The Agenda

The Agenda, Nov. 12-19: A homeless sleep-in, a D-8 debate…

This is life for a homeless family in San Francisco

More than 1,000 homeless people are on the adult shelter waitlist in San Francisco. The city continues to find ways to criminalize these folks. This is Homeless Awareness Week, and the Coalition on Homelessness is organizing a Sleep Out to call attention to the city’s failure to solve the problem. On the evening of Thursday/16, hundreds will gather at the Powell Street Cable Car turnaround with sleeping bags and spend the night the way thousands of our neighbors do: Outside.

This is life for a homeless family in San Francisco

If you can show up and stay the night, bring a sleeping bag and some food. If you just want to contribute food and drinks, get in touch with Kelley Cutler, [email protected].

You can make signs, bring art, bring friends … make this a huge statement of support for the people who have been forced to live on the streets (in many cases because of evictions and gentrification). For more info, go here.

The June, 2018 election will include a long list of ballot measures, starting with an effort by the tobacco industry to repeal the city’s ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products aimed at kids and a move to guarantee everyone facing eviction the right to a lawyer.

But there’s also a race that could change the balance of power on the Board of Supes, and that’s the D8 contest between incumbent Jeff Sheehy, appointed by Mayor Ed Lee, and challenger Rafael Mandelman.

The city’s two main LGBT political clubs, the Harvey Milk Club and the Alice B. Toklas Club, are hosting a debate between the two candidates Monday/13 at the LGBT Center Rainbow room. It starts at 6:30pm.

This will be the first chance for voters to see the two offer their contrasting vision for D8 and the city’s future. (For starters, I hope someone asks them both about the right-to-counsel ballot measure. And police Tasers. And market-rate housing.)

If you can’t make it, you can watch the livestream on 48hills.org.

The same night (so much going on!), I will be moderating a panel discussion on Prop. M, the Downtown Plan, Tenderloin rezoning and the legacy of the critical land-use battles of the 1980s. The panelists are Sue Hestor, Calvin Welch, and Brad Paul, who have been involved in local development issues for more than four decades and have an incredible wealth of historical information and analysis. It’s hosted by the Middle Polk Neighborhood Association. 7pm, 1541 Polk St.

A long list of elected officials, activists, community groups (and even a Chronicle columnist) are wondering why the Board of Supes is moving to strictly limit cannabis sales in the city. It’s as if we are back in the days of Reefer Madness.

Legislation that comes before the Land Use Committee Monday/13 and the full board Tuesday/14 could make it pretty much impossible to open a legal cannabis outlet anywhere except in some very small and limited districts – or it could prepare the city for a reasonable regulatory approach. In other words, San Francisco, where 74 percent of the votes support legal weed, could be at the forefront of this business – or let other cities set the standards and get the customers.

The defense finished calling witnesses in the Garcia Zarate trial last week, but it appears the prosecution will have a final rebuttal witness Monday/13. The trial’s in Dept. 13 at the Hall of Justice, and if you want to go, you need to show up by 8:30 to get in the lottery for a public pass. It appears at this point that closing arguments will be next week.

Reefer Madness at City Hall

San Francisco is descending into Reefer Madness. The supervisors are trying to pass regulations that would implement Prop. 64, which legalizes adult use of cannabis, by Jan. 1 – but a lot of the supes seem to be bending to the will of the anti-weed folks and loading up the bill with rules that will make it almost impossible for a successful retail industry to operate in the city.

One of the big issues is this crazy, crazy thing about keeping cannabis outlets at least 1,000 feet (and some want 1,500 feet) from a school.

I have two kids. They walked or took the bus (one still does) to public schools. They passed by liquor stores and stores that sell cigarettes (including flavored tobacco products aimed at teens) and soda (including a “teen gulp,” 128 ounces of sugar-laden diabetes-syrup). The liquor stores and the soda stores advertise – big signs that say “come in her and buy booze or Coke. Hey, get a Teen Gulp for only $1!”

There are no rules that say a liquor store or a store that sells tobacco or the Teen Gulp needs to be 1,000 feet from a school. And frankly, those products are worse problems. Any kid can walk in the door.

The existing medical marijuana dispensaries have security guards who carefully check every person who tries to enter. They have no flashing neon lights urging you to buy buds. Most of the time, you can pass them by and not even notice they exist. I suspect the new adult-sales outlets will do the same (and the city could easily ban big signs and on-site ads).

