The Agenda

Should the tech boom pay the costs of the tech boom?

Connecting gentrification and police violence, protesters stop a tech bus

The Board of Supes will discuss two very different issues this week that are actually closely related and could inform some productive discussion about the housing market.

On Wednesday/24,the Budget and Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the impacts on the city of the recent and upcoming tech IPOs, including “business tax revenue, housing, and gentrification.”

The previous day, Tuesday/23, the full board will vote on the city’s ten-year capital plan.

The connections are pretty obvious, but largely missing from the ten-year spending proposal.

I’m seeing the same pattern in Sacramento, where the state is poised to receive a sizable windfall from the IPOs, possibly in the billions of dollars. The state expects a surplus of more than $20 billion this year.

And neither the local nor the state government is planning to use most or all of that surplus to mitigate the negative impacts of all that new tech wealth, particularly in the Bay Area.

Everyone agrees that in about six months, when the stock grants vest and the newly minted millionaires can start spending their money, the housing market will go even more crazy than it is today. Sellers are holding property off the market. Landlords are leaving apartments vacant.

And I suspect that the speculators are drooling at the prospect of snapping up multi-family buildings, using the Ellis Act to evict the tenants, and flipping them as TICs.

The San Francisco tech boom is not just an accident. City policies under the late Mayor Ed Lee were designed to attract tech companies to the city, no matter the damage to the rest of us. Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb were allowed to violate local laws with impunity because the mayor saw them as local tech companies that should be encouraged. Thanks to those policies, a relatively small number of people will be getting very rich – and the rest of the city will be getting poorer.

Yes: Tech booms like this make most of the city worse off, because they drive up the cost of real estate. That means teachers can’t afford to live here, long-term tenants are thrown on the streets, those who remain have to pay far more than a third of their income (the federal standard) for housing, prices go up in stores and restaurants, small businesses close because the rent is too high … you get the picture. We all know it.

The Yimbys say the answer is the same free market that created this problem – that we should just allow developers to build more housing. Problem is, city policies have already driven up the cost of land and labor (construction workers can’t live here anymore) and made it so expensive to build that no developer is going to construct workforce housing. And no lender is going to invest in it when there’s so much more to be made in exclusively high-end housing.

So let’s go back to the city and state budgets.

If the state has a boom-driven surplus of $20 billion, that would pay for maybe 40,000 affordable-housing units in the Bay Area. Building 40,000 units of social (non-market) housing of all kinds – land trusts, limited-equity co-ops, public housing, nonprofit affordable housing, at all the levels we need for the workforce and homeless people – would make a huge difference in the housing crisis. It would be a step toward mitigating the impacts of the tech boom – using the money that the tech boom created.

San Francisco will also gets a huge windfall from the boom – but it’s not enough to pay teachers and city workers the money they need to afford to live here. Property owners (and I am one of them) are also getting a huge windfall – unless you bought your house yesterday, it’s already appreciated in value and will again, and again, over the next year.

So what is the city doing with its long-term capital plan? Here’s a snapshot:

That’s a total – over the next ten years – of $300 million for affordable housing. Enough to build 600 units. If that money can be used to leverage state and federal money, maybe as many as a couple thousand units.

Seriously?

All of the things on the list are important. The seismic stuff is mandatory under state law. We need more money for parks and open space, and for transportation.

But none of that matters if we can’t solve the housing crisis. And $300 million is a tiny, tiny fraction of what everyone agrees the city needs.

Why so little? Because this mayor, like the past few mayors, refuses to issue new bonds until we pay off the old ones, lest property owners (who for the most part are doing just fine) pay slightly higher taxes. Not the taxes they should pay if we didn’t have Prop. 13; just a few hundred bucks more a year.

I know that some people on fixed incomes and seniors have owned their homes for years and can’t pay higher taxes. I know there are small landlords who are not getting rich. The fact that the state bungled tax policy in the 1970s and put those folks at risk is the reason we have Prop. 13. But this isn’t rocket science, or even Coding 101 – we know how to craft a bond act that exempts vulnerable populations.

We also know how to craft a bond act that does not allow big landlords to pass the costs through to tenants.

Over the next ten years, a city that now has a budget of more than $11 billion a year and is one of the richest cities in the history of human civilization will spend $300 million to address the most dramatic impacts of the boom that brought this money in.

How about a $2 billion local affordable housing bond? How about funding some of that with new higher taxes on the tech companies (or a tax on stock options, which the city repealed during the Twitter Tax Break days)?

Urban planners – the ones with any social conscience – say that growth should pay for growth. And tech booms should pay for the impacts of tech booms.

We have the money. I wonder if this will come up at the board hearings.

Tenant representation and spy technology

Security cameras are on at Alvord Lake -- but they were installed without public notice

The Board of Supes Rules Committee will consider Monday/15 two items with both immediate and long-term policy and political significance – Mayor Breed’s latest appointment to the Rent Board and a law that would limit city departments from spying on San Franciscans.

Security cameras are on at Alvord Lake — but they were installed without public notice

Let’s take the Rent Board first.

