The Agenda

The Agenda, July 22-July 29: The new (same old) Planning Commission …

Sup. Malia Cohen, I am reliably told, promised progressives on the board that she would re-appoint Planning Commissioners Dennis Richards and Kathrin Moore if they elected her board president. In fact, if she hadn’t agreed to that, and indicated she was leaning toward more developer-friendly appointees, I suspect she would not have been unanimously chosen.

And true to that deal, Cohen has asked the board to approve Moore and Richards for new four-year terms. Mayor London Breed has asked the supes to re-appoint her two candidates – incumbents Rodney Fong and Milicent Johnson – suggesting that she intends to follow the same basic planning policies as the late Mayor Ed Lee.

None of these nominations are any surprise – but they would suggest that the 4-3 split on major issues, with the mayor’s commissioners siding with developers and the supes commissioners more open to the neighborhoods and community concerns – is going to continue through the Breed Administration.

For those (like the Chron) who say there was no big policy difference between the candidates, here’s the first example where that’s demonstrably wrong: Either Sup. Jane Kim or Mark Leno would very likely have appointed more progressive candidates to this most crucial of city commissions.

The appointments come before the Rules Committee Wednesday/25.

The Rules Committee will also be looking at two appointments to the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force – appointments that have been delayed for months.

It’s a sensitive issue: Some of the supes have been openly hostile to the Task Force, which has as one of its jobs holding supervisors accountable for violations of the ordinance. There are only two nominees for the two spots, and both appear eminently qualified: Matthew Cate is a former reporter who is now a lawyer, and Lila LaHood is publisher of the SF Public Press.

The nominations are happening as sunshine advocates are discussing the possibility of a 2019 ballot initiative to close some loopholes, strengthen the Task Force by turning it into a commission, and update some of the open-government rules.

San Franciscans for Sunshine, which is pushing the new rules, is led by journalists and open-government advocates who are frustrated, as I am, by a persistent problem: Public officials simply defy the Sunshine Ordinance, and nothing happens.

Documents that ought to be released are never disclosed – or they vanish. (I know for a fact that a number of public officials have sent text messages on their phones during public meetings – and the law now says those are public – but when I’ve asked for them I’m told they don’t exist.)

The city attorney is almost by definition conflicted: That person has to by law represent public officials – and advise them on what’s public and what isn’t. It’s hard for the city attorney to tell an official to make something public when the city attorney also has to represent that official if they get in trouble for failing to disclose records.

Add to that the fact that technology is changing rapidly: The existing law never foresaw that much of city business would happen through text messages on private phones.

You can read a draft of the new ordinance here, although it hasn’t been updated to show all the recent changes. If you want to get involved in the campaign contact [email protected].

The Board goes on summer recess after this week. The Police Commission doesn’t meet this week. So things tend to slow down at City Hall the first couple of weeks of August. But we will be watching and updating you on anything that is going on.

Too many jobs, too little housing in Soma

All the yellow blocks show where new buildings could be allowed in Central Soma

The Central Soma Plan – which will open South of Market to the equivalent of a new downtown, with office space for at least 33,000 more workers and housing for 8,300 people – comes before the supes twice this week.

On Monday/16, the Board of Supes Land Use and Transportation Committee takes up the crux of the legislation that would rezone a fairly large swath of the city.

Then, on Tuesday/17, the full board hears an appeal by several community groups who are challenging the validity of the plan’ Environmental Impact Report, saying that, among other things, it grossly underestimates the impacts of adding more jobs than housing to a city that already has a severe housing shortage.

All the yellow blocks show where new buildings could be allowed in Central Soma

The Yerba Buena Neighborhood Consortium, one of the appellants, argues that the EIR doesn’t adequately address the new growth:

New residents and workers – +9300 and +36,400, respectively, according to the EIR at IV-6 – will so increase the resident and daily population of Central SOMA that they will require substantial new services. The 2015 Initial Study improperly scoped out this issue and the EIR Responses to Comments improperly deferred it. With population increases at the scale of a new city, to keep our City livable reasonably foreseeable facilities must be studied and planned for now as part of the Plan.

Another material defect is the EIR’s failure to evaluate and mitigate cumulative impacts on public services and need for recreation facilities that will be created by the growth of resident and worker population in the entire Central City of San Francisco over the same time span, including the Central Business District and adjacent neighborhoods as well as Central SOMA – thus South of Market, Central Market, the Tenderloin, and Chinatown. Up to 100,000 more residents and 50,000 more jobs may materialize. At that scale, new public services and facilities will be needed, and there has not yet been environmental review or mitigation of this cumulative scenario in any San Francisco EIR to date.