The only thing the “1,000-foot-rule” does is concentrate the stores in a few neighborhoods, because much of San Francisco is within 1,000 feet of a school.

I can tell you from personal experience: Teenagers are no more or less likely to start smoking pot because there is a place where adults can buy it nearby. (They are, on the other hand, easily able to get alcohol by offering an adult who needs some extra money $5 to buy them a bottle, from any of the ubiquitous liquor stores near schools, and parks, and Muni stops, and everywhere else that teens hang out.) And with companies like Ease around, anyone with a card can get cannabis delivered, anywhere, including to a café near a school. 

Again, I’m a parent: I’m not in favor of kids smoking pot, or drinking, or smoking tobacco, or drinking a Teen Gulp. We can educate them about personal health, and that works (to some degree). Prohibition never has and never will.

But there is no logic to the anti-cannabis approach. It’s is all a campaign orchestrated by a small but vocal group of people who still think marijuana is evil.

Meanwhile, the supes really could create an equity-based permit system, much as Oakland has done, that would set aside a significant number of the new permits for people who have been impacted by the War on Drugs.

But this whole idea that we can save the children from the Devil Weed by forcing the entire industry into a few parts of town (which isn’t fair anyway) is just silly. Cannabis is, by any rational standard, no worse than alcohol or tobacco, which can be sold in any neighborhood. We are still, apparently, reeling from almost a century of anti-pot propaganda, which started off as a racist message and evolved into the racist War on Drugs.

There are hundreds of liquor stores in San Francisco, hundreds of places that sell tobacco and Diabetes Juice … and fewer than 50 places that sell medical cannabis. The city might, maybe, approve another 50 for adult use. And the supes are scrambling to limit them, keep them out of their districts, treat them like a social problem …

Sorry, this is madness.

The current version of the legislation comes before the Land Use and Transportation Committee Mon/6 at 1:30pm. I can pretty much guarantee that the anti-cannabis folks will be out in force. But the vast majority of this city voted for Prop. 64. The supes need to stand up to this nonsense.

The robot sidewalk delivery issue is back. A measure that would require a permit for sending big, bulky machines rolling along the sidewalk is at the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee Wed/8.

This is mild regulation. I could easily argue that the city should ban robot delivery vehicles until we can get a handle on how we should regulate them, and this falls short. But at least it would require permits and make some effort to determine whether putting robots on the sidewalks are a good idea.

The meeting starts at 10 am.

The Agenda: Tasers, cannabis, and homeless deaths…

Homeless advocates will remind local officials of the people who died on the streets this Day of the Dead, Thursday/2

The Zarate trial, and the history of the weapon that fired the fatal bullet that killed Kate Steinle, got me thinking about who gets to carry lethal weapons in our society.

Clearly, police officers do, in pretty much every city, town, and county in the United States. County sheriffs and their deputies do. Transit police often do. Some of the officers patrolling university campuses are armed; so are some park rangers.

Homeless advocates will remind local officials of the people who died on the streets this Day of the Dead, Thursday/2

Apparently, the Bureau of Land Management thinks that its rangers need serious weapons, like the Sig-Sauer .40.

Investigators at the SF District Attorney’s Office are allowed to carry guns.

I remember years ago some of the inspectors from the California Dental Board argued that they needed to be armed. One of them asked me, “have you ever had to argue with an angry man with a drill?”

The list keeps growing. Now the San Francisco Community College police want to carry guns.

So where does it end? Will Muni fare inspectors want guns? How about Parking Control Officers?

Are we safer if we arm more people?

The issue before the SF Police Commission Friday/3 is slightly different. The panel is holding its final public hearing at City Hall on the question of giving the local cops Tasers.

The department and the chief argue that Tasers will give officers a “less lethal” alternative – that they will be less likely to shoot people if they can zap them instead. For police accountability advocates, that makes no sense at all.

You can weigh in on the issue at 5pm; a room hasn’t been assigned yet, so check here for updates.

The Board of Supes Land Use and Transportation Committee holds a special meeting Thursday/2 to consider the long-awaited legislation that would set regulations for the cannabis industry. We’re running a bit out of time here – the state law legalizing adult use takes effect Jan. 1, and with only two months to go, the city is scrambling to be ready.

