News + Politics

What does it mean to be a pro-tenant politician in SF?

The three worst things that have happened to renters in this city recently, and how to measure the response of elected officials

Protesters note that the Twitter tax break cost the city millions. It also spurred evictions and displacement
Protesters note that the Twitter tax break cost the city millions. It also spurred evictions and displacement

By Tim Redmond

Sup. London Breed was not happy when I wrote that she was weak on tenant issues, and she has a point: She voted for Sup. Jane Kim’s Eviction 2.0 legislation, and she supported the Mission Moratorium, and she’s been with the tenants on some other significant legislation.

She texted me saying my description of her record was inaccurate (and I like to be told when I get something even a little bit wrong), so I corrected the sweeping language which might not have done her credit (I originally wrote that she was “bad” on tenant issues, when in fact her record is more mixed.) But she got me thinking:

What does it mean to be a “pro-tenant” politician in San Francisco today?

There are people who say Mayor Lee is pro-tenant. Lots of others would like that label (in a city where two-thirds of the potential voters are renters, it’s a powerful claim to make). Instead of singling out any individual, Breed or Lee or anyone else, I think it’s worth taking the time to try to define what the term “pro-tenant” means.

Let me start with a pretty radical statement. I think the three worst things that have happened to renters in this town in the past ten years are, in rough order, the Twitter tax break, the city’s failure to regulate Airbnb, and the Google buses.

Then you can add in the influx of market-rate housing with inadequate affordable units.

If you use that lens, you get a different picture of which politicians are pro-tenant.

Drawing the Crisis: Comics artist Autumn Austin on the eviction epidemic

48 Hills: Drawing the Crisi

CCA Comics students draw stories from the eviction epidemic. A 48 Hills exclusive series.

48 Hills: Drawing the Crisi
ART LOOKS The Engage: Comics class at the California College of the Arts is comprised of a diverse collection of students from various majors passionate about making comics that engage the world around them.

This year, they teamed with and housing activists from the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project and the Housing Rights Committee to create comics from first person accounts of San Francisco’s housing crisis.

The students met with and interviewed people who are struggling or have struggled to remain in their homes, and then turned these stories into compelling visual narratives. Justin Hall was the professor of the Engage: Comics class, and Peter Glanting was the Teaching Assistant. 

The following comic is by CCA student Autumn Austin. Click on each image to enlarge! (You might have to click twice). See the whole series here.

48 Hills: Drawing the Crisis

The Agenda, Dec. 7-13: The jail drama, tamales and global capital …

… and the supes hear how the Super Bowl party will screw up your life

Protesters fighting a new jail locked themselves together with PVC pipe last week
Protesters fighting a new jail locked themselves together with PVC pipe last week

By Tim Redmond

DECEMBER 9, 2015 – All the drama over whether Aaron Peskin will get back from Nepal, where fuel shortages are grounding airlines, in time for a key vote on a new jail, appears to be overblown. At last week’s meeting, Mark Farrell, the chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, moved that that item be sent to the full board for Dec. 15, by which time, barring something highly unusual happening, Peskin will be safely in office.

It may be a moot question anyway: Even without Peskin, I’m not sure this expensive plan had six votes. “I think we have four solid votes,” one jail supporter told me. “But one of those is Julie Christensen” and she won’t be there when the item comes up.


I’ve read all the sad comments about the closure of Roosevelt’s Tamale Parlor, which was a part of 24th Street for as long as I’ve lived in the city (34 years) and part of the Mission since the 1920s. It makes me sad, too – in the old days when the Bay Guardian was on 19th and York, Roosevelt’s was our get-away-from-the-office lunch spot, where the staff of an alt-weekly that was still small and struggling could afford to sit down and eat.

The Tom and Tim Show: WTF is up with the cops and guns?

Too many people dead from too many shootings. And as the NY Daily News says, God Isn’t Fixing This


Tom’s Town: Reflections on City College …

…. and the city after a campaign for office

By Tom Temprano

DECEMBER 6, 2015 — Helllllllllo 48 Hills! Did you miss me? I missed you! It seems like forever ago that Tom’s Town went on hiatus to make way for my City College Board campaign but I’m back and we have so much catching up to do.

The last six months on the campaign trail have been incredible. I laughed, I cried, I walked up at least a million flights of stairs and though the election may not have gone my way (or any of the ways I wanted outside of Supervisor Peskin) I wouldn’t give up the experience for anything.

48hillstempranoAt the end of the day nearly 40,000 San Francisco voters thought that I was the right person to help move City College forward and I owe each and every one of you a huge and incredible thanks. So please be sure to leave your address in the comments so I can send you one of the 40,000 holiday fruitcakes I baked.

Though every single moment was a learning experience I decided that, since the Internet LOVES a list, I should distill all I learned into my top five campaign lessons.