SOMCAN, the South of Market Community Action Network, argues that the EIR fails to disclose the “severity of the level of impact” of the “creation of a second Financial District,” the role of Uber and Lyft in the transportation mess, and the economic impacts of displacement that’s likely when there are more workers pouring into a region than there is housing for them.

Central Soma Neighbors, also part of the appeal, argues that

The Central SoMa Plan essentially creates a second Financial District South of Market, creating 63,600 new jobs, but only 14,500 new housing units. (DEIR, pp. IV-6, IV-5)1. In other words, the Plan creates 50,000 more jobs than housing units (more than four times more jobs than housing). This only exacerbates the City’s jobs-housing imbalance, which will result in even greater demand for limited housing, higher housing prices, more displacement, and more gentrification. Clearly, the City should go back to the drawing board.

The number of housing units and jobs is never going to be exact; that’s driven by what developers want to build. It’s possible that, if demand for office space is strong enough, developers will try to push the office numbers even higher; it’s possible that, if demand for high-end condos remains apparently insatiable, those number could go up, too.

All the city does in this plan is create zoning rules that allow an increase in both types of development.

The plan calls for 33 percent of the new housing to be below-market-rate, which is way higher than what planning rules now require – but well within the range of what Sup. Jane Kim, who represents the district, has negotiated with developers.

Kim, a sponsor of the plan, noted when she introduced it that

I am very proud that the Central SoMa plan sets a new standard for the City with 33 percentaffordability throughout and zero loss of any existing arts or manufacturing jobs,” said Supervisor Jane Kim. “It will be the first new area plan with an eco-district that implements Vision Zero from its inception, designed with robust community benefits such as parks andrecreational open spaces for our entire city to enjoy for decades to come.

The level of development the plan allows could bring in $500 million for city services, supporters say. And if it leads to the development of 9,000 housing units, 3,000 of them would be below-market-rate, which is a big number.

The overall issue here: With the tech boom shifting Silicon Valley more and more into San Francisco, there’s a shortage of office space. The prices are soaring, which makes it harder, planners say, for small businesses and startups to find affordable space.

But at the same time, we have seen the result of bringing too many high-paid jobs into the city when there’s no housing for those workers – and by any analysis, this is going to make the situation worse.

Some argue that, if the cost of office space drives tech jobs back to the Peninsula, the workers will still live here. That’s been true because the city has enabled it by authorizing the Google buses – and refusing to take a stand against Peninsula cities that build no housing at all.

The Land Use Committee meets Monday at 1:30pm. The appeal comes before the full board Tuesday at 3pm.

The Budget and Finance Committee meets Thursday/19at 10am to consider two tax measures that might be headed to the November ballot. Sups. Aaron Peskin, Jane Kim, Hillary Ronen, Norman Yee and Sandra Fewer want to impose a gross receipts tax on Uber and Lyft (and any other ride-share companies that bring in more than $500,000 a year) and any future companies that offer rides in driverless vehicles.

This will be the first chance for Sup. Rafael Mandelman to join what should be a six-vote majority to put this on the ballot.

Not clear how much money it would bring in (these companies won’t share that data), but Uber and Lyft have done serious damage to Muni, congested the streets, and treat their drivers badly. The idea that they should pay a reasonable city tax is a no-brainer.

Then Sup. Malia Cohen wants to add a gross receipts tax on recreational cannabis. This one’s a little more complicated: There’s no question that this growing industry is going to make a ton of money and needs to share that with the city. The issue that new cannabis outlets are raising is that, when the price of legal bud goes too high, people go back to the black market.

But Cohen’s ordinance exempts the first $500,000 in sales, so it’s not going to prevent new outlets from getting started, and after that it’s set at a pretty minor 1 percent, which can go up to as much as 5 percent after 2020. That means a store that sells $1 million worth of cannabis product would pay $5,000 a year to the city. Doesn’t seem like an industry-killer to me.

Protest Salesforce and its connection to ICE!

Salesforce, which occupies that giant building that has come to dominate the SF skyline, has a contract with the US Customs and Border Patrol, part of ICE – and part of the operation that is tearing kids away from their families.

More than 700 Salesforce employees have signed a petition asking the company to drop its contracts with ICE. So far, CEO Mark Benioff has refused that demand.

So the SF Progressive Alliance and other allied organizations will meet in front of Salesforce Tower Monday/9 at 10am to call on Benioff to cancel the CBP contract.

This is part of a growing movement by tech workers to divest their organizations of any connection to Trump’s family-separation machine.