Breed declined to reappoint Polly Marshall, who has served as a tenant representative on the board for 35 years and was an expert on the complexities of the rulings that board has to make. Instead, she named Reese Isbell, who is a tenant, a Breed supporter – and someone who has little or no experience with the actual function of the Rent Board.

We saw the result at last week’s meeting, when a confusing issue that could wind up costing some tenants a lot of money came before the five-member panel.

The question was whether Veritas could pass through to tenants at 430 Baker Street a rent increase based on the fact that the giant landlord had bought the property recently – and wanted to pass along the increased property taxes and mortgage costs.

A year ago, an ordinance authored by Sup. Sandra Lee Fewer banned that practice: Why should tenants pay for a landlord’s loan and taxes, when the buyer knew in advance what those costs would be (and what the existing rents are) and decided to buy anyway?

Why, in a heated real-estate marked with vast speculation, should tenants be penalized because buyers are willing to borrow huge sums to buy property (and because under Prop. 13, the new buyer pays higher taxes?)

But of course, there were some landlords who were in the process of buying buildings in the narrow time between when Fewer introduced the law and when it passed, and they insisted on (and got) a provision in the law saying that if they had “reasonable reliance” on the ability to pass those costs through to tenants when they bid on the property, they should be allowed to pass on the costs.

What’s “reasonable reliance” mean? That’s what the Rent Board was arguing.

Commissioner Cathy Mosbrucker, an experienced tenant lawyer, argued that Veritas clearly knew what they were getting into. “This is Veritas,” she said. “They are the reason that debt service was eliminated” for pass throughs.

In fact, she said, “If Veritas had been told that everyone in this building was a senior [and would then be exempt from the pass-through] would the sale still have gone through? Probably. Would the price have changed? No.”

She asked that the case be sent back to the administrative law judge who had approved the rent hikes and suggested that the board needed a clearer definition of “reasonable reliance” since “we are setting a standard for all these cases.”

I know – this is complicated. That’s what the Rent Board deals with.

Isbell seconded Mosbrucker’s motion, and said that “when it doubt, we should side with humanity.” The landlord reps took that argument apart: It’s not about Veritas, they said, it’s about equally applying the law.

The panel voted 3-2 to approve the pass-throughs. Isbell voted the right way – but in a contentious matter like this one, tenants argue that they need a representative who is already familiar with the intricacies of the law and able to argue legal and policy reasons to sway the single neutral vote (which belongs to Shoba Dandillaya, a commercial real-estate lawyer).

Nobody wants to argue that Isbell is anything but a nice buy who is a tenant and whose heart is in the right place. The tenant community just argues that he’s not qualified for this position.

The vote at Rules is a precursor to a vote at the full board next week. It would take eight votes to override the mayor’s appointment.

Then there’s surveillance.

Sup. Aaron Peskin is concerned – as are a lot of privacy advocates – about the rise in government technology that is used to spy on people. This could be crime cameras in the park. It could be license-plate readers. It could be new stuff that we haven’t thought about yet (the private sector is ahead on this spy gig,but government will catch up).

Peskin wants any city department that wants to acquire or use surveillance technology to first get approval from the supes. All that would require is a clear statement – in public, at a hearing — about how the technology would be used, how long the data would be stored, and who would have access.

And it would ban the use of facial-recognition technology.

“We all believe in community policing, but we don’t believe in a police state,” Peskin told me. “This is not a radical ordinance, it’s drawn from what state Sen. Jerry Hill has tried to pass, and what has already been passed in Santa Clara County.”

Peskin said he’s not, for example, against crime cameras, but “you have to tell us who you are going to use them.”

The National Center for Lesbian Rights supports the law:

Discrimination and harassment by law enforcement is an ongoing and pervasive problem for LGBT individuals, particularly those who are members of low-income communities or communities of color.Because surveillance efforts have historically targeted marginalized and vulnerable communities, NCLR strongly believes surveillance technologies need to be regulated, and in the case of facial-recognition technology, prohibited.

There is no place in the City and County of San Francisco for the use of facial-recognition technology. In its current iteration, the technology is inaccurate and tends to deliberately or inadvertently target people of color and other vulnerable communities. The inaccuracies and biases built into facial-recognition technology also amplify the significant concerns that this technology will deprive individuals of key constitutional safeguards that undergird our criminal justice system.

The Coalition on Homelessness supports it:

Story after story in the media show the ways in which such technologies have either deliberately or inadvertently targeted people of color, violated the citizenry’s civil liberties, and laid the groundwork for a truly Orwellian society where people’s every move is monitored and potentially criminalized.

Color of Change supports it:

Time and time again, surveillance technologies have been used to target Black communities, immigrants, poor people, religious minorities, and communities of color. When employed by police departments and governments, technologies like automated license plate readers, camera-equipped drones, stingrays, and predictive policing software increase the number of unnecessary interactions between marginalized communities and the police, and threaten San Franciscans’ safety.

Amazon’s facial recognition software, Rekognition, for instance, falsely matched a disproportionately high number of Black members of Congress with arrest booking photos.But even if bias were somehow eliminated from this technology, its deployment would still undoubtedly undermine public safety and harm Black communities by enabling high-tech profiling.