The changes in state law are pretty dramatic. After Jan. 1, people who want medical marijuana will have to get a recommendation from their regular attending physician, not from a doctor they find online or in a storefront clinic. And a lot of primary-care doctors may not offer that recommendation.

That shouldn’t matter to people who are 21 or over, since they can legally buy cannabis anyway. For patients who are between 18 and 21, it’s a very big deal.

The city has a fairly comprehensive package of land-use regulations that would allow cannabis retail in a lot of neighborhood retail areas, allow it with some restrictions in areas where it’s not now legal, and repeal the special-interest bill by Sup. Ahsha Safai that bans new outlets in D11.

The bill would ban any retail cannabis licenses until the city figures out an equity program, to make sure that the benefits of this lucrative new industry go at least in part to people who suffered most from the failed War on Drugs.

Some worry that it will take a long time to develop the equity plan, and that will delay the entire industry in the city, while (for example) Oakland moves ahead.

But we have a new Department of Cannabis, and a well-established medical marijuana industry, and we ought to be able to make this work. Soon.

The hearing’s at noon, in Room 263.

This Day of the Dead (Thu/2), homeless advocates are trying to get elected officials to pay attention to the number of homeless people who die on the streets every year.

The Coalition on Homelessness will hold a march to City Hall, with four stops along the way to honor community members who died without a roof over their heads. Along the route, activists will paint red footprints and handprints to symbolize the city’s lack of comprehensive action.

After the march, there’s a traditional Mexican lunch in Civic Center Plaza. It starts at 11am at the corner of Larkin and Eddy.

The Agenda: How to get a seat at the Zarate trial

Opening statements are set for Monday/23 in the Zarate trial, following a nice scoop by Alex Emslie at KQED, who reported Friday that the federal agent who left unsecured in his car the gun that killed Kate Steinle was never disciplined – and instead was promoted five months after her death.

But the only person facing any criminal liability for Steinle’s death is Zarate, who the defense argues never intended to fire the gun or kill anyone; the hair-trigger Sig Sauer discharged by accident, his attorneys say.

It’s going to be a case with national implications – and it’s not easy to watch. Judge Samuel Feng has declined to allow cameras in the courtroom, so there will be no video feed. And the courtroom at the Hall of Justice is small, only 60 seats.

Some have been allocated to Steinle’s family. Some have been allocated to the press. There are 24 seats for the public, and they will be allocated by lottery.

If you want to go, show up at the Hall of Justice between 8:30 and 8:55am; the media desk will be on the first floor, and there will be signs. You can put in your name, and at 9am, the lottery will be held to determine who gets a one-day pass.

You have to come back and re-enter the lottery every day.

I would guess that the first few days will be really crowded, but the trial will go on for weeks, and after the opening days, public interest may wane and more seats may be available.

If you go and get a ticket, you can’t bring cameras or use a cell phone; the judge (correctly) wants to be sure that the jurors are not photographed or identified. The verdict could potentially infuriate some very powerful people (including the president of the United States.)

But it will be a dramatic trial, with major national and local political issues as well as legal issues. We will be keeping you updated, so look for daily reports here.

The Agenda, Oct. 16-22: Zarate trial, robots on the sidewalks …

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate is accused of killing Kate Steinle

Jury selection begins Monday/16 in the trial of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, who is accused of killing Kate Stein with a gun he discovered that was stolen (by someone else, apparently) from a federal agent’s car.

The trial will get national attention: Donald Trump used the case in his presidential campaign, and the right-wing will play this as a story about someone who was in the country without documentation killing a young American citizen.

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate is not connected to the two car break-ins where a stolen gun was present

But there’s a much different story to be told. After being released from a federal prison, where he served time for immigration violations, Zarate was sent to San Francisco on an old marijuana warrant that was never going to lead to prosecution. The feds never produced a warrant to remand him into custody for deportation (although they knew where he was going, and knew he wasn’t going to be there long.)

Homeless, broke, and speaking no English, Zarate ended up on the waterfront. There is no indication that he has ever been violent or used a gun before. He may not even have known how guns work. And he stumbled onto a Sig-Sauer with a hair trigger and a round in the chamber, left by a federal agent who has not at this point faced any discipline for leaving a potential murder weapon unsecured.

The gun went off. He clearly wasn’t aiming at Steinle; the round bounced off the concrete before striking her in the head, 90 feet away.