The rally’s at 415 Mission. Like the building, it will be hard to miss.

The Police Commission meets in closed session Wed/11to discuss with legal counsel the case of Rain O. Daugherty v. City and County of San Francisco.It’s a critically important case – and the fact that it’s under discussion is intriguing.

The case goes back to 2011, when former Sgt. Ian Furminger was under federal investigation for a serious of corruption charges. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to prison – but he sought bail while his case was appealed, and the US Attorney’s Office, in a filing opposing bail, released a series of racist, homophobic text messages between Furminger and four other officers.

The four were fired – and one of them, Daugherty, sued the city demanding his job back. His argument: Under the Peace Officers Bill of Rights Act, there’s a statute of limitation on any disciplinary action of one year.

That means if a police department knows an officer did something wrong and doesn’t act on it for 12 months, that officer is off the hook.

The SFPD was cooperating with the feds on the investigation of Furminger – and as part of that procedure, the handful of SFPD officers working with the US Attorney and the FBI agreed to keep secret any information that they received relevant to the case.

That meant the lieutenant in charge of working with the feds could not tell anyone – including his supervisors, up to the chief – about the information the investigation turned up.

In 2012, the feds got a warrant to search Furminger’s phone and got ahold of the texts. Daugherty claims that the statute of limitations started at that moment – and since he wasn’t fired until 2015, the discipline was moot.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association funded Daugherty’s lawsuit. A Superior Court judge agreed with the cops, and the city appealed.

The Court of Appeal overturned that ruling May 30,issuing a precedent-setting decision upholding San Francisco’s right to fire the four officers. The statute of limitations was, by law, “tolled,” or put on hold, during the course of the confidential federal investigation, the court ruled.

Since this sort of investigation by outside agencies is no uncommon, and there are other circumstances were the one-year statue can’t possibly be met, the ruling gives cities far more latitude in disciplining rogue officers.

So why is this on the Police Commission agenda? Maybe so the commissioners can talk about how to implement it. I hope it’s not because the POA is threatening to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the Board of Supes Tuesday/10will consider Mayor Mark Farrell’s second nomination of Joe Marshall for re-appointment to the seven-member panel. The board has in the past refused to consent to Marshall or Sonia Melara, another mayoral appointee, saying that they have not been tough enough on the POA.

Melara has withdrawn from consideration.

One could certainly argue that, while Farrell has every right to make this appointment, Mayor Breed will be sworn in the next day. I have a lot of disagreements with Breed, but she has been good on police accountability.

Also on the Board agenda, way down at the very end: A resolution by Sup. Hillary Ronen that calls out PG&E, talks about the history of the Raker Act, and asks that all city departments and the SF Public Utilities Commission work to be sure that as much of the city’s clean public power as possible gets to customers in the city.

This is just another shot across the bow to PG&E, which has picked a dumb fight with the city. The supes and the mayor could go a step further, if there’s political will: Set a deadline (Sept. 1 seems reasonable) for PG&E to knock off all of its nonsense and reach a deal with the PUC – or the city will begin using its Prop. A revenue bonds to build out its own municipal distribution system.

The Agenda: A new board prez, $275K for a police shooting …

Demanding justice for Amilcar Lopez

Mayor-elect London Breed has officially informed the clerk of the board that she is stepping down as board president and to schedule a vote Tuesday/26 for a new president. The obvious move: Keep the incoming progressive majority from electing someone who would set committee assignments and control legislation until next January, when the moderates hope they can take back the board.

A supervisor can’t vote on their own appointment as mayor – but can vote to make themselves a board prez. So with Breed still voting, there are five sure votes for whoever she wants, and five sure votes against that plan. The person who will decide if Breed gets away with this is outgoing D8 Supe Jeff Sheehy, who I’m sure is under immense pressure from the Big Tech and Real Estate camp that backed Breed.

Demanding justice for Amilcar Lopez

This will be a major political showdown. It’s on the agenda for 3pm.

Among the items on the board’s consent agenda – issues that are considered routine – is this:

Settlement of Lawsuit – Juan Perez and Margarita Lopez Perez – $275,000. The lawsuit was filed on April 24, 2015, in United States District Court, Case No. 15-cv-1846; entitled Estate Of Amilcar Perez Lopez, by and through successors in interest, et al. v. Chief of Police Greg Suhr, et al.; the lawsuit involves a fatal officer involved shooting on February 26, 2015; Plaintiffs are Juan Perez and Margarita Lopez Perez and estate of Amilcar Perez-Lopez; the settlement involves an alleged civil rights violation. (City Attorney)

Let’s back up for a moment.

