The Agenda

Celebrate 40 years of rent control — and support the Tenants Union

If you live in San Francisco, and you pay rent, you can thank the Tenants Union for the fact that you are still here.

The Tenants Union was the driving force for the creation of the city’s rent control law 40 years ago. It’s not perfect, but it’s saved the homes of tens of thousands of renters. There are huge numbers of people in this city who would have been forced out by rent gouging – or evicted without cause – if the law wasn’t in place.

And the SFTU has worked for decades to make the law stronger and more effective.

The staff and volunteers help more than 9,000 tenants a year with counseling and referrals – and knowing your rights is a huge step toward saving your home.

It’s time to celebrate 40 years of rent control – and help the Tenants Union continue its critical work. The party and fundraiser is Tuesday/11at Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, 2665 Mission. You can buy tickets or just make a donation here.

San Francisco International Airport just set new rules for Uber and Lyft pickups.You can’t get one of these Transportation Network Company rides at the curb anymore. That, the airport says, is all about fighting congestion.

But Sups. Aaron Peskin and Ahsha Safai want to go further. They are asking the airport to ban TNCs from picking up passengers at all.

That’s the fallout of two trends: Just before the advent of the illegal taxis (which SF did nothing to control), the city decided to start allowing the sale of taxi medallions on the open market.

Since 1978, medallions, the required license to operate a cab, were issued only to active drivers, and there was a waitlist of about 15 years. When one owner retired or died, that medallion went to the next in line. They were, for all practical purposes, free (the fee was minor).

Of course, nobody can drive a cab 24 hours a day, so for the shifts that medallion holders weren’t driving, they could rent out the permits to other drivers. The medallion became very lucrative.

Then starting in 2012, the city opened up a private market for medallions, which sold for as much as $250,000. Drivers would take out big loans to buy the permits; before the TNCs, you could make enough money driving a cab and leasing the medallion to pay off the loan.

Then Uber and Lyft started running, without any permits at all, and the city did nothing. When local officials finally started to crack down the TNCs went to Sacramento with high-powered lobbyists and got a rule overriding local control.

Which meant the 500 or so folks who, in good faith, borrowed hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a medallion were totally screwed as the business tanked. Uber and Lyft used venture capital to subsidize rides and cut costs to the point where legal cabs couldn’t compete.

But while San Francisco has no ability to regulate the number of Ubers on the street, the Airport sets its own rules on cabs and limos. Cabs need a permit to pick up at SFO; they need to get in line in the cab lot, take fares as they arrive, and follow the rules.

The new rules would let people who paid for medallions get priority on pickups; that’s a big deal, since rides from SFO to downtown are a big part of a cab driver’s income. Real cabs with older (unpaid) medallions would also get to do curb pickups.
Uber and Lyft could only pick up passengers in a designated area of the garage, a five-to-ten-minute walk from the terminal.

On Monday/10, the Land Use and Transportation Committee will hear a resolution urging the Municipal Transportation Agency to report back on how the new rules are going – and to urge SFO to stop allowing TNCs to pick up passengers.

That’s a small, but significant step toward regulating the rogue industry – and helping the drivers who, through no fault of their own, borrowed money to legally drive a cab while the city let Uber and Lyft illegally operate and drive down the value of that permit.

The meeting starts at 1:30 pm in the Board chamber.

The same committee will also hear the SF Public Utilities Commission’s preliminary report on options for taking over or replacing PG&E’s distribution system in the city.

The report is pretty clear:SF could buy PG&E’s distribution system, create a full public-power system, provide more green power – and cut rates. In fact, the city could do all of that and bring in hundreds of millions a year in extra revenue.

Oh: And we wouldn’t be facing blackouts when PG&E realizes it can’t maintain its lines well enough to prevent wildfires.

PG&E is so badly on the ropes right now that the company isn’t even putting up much of a fight. We’ll see who shows up at the hearing, but we aren’t seeing a lot of PG&E lobbyists at City Hall these days.