All of this would seem eminently reasonable – except that the Police Officers Association and a group called “Stop Crime SF,” run by sometimes Examiner and Chronicle columnist Joel Engardio, has been bombarding the supes with pre-written emails arguing that public safety is at risk.

Peskin told me the Chief Bill Scott has not come out against the legislation (he has taken no position) so it’s just the POA and Stop Crime SF. But they are generating a lot of letters, and this could be far more contentious that it needs to be.

The meeting starts at 10am in Room 265, City Hall.

The Agenda: Saving a SoMa park

The project would add significant shadow to the Soma park

The Board of Supes will hear an appeal Tuesday/9 of a project in SoMa, and the outcome will show how serious the city is about enforcing a 34-year-old law that protects sunshine in the city parks.

The story behind the project is also an indication of how difficult it can be to deal with the bureauracy of City Planning – even if you’re a lawyer who knows how the system works.

The project would add significant shadow to the SoMa park

At issue is a project at 1052 Folsom and 190 Russ Street that would demolish three existing buildings and create a new, seven-story building with 63 housing units and some ground-floor retail. The legal minimum – 15 units – would be below-market-rate.

The South of Market Community Action Network, Somcan, is appealing the project arguing that the new building will cast a shadow on one of the few parks in the neighborhood, Victoria Manalo Draves Park.

There’s no question that the new building will shadow the park. The only issue is whether that impact is significant.

The Recreation and Parks Commission voted 4-2 to oppose the project on the grounds that the shadows violate Prop. K, a 1984 law that bans any development that would cast shadows on a city park.

But the Planning Commission voted 4-3 to approve the project, with all of the commissioners appointed by the Board of Supes opposed and all of those appointed by the mayor in favor.

The whole thing is a mess. From the appellants letter:

Planning Commission heard and approved Project the afternoon of Thursday, December 20, 2018, following a separate independent hearing by Recreation and Park Commission the morning of December 20, 2018. Attorney for appellant SOMCAN, Sue Hestor, made request for records to Doug Vu, planner at Planning Department to Project December 20, 2018. Separate request was made for CEQA files. A second records request was made to Doug Vu on Friday, December 21, 2018. Vu opened both emails requesting files December 21, 2018. No reply was sent.

On Monday, December 24, 2018, Hestor went to Planning Department to review files/dockets on Project. CEQA files/docket were available and reviewed. Hestor requested that staff call Vu to determine whether they would be available Wednesday, December 26. Planning Department staff could not locate Vu or anyone else on project. While at Department at 12:56pm December 24, 2018 Hestor sent 3rd email to Doug Vu requesting to review files.

An automatic reply was sent that Vu was no longer at Planning Department and sender should contact Richard Sucre if no new planner was identified on Property Information Map. This was first information that he had left December 21,

On December 26, 2018 series of requests for documents with various persons at Planning Department began. First reply was December 31, 2018 when “Records Request Planning Department” stated that they would endeavor to reply by January 10, 2019.

Hestor made repeated unsuccessful attempts to get both project files and final motions of approval from Planning Department.

Planning was unable to locate any paper files/dockets on Project after Vu left the Department.

This is a critical vote for the supes, who only rarely overturn Planning Commission decisions. An earlier version of this project (sponsored by notorious Ellis Act evictor Sergio Iantorno) was rejected because of its shadow impacts. Now the developer has come back with a bigger project, and apparently has the support of the mayor, because all of her planning commissioners (and only her planning commissioners) voted in favor of it.

Victoria Malano Draves Park (named after a Filipino-American Olympic gold medalist from San Francisco) is the only full-service park in the neighborhood. The shadows from this building would, at times, darken a significant part of the open space.

That’s a big deal: As then-Sup Jane Kim said when the Rec-Park Commission considered the item, this is often a cold city, and sun means a lot to people in urban parks.

It’s also a big deal to the community. As Juliette Languette told the commission:

As young Filipino-Americans we strive to keep a connection between our history and culture and Filipino community here in San Francisco. Victoria Manalo Drave park is a community space that the South of Market Filipino community fully enjoys in peace and sunshine and the park is also a symbol of a Filipino-American’s achievement and therefore reflecting the achievement our community. We believe in these developments are allowed to take place, pieces of our culture and Filipino-American community hold dear will begin to disappear.

The hearing begins at 3pm.

SF to pay $13.1 million to man who was framed by cops

The Board of Supes is set to approve Tuesday/19 a $13.1 million settlement of a lawsuit filed by a young man who, a jury found, was framed by the SFPD for a murder he did not commit.

Jamal Trulove spent more than six years in prison for killing his friend Seu Kuka. His sentence was overturned on appeal, after the appellate court found that the SF District Attorney’s Office had presented faulty evidence to the jury. “This yarn was made of whole cloth,” Presiding Justice Anthony Kline wrote.

The Trulove case is a horror story of bad policing and prosecution. The cops tagged Trulove, an African-American living in the Sunnydale Housing Project, as a “gang member” when he was only 12, the lawsuit states. He was once detained, the complaint states, along with his brothers who were seven and eight years old, after an argument on a basketball court; the cops said he was “associating with future gang members.”