This is, apparently, the final chapter in a terrible case of police misconduct,the 2015 shooting of Amilcar Perez Lopez. This was one of the flashpoints that led to the resignation of Chief Greg Suhr. It was a major community issue, the subject of a lawsuit that the city is now prepared to settle.

The $275,000, less legal fees, will be a huge help to the Guatemalan family of the young man, who relied on the money he sent home. That’s all fine.

But the fact that the city has settled suggests that City Attorney Dennis Herrera and his team knew there was at least some chance that a jury would have found the cops and the city negligent and awarded a whole lot more.

Which raises the question: Have the officers who shot Amilcar been disciplined in any way? They faced no charges from the district attorney. They have returned to work. And the city is out $275K.

This will pass on the consent calendar, and eventually the case will fade from public consciousness. There is at this point no accountability for police officers who cost the public large sums of money in civil suits.

A move to dramatically change public notice requirements for development projects– hidden behind Mayor Mark Farrell’s rhetoric of facilitating affordable housing – was continued and is back at the board this week. It will be eclipsed, of course, by the drama of the board presidency – but it will also be a sign of how Breed, and her allies, view the public process and balance the desires of developers with what the community wants.

The SF Tenants Union, which is one of the most important political organizations in the city, is holding its annual fundraiser Thursday/28, honoring the Outstanding New Organizers of 2018 – Democratic Socialists of America, for their work on Prop. F, and Veritas Tenants Committee, for organizing against one of SF’s largest landlords. The group will also add Carol Bettencourt of the Eviction Defense Collaborative to the Tenant Hall of Fame. You can get more info and tickets here.

The Agenda, June 11-17: A chance to move beyond PG&E

Sup. Hillary Ronen wants to know why PG&E is such an obstruction to public projects

No matter who wins the mayor’s race, there’s a lot of good news from the San Francisco election – and one of the sleeper issues is the passage of Prop. A, which allows the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to sell revenue bonds for clean-energy projects.

If we have a PUC that’s willing to defy Pacific Gas and Electric Company – and a Board of Supes that’s willing to go along – the city now has the potential to start building out its own environmentally sound energy infrastructure.

That could save ratepayers billions of dollars and improve the creaky infrastructure of an aging and failing private utility that might be out of business soon anyway.

And, by the way, enforcing federal law and breaking up PG&E’s illegal monopolyin the process.

Since the 1920s, the city has tried repeatedly to do what the Raker Act of 1913 requires: Use the Hetch Hetchy power project to create a municipal electric utility. Munis historically have lower rates, better service, and more clear power than private companies.

But to deliver the city’s own clean hydropower to residential and commercial customers, the city would need to buy out the lines and poles that carry that power to end users. And in every case, the bond measure to buy out PG&E’s facilities had to go on the ballot, and the company spend whatever was necessary to shoot down those bond acts.

Sup. Hillary Ronen wants to know why PG&E is such an obstruction to public projects

Now PG&E is reeling from the North Bay firesand the potential of billions of dollars in legal liability. The company has no credibility left in San Francisco. CleanPowerSF is taking off, and will soon have nearly every residential and business customer in the city buying power from a public co-op. (You can sign up here.)

And nobody in their right mind would buy PG&E ancient, crumbling local infrastructure today.

Now, the city has the right to build clean-power projects (like major solar installations or wind turbines), and build out modern power lines to deliver that energy to customers – and pay for it with the revenues from sales. No risk to the city’s General Fund or property owners.

At the same time, the city could (with just a little bit of money) run fiber-optic cable next to the power lines, and build out a municipal broadband system.

A lot of city services are expensive; Muni will always lose money. So will SF General Hospital. You don’t bring in revenue hiring cops and firefighters.

But selling power and broadband are lucrative operations. Santa Clara used some of the money it makes from its public-power system to lure the 49ers south. Other cities with public power use the profits to keep taxes lower and pay for services.

So this is a winner for everyone –except PG&E (and Comcast and AT&T, if we are willing to get into the muni broadband business).

And this is all happening in the wake of PG&E’s decision to make it harder for city projects and agencies to get access to the grid.

Sup. Hillary Ronen has asked for a hearing at the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee Wednesday/13to look at how the company is blocking city projects from access to city-owned clean power. We shall see if PG&E even shows up.

But the larger issue that the supes can now start to address is: Why are we still relying on PG&E to deliver the city’s own power through its unreliable grid? Now that Prop. A has passed, the city can start running its own wires, and bypass the corrupt, dying, private monopoly entirely.

The meeting’s at 10 am in Committee Room 263.