One important question for the supes on the committee to nail down is the finances. The report says it could cost a couple of billion to buy the system. PG&E’s entire market captalization is $10 billion right now (and has been as low in the past six months as $4 billion) so it’s hard to imagine that the old SF system would be worth more than $2 billion.

But suppose it’s $3 billion. Does that matter?

Not the way I’ve done the numbers:

It could be $1 billion, or $2 billion. Even at the high end, the interest on the bonds that would finance the buyout would be far, far less than the revenue the city would get from retail power distribution.

Tax-free Muni bonds that are highly rated (as SF’s would be) are paying about five percent interest these days. So we’re talking $50 million a year to pay the nut on a billion-dollar bond.

Double that? Pay $2 billion for the system? It’s $100 million a year in costs.

The SFPUC estimates that the revenue from sales of electricity in the city would be between $500 and $700 million a year.

The cost of the buyout isn’t an issue – at any reasonable price (and the system is going to be available for a reasonable price because PG&E is in bankruptcy) the city will make gobs of money on the deal.

I’d like to hear the UC finance people weigh in on that.

Does more density bring down housing costs? Come to the debate

Do we want Manhattan-level density in SF? Will it help?

The biggest change to housing law in California in decades – state Sen. Scott Wiener’s AB 50– is on hold, for the moment. But Wiener isn’t giving up, and at the latest, this bill could come back in January 2020.

And the debate over whether increased density will bring down housing prices in cities is by no means over.

Do we want Manhattan-level density in SF? Will it help?

One of the most compelling voices in that debate – UCLA economic geographer Michael Storper – will be in San Francisco Thursday/30to talk about the role of density in housing prices, his new study on the issue, and the future of the Wiener/Yimby agenda.

Storper is one of the most important academics challenging the notion – which oddly has become accepted dogma in the mainstream media and even places like The Nation– that more private-sector development will solve the urban housing crisis.

He suggests that

Policies such as blanket upzoning, which will principally unleash market forces that serve high income earners, are therefore likely to reinforce the effects of income inequality rather than tempering them … There is virtually no evidence that substantially lower costs would trickle down to the lower two-thirds of households or provide quality upgrading of their neighbourhoods, but it undoubtedly would enhance displacement in neighbourhoods currently at the boundary of higher-income inner metropolitan areas. Indeed, according to Zillow data reported in The Washington Post (August 6, 2018), rents are now declining for the highest earners while continuing to increase for the poorest in San Francisco, Atlanta, Nashville, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Washington, noting that a boom in luxury construction in these areas has failed to ease housing market competition for cheaper properties.

 

The event is free, open to all. There will be plenty of time for audience questions and discussion. It’s at 6:30pm, at the LGBT Center Rainbow Room, 1800 Market, SF.

It will also be livestreamed on our site.  But if you’re in town, show up in person –you can ask questions and participate in the discussion!

There’s not much happening with the supes this week, since the holiday has meant that most meetings are cancelled. But the Ethics Commission will meet Wednesday/29to consider some major changes to the local campaign finance law.

In essence, the city hasn’t updated its rules for matching funds in some time, and supporters say it’s time to catch up.

According to Steve Hill, who is promoting the changes, the new rules would:

1) Increase the maximum amount of public financing that a candidate can receive to $255,000 in a supervisor’s race and $1.2 million in a mayoral race. As the cost of campaigns escalates, grassroots and under-funded candidates need to be able to be competitive;

2) Increase the spending limit for publicly financed candidates to $350,000 (supervisor) and $1.7 million (mayor). This will ensure that publicly financed candidates are not badly outspent by big money candidates and their independent expenditure committees;

3) Increase the match of public financing funds that candidates receive from the current $2 in public money for every $1 in private money raised, to $6 for every $1 dollar raised (a level that Los Angeles, Berkeley and New York City already have);

4) Increase the initial grant given to publicly financed candidates to $60,000 (supervisor) and $300,000 (mayor) from the current $20,000 and $100,000.