His conviction in the Kuka killing, the suit argues, was the result of “serious misconduct by the San Francisco Police Department officers investigating the Kuka shooting. SFPD manipulated an eyewitness … into misidentifying Mr. Trulove as the shooter. Defendants then hid the blatantly improper means they had used to obtain the misidentification.”

The suit named Officers Maureen D’Amico and Michael Johnson, who oversaw the investigation, along with 19 others involved in the case.

At the time of his arrest, Trulove was a father, actor, and hip-hop performer who had just been on the national TV show I Love New York 2.

After he was released from prison, a jury awarded him $10 million. His lawyers asked for another $4.5 million in attorney’s fees. The settlement is a clear statement by the city that the SFPD and the DA’s Office screwed up, badly, and deeply damaged the life of an innocent man.

The lawsuit discusses some of the horrors that an innocent man had to suffer in prison. In San Quentin, he was stabbed for mistakenly failing to cede the lower bunk in his cell to a prison gang member. He was moved to a prison in Southern California where his family couldn’t visit. He was later in a violent prison where most of the time the ward was on “lockdown” meaning he and his cellmate had to stay in a six-foot-by-nine-foot cell almost 24 hours a day.

Meanwhile, his kids grew up without him.

This tragic framing of an innocent person by SFPD has happened before.

And, as was the case with the John Tennison story, which cost the city $4.5 million, none of the people involved at SFPD and the DA’s Office have faced any discipline at all.

There’s no provision in city law that requires any sort of automatic disciplinary review of officers or prosecutors who are named in a civil lawsuit – even if a jury finds that they were guilty of misconduct and the verdict costs the city millions.

That might be something for the supes to ask about when they approve paying the $13 million.

The supes will also consider a measure to force the airport to follow the board’s direction and make it clear that the international terminal is actually named Harvey Milk Terminal.

The airport’s original plans made Milk’s name so small that it appeared as an afterthought. Now. Sup. Hillary Ronen wants to give clear direction that the words Harvey Milk Terminal have to be at least four feet high on the building, and Terminal 1 has to be half that size.

On Thursday, the Planning Commission will hear the 2018 Housing Inventory Report, which shows that housing production at all levels is down from last year. A total of 2,600 market-rate units were added, down 41 percent from 2017, and only 645 affordable units, down 56 percent.

But that’s not because of Nimbys blocking approval: The planners approved and entitled 72 projects with a total of 4,552 units. The vast majority were in buildings of more than 20 units, most of them condos.

In fact, since 1999, the city has authorized the construction of 62,500 housing units, and 45,500 have been built.

Why isn’t more housing going up? It has a lot more to do with capital markets and investment money – and the rapidly increasing cost of construction – than with the Yimby narrative that it’s too hard to get a building permit.

Another twist: The city approved 138 new accessory dwelling units, an fancy name for in-law apartments, which seems like a pretty small number. And those count toward the total of 645 affordable units.

That’s odd because, while ADUs are under rent control, they start off at market rate, which is hardly affordable to most San Franciscans.

Here’s the real news: The city has already allowed 96 percent of the high-end housing units we are supposed to authorize by 2022, under the state’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment. So if you believe in the RHNA, which Gov. Newsom seems to, San Francisco doesn’t really need to allow more than a handful of new market-rate projects.

But only 15 percent of the moderate-income units, 32 percent of the low-income units, and 45 percent of the very-low income units have been constructed.

That’s the housing crisis.

Will the state Democratic Party support public power?

Demonstrators opposing a PG&E bailout at the CPUC. Photo by Heidi Alletzhauser

The collapse of Pacific Gas and Electric Company is leading to serious efforts on both the statewide and the local level to replace the failed private utility with public-power agencies.

The grassroots movement is in place. The political and financial information is clear.

Demonstrators opposing a PG&E bailout at the CPUC. Photo by Heidi Alletzhauser

A group of Democratic Party activists, led by party delegates Glenn Glazer and Lowell Young, working through the Coalition for a Power Safe California, is circulating a petition asking the party at its May convention to approve a resolution calling for statewide public power. The current draft, which is still a work in progress, says the following:

Whereas the public good must always be the first consideration of the people and our government, and it is demonstrable that PG&E has been acting in wanton and probable  illegal disregard of the public’s health and well-being by differing maintenance and upkeep of their equipment as demonstrated by the roughly 40 fires and gas explosions known to have been caused by their unmaintained equipment, including the San Bruno gas explosion, for which it is on probation for causing, and because of its poor safety record, the PUC is considering the possibility of breaking up PG&E as well as other measures against it; and

Whereas PG&E faces financial ruin due to law suits that have resulted from their negligence and poor management and faces bankruptcy, which will disrupt the company’s operations and place the public’s well-being in great jeopardy, and PG&E has asked for rate increases to cover their losses rather than letting their stockholders bear those loses which is a risk of holding stock in any corporation; and

