That leads to the importance of state Prop. 10.

Over the past decade, San Francisco has spent a lot of money, and made considerable strides, in getting homeless people off the streets and into housing. But the problem keeps getting worse.

Why? Because for every homeless person we house, someone who used to have housing in the city becomes homeless.

Remember:70 percent of the homeless people in San Francisco used to have a home in San Francisco. They lost that home because of eviction – one way or another. They lost a job and couldn’t pay rent. They were Ellised out. The rent went up because they weren’t under rent control. They have disabling health conditions.

What the folks at City Hall have failed to see for all these years of the tech boom is that the Hippocratic Oath (well, the recent interpretations) needs to apply to the housing crisis: First, do no harm.

Put another way: When you are stuck in a ditch, quit digging.

Two facts that are at this point self-evident: Addressing homelessness in San Francisco is going to cost a lot of money, and that’s going to have to come from the wealthy in San Francisco. There was a time, back before Ronald Reagan, that the budget for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which paid cities to build public housing, was bigger than the budget for the Department of Defense.

Reagan gutted HUD funding for cities – and no Democrat, not Clinton, not Obama – ever put that funding back.

The State of California could allocate huge amounts of money for non-market social housing – but Gov. Jerry Brown was never interested and I have heard nothing from our next governor, Gavin Newsom, on the topic. Sacramento still thinks that the private market will solve the housing crisis.

So San Francisco needs a large, reliable, consistent stream of revenue for housing – affordable housing and supportive housing for homeless people – and it’s going to have to be local. Prop. C represents the best thinking of a lot of people who have been dealing with this issue for many years; The Chamber of Commerce has yet to come up with a credible alternative.

Second: It will be increasingly difficult and expensive to solve this crisis unless we can keep existing residents in their homes.

Which brings me to the Yimbys.

Joe Fitz at the Ex has a fascinating story about the Yimby movement trying to figure out where to come down on Prop. 10.

The landlords, of course, argue that rent control discourages the construction of new housing. That would give the Yimbys, who think that all new housing is good and that any attempt to limit it is bad, a reason to oppose Prop. 10.

There is, to be polite, no credible evidence for that argument at all.

Prop. 10 doesn’t require any new rent control. All it does is allow cities to impose effective controls – if they want to.

It’s a pushback against the pattern we have seen for decades in California: The state likes to put all kinds of mandates on local government, and then take away the ability to mitigate the impacts.

Some cities used to have rent controls on vacant apartments; the policy worked well in Berkeley, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood. The housing stock didn’t deteriorate, but tenants got to stay in their homes.

Then in 1995, the state passed the Costa-Hawkins bill that made real rent control illegal.

All Prop.10 would do it return the rules to where they were before Costa-Hawkins; cities could impose rent controls on vacant apartments and on new buildings – if they decide to.

Some cities might not have the housing crisis that we have in San Francisco, and the elected officials there can simply leave things the way they are.

But there’s no way rent controls on vacant apartments – also called vacancy control – will have any impact on new housing construction in San Francisco.

The only kind of new housing that is getting built right now in San Francisco is high-end condos and rentals. The developers aren’t going to stop building just because the rents have to be stable in the long term; they are all financed by speculative capital that’s looking for a quick return. Rents are set at a level that allows the developer – now, today – to return enough money to pay the financiers, pay the taxes and maintenance, and make a nice profit. It those rents were too low to do that, the investors wouldn’t have put up their money in the first place.

And let’s remember: once a building is constructed in California, the property taxes never go up by more than a small, predictable amount.

(Oh, and by the way: San Francisco doesn’t impose rent controls on anything built after 1979. Under Prop. 10, the city could change that – or not.)

So if the Yimbys have any sense of the real economics of housing, they will have no choice but to agree that Prop. 10 won’t have any impact on new construction.

It would, on the other hand, have a huge impact on homelessness, but providing cities like SF with the tools to keep people in their homes.

For elected officials like Scott Wiener, David Chiu, Phil Ting, London Breed, and all the supervisors and candidates for supervisor, these are critical issues – and where these folks come down on Prop. 10 and Prop. C will define where they really stand on housing issues.

It’s a pretty simple calculus: Every legitimate tenant group and nearly every community-based housing or organizing group in the city supports Prop. C. The Chamber of Commerce and the landlord groups oppose it.

After this campaign, it will be much easier to define who is and isn’t a progressive in local politics.

Breed, Wiener endorse transphobic School Board candidate

Josephine Zhao is getting mainstream political support despite her transphobic statements

A startling number of local officials, including Mayor London Breed and state Sen. Scott Wiener, have endorsed for School Board a candidate who helped lead the opposition to gender-neutral bathrooms in schools, saying that the groundbreaking legislation would lead to “public moral issues, violence and even create conditions for more incidences of rape on school campuses.”

Josephine Zhao is getting mainstream political support despite her transphobic statements

Josephine Zhao also has the endorsement of Board of Equalization President Fiona Ma, Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu, and Sheriff Vicki Hennessy.

Zhao is best known as a board member and leader of the Small Property Owners of San Francisco, a radical landlord-rights group that opposes Ellis Act reform and anti-speculation taxes.

She also spoke out in 2013 against AB 1266, a member by then-Assemblymember Tom Ammiano that allows public-school students to use bathrooms and join sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

According to translations from the Chinese-language press, at a press conference opposing the measure:

Josephine Zhao, representative of the Asian-American Voters Organization stated that AB 1266 protects only 2% of those students who are transgender or questioning their sexual identities, yet offends and violates the rights and privacies of the other 98% of students.  Allowing male and female students to share bathrooms and showers will lead to public moral issues, violence, and even create conditions for more incidences of rape on school campuses.

“President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would cheer on Wiener and Breed for that endorsement,” trans activist Gabriel Haaland said. “In fact, one of the first things Trump and Devos did when they came into office was to rescind Obama’s guidelines/protections for transgender children, sending the clear message that they didn’t support transgender rights.”

When I asked Wiener why he appeared with Zhao at a banquet during his state Senate race, he said that he “doesn’t agree with all of my many supporters on every single issue.”

But there’s a difference between disagreements and accepting transphobia – and Wiener is now actively endorsing a candidate who has never apologized or backed away from her transphobic statements.

Breed’s office didn’t respond when I asked for comment on her endorsement.

The Harvey Milk Club Political Action Committee has voted to recommend a specific endorsement against Zhao and is planning a voter-education campaign around transphobia in the School Board race.

There are two trans candidates running for School Board, Martin Rawlings-Fein and Mia Satya. While transgender candidates have won elections in other cities, San Francisco has yet to elect a trans candidate to any public office.