There are some who argue that the city should also start disbursing money to candidates earlier in the cycle; that, they say, could help grassroots contenders get started (since let’s face it, many campaigns now start at least a year before Election Day.) Hill wants the date to stay the same as it is now.

It takes four votes on the five-member commission to move legislation, and right now there’s a vacant seat (commissioner Quentin Kopp has resigned and not been replaced). So every member would have to vote Aye for this to pass.

The meeting’s in Room 416 at 2pm.

The state Democratic Convention is in San Francisco Friday/31 to Sunday/2.It’s going to be a scene – pretty much every Democrat who is running for president will be there. I will be there, too – and posting updates on everything that happens, from the sex-workers rally to the MoveOn “Big Ideas” event to the candidate speeches.

As they say, watch this space.

Court to hear arguments on police raid of reporters house

The fate of the property of journalist Bryan Carmody – and the role of the local courts in allowing a clearly illegal search warrant that is an assault on the First Amendment and the California Constitution – will play out in court Tuesday/21.

Thomas Burke, Carmody’s attorney, fled a motion last week asking that the search warrant the police used to seize Carmody’s computers, cameras, notes, and other property be quashed and the property be returned to him immediately.

The case will come before Judge Samuel Feng.

The case leaves City Attorney Dennis Herrera in a tricky situation. He’s generally been good on news media issues – but now has to defend the Police Department in a case where there’s absolutely no legal justification for what happened.

The role of Mayor London Breed and Chief William Scott in defending this assault on the free press has made national news and has been embarrassing for the entire city. Now, Herrera has to argue that the shield law, the state Constitution, and the well-established rights of reporters to protect confidential sources.

From the brief:

State and federal law make it virtually impossible for government officials to obtain and execute search warrants targeting journalists’ newsgathering material. Instead, the Legislature and Congress both have adopted “subpoena-first” regimes which ensure that journalists have the opportunity to assert their rights against compelled disclosure in a noticed, contested court proceeding before a search takes place.

Despite this unambiguous controlling law, the San Francisco Police Department dispensed with the subpoena requirement entirely in this case and executed a pair of violent and breathtakingly overbroad searches of journalist Bryan Carmody’s home and office after obtaining plainly invalid warrants. In a needless display of force, nearly a dozen armed officers used a sledgehammer to break into Mr. Carmody’s residence and then kept him handcuffed for hours as they rummaged through his personal and professional belongings and seized 68 different items, including numerous computers, phones, cameras, tablets, hard drives, and reporters notebooks which Mr. Carmody uses for his work as a journalist.

The Shield Law protects against the compelled disclosure of journalists’ unpublished editorial information and resource materials. The law has been clear for decades that the Shield Law applies to freelance reporters like Mr. Carmody, and it broadly applies to any and all unpublished information obtained in the course of gathering and disseminating information to the public. Mr. Carmody gathered the information at issue in his role as a journalist, and as a non-party embroiled in a criminal investigation his protection under the Shield Law is absolute and not subject to any balancing of countervailing interests.

The government has not, and could not, make such a showing in this case, in which it has engaged in a breathtakingly overbroad fishing expedition by seizing dozens of electronic devices containing massive volumes of data related to all of Mr. Carmody’s newsgathering activities, with no particularized showing of need for any particular piece of information, and no showing of exhaustion of alternative sources.

Representing the city will be Sean Connolly, who is a former lawyer for the SF Police Officers Association now working for the city attorney.

I have long argued that the news media shouldn’t have paid for or used the leaked report about Adachi’s death. That’s an ethics issue, not a legal issue. In terms of the law, as far as I can understand it, this one’s a slam dunk – and the cops who asked for the search warrant and Judges Gail Dekreon and Victor Hwang who approved it, have a lot to answer for.