Whereas the State has shown that it can run an insurance company that competes on the open market successfully, and that operation, The State Fund, and the FAIR programs can be used as models on how to run a non-profit public utility owned by the people by keeping the existing employees of PG&E and installing a top management team initially appointed by the governor and the leaders of the state Senate and the Assembly;

Therefore we call upon the California State Government to acquire PG&E by Eminent Domain or to purchase the stock of PG&E at the lowest market value of the stock in the three years prior to the stocks purchase to prevent the manipulation of the stock’s price which would be unfair to the public, and any loss should be borne by the shareholders of recorded on the date of takeover, and 50% of the new board of directors shall be employees and union representatives and all current union benefits shall be honored and each union shall have their membership protected and all other PG&E employees would be encouraged to unionize. Said new management shall run the company for the benefit of the people and serve until replaced by the State Legislature and governor.

The state party controls resolutions pretty tightly, and I have seen party chairs deflect and quietly kill anything that might offend potential donors (and in the past, PG&E has donated to lots of Democratic Party officials, including the current governor, Gavin Newsom). But there’s momentum here, and this resolution will be hard to ignore — particularly with the growing number of progressives winning election as state party delegates.

I wonder if someone at the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee will introduced a resolution supporting this concept; it would draw some clear lines on that panel.

Meanwhile, Sup. Aaron Peskin has told me that acquiring PG&E’s distribution system – or at least starting that process – is a top legislative priority for 2019.

And on Thursday/14,the Board of Supes Rules Committee will hold a hearing on PG&E’s intransigence in providing connections to let the city use its own hydropower to power public agencies and affordable housing projects. That’s been an issue for more than a year, and Sup. Hillary Ronen is asking for an update.

Peskin’s suggestion, which will likely come up at the hearing, is that the city buy its own distribution system, so that PG&E can’t control the local power grid anymore.

The hearing starts at 10am, City Hall Room 263.

That committee will also hear an ordinance rescinding the authorization for the San Francisco Police Department to be a member of the National Rifle Association or collect NRA tournament fees. Sup. Catherine Stefani wants the city to sever all ties with an organization that opposes even the most modest restrictions on the ownership of assault weapons.

On Aug. 30, 2018, a student at Balboa High accidentally discharged a gun, setting off a massive law-enforcement response. In the process, three students were detained and questioned by the cops, and one student was (wrongly) identified in some news media as the shooter.

Now Sups. Ronen, Peskin, and Vallie Brown are introducing legislation to require than anyone 17 or younger who is questioned by police to be provided with a lawyer and to have parents present. The law would ban the cops from asking any questions of any minor until that person has legal (and parental) representation.

Current state and federal law say that cops can’t question anyone 15 or younger without a parent or lawyer present. But according to a Dec. 20 letter sent to Ronen from the National Center for Youth Law:

Law, science, and common experience all conclude that, as compared to adults, youth have less capacity to understand their rights and are significantly more vulnerable to giving false statements in response to routine interrogation. …

Currently, youth 16 and older in California can waive their Miranda rights on their own, as long as the waiver was made in a voluntary, knowing, and intelligent manner. However, research demonstrates that young people often fail to comprehend the meaning of Mirandarights. Even more troubling is the fact that young people are unlikely to appreciate the consequences of giving up those rights. They are also more likely than adults to waive their rights and confess to crimes they did not commit.

The Rules Committee will consider the legislation Monday/11 at 10am, Room 263 City Hall.

Sup. Sandra Lee Fewer has a far-reaching proposal: She wants qualified non-profit housing organizations to have a right of first refusal on any multi-family housing that goes on sale in the city.

That would mean anyone who owns a building with multiple tenants would have to inform the nonprofit housing community that they want to sell the property, give that nonprofit the first right to bid on it – and also give the nonprofit the right to match any private bid that the landlord is prepared to accept.

The legislation would guarantee that any tenant in any building purchased by a nonprofit would get to remain at the same rent and under the same lease conditions.

The law would be a boost to the existing “small-sites” program, which sets aside money (not enough) to help prevent evictions by helping nonprofits and land-trust operations buy at-risk buildings and take the out of the private market forever.

The Planning Commission will discuss Fewer’s proposal Thursday/14. The hearing starts at 1pm, City Hall Room 400.

Debate over $185 million windfall begins this week

Yes, some homeless people have been housed -- but many more are taking their place.

The debate over how to spend a $185 million windfall that the city just received begins at the Board of Supes Wednesday/6 when the Budget and Finance committee takes up a competing pair of proposals.

Mayor London Breed wants to allocate all of the money for homeless services and affordable housing. The coalition that promoted Prop. C, which raises taxes on the city’s biggest and richest businesses, also supports that idea.

The mayor wants the windfall to go entirely to homeless programs and housing; others have competing priorities.

(Prop. C will be tied up in the courts for a while because it didn’t get two-thirds of the vote. Breed’s active opposition to the measure may well have cost Prop. C its unassailable majority.)

From the Our City Our Home statement:

The Prop C priorities (approved by San Francisco voters) of funding homelessness services as well as other pressing civic needs cannot wait. The influx of increased ERAF funding could provide housing, mental health care and drug addiction services, contribute to clean and healthy streets, prevent additional homelessness, and move youth, women, seniors, and families with young children off of the streets and into supportive and affordable homes.

