News + Politics

The Agenda, Oct. 5-12: The election starts now

Absentee ballots are on the way; we offer some help. Plus: VisionSF packs the house, your editor debates housing policy … and will Ed Lee veto part of Eviction 2.0?

Cleve Jones gives an inspiring speech to activists at the VisionSF kickoff
Cleve Jones gives an inspiring speech to activists at the VisionSF kickoff

By Tim Redmond

OCTOBER 5, 2015 – The local political campaigns will be in full gear this week, because it’s pretty much Election Day.

Absentee ballots arrive in the mail starting Oct. 6, and since more than half, probably far more than half, of the people who vote will vote by mail, the net few days are crucial. Most people who use mail-in ballots vote pretty quickly after the packet arrives (although some wait and turn it in on the final Election Day.)

I’m not a permanent absentee – I tend to vote the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, just because I’ve always done it that way and there’s something festive about going to the polls and seeing (I hope) a lot of my neighbors and getting the little red “I voted” sticker. So my mailbox has been rather empty – just a couple of (weak) No on F mailers and the DCCC slate card.

(On the No on F: Clearly, with $8 million or more to spend, the campaign team has done extensive polling and focus-group work to try every possible message, and the one that seems to work best is this nonsense about people spying on each other. First, there’s already a private right of action in the law – in other words, whatever they are allegedly worried about, it should already be happening. And seriously: Does anyone in San Francisco need a pair of binoculars to see what their neighbors are doing?)

The Tom and Tim Show: How many have to die …

… before we stop electing NRA sycophants? We talk about the events of the week


Developers cry poverty; so sad


A big developer tells the supes that paying a fair share for Muni might put projects over the edge
A big developer tells the supes that paying a fair share for Muni might put projects over the edge

By Tim Redmond

SEPTEMBER 28, 2015 – The vast majority of the people who testified today at the Land Use Committee on the Transportation Sustainability Fee discussed the impacts on housing, hospitals, and educational institutions. The folks from the colleges said that student housing shouldn’t have to pay a fee. The folks from the hospitals say they are already suffering from the costs of seismic upgrades and shouldn’t pay the fee.

The housing developers complained that the costs were too high.

The transit advocates said that the fees across the board are too low.

I didn’t hear anybody say that commercial office developers would be so badly hurt by a higher fee that they would stop construction – or that, should that come to pass, it would be such a bad thing.

The Agenda, Sept. 21 – Sept 27: A big, odd, garbage battle at City Hall …

… Pits the Sierra Club and a giant landfill operator against our local  trash monopoly. Plus: An insane transportation fee goes to the supes, as does a chapter in the ParkMerced battle … and guess what — SF is only building 11 percent of the affordable housing it needs

The giant Waste Management Inc. and the Sierra Club are on the same side in a garbage battle
The giant Waste Management Inc. and the Sierra Club are on the same side in a garbage battle

By Tim Redmond

SEPTEMBER 28, 2015 – I got a flier in the mail last week telling me that “San Francisco’s Garbage Plan STINKS!” It was tagged: “An important message from the Sierra Club.”

Well: The local chapter of the Sierra Club is mostly right on environmental issues most of the time, so I took a minute to read it, then made a couple of phone calls – and realized I was in the middle of a major San Francisco political issue involving millions of dollars and a very influential local company that has a legally mandated monopoly on garbage and recycling collection in the city.

And the whole thing comes before the Board of Supes Tuesday/29.

Here’s what’s going on:

Recology company has the contract to pick up the city’s refuse. That goes back to the early part of the last century, when a collection of what were then known as “scavengers” got together and created a company that convinced city officials to give it the singular right to collect trash in San Francisco. There is no competitive bidding for the contract, and every time someone has tried to suggest that the deal ought to go out for bid, that effort has been crushed.

The Tom and Tim Show: The Pope, the Mayor …

And why Yogi Berra should be the one canonized as a saint


Mayor Lee’s delusion: He tells developers the city is doing great

Lots of talk of the business boom, just passing mention of the housing crisis as mayor delivers speech to real-estate industry breakfast

The mayor tells a supportive audience that the boom is making San Francisco great
The mayor tells a supportive audience that the boom is making San Francisco great

By Tim Redmond

SEPTEMBER 24, 2015 – The news that Uber is moving into a building in downtown Oakland has everyone in the world of commercial real estate, tech – and displacement – talking. The move could be good for a city that needs economic development, supporters say – but one expert at UC Berkeley had a warming:

“I hope Oakland doesn’t make the same mistakes San Francisco did,” Miriam Zuk, director of the Urban Displacement Project, told the Chron.

Yes, the word was “mistakes,” as in moving too quickly to attract too many tech companies without first stabilizing existing vulnerable communities and figuring out where the newly arriving, high-paid workers were going to live.

Even the Chron is now recognizing that there’s a serious downside to what Mayor Lee has done; one story calls it a “detour from paradise to parody.”

But there was no talk of mistakes or detours this morning when an ebullient Lee addressed the SF Business Times “Structures” breakfast. In fact, he told the supportive crowd that the city’s in fantastic shape – and he acted as if the housing crisis that is transforming neighborhoods and driving thousands out of their homes is just a random event that has no connection to his economic policies.