And speaking of police: May 22 is Harvey Milk’s birthday, and there will be numerous celebrations. Funcheap SF has a good rundown here.

In the first few years after Milk was assassinated by Supervisor (and former cop) Dan White, city leaders including Mayor Dianne Feinstein and Assembly Speaker Willie Brown showed up for the birthday marches (although Feinstein never went to a Pride Parade as mayor).

But as former Supervisor and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano remembers, there was never much talk about police reform in those days from City Hall. “It was no oversight, just a rubber stamp,” he told me — except from Harry Britt, Milk’s successor, who managed to create the Office of Citizens Complaints (now the Office of Police Accountability) — but he had to go to the ballot to do it.

The Democratic County Central Committee will meet Wednesday/22 to discuss, among other things, the controversial move by UCSF to affiliate with Dignity Health,a Catholic hospital group that does not offer abortions, has been charged with discriminating against transgender people, and in some cases asks affiliated doctors to sign a document agreeing that contraception is “intrinsically evil.”

From a petition signed by some 1,500 doctors and staff:

We are writing to you as UCSF faculty, staff, students, trainees, and alumni to express our deep concern about the UCSF affiliation with Dignity Health, particularly in light of the recent merger of Dignity Health with Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI). While Dignity Health has traditionally operated both Catholic (the majority of their hospitals) and non-Catholic hospitals, CHI hospitals and clinics are all direct Catholic ministries. These Catholic hospitals are required to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. According to the June 2018 update of these directives, Catholic health care facilities CANNOT PERMIT the following services:

  • Use of any form of contraception (a method to prevent pregnancy) except the provision of “natural family planning” counseling for married heterosexual couples
  • Use of in vitro fertilization to become pregnant (conception outside of a female’s body)
  • Use of a sperm or ovum donor
  • Use of a surrogate to carry a pregnancy
  • The termination of pregnancy (abortion), even in many cases in which a pregnancy is considered life-threatening

Dignity Health owns some non-Catholic hospitals (e.g. St. Francis in San Francisco), but these facilities must follow the Dignity Health Statement of Common Values whichdoes not permit use of in vitro fertilization, or the termination of pregnancy.

In addition, Catholic healthcare facilities interpret the Ethical and Religious Directives to explicitly prohibit the provision of gender affirming services (such as hormone treatment, hysterectomy, and mastectomy) for transgender people.

These are scary times for reproductive rights, transgender rights, and the rights of women to control their own bodies. UCSF is a public institution operating with tax money in a state where the vast majority of people support a woman’s right to choose (and pretty much everyone except a tiny minority – and I am including most Catholics here– opposes the Church’s position on birth control and in vitro fertilization).

Hard to imagine that we are even having this discussion in 2019. But UCSF isn’t backing down. And we haven’t heard from Gov. Gavin Newsom on the deal.

The item was added to the DCCC agenda late, so it will take a two-thirds vote to allow discussion and possible approval of a resolution opposing the affiliation. The opponents of the affiliation deal want the Board of Supes to pass its own resolution (and potentially, this could wind up at the state Democratic Convention in June).

The committee will also consider a new set of rules for behavior of its members – spurred by the bizarre racist statements of Angela Alioto at the last DCCC meeting. There’s no formal legislation, Chair David Campos told me; he wants a group of members and community people to draft the rules.

The supes will consider Tuesday/21 the nomination of landlord lawyer David Wasserman for another term on the Rent Board. The Rules Committee unanimously supported the nomination, and it will probably pass easily at the full board.

But a few things are worth noting from the Rules hearing Monday.

Critics argued that Wasserman may not live in San Francisco – he owns a nice house in Mill Valley, where he freely admitted he was living when former Mayor Ed Lee named him to the panel.

Wasserman takes his state homeowner’s exemption on his tax return at the Mill Valley address – which creates what the lawyers call a “rebuttable presumption” that he lives there.

And rebut it he did – he said that he is registered to vote in SF and that his driver’s license lists an apartment he owns on Fourth Avenue.