The (Election Day) Agenda: It’s going to be close

Really -- in this race, it's going to be close

Election Day is Tuesday, June 5. All the polls are clear: This is close, and second-place votes are going to determine the winner. I predict that the three major candidates, London Breed, Jane Kim, and Mark Leno, will all wind up with between 20 and 30 percent of the vote, and the margins may be so close that we won’t actually know who the next mayor is until several days after the election, when all of the election-day absentees are counted.

Really — in this race, it’s going to be close

The Department of Elections plans to start posting early results here at about 8:45pm; those will be the traditional vote-by-mail ballots, which tend to be older, somewhat more conservative voters (although that’s changing).

After that, the department will update results on a regular rolling basis about once an hour as new numbers come in. If the past is any guide, most of the ballots will be counted by midnight.

But that’s just the start. There will be tens of thousands of VBM ballots that are dropped off at City Hall or a polling place on Election Day, and each of them has to be certified and counted, which can take three or four days (or more). Elections will release those results at 4pm every day.

During the first and last results release, Elections will also run the ranked-choice-voting program to give us some preliminary idea where the mayor’s race stands.

We will be following the results as they come in and giving you analysis and reporting at 48hills, and live updates on Twitter (@48hills).

Election night parties: London Breed will be at Delancey St., 600 The Embarcadero. Jane Kim will be at the Foundry, 1425 Folsom St. Mark Leno will be at Jane Warner Plaza. You can figure on most parties getting underway by 8:30pm and going on until the last votes are counted.

I will update with any other election-night parties when I find out where they are. Please let me know ([email protected]).

The New York Times surprised me this week with a story saying that the tech industry “is hanging back”in the San Francisco election. There are some fascinating moments in the story:

Mr. Benioff called Mr. Conway “the Koch brothers of San Francisco,” a reference to the siblings who are heavy backers of conservative causes. He added: “That is his prerogative as a citizen of the United States. He feels he’s doing the right thing. He’s a good person. But he doesn’t speak for me or tech.”

And this, which is largely accurate, particularly when it comes to the Mayor’s Office:

“San Francisco, despite its reputation, isn’t especially left wing,” said Ben Tarnoff, a San Francisco historian and editor of Logic, a new magazine focused on deepening the discourse around tech. “Its political leadership is reliably socially liberal, but it has largely governed within the policy parameters set by the real estate and tech industries.”

But overall, reporter David Streitfeld interviewed tech industry leaders, who mostly told him they were too busy or didn’t want to get involved in the mayor’s race.

I disagree. Big Tech is all in on this mayor’s race, with huge amounts of money pouring into superPACs, mostly supporting London Breed and attacking Jane Kim and Mark Leno.

Yeah, the tech folks are trying to hide – Ron Conway even told his allies how to give money that wouldn’t be disclosed until the very end. But Big Tech is by far the dominant force in this town right now, including the selection of the next mayor.

We hear a lot, especially during elections, about “progressive candidates,” and – the Times story above aside – there has been a lot of discussion of how, in the words of Willie Brown, “there’s not a cigarette paper’s worth of difference” between the major candidates.

The SF Public Press just came out with a detailed study that suggests otherwise.

A data-driven analysis by researchers at the University of California, Davis, and in partnership with the Public Press, reveals what many political observers of San Francisco City Hall have been saying for years.

London Breed, president of the Board of Supervisors and candidate for mayor in the June 5 election, is a political moderate, close to the middle, even though she has eschewed that tag. Based on a moderate-to-progressive scale, relative to the city’s generally liberal bent, her closest ideological colleagues are District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee on the progressive side, and appointed District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who is running for election, farther on the moderate scale, though he declines to label himself one.

The Public Press and the UC David researchers looked at more than 400 votes and mayoral actions – in other words, they did what the Chron can’t seem to do, and went beyond what the candidates say and promise and instead looked at their records. Which is a much better indicator of future behavior than any campaign promise.

The Yimby crowd might want to take a look at this June 2 NYT story about Vancouver– a city that has been building highrise housing rapidly and still seeing radical price shocks.

The figures show, however, that unlike other expensive West Coast cities like San Francisco, where the housing supply has long lagged behind population growth, Vancouver has consistently produced new housing. Over the past decade, the housing stock has grown by about 12 percent, while the population has grown by about 9 percent, according to the city.

This disparity has persuaded the city to broaden its measures beyond just a push for new buildings to efforts like the empty homes tax.

