News + Politics

The Tom and Tim Show: The jail, the Gavster and pot …

And what the power struggle at the regional agencies means. We talk about the week


Deal to replace art space with luxury condos has a glitch

There are also tenants living in the building — and they don’t want to leave

Jade Miller and John Kitchen tell reporters that they are fighting their eviction
Jade Miller and John Kitchen tell reporters that they are fighting their eviction

By Tim Redmond

JULY 22, 2015 – A deal between two art-space operators and a developer who wants to turn an entire block in the Mission into condos has run into an unexpected glitch:

There are people living in the building, and they aren’t willing to leave.

The building at 2050 Bryant has been at the heart of debates over the future of the Mission since developer Nick Podell bought the property (and everything around it) and decided to evict everyone and build luxury housing.

Opponents call it the Beast on Bryant, and argue that the last thing the neighborhood needs is more high-end housing – and that the city’s commitment to preserving blue-collar jobs and community art space is in the balance.

But Podell has cut deals with some of the industrial tenants and with the owners of InnerMission, which used to be Cell Space; he promised InnerMission that he would help find a new place for the operation, and would subsidize the rent for five years.

That caused the two InnerMission owners, Mike Gaines and Eric Reid, to drop their opposition to the project.

But apparently nobody was paying much attention to the fact that the arts space was also a living space, and had been a living space since at least 2002. Evicting commercial tenants is one thing; throwing out residents is another. The rules are very different – and the current tenants are not ready to move.

Supes move forward with jail that we might not need

$240 million project that nobody has seen and that might be obsolete the day it opens gets preliminary approval from board members who say they don’t like it. Go figure

The old county jail has to go -- but do we need to replace it?
The old county jail has to go — but do we need to replace it?

By Tim Redmond

JULY 21, 2015 – The San Francisco supervisors today moved forward a proposal for a new $240 million county jail – although it’s not clear yet what the project will actually look like or whether the city needs it.

The convoluted issue stems from the fact that the state is offering up to $80 million in grant funding to replace the ancient, outmoded, unsafe, and inhumane lockup at 850 Bryant – but the clock is ticking and the money may be gone if the city doesn’t act soon.

So the supes had to vote today to approve an environmental review document that said the project needs no further review – unusual for a building this large – and at the same time vote to authorize the city to apply for the grant money.

The debate was at times bizarre – as Sup. Jane Kim put it, “I’m not sure we even have a project before us.” But on a 7-3 vote, move forward they did.

It’s not a simple issue: I’ve been to the County Jail in the Hall of Justice, and it’s just awful. The prisoners can’t stay there anyway; the place isn’t seismically safe and has to be torn down.

But the jail population is dropping, SF is getting better at alternatives to incarceration … and foes of the jail say it might be possible to handle the projected number of inmates without building some 350 more beds.

Displacement policy at risk in quiet power struggle

Two regional agencies battling over the future of Bay Area planning — with social justice in the balance

MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger wants to take anti-displacement language out of regional planning
MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger wants to take anti-displacement language out of regional planning

By Zelda Bronstein

JULY 21, 2015 –At a time when California state officials are steadily expanding the authority of regional governance, a nasty rift between the powerful Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments has burst into public view.

Like the smoke and lava belched by a volcano that’s about to blow its top, portents of the rupture have surfaced at recent meetings.

At its June 24 session, MTC, the moneybags of the duo, voted to fund ABAG’s planning and research staff for only the next six months instead of the customary full year.

At the July 10 joint meeting of the MTC Planning Committee and the ABAG Administrative Committee, MTC staff recommended that key anti-displacement language that appears in Plan Bay Area 2013 be stricken from the plan’s 2017 update; the ABAG staff report vehemently objected to the deletion.

The July 16 agenda of ABAG Executive Board included a staff report on MTC’s alleged proposal to move ABAG’s Planning and Research Department to MTC. That’s the institutional equivalent of a heart transplant.

In short, this is no bureaucratic squabble but rather a major power struggle. The antagonists are two public agencies whose decisions about housing, land use, and transportation are profoundly reshaping the life of the region (think Plan Bay Area, for starters).

As the dispute over anti-displacement suggests, should MTC prevail, social justice in the Bay Area is going to suffer.

BIG WEEK: Our guide to essential events July 21-27, 2015

Berkeley Kite Fest, Sing-A-Long Hairspray, High and Mighty Brass Band, Pedalfest 2015, Los Amigos Invisibles, Up Your Alley Fair, and more. 

48 Hills: Big Week
The Berkeley Kite Festival takes off Sat/25-Sun/26

By Marke B.

BIG WEEK Ostensible tourist attraction that more locals should check out: The Cable Car Museum. Have you been? Lately? It’s pretty great. I was put in mind of it both by the announcement that a new E-Embarcadero Muni Line is finally starting up Aug. 1, and the crowning, earlier this month, of a new Cable Car Bell Ringing Champion, Byron Cobb.

I am definitely among those who hardly hop aboard our storied cable car lines unless family or friends are in town, but will openly weep with pride when I see one pop up in old movies and TV shows, or when I find the remnants of old tracks from the eight cable car lines that survived the 1906 earthquake (now we’re down to three), or old tracks of any kind, nestled along back yards and restaurant patios.

In any case, a perfect summer day activity is to hit up the museum in the morning to rediscover some fascinating past (and awesome machinery) — it’s open 10am to 6pm — and then jump on a cable car right outside the museum and reacquaint yourself with one of the primal joys of San Francisco. (You can use your Clipper Card, it’s $7, just hand it to the driver and ride around as much as you like, and you don’t have to hop on with the tourists at Powell and Market.) This is also kind of the perfect romantic date for the adventurous — you’ll probably spot a nice wine bar or ice cream shop along the right route.