But he said that when Lee appointed him, “I scrambled very hard to find residency here. After a couple of months, I purchased a four-unit building in the Richmond district.” So he wasn’t living her when he was appointed.

He said he lives in one of the units now. Fine, maybe he does.

But here’s the more poignant moment in his testimony:

I humbly act — ask for the following. Whether you vote to remove me or not, at the end of the day, that is unimportant compared to the bigger picture of not politicizing the Rent Board, and I believe that is somebody who has been involved with the Rent Board for 23 years as a practitioner and almost five as a commissioner. We have great talent down there, on both sides, the tenant side and on our side, and I’d hate to see that system become politicized.

For the last 40-plus years, since 1979, we had a Rent Board that works.

Yes: For 40 years, there was an unwritten rule that the mayor would consult with the landlord and tenant communities before making appointments. The landlords wanted Wasserman; Ed Lee appointed him.

But it was Mayor London Breed who shattered that four-decade truce when she kicked Polly Marshall off the panel and appointed someone who clearly wasn’t qualified. The supes made sure that was fixed, but please:

Where was Wasserman when Breed politicized the Rent Board? I didn’t hear a peep from him.

The mayor’s housing bond will be at the Board of Supes Budget and Finance Committee Wed/22. I don’t think anyone is against the idea of a $500 million bond act for affordable housing – except that it’s far too small. With more than 8,000 homeless people on the streets and in their cars, $500 million will barely make a dent.

There’s no reason the bond act can’t be much larger – say, $1 billion or even more – except that nobody at City Hall wants to push a bond that raises property taxes. I get it – you need two-thirds to pass a bond act, and the moment you raise taxes you get opposition, and if landlords can pass it on to tenants, you get more (legit) opposition.

But I continue to ask: If the folks at City Hall really wanted to build a significant amount of new affordable housing, couldn’t they craft a measure that limits pass-through to tenants, raises taxes (just a little) on property – and campaign for it? Couldn’t we get a two-thirds vote?

The Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee will hold a hearing Thursday/23 on the Feb. 6 gas line explosion at Geary and Parker. The fire burned for hours while PG&E refused to shut off the gas to the areas as crews hand-dug through the street to get to a valve. A contractor working for Verizon didn’t have a valid state license, KQED reports.

Sups. Sandra Lee Fewer and Catherine Stefani want to dig through the disaster and figure out what really happened – and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

 

Protesting Uber’s IPO — and police secrecy

The finance experts expect Uber to hit Wall Street on Friday/10, possibly with the biggest IPO since Facebook – but not until after both its own drivers and the rest of the taxi industry launch protests.

Uber, the New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo notes, “is a moral stain on Silicon Valley.” I still find it somewhat bizarre that a company that started with a business model that was illegal everywhere it operated now gets to turn its founders and investors into billionaires; in the world of tech, I guess, crime pays.

But there’s another level of crime going on here: Top executives are on a path to fantastic riches, but the drivers – without whom there would be no Uber – are getting screwed.

The Uber model is to attract new business – to grow market share – at any cost. Every single ride is subsidized with venture capital, so that it’s cheap enough to lure passengers away not only from legal, regulated cabs but from public transportation. When the company needs to cut costs, it just cuts the amount it pays its drivers.

Rebecca Stack Martinez has been driving for Uber since last August. She was working between 60 and 80 hours a week, and earning – after paying for her own gas and car costs – about $750. That’s below the San Francisco minimum wage.

But no matter: Uber refused to consider the workers who make the entire company function employees. They’re independent contractors.

“They say they are going to cut rates more,” she told me. “They are going to continue to squeeze us.”

Martinez is particularly mad about the messages she’s getting from the pre-IPO company: “They say they can’t afford to pay drivers more, but the CEO is getting a $50 million bonus.”