“It’s getting out of the mind-set that just more is better,” said Gil Kelley, the city’s general manager of planning, urban design and sustainability

There are plenty of homeowners in Vancouver – as there are in SF – who would be happy to see prices fall. This idea that homeowners want to block new housing to preserve their own property values doesn’t hold up in the polls:

In 2016, the nonprofit Angus Reid Institute in Vancouver found that roughly two-thirds of residents in the metropolitan area wanted home prices to fall, including half of homeowners. More startling was that one in five homeowners in the survey expressed a desire to see home prices fall by 30 percent or more.

Count me in. Some of us just don’t believe that building more market-rate housing is going to bring prices down. And the data from up north suggests we may have a point.

I will repeat my earlier point: This race is very, very close. You can still register on Election Day and cast a provisional ballot. You can vote all day Monday and Tuesday City Hall, you can find out where your precinct polling place is with this handy utility. You can vote for up to three candidates, and it does your first choice no harm to pick a second (and it does you no good to only vote for one).

Low-turnout elections, and this will be one, tend to help those who can get their voters to the polls. Whatever candidate you support, your vote matters. And these days, it’s so easy there’s no excuse not to vote.

How SF loses affordable housing almost as fast as it gets built

Look how many units we lose to evictions

The Planning Commission will hear a report Thursday/24 on the city’s latest housing balance figures – and the data includes some startling information that helps explain why homelessness is such an intractable problem.

The data comes from legislation that requires a twice-annual report to the Board of Supes on how much affordable housing has been built, how much market-rate housing has been built – and how much affordable housing has been lost.

In the past ten years, the data shows, the city has added 6,515 units of affordable housing – and lost 4,221 units, mostly to Ellis Act and Owner Move-In evictions.

That means, in essence, that every time we build 100 units of affordable housing, we lose about 60 units to evictions. Add in the number of evictions that are never reported, the number of rent-controlled units lost to Airbnb, and the number of people who lose their jobs or are told to leave after crashing with friends or family and you can see how every month, on average, 100 more people become homeless in San Francisco.

Look how many units we lose to evictions

The city spends $300 million a year to address the problem, much of it for supportive housing and other programs to get people off the street. But even if we manage to get 1,000 people a year housed, another 1,200 will need the same services the next year.

We can demand that developers build 30 percent affordable housing – but more than half of that number is lost every year, meaning our net increase in affordable units is small.

The bottom line – although the Planning Department report doesn’t say it: We can’t solve the homeless crisis until we solve the eviction crisis. And keeping people in their homes is far, far cheaper than helping them get off the streets.

I wonder why that never made it into the Department’s report.

Sup. Sandra Lee Fewer has a proposal that will help a lot of tenants, might prevent some evictions, and will reign in some of the worst abuses of big speculative landlords.

Here’s the deal: Under the city’s rent-control law, landlords are allowed to pass on to tenants part of the cost of capital improvements. You renovate the place, put in a new roof, whatever – some of those costs can be recovered through rent increases.

But the law includes mortgage and tax increases in that category – so if a speculator buys a building, pays a high price (perhaps with the hope of getting rid of rent-controlled tenants) and then gets a property tax hike under Prop. 13, everyone’s rent can go up by 7 percent.

The idea that tenants should pay to support the overpriced purchases and taxes of speculators has never made sense. Fewer’s bill, which isnow out of the Rules Committee,would put an end to that.

It’s on the agenda for the full board Tuesday/22.


Supes to hear about squalid conditions for big-landlord tenants ….

At a Veritas building, Amina Rubio took this picture of water in her apartment before sending it off for testing. Photo Courtesy: Amina Rubio

The tenants of the city’s largest landlord have been complaining for years about squalid living conditions. Now the Board of Supes Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee is holding a hearing Wednesday/16on the “impact on the health and welfare of tenants residing in large and speculative units” – and I’m told that Veritas will be a major focus of the discussion.

The special meeting of the committee starts at 10:30 in City Hall Room 263.

At a Veritas building, Amina Rubio took this picture of water in her apartment before sending it off for testing. Photo Courtesy: Amina Rubio

It’s pretty clear at this point that at least some of parcels at the old Hunters Point Shipyard that are slated for development are too toxic and even radioactive for people to live. They may be too toxic for office space.

But that city has a long-term deal with Lennar Corp. to turn this site into a bustling new neighborhood – and the recent data on faked soil tests puts a lot of that in doubt.

The issue comes before the Land Use and Transportation Committee Monday/14at a hearing sponsored by all 11 members of the board. The Department of Public Health, the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, and the EPA have been asked to report. Lennar is not on the list.