Four supervisors have a slightly different proposal. Sups. Aaron Peskin, Rafael Mandelman, Sandra Lee Fewer, Gordon Mar,and Norman Yee want to allocate $20 million to pay raises for early-education teachers, $13 million to the school district for teacher pay increases, and $15.6 million to the SF Public Utilities Commission to begin acquiring public-power infrastructure.

The money comes from a property-tax fund for public schools. When the city’s property taxes are higher than expected, and the schools are “fully funded” according to the state, then the city gets the money back for its General Fund.

The so-called Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund is loaded with money thanks to higher-than-expected property tax revenue. In fact, according to the Controller’s Office, the city could be getting another $200 million in 2019.

The teacher’s union argues that the money was originally designed to fund education – and that the schools may have met the funding level required by the state, but it’s still way too low.

Proposition G, which passed in June 2018, gives teachers a 7 percent wage increase – but that, too, is stalled in the courts. The district has enough reserve money to cover the pay hike for this year. But “the teachers expect the board to allocate enough money here and now to pay for next year and the following year,” union activist Ken Tray told me. The $13 million on the table isn’t enough, and the union will be asking for significantly more.

(And I don’t think the teachers are happy that Breed is pitting them against homeless people.)

Both the mayor’s plan and the supes’ alternative contain language saying that the General Fund will be repaid if Props. C and G are upheld in court.

Sup. Hillary Ronen told me she supports giving more money to the teachers, and that the supes and various constituent groups will be meeting in the next few days to try to work out what the supes’s final alternative will look like.

Whatever it is, it won’t be exactly what the mayor wants, setting up the first major conflict between Breed and the new progressive board.

The Land Use and Transportation Committee meets Monday/4 to consider and vote on a tax on vacant storefronts – and it’s clearly a winner. All 11 supes are co-sponsors.

The measure is an attempt to go after landlords who are holding property off the market in the hope that the rents will go even higher – the perverse impacts of the tech boom, spreading all over town.

It’s driven property values up so high that we are losing community institutions – Lucca’s on Valencia, which has been in operation since 1925, is closing so the family that owns it can sell the building for millions.

The tax on vacant buildings may help some small businesses get leases. But let’s not forget that the Twitter Tax break and the policies associated with it have devastated the city.

And I am still waiting for any of the people who supported that policy to say they made a mistake.

Fight the PG&E bailout!

THE AGENDA The California Public Utilities Commission is meeting Mon/28 to discuss, among other things, PG&E’s rates and the pending bankruptcy. Some of the meeting will be in closed session – but there will be activists on the scene.

A protest against any PG&E bailout takes place at 2:30pm, while the commission is holding an emergency meeting. 505 Van Ness, SF.

The SF Planning Department is all agitated about a bill by Sup. Aaron Peskin that would require all projects that seek to use the state’s Density Bonus Law to pay the affordable housing fee on the extra space.

It’s a bit complicated, but in essence, projects that filed their first paperwork before Jan. 12, 2016, are considered “grandfathered” and don’t have to pay the fee.

Peskin wants everyone to pay. The planning staff disagrees:

There are a total of six projects that have invoked the State Density Bonus law and filed an EEA prior to January 12, 2016. Of these, one project that was previously approved has subsequently submitted an application to change to a Student Housing project (which would not be subject to the Inclusionary program) and another utilized the State Density Bonus law to shift building mass and height but did not obtain any additional units or floor area—so the Ordinance would have no effect on either project.

Of the remaining four projects, all but one have already been issued a Site Permit, meaning that there is only one project to which the fee requirement could potentially be applied, and this project is seeking entitlement from the Planning Commission in February. This project proposes a roughly 33% increase in residential floor area; therefore, the additional fee that would potentially be generated under the Ordinance is roughly $1 million.

So the planners want to give up a million dollars to protect the rights of a developer who got Sacramento to make it easier to build market-rate housing.

Then the commission will take up the second part of its housing strategy discussion. On the agenda: The CASA plan, state Sen. Scott Wiener’s legislation to force more market-rate housing into cities, and local housing programs.

The department has put out a handy chart that looks like this:

Which says nothing at all about the connections between new office space and the demand for housing, or the impacts of market-rate housing on affordable housing.

The meeting starts at 1pm, Room 400 City Hall.

The new supes, a public bank, police secrecy …

Matt Haney spoke to a full house at Glide

Matt Haney had his ceremonial swearing in today at Glide, and the room was packed. Even State Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblymember David Chiu, who had supported Haney’s opponents, showed up. The festive event kicked off a series of events to mark the arrival of three new supervisors – and the emergence of a progressive majority on the board.

Matt Haney spoke to a full house at Glide

We still don’t know who will be board president. I know that Mayor Breed is pushing for Shamman Walton, and Hillary Ronen, who has been dismissed by some of her colleagues as too radical and unable to get along with the mayor, is willing to vote for Walton. Putting people who have no record on the board in the top slot hasn’t worked out that well for progressives in the past (see: David Chiu, who won with progressive support and very quickly turned on his supporters). Other progressives (and maybe some moderates) are supporting Norman Yee, who would be in every way a caretaker president; he’s termed out in two years, and has shown no interest in running for any other office.