Uber drivers will protest at company headquarters Wednesday/8 at noon. They’ll also log out of the ride-share system for 12 hours. There will be similar strikes in San Diego, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Los Angeles.

Gig Workers Rising, a group that advocates for the freelance contractors who make the “gig economy” work, are asking for a fair wage and reasonable transparency from Uber. “We want to know how much we are getting paid before we accept a ride,” Martinez said. “We should get honest information about the per-mile and per-minute rate.”

The group also wants worker protections (Uber can “deactivate” – that is, fire – a driver any time for any reason) and a voice at work. “If they are going to change our pay, we want a seat at the table,” she said.

The next day, Thursday/9, San Francisco taxi drivers will converge at Uber to protest the company’s “unlawful, unethical and destructive policies,” Mark Gruberg of the Taxi Workers Alliance told me. From the group’s press statement:

In its short history, Uber has shown itself to be the ugliest company on the face of the planet. Its recent attempts to change its image and noxious corporate culture do not address the damage its business model is doing to the environment, workers and the public.

Gruberg told me that his group wants to “focus attention on Uber as a company.”

That protest starts at 1pm. Uber’s HQ is at 1455 Market.

The SF Police Commission is finally getting around to approving rules for releasing documents under SB 1421, a new law that requires police departments to make public a fairly wide range of officer misconduct records that were previously considered confidential.

The proposed commission policy is here. It’s a good thing that the commission is finally – four months after SB 1421 became law – is moving forward on this. It’s been a long period of delays. I filed my first sunshine request under this law (for information about the officers who shot Alex Nieto) back in January, and I still haven’t received the information. The SFPD has delayed the response seven times, saying it doesn’t have time to handle all these requests:

SFPD has received a number of requests for previously confidential peace officer records made public as a result of the passage of SB 1421. Despite our best efforts to respond promptly, a backlog has quickly developed and will remain for some time.

SFPD must balance its duty to respond to public records requests with its duty to perform the broad range of tasks performed by SFPD personnel that result in keeping the peace and maintaining safety in our communities. Responding to your request will be quite burdensome and time-consuming, especially when coupled with our duty also to respond to like public records requests from  others. SFPD will not be able to respond within the customary time frame without unreasonably impinging on its ability to perform its other duties.

But there are some real issues with the proposed policy. Among other things, the commission wants the Department of Police Accountability to coordinate with the SFPD on all requests. John Crew, a longtime police accountability lawyer, notes:

Why can’t DPA interpret these provisions about its own records — particularly on subjective calls about whether to apply that discretionary exemption — in the way that it chooses?  Why should SFPD be able to block or delay what DPA has independently determined can and should release from its own records?  Say DPA sustains a charge of dishonesty against an officer and SFPD disagrees and chooses to impose no discipline.  The DPA investigative finding still stands and the DPA records from that case are all public records under SB 1421.  DPA can — and should — now choose to affirmatively publish detailed information with officers’ names anytime they sustain a dishonesty charge.  (There would be no better deterrent to the scourge of widespread lying within SFPD.)

Then there’s the technical – but important – difference between the California Public Records Act and the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance. The commission wants to say that records can be kept secret if “on the facts of the particular case, the public interest served by non-disclosure clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure.”

That’s state law. The San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance largely prevents local agencies from citing that exemption.

The other issue: The Commission needs to direct the department to promptly respond to media inquiries about issues that are now public record. The city just spent $13 million to settle a case involving a man who was convicted of murder after the court found that the SFPD and the DA’s Office had framed him. Were any of the officers involved disciplined in any way? That’s a simple question, and now the public has the right to an answer. Why is it taking so long?

What about the Nieto killing – and Luis Gongora Pat, and Amilcar Lopez?

“The taxpayers know how much they’re paying for these quite avoidable tragedies,” Crew said. “We’ve had a right to know since January 1st what, if anything, SFPD has done to make sure the tragedies don’t happen again.”

The meeting starts at 5:30pm in City Hall Room 200.

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.