The full board will consider Tuesday/15a move by Sup. Sandra Lee Fewer to pull from committee a proposal to stop landlords from raising rents because their mortgage and property taxes went up after a sale. This is a big deal: When a landlord buys a building from a long-term owner, the taxes go up under Prop. 13. The prices of new buildings are so crazy that some buyers take out huge loans. And then they want to pass those costs onto tenants.

Her measure has been stalled in the Rules Committee, chaired by Sup. Ahsha Safai. Fewer wants the whole board to consider this.

The board will also consider a resolution opposing a new luxury yacht harbor on Treasure Island.

The Planning Commission gets to consider Thursday/17a proposal by Sup. Aaron Peskin to increase the transportation fee on large office projects by $5 a square foot.

This has come up in the past: John Avaos, when he was on the board, tried to get a modest raise in the price and was shut down. (London Breed and Scott Wiener were among those opposing the increase.)

Reality check here: The cost of providing transit to large office buildings is $87 a square foot, according to the city’s own studies. The city charges $18.

When Avalos tried to raise the fee, Breed said that the calculus was “more of an art than a science” and Wiener worried that some projects wouldn’t get built.

So some office projects, which the city has too many of already, would not get built because the developers don’t want to pay the cost of the transit they need, sticking the taxpayers with it instead? This is a problem?

At any rate, Peskin is trying again. The commission meets at 1pm in Room 400, City Hall.

The odd ad in the Chron, the mayor and the homeless sweeps ….

I know that good newspapers keep the editorial and ad departments separate. Good publishers don’t tell their editors to favor one store or restaurant – or candidate – because they’re a big advertiser.

We went through this at the Bay Guardian all the time. We lost ads because of our editorial stands. The ad department knew that was going to happen; it was part of the deal working for an alt-weekly with an aggressive editorial team.

Hey: The endorsements issue of the Bay Guardian has an ad from the tobacco companies urging No on E, the flavored nicotine measure. We endorsed Yes on E. We take ads from campaigns whether or not we agree with their positions.

So I have no reason to believe that the San Francisco Chronicle has been influenced by the large sums of money that Ron Conway and his allies are spending running their anti-Jane-Kim attack ads on the Chron’s website. Audrey Cooper, the Chron’s editor, doesn’t (I hope!) hear from the publisher that she has to be nice to the advertisers.

But this is a little embarrassing: Cooper’s piece admitting that the Chron failed to uphold its own standards in what would have been a hit piece on Kim – is running right next to a big-money ad campaign attacking Kim.

BTW: The attack on Kim is that somehow she supports domestic violence because she didn’t vote to remove Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi from office after he was convicted of a DV-related crime. For those of you who don’t remember that situation, the issue on the table was not just weather Mirkarimi was guilty; it was about the power of the mayor to remove from office summarily someone who was elected by the voters.

Kim said at the time that she would support a recall election, so the voters could decide if they wanted Mirkarimi to stay as sheriff. Ron Conway could easily have funded that effort.

But she was reluctant, as she should have been, to fire an independently elected official. That would have set an alarming precedent for the mayor to get rid of his opponents, since the City Charter sets almost no grounds for removal except that the mayor thinks the official is guilty of official misconduct.

That, of course, doesn’t fit in a 30-second ad.

The mayor appears at the Board of Supes meeting Tuesday/7, and nobody has submitted any questions. That seems pretty odd to me, since I have a question that any reasonable person, including a reasonable member of the board, might want to ask:

So Mr. Mayor: You did a big sweep of homeless encampments, and said that everyone would be offered services and shelter. Yet the Ex reports that only six people– yes, six – wound up getting shelter.

So where is everyone else? What good did the sweeps do? Won’t the homeless people you rousted from one place be back somewhere else – because they have nowhere else to go?

Why is this not just abject cruelty?

The No on H campaign is trying to get the word out about the Taser measure supported by the Police Officers Association. The POA is spending a ton of money on a very misleading campaign, suggesting that Tasers are an alternative to shooting people.

The reality is that (a) Tasers are often lethal weapons themselves, and (b) they don’t stop cops from shooting people:

To be clear, CEWs cannot be substitutes for guns because there are inherent limitations in how they function that render them unreliable for being used in deadly force situations. 

The leading manufacturer of CEWs specifically states in its training materials, “CEWs do NOT replace deadly-force options.” Most departments that have CEWs instruct officers NOT to use them in deadly force situations because they cannot be relied upon to stop a threat.  Many factors can cause the CEW be ineffective – how thick the person’s clothing is, whether both probes hit the person, and whether the CEWs electrical charge captures enough muscle to incapacitate, to name a few.