Judge Samuel Feng has summoned 1,000 potential jurors. It will take a while to find 12 people who have not been so biased by news coverage (much of it driven by anti-immigrant sentiments) that they can fairly weigh the evidence.

It will probably take three days or so to choose a jury. Expect opening statements later in the week. We will be covering the trial daily.

 

Mission Street hasn’t yet become Valencia, but it’s moving in that direction. Small community businesses are closing, and high-end restaurants are taking over retail, according to the group Save Mission Street. 

There are illegal tech offices moving in. There’s a new wave of luxury housing development. It’s an assault on the heart of the Latino community — and Save Mission is holding a community meeting to look at solutions Tuesday/17 at 6pm, Centro Del Pueblo, 474 Valencia. It’s free. Translation, child-care, and snacks provided

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The Board of Supes Land Use and Transportation Committee will be hearing testimony Monday/16 on two issues that we all ought to be talking about: The city’s five-year strategic framework to end homelessness — and the (supposed) master plan for utility undergrounding,

Expect the Department of Homelessness to report on the latest plans to figure out how exactly more than 7,000 homeless people are going to be taken off the streets when there is no available housing for most of them.

And Sup. Sandra Fewer wants to know why PG&E isn’t doing more to move overhead power lines underground. Just check out the fires in the North Bay if you don’t understand why this is a key issue.

 

Then on Tuesday/17, the full board will hear Sup. Norman Yee’s proposal to ban robot deliveries on city sidewalks.

I was astounded to see how much public testimony — and opposition — this got at last week’s committee meeting. As Yee noted, “sidewalks are for people. There’s an infrastructure for cars, that’s what on our roads. There is no infrastructure for delivery robots.”

San Francisco has had a very bad record of regulating new technologies that impose on the public realm. The city allowed Uber and Lyft to clog the streets without limits for years. Airbnb turned rental housing into hotel rooms without any controls. 

Now Yee wants to draw the line at robots plowing along sidewalks with goods — threatening pedestrians, seniors, kids, dogs, and everyone else who uses the sidewalks in the process.

Oh, and he said: “What happens when a terrorists puts 150 pounds or explosives into a robot and it goes into a building? The response I have gotten is that it hasn’t happened yet. But I am worried.

Sup. Sandra Lee Fewer, who has raised three kids in the city, said that she taught her children that the sidewalk is a safe place. Sup. Hillary Ronen pointed out that the city banned people from sitting or lying on the sidewalks — but so far hasn’t said anything about robots.

And yet, Sup. Jeff Sheehy was on the side of the robots, saying that they could help small businesses — and that the CEOs of the robot companies were going to get the message and work with the city.

He suggested that the board not ban the robots, but look for “middle ground.”

Yee made the point that Sheehy had just pushed a bill to allow the city to seize bicycles, in the name of keeping the sidewalks clear.

The vote was 2-1 to approve the measure, with Ronen and Fewer in favor and Sheehy opposed. Now the full board will have to decide if its willing to limit new technology until we can understand and regulate it — or if robots on the sidewalk will be the next Uber and Airbnb.

Saving Bayview tenants — and SF’s heart ….

The day that is dedicated to Christopher Columbus is still a holiday in San Francisco, although my daughter’s high school properly defines it as Indigenous Peoples Day.

But it means most city business doesn’t happy Monday or Tuesday, as the supes take a recess. 

But there are a few things of note going on.

Jon Galinger will be reading from his new book At Green Arcade Tuesday/10

The Planning Commission is meeting in closed session with the city attorney Thursday/12 to discuss the city’s lawsuit against Judy Wu, who illegally converted a dozen Bayview houses into 49 apartments. City Attorney Dennis Herrera wants all of the illegal units removed, which makes sense from the perspective of enforcing the law — but in the process, 15 tenants who did nothing wrong stand to lose their homes.

They are mostly older African American veterans, and there’s not much room in the local housing market for them. 

I am told by, as they say, normally reliable sources that the Planning Commission members aren’t eager to force the eviction of those tenants. The issue has been delayed for months, and won’t come back to the commission before November.

In the meantime, this secret meeting. Is it an effort by the city attorney to discourage the commissioners from cutting deal that would somehow legalize the units and keep the tenants in place? Or is there some way to make this work for everyone?

(The city could, of course, fine Wu so heavily that she won’t make any profit at all of the units, but still allow the tenants to stay. Maybe there’s another way to do this, and I hope that’s on the agenda.)