Elected officials — including some that didn’t endorse Haney — showed up for the event.

There will be public comment on the board president vote before it happens. You can expect the supporters of every possible candidate to show up for what will be a crowded meeting anyway.

Here’s a list of upcoming events for the week. The board meeting starts at noon onTuesday/8and will be dedicated entirely to the swearing in ceremony, the election of a board president, and comments by the mayor and new supes.

The board will get to work next week, after the new president assigns committees.

Among the issues that will be on the agenda for the new board is the concept of a public bank, something that’s been under discussion for years but has risen to the level where a lot of one-time skeptics are starting to take it seriously. The city raises and spends $11 billion a year, and all of that money is held in commercial banks, which make a profit off the business. Public bank advocates say the city could use that profit to fund affordable housing, economic development in low-income communities, green energy, and so many other things.

The SF Public Bank Coalition is holding a kick-off event called “The People vs. Wall Street” Thursday/10at the Women’s Building. 6pm-8pm. More info. here.

The San Francisco Police Commission has been holding community meetings to discuss how and when police reports should be made available to crime victims and their families, and will discuss the issue in a special hearing Thursday/10. There are much bigger issues here: The state Legislature has finally passed a bill that allows public access to some police disciplinary records, and that took effect Jan. 1. We are all still dealing with the issues created by the state Supreme Court in the Copley Press decision.

And the entire issue of police reports ought to be discussed. Years ago, reporters (or any member of the public) could ask for and get a police report on any incident. That’s the case in many other states. But the SFPD doesn’t do that anymore; all that the department will release is the basic, minimum information (the name of a person arrested and the charges).

There’s no state law that bars the release of police reports. The SFPD could go back to its old practice of making them public, and the commission could make that a general order. I have told several police chiefs that the current policy is silly: Police reports offer the officers’ side of the story – and only the officers’s side. The reports are what the cops say happened (and their interviews with witnesses). Why would the department not want to make that public?

The meeting starts at 10:30 at SFPD headquarters, 1245 Third St.

Don’t forget that Democrats in San Francisco will elect delegates to the state party Saturday/12 and Sunday/13. There are competing slates, and the results will depend entirely on who gets their voters to show up, stand in line, and cast a ballot. If you care about the future of the California Democratic Party, show up early and vote.

Gavin Newsom, who was once a member of the SF Parking and Traffic Commission, then a supervisor and mayor, will be sworn in as governor of California Monday/7.

There are all manner of fancy, high-priced events. It will cost you around $25,000 to get a ticket to the main event, on the steps of the Capitol, but you can spend a lot more and get access to a lot of other events.

Newsom will make a speech with a lot of glorious platitudes about the future of California; that’s what he does. I don’t have an advance copy of his speech, but I can absolutely guarantee that he will not discuss a fact that ought to be at the heart of any agenda for the world’s fifth-largest economy:

California now has 144 billionaires, and their net worth — $9.1 trillion – is four times the size of the state’s impressive Gross Domestic Product.

This is not (to use a buzz word Gavin loves) a “sustainable” situation.

But Newsom never, ever did a single thing to address economic inequality in his political career. I don’t even know if he understands the concept.

Happy New Year.

Celebrating the new supes …

The new Board of Supes is sworn in Jan. 8, and the first order of business will be electing a president. The process has run the spectrum from entirely expected and predictable (Tom Ammiano in 2001) to contentious (Matt Gonzalez over Aaron Peskin and Sophie Maxwell after seven rounds of voting in 2003) and unpredictable (David Chiu, in his first day on the job in 2009).

Several events will celebrate the victories of Sups. Matt Haney and Gordon Mar

As of today, I don’t think anyone has lined up the six votes needed, and there’s a lot of discussion among the potential candidates(I can count at least five) and their supporters. There are at least six and probably seven progressive votes, so the left should be able to elect a candidate who politically will be a counter to the mayor.

The board meeting will start at 2pm. There will be nothing else on the agenda.

There will, on the other hand, be plenty of parties to celebrate the new supes. All six will likely have some sort of reception in their offices after the meeting. You won’t have to wait until the official swearing in to party with Matt Haney; he’s holding a community swearing-in event Sunday/6 at Glide Memorial Church, 330 Ellis Street. 1:30pm.    

There’s a Chinatown Community Banquet Monday/7, hosted by the Community Tenants Association, the Chinese Progressive Association Action Fund and the Rose Pak Democratic Club celebrating the election of Haney, Gordon Mar, and Shamann Walton and Rafael Mandelman. 6pm-9pm, New Asia Restaurant, 772 Pacific, $50. RSVP info@rosepakdemclub.org.

Haney, Mar, and Walton are celebrating their inauguration Tuesday/8 at the Great American Music Hall, 6pm. Info here.

As I hear of more events I will add them to the list.