Below are some more perfect things to do. (Also check out our previews of the 35th Annual SF Jewish Film Fest and awesome-sounding stage event Juárez: A Documentary Mythology, happening this week.)

In-law units get approved — with conditions that Sup. Christensen doesn’t like

D3 incumbent opposes limits on Airbnb rentals, condo conversions, and Ellis Act evictions — but committee goes for them anyway

Second units can be new rental housing -- if that's what they are really used for
Second units can be new rental housing — if that’s what they are really used for

By Tim Redmond

JULY 20, 2015 – Two bills that would legalize in-laws and second units on existing lots are moving forward – but the debate at the Land Use Committee today exposed some interesting political alliances and conflicts.

Nobody on the panel was opposed to the concept of allowing property owners to build inlaws or backyard cottages in Districts 3 and 8, where the bills by Sups. Scott Wiener and Julie Christensen would allow that construction.

Both Wiener and Christensen insisted that they wanted to promote the development of more rent-controlled housing in the city.

But when tenant advocates proposed some rules that would ensure the new units were actually used for rental housing – and not, for example, turned into condos or hotel rooms – they ran into some fierce resistance from both supervisors.

Wiener backs off on group housing proposal

With Tenderloin residents out in force, he withdraws amendment giving developers a break on affordable-housing rules

Jane Kim said that people on low fixed-incomes need to be a prioirty
Jane Kim said that people on low fixed-incomes need to be a prioirty

By Tim Redmond

JULY 20, 2015 — Supervisor Scott Wiener today withdrew his amendment that would have allowed group housing developers to claim units selling for near their market rate to count as “affordable,” allowing the original legislation to move to the full board tomorrow.

The move came as dozens of Tenderloin residents and activists spoke against the amendment, saying that the neighborhood needs more housing for low-income and very-low-income people.

Wiener had proposed allowing group housing –which these days means micro-units aimed at single people – to meet the city’s affordable-housing requirements by offering apartments to people making 90 percent of the area median, which means around $64,000 a year.

That, Wiener noted, isn’t a lot of money in this city’s current housing market. There are, he said, a lot of people in that income range who are “hanging on by a thread.” A lot of teachers, lab techs, and social workers fall in that range, he noted.

Housing for people making between 90 and 120 percent of AMI is “part of the city’s affordable housing program,” he said.

But Sup. Jane Kim, who is one of the authors of the legislation, pointed out that “a lot of people in this room today are on fixed incomes” as low as $800 a month. “It’s hard to tell them that people making $64,000 a year are barely hanging on.”

When Wiener moved to withdraw his amendment, the Land Use and Transportation Committee voted unanimously to send the measure to the full board.

The Agenda, July 20-26: Micro-units and affordable housing …

… and should a parking garage become highrise luxury condos on the waterfront? We review the issues coming up this week

Should a parking garage on the waterfront become a highrise office tower?
Do we need more luxury condos on the waterfront? The Planning Commission will decide this week

By Tim Redmond

JULY 20, 2015 – The legislation that allows group housing – which is, in many cases, just another way of saying tiny micro-units – a break under the city’s inclusionary housing law will be back at the Land Use and Transportation Committee Monday/20, and will probably wind up before the full Board of Supes the next day.

The original legislation, by Sups. John Avalos and Jane Kim, was pretty simple: It would have made clear that housing defined by tiny units that have only limited kitchen and bath facilities is still market-rate housing, and developers need to pay into the city’s affordable housing fund.

The Planning Department never used to collect that money – mostly because there haven’t been many group-housing units built in the past 20 years, and since the term typically applied to SRO hotel rooms that were priced relatively low anyway, there wasn’t much of a push to demand that developers pay for affordable units.

But now several projects are coming on line that are aimed at single young people who don’t mind a single room, perhaps with a two-burner stove and a tiny fridge but no oven. They aren’t exactly low-budget SROs – the developers plan to charge around $1,900 a month for the places.

OPINION: Queer homelessness, queer shame

When will the mainstream LGBT organizations declare war on poverty?

The group estimates that as many as 40 percent of all homeless youth are LGBT
The group estimates that as many as 40 percent of all homeless youth are LGBT

By Tommi Avicolli Mecca

JULY 17, 2105 — Once again, for the second time in a row, San Francisco’s biannual Point in Time Homeless Count reveals that 29 percent of those surveyed identify as LGBT.

It’s not surprising. Little is being done to address the poverty and homelessness that exists in the LGBT community, despite the fact that two homeless people have died on the streets of the Castro, the world’s most famous queer neighborhood. In both instances, people continued to walk past their dead bodies for hours after they passed on, as if they were invisible, which studies show the homeless truly are.

The outcry over one of those homeless deaths, a transgender woman who was well known in the Castro, subsided in less than the proverbial 15 minutes and resulted in no action on the part of the mainstream LGBT movement.

It’s not just a local problem. Two Williams Institute studies and a report from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Coalition on Homelessness show that poverty and homelessness in the LGBT community are, unfortunately, flourishing. In terms of homeless youth, a staggering 20-40 percent across the country report that they are queer.

While the LGBT community was pouring big bucks and endless resources into winning the right to walk down the aisle and say I Do, the poor and homeless have been all but left to fend for themselves in a society that treats them as pariahs and criminals, even here in San Francisco — where someone can be fined or arrested for merely sitting or sleeping on a sidewalk. Ironically, the 1970s version of that law was used against gay men in the Castro, prompting Harvey Milk to speak out against it. How soon the merchants, who overwhelmingly support the current sit/lie, forget.  

The Tom and Tim Show: Immigration, Airbnb ….

… and why we’re glad we’re not the president of Mexico or the prime minister of Greece