The Police Commission has once again delayed any discussion of Tasers. That suggests that the chief and the backers of the stun guns don’t think they have the votes. 

Jon Golinger, political activist and author of the new Bay Guardian book Saving San Francisco’s Heart, will be reading and signing books Tuesday/10 at The Green Arcade, 1680 Market, 7pm. Tom Ammiano calls it “a must read for political junkies of all stripes.” If you can’t make it to Green Arcade, you can order a copy here.

Sup. Norman Yee wants to ban robot deliveries on the sidewalk. I can’t believe this hasn’t already happened.

San Francisco has a habit of waiting until new technologies start creating problems before we even think about regulating them. That’s what allowed Airbnb to wreak havoc on the rental market and allowed Uber and Lyft to screw up the traffic.

Does anyone really think that sending robot along the sidewalk to deliver packages is a good idea right now? With disabled people, strollers, kids, dogs, homeless people and everyone else on the sidewalks, and cars and bikes and pedestrians on the streets?

Well, apparently the Small Business Commission thinks it’s fine, because that agency urged the supes to put this on hold until a working group can study it. 

That comes before the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee Wednesday/11.

The Agenda, Oct. 1-8: Big changes at Ocean Beach …

Mother Nature Bats Last: The southern end of the Great Highway is not long for this world

The San Francisco Police Commission pulled a discussion of Tasers off the agenda last week — just as an Oakland man died after being zapped by one of the devices.

An Oakland officer shot the Taser at an African American man who police said was fleeing a car accident. He died in the hospital, and although the cause of death has not been determined, Tasers have been implicated in numerous fatalities

The SF cops have been pushing for the stun guns for years, although the Police Commission hasn’t approved them. Now Chief William Scott thinks he has a commission more willing to gal along, so the issue is back.

It was set for a hearing Oct. 4, and opponents were organizing to show up and testify. There’s been pressure from both sides on the commissioners.

Activists expect the item may be back on the agenda for the Oct. 11, and will be closely watching Robert Hirsch, the newest member of the panel, who was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee, who favors Tasers

The mayor has four appointees. The three members appointed by the Board of Supes have not in the past been favorable to these “less-lethal” weapons.

If the commission approves arming the cops with Tasers on a “party line” 4-3 vote, then Lee will have to take responsibility for their use — and abuse.

 

The Planning Commission will consider Thursday/5 a plan that will lead to some dramatic changes to the Western edge of the city. Facing constant erosion and threats to some of the city’s critical sewage infrastructure, the commission is looking at a Western Shoreline Area Plan that would involve the eventual closure of the Great Highway between Sloat and Skyline and the removal of some of the Ocean Beach parking lots.

Mother Nature Bats Last: The southern end of the Great Highway is not long for this world

The proposal amounts to what planners call “a managed retreat” from waterfront development, replacing the road with a trail, removing artificial shoreline armoring, and restore the southern portion of the beach with sand dunes and native plants.

It’s a pretty profound change for that part of town, and hasn’t received a whole lot of publicity. The Sierra Club is mostly on board, but wants to see the commission mandate that new development in the area be discouraged — unless the developers can prove that they will be responsible for any costs of protecting their property from sea-level rise and erosion.

Some residents have complained that the move will re-direct traffic onto Sloat and other city streets — but from the evidence we’ve seen so far, and the reality of climate change, the existing southern end of the Great Highway doesn’t seem long for this world anyway.

You can read all the documents, comments, and responses here. The hearing in Room 400 starts at 1-pm.

 

The commission will also hear a report — from my perspective, a pretty depressing report — and what’s known as the “jobs-housing balance.” The commission gets an update every six months on how the city is meeting its housing needs for new job creation, and the answer right now is: Badly.

From the official department memo:

The percentage of San Francisco workers in all income brackets less than 140% AMI who live in San Francisco declined since 1990, with the greatest declines at lowest brackets. This means that San Francisco’s housing stock is increasingly being occupied by a greater share of its higher wage workforce, and its middle and lower wage workforce is increasingly commuting into the City.

In fact, San Francisco has more jobs per housing unit (1.75) than most places in the US, and certainly more than most of the Bay Area. The planners note:

Ultimately, the construct of a “jobs-housing balance” is a function of transportation system dynamics and must be considered at a sufficiently broad geographic lens, most practically at a regional and multi-city scale, particularly in a complex region such as the Bay Area, and not particularly relevant at a neighborhood or development site scale.