The Democratic Socialists of America holds a kickoff for its Transit Justice campaign Friday/4. DSA, which has become a significant factor in SF politics, is asking

How can we build a more just and accessible public transit in San Francisco? Come to the kickoff meeting to envision a truly “transit first” system that serves all residents, whether they live centrally or not!

6pm, 350 Alabama.

Chronicle columnist Willie Brown is suddenly recognizing that policies he supported for most of his career are now damaging the city. He bemoans the death of Gump’s:

Shed a tear for Gump’s, the latest longtime San Francisco institution to go by the wayside. Gump’s is just one of many fashionable stores in and around Union Square that has suffered from skyrocketing rents, downtown traffic gridlock and an aging clientele.

It may be time for San Francisco to start thinking about some type of rent control for retail outlets. Otherwise, we are going to have a downtown made up of chain stores, coffee shops, empty storefronts and the homeless.

One: Skyrocketing rents and the traffic gridlock are largely due to the tech invasion (and the deregulation of the cab industry in favor of Uber and Lyft) that the mayor he backed and convinced to run for a full term, Ed Lee, promoted.

Two: Brown knows full well that the state Legislature – which he controlled for many years – banned cities from imposing commercial rent control in 1987, when he was the all-powerful speaker of the Assembly. He could have stopped that (in the same way he could have killed the Ellis Act or Costa-Hawkins, the way David Roberti did until he was termed out). But on his watch, the real-estate industry ruled.

It’s fine to say you were wrong and should have done things differently. It’s not fine to pretend the policies of your entire political career didn’t happen.

 

SF keeps losing affordable housing

The maximum affordable housing the city is getting is 18 percent, and that's going to drop

The latest Housing Balance Report comes before the Board of Supes Land Use and Transportation Committee Monday/10 and the news is as bleak as ever: In the past ten years, San Francisco has built 6,577 affordable housing units – and lost 4,263, mostly to evictions and Tenancy in Common conversions.

That means every time the city creates two affordable units, it loses one.

The maximum affordable housing the city is getting is 18 percent, and that’s going to drop

“There are a lot of numbers thrown around these days about housing,” Peter Cohen, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, said in a press statement. “Here, in this Housing Balance Report, authored by the Planning Department we have the real story, from the city’s own building permit data, planning data, and Rent Board data.”

The message: SF is never going to solve its housing problem unless the city can stop allowing existing affordable housing to be taken off the market. It’s far, far cheaper to protect existing rent-controlled housing than to build new housing.

The report, which you can read here, is just the latest evidence of the failure of city housing policy. San Francisco is, of course, limited by state law – the city can’t ban Ellis Act evictions or impose rent controls on vacant apartments. Instead of fighting to change those things, our state legislators are pushing to mandate more market-rate housing.

But the city now has a huge budget windfall – and the supes will be discussing how much of that money can go to implementing Prop. C and buying up small sites that are vulnerable to Ellis evictions and TICs.

The hearing starts at 1:30 pm.

The committee also finally gets to consider the proposal by Sups. Ahsha Safai and Aaron Peskin to ban employee caefterias from new office buildings. The idea is to help local small businesses by encouraging tech workers to go outside of their office cocoons and actually buy lunch and interact with the community where they work.

The Budget and Finance Committee will hear a report Thursday/13 from the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector on the findings of the Municipal Banking Task Force. The task force has issued a draft report, which you can read here. There are models that require a public subsidy, and models that make a pretty fast profit.

The report is primarily financial, and doesn’t spend much time looking at what a municipal bank could do, for example, to finance affordable housing. But it’s clear that the concept is feasible, and could radically change the way the city and a lot of residents interact with the financial sector.

The meeting starts at 10am; the hearing is at the end of the agenda.

Mayor London Breed will appear at the full board meeting Tuesday/11 to begin (public) discussions over how the city should spend the $181 million in state money that’s suddenly on the table. The mayor has suggested that much of that funding should go to implement Prop. C (which she opposed). Some, including incoming Sup. Matt Haney, say that since it’s education money, some should go to increase teacher pay at SFUSD.

This will be the first time the supes and the mayor together have an open discussion on the topic. It’s why we have Question Time.

The board will also consider, in a special Committee of the Whole, whether to put a Charter Amendment on the Nov. 2019 ballot to preserve free City College for the indefinite future. We’re talking about a budget set-aside, and a lot of supes don’t like budget set-asides, which I understand – but in this case, the voters passed a measure that should (assuming the city survives the court challenges) provide a steady stream of revenue for the $15 million a year or so it would cost to allow low-income and working-class San Franciscans to get an education.

And the board will consider legislation that seeks to prevent the owners of single-family homes and condos to use massive rent increases as a tool for eviction – like this.

The Yimbys lost big-time in the November SF election – but that doesn’t mean they have lost the political support of some of the city’s most powerful officials. It’s worth noting that among the hosts (and presumably speakers) at the Yimby Action annual gala Tuesday/11 at the Swedish American Hall are Mayor London Breed, state Sen. Scott Wiener, state Assemblymember David Chiu, and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff.

All are now part of the Yimby agenda.