The event at the Westin St. Francis attracted some 800 of the city’s developers, builders, investors, brokers architects, real-estate lawyers and others who make money from the industry. Mary Huss, the publisher of the BizTimes, mentioned in her opening remarks that the current boom was creating “tension,” but the mayor laughed it off:

“Tension? What tension?” he said. “The only tension I know is the Giants and the Dodgers.”

Clean Power program starts signup campaign

Residents and businesses can sign up now for 100 percent renewable power

You like nuclear power? No? well, there's now an alternative
You like nuclear power? No? well, there’s now an alternative

By Tim Redmond

There hasn’t been a lot of news media attention to it, but the city’s clean power agency is up and running, and you can sign up today to get 100 percent green energy to replace PG&E, starting next spring.

Jason Fried, director of the city’s Local Agency Formation Commission, which has spearheaded CleanPowerSF, told me that the first renewable power will probably be delivered in February or March, depending on billing schedules.

Under the program, the city will buy renewable energy in bulk and deliver it to households and businesses using PG&E’s lines. Residents will automatically be enrolled in a program that offers between 33 and 50 percent renewable energy, at rates equal to or below those of PG&E.

PG&E and its allies will, of course, try to get customers to “opt out” (and have already tried to undermine the city’s ability to market clean power, although the sponsors of the pro-PG&E ballot measure have withdrawn their ballot argument stopped campaigning for it.)

A major tenant victory at City Hall

Supes approve anti-eviction package. This is why it’s good to have incumbents face a challenge

Tenants took over City Hall to demand anti-eviction legislation
Tenants took over City Hall to demand anti-eviction legislation

By Tim Redmond

SEPTEMBER 23, 2105 – San Francisco tenants won a big victory yesterday in a vote that is in part a reflection of a couple of upcoming elections.

I have always said I generally don’t like unopposed incumbents; elections are when we get to hold our politicians accountable. And challenges, even the prospect of serious challenges, tend to make the folks at City Hall pay attention.

The issue was legislation that’s been dubbed “Eviction Protections 2.0,” a package by Sup. Jane Kim that would limit the ability of landlords to toss out tenants for minor lease violations that can be easily corrected and would allow renters to add roommates as long as they didn’t exceed the legal occupancy of the unit.

It would also prevent landlords from using owner move-in evictions as a pretext for getting rid of tenants and then renting out the unit for a higher price.

Now: This isn’t going to end gentrification in San Francisco. It’s not going to stop all of the speculators who are constantly trying to find ways to get rid of lower-income people to feed their greed.

It’s not the entire answer to SF’s housing problems. Not by a long shot.

But as Sup. Eric Mar noted, “Just as software gets upgraded to add patches the fix problems,” the city needs to fix the flaws that are allowing bogus evictions – more than 2,000 in the past year.

And the vote was a sign that the SF tenant movement is alive, powerful, and effective.

Who pays for the damage the tech boom has done to SF?

We are allowing the industries that make great wealth to avoid paying for the human costs of their actions. That didn’t work the last time around ….

In the post-War era, the chemical industry made a lot of money — and polluted a lot of places like Love Canal in New York, where people got sick and died. Are we going to let the same thing happen here?

By Tim Redmond

SEPTEMBER 22, 2015 – I don’t think I’m the only one who has noticed a huge increase in the number of tech shuttles clogging the city’s streets. And a new study confirms that the number of shuttles is going up – and areas where there are shuttle stops have more evictions.

That confirms what pretty much everyone in the Mission knows: When you make it easier for high-paid tech workers to get a free ride to their offices, you make the surrounding housing more attractive and thus more valuable. And when you do that, in this crazy market, landlords find ways to get rid of long-term tenants so they can rent or sell to higher-paid workers.

The number of private shuttle-bus stops in the city has increased by 46 percent in the past year, the study by the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project shows. And we are getting closer to the city turning this “pilot” program into a permanent part of the city’s transportation infrastructure, the impacts are important.

The way the city is moving, this will be adopted without a full environmental impact report; the Municipal Transportation Agency argues that since the buses get commuters out of their cars, it’s good for the environment.

That, of course, misses a huge point, and it’s worth taking a larger look at.

The “Old Boys Club” is alive and well in SF

All that's missing are the cigars. Photo by Robert Altman

Annual Boys Night Out event gathers power players and media elite — no girls allowed. 

All that's missing are the cigars. Photo by Robert Altman
All that’s missing are the cigars. And the women. Photo by Robert Altman

By Marke B

The optics are disastrous. In the picture taken last night, freely shared on Facebook by organizer Lee Houskeeper, more than 40 men pose smiling on the top floor of John’s Grill, home of the famous Maltese Falcon and a symbol of SF’s establishment class if there ever was one.

Willie Brown is there. Public Defender Jeff Adachi is there. Scott Weiner and Mark Leno are there. Several SFPD captains and lieutenants, high-powered civil rights lawyers, and power brokers jostle for space in the frame. So do the highest-ranking editors and reporters from the Chronicle, the Examiner, San Francisco Magazine, CBS and NBC. Jim Steinle, father of murdered Kate Steinle, sits in the front row. Even Wavy Gravy the clown is there.

Who’s not there? Women. Even just one woman. “Oh What a Boy’s Night Out” is the caption, followed by a list of attendees’ names.