Jail plan moves forward, after protests ….

… But are there really six votes next week for this expensive plan?

Protesters shut down the Budget and Finance Committee meeting for more than an hour
Protesters shut down the Budget and Finance Committee meeting for more than an hour

By Tim Redmond

DECEMBER 2, 2015 – Protesters shut down a meeting of the Board of Supes Budget Committee for more than an hour today and forced a long recess in an effort to delay a vote on building a new jail.

Five people were arrested. Three of them locked themselves together with chains inside plastic sleeves, and the Fire Department rescue squad had to come and cut them loose before sheriff’s deputies could take them into custody.

The raucous demonstration caused the committee chair, Sup. Mark Farrell, to halt public comment and then suspend the meeting while deputies cleared the room and made the arrests.

The protesters were asking that the committee delay any vote on the jail, particularly since another committee, Government Audit and Oversight, will be holding a hearing Dec. 3 on alternatives to incarceration.

But no such luck: The measure advanced to the full board without objection, although Sup. Eric Mar said he intends to vote no next Tuesday.

Mayor seeks to limit supes budget authority

Proposal would take $377 million out of the annual review process

Mayor Lee would have more control over the budget under a plan coming up today
Mayor Lee would have more control over the budget under a plan coming up today

By Tim Redmond

DECEMBER 2, 2015 — Along with a critical vote on the new jail, the SF Supes Budget and Finance Committee will decide today whether 32 city departments should be exempt from annual budget review by the board.

At issue is $377 million in spending that the mayor would prefer to put into “two-year” budgets – which would mean the supervisors (and the public) would lose an annual opportunity to weigh in on how much those agencies are spending and whether the results are consistent with the cost.

According to the Budget Analyst, Harvey Rose:

One of the main disadvantages of the fixed two‐year budget cycle is that it reduces the Board of Supervisors’ budgetary authority. The budget approval process is one of the Board of Supervisors main tools under the Charter to set City policy. Other disadvantages of the fixed two‐year budget include difficulties in forecasting revenues and expenditures, and in incorporating economic and environmental changes.

The new jail is on the fast track

Board decision is imminent — although it’s not even clear that this $240 million project is needed. 


By Tim Redmond

DECEMBER 1, 2015 – The Mayor’s Office is asking the supervisors to approve on a very fast track a plan for a $240 million new jail that may be far bigger than the city needs – if San Francisco even needs a new jail.

A measure that would close the purchase of a site by February 2016 and start construction shortly after that appears on the agenda of the Budget and Finance Committee Wednesday/2.

The supes agreed earlier this year, some of them reluctantly, to apply for $80 million in state money for the jail – but it was clear at the time that no decision had been made on whether to move forward and that the city might not need or accept the money.

But on Nov. 13, San Francisco officials were informed that the grant was approved, and since then, this thing has been moving forward quickly.

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Photo by Darwin Bell
Photo by Darwin Bell

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The Agenda, Nov. 30-Dec. 6: A climate-change solution in SF?

Could this city lead the way with a carbon tax? And do we need a new jail?

Sup. John Avalos wants to pay for tree maintenance with a carbon tax
Sup. John Avalos wants to pay for tree maintenance with a carbon tax

By Tim Redmond

NOVEMBER 30, 2015 – I was on the road over the holiday, and doing what I always do on the road, which is listen to NPR, and I heard a great interview with James Hansen, the NASA climate scientists who first raised the alarm about global climate change.

He talked a bit about what it was like to say that humans were frying the planet back in the 1980s, when the whole idea seemed heretical, but mostly he talked about the Paris summit, and the utter failure of anyone leading any major country to talk about the only viable solutions that could prevent catastrophic sea-level rise.

The (conservative) economists who worry about the impacts of rapid reductions in the use of fossil fuels ought to be worried about something else, he noted: Many of the world’s biggest and most important cities are going to be underwater in 30 years if things don’t change quickly. That will have a much greater impact on the global GDP (and the profits of big corporations) than a modest reduction in emissions.

Hansen’s predictions have been largely accurate in the past, and now he’s talking about things like 10-20 meter rises in sea level, which would pretty much inundate New York, London, Washington DC, Miami, Beijing … the list goes on. I am going to need a boat to get from Bernal Hill to Twin Peaks.

This is real.

And, he said, there’s a simple way to turn it around: A direct tax on carbon, levied at the wellhead or the mine or the docks where it’s imported. Let the money go directly to the people, in the form of dividends – that way, the working-class folks who see gas prices go up will have the cash to offset those prices. In fact, he said, the studies he’s seen show that most people in the US (and presumable other industrialized countries) will be better off after the tax-and-dividend plan, the only exception being the very rich. So it would have a progressive economic impact.