The law permits officers to use their firearms in deadly-force circumstances, which involve a threat of death or great bodily harm. The manufacturer’s training materials advise officers that the optimal range for CEW deployment is seven to 15 feet. To use a CEW in a situation in which an individual is armed or violent or aggressive would require the officer to be just seven to 15 feet from the individual. Alarmingly, CEWs have been found to fail often, in fact the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) reported a 47% failure rate in 2015

But it’s a hard case to make when you are wildly outspent. So the No on H campaign is holding a last-minute event to try to raise money for a final literature push. If you’re interested, it’s Tuesday/14, 5:30pm, at the offices of Keker, Van Nest & Peters, 633 Battery. Here’s the evite link to RSVP.


The Agenda: Standing up to the cops

The former mayor is really wrong: Police violence caused protests at the Lee inauguration, and it could have gone much much worse

Tuesday/1is International Workers Day, celebrated in countries around the globe, but not (officially) in the United States. It’s also the day when 48hills celebrates its Fifth (!) Anniversary as a community-supported, nonprofit daily news outlet.

I wasn’t really sure when I (unexpectedly) left the Bay Guardian five years ago that this idea would work. But we’ve survived and thrived thanks to all of you, our readers and supporters, and we are, I hope, helping establish a new model for daily journalism in American cities.

Come celebrate with us Tuesday, 6:30pm, at the Mission Cultural Center. Tom Ammiano and Rose Aguilar will be speaking. Casa Sanchez will be providing excellent snacks. Beer and wine specials. Check out the details here.

It appears that most of City Hall —  including the Mayor’s Office, the Department of Human Resources, and most likely the Board of Supes – is united in demanding that the San Francisco Police Officers Association agree to stop blocking reforms in exchange for a hefty raise in contract talks.

High School students fill the steps of City Hall to protest police killings


“This is unprecedented,” John Crew, former ACLU police practices lawyer and a longtime accountability advocate, told me.

The POA and the city have been in talks on a new contract for months, but negotiations broke down and the matter is now in arbitration. We were worried at first about what that might mean, given the role of the mayor and his consultant, Nathan Ballard, who also worked for the POA.

But to the surprise of a lot of observers, the city’s labor negotiators, who work for the mayor, have insisted on what’s known as Proposal #22

requiring the San Francisco Police Officers Association to request to meet within 14 days of any changes involving United States Department of Justice recommendations, and to waive factfinding and impasse procedures if no agreement is reached.

This is a huge deal: the POA has been using “meet and confer” provisions in the contract, which are supposed to cover changed in labor rules, to delay desperately needed reforms that have nothing to do with work rules.

The city is demanding that the arbitrators include that proposal in any final contract.

It’s also a sign of the changing political times. The POA has had undue political influence on elected officials for decades, even as it has fought efforts to bring women and people of color into the department, has defended racist and brutal cops, and has sought to overrule civilian oversight of law enforcement.

But the continued rash of police killings of people of color, with impunity, has so disgusted the body politic that even former allies like Mayor Farrell are apparently willing to stand up to the POA, at least on this reform issue.

The Board of Supes will hear a resolution Tuesday/1urging the arbitrators to include Proposal #22 in any final deal. I wonder if anyone will vote against it.

The Budget and Finance Committee will hold a hearing Thursday/3on what the board’s budget priorities are for 2018-2019. It will be a long list – but also a chance for the public to see what the supes think is most important.

Also on the supes agenda is a minor item that means a lot to some of us who have been pushing to public power for decades. The resolution from Mayor Farrell seeks to declare May 6, 2018 the 100thanniversary of the arrival of clean Hetch Hetchy power to San Francisco.

Please read the resolution. Then read the real history. The only reason that the city was allowed to build a dam for water in Yosemite National Park was a compromise between environmentalists, who hated the idea (John Muir founded the Sierra Club in part to stop it) and people who believed that electricity was too important to the nation’s future to be controlled by private companies.

I have spent weeks in the National Archives in Washington researching this. Congress put a clear, unequivocal condition on the permit to build a dam on the Tuolumne River: the dam had to be used not just as a municipal water supply but as a hydroelectric system that would supply public power to all of San Francisco. The record makes clear that the deal intended to stop Pacific Gas and Electric Company from controlling the Northern California grid.

Put simply, the Raker Act was aimed at ending PG&E’s ability to create a private-power monopoly in San Francisco.

That never came to pass, because for 100 years, PG&E has bought off, bullied, bribed, and otherwise controlled politicians and the voters to keep the city from building its own electrical distribution system.

That may start to change if Prop. A passes in June. But in the meantime, it would be nice if someone at the board would correct the record before we pass this lovely resolution.