Yes, but the transportation system dynamics are brutal on people who have to live in Brentwood or Antioch and commute to the city. Public transit is somewhere between nonexistent, slow, and expensive, so many of these commuters drive cars (on a freeway and bridge system never intended to handle this much load).

And yet, the commission constantly approves new offices for high-end workers (and the conversion of PDR space to offices), along with the construction of high-end housing that the remaining lower-income workers can’t possibly afford.

It’s crazy: Even the commission staff seems to realize that what is happening is unsustainable. Yet it keeps happening, every week.

The latest attack on homeless people …

Is this a 'chop shot' -- or a bike lover's basement?

San Francisco politicians have a history of attacking and scapegoating homeless people to advance their careers. Remember, Gavin Newsom (who is now campaigning for governor as a progressive) ran for mayor as the backer of measure that took welfare money away from the homeless. Now Sup. Jeff Sheehy has legislation that attacks homeless people who make a little money recycling and selling bicycle parts.

The bill has been around a while. It would criminalize the possession of five or more bicycles or bike parts by somebody living on the street. Sheehy, who is running for re-election in June, says his goal is to prevent bicycle thefts, which are a serious problem. 

Is this a ‘chop shot’ — or a bike lover’s basement?

But the Coalition on Homelessness points out that not everyone who happens to lack a roof over their heads is a criminal.

The reality is that recycling bike parts is one of the few alternative economic venues for impoverished people to make a living.  Destitute people receive donated bike parts, find parts in dumpsters and various locations, trade parts and are able to use their bike skills to repair bikes, build bikes and sell them for life sustaining income.  They often don’t have means to sell their wares on places like Craigslist.  Of course, some unhoused people engage in theft, as do some housed community members, but most of this economy is honest recycling.  This legislation assumes that if you are unhoused and engaging in this element of the economy, you are presumed guilty of theft.

Similarly many avid housed and unhoused bicyclists own multiple bicycles that can be used for varying leisure and practical purposes. Avid cyclists collect accessories to decorate and improve their property. This ordinance allows the confiscation of property simply because the individual is both homeless (forced by destitution into “open air”), and has either five or more bicycle parts, five or more bicycles, three bikes with missing parts, or one frame with cut cables.  We believe this ordinance will violate unhoused peoples’ property rights, simply because they are destitute.

I can tell you: My basement fits the definition of a chop shop in Sheehy’s bill. There are five or more bicycles in various states of repair, five or more bicycle parts, and three bikes with missing parts. None of them are stolen — but more important, I have a house. 

The Sheehy bill would allow the Department of Public Works to decide, unilaterally, whether somebody has property that violates the law, and to confiscate the bicycles or parts. 

Again, from COH:

California law presumes that a person who possesses an item is its rightful owner.  This proposed legislation categorically authorizes the Department of Public Works to impound property without probable cause that bike items are stolen. 

This legislation would result in the frequent confiscation of property from rightful owners, simply because they are destitute and therefore presumed to be thieves. In a truly Orwellian twist, the only way homeless rightful owners could get their property back is to either prove that they did not have multiple bike parts outdoors or to pay an impound fee, while housed people could prove ownership and have their impound fees waived.  There is no means in this legislation for homeless people to prove ownership to avoid confiscation, or to get rightful property back for free.

The measure comes before the Land Use and Transportation Committee Monday/25. The hearing starts at 1:30pm.

 

The supes are set to hold a hearing Tuesday/26 on an issue that’s come up several times in the past but has never been fully resolved: Is a nine-year-old environmental study of the Mission, completed before the city was packed with Uber, Lyft, Chariot, and Google buses, still relevant enough to exempt a large market-rate housing project from further review?

The project at 1726 Mission involves a six-story structure with 40 market-rate condos above what is described as production, distribution, and repair space.

Our Mission No Eviction has called for a full environmental study, particularly to look at the impacts more high-end housing will have on the neighborhood. 

But the city says that when it completed the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan Environmental Impact Report in 2008, it analyzed all the potential impacts from the thousands of new housing units the plan envisioned.

However, the appeal letter states, 

The Department concedes that it has not properly analyzed cumulative impacts of 1924 new units built, entitled, or under review in a small eight block area on each side of Mission Street, from South Van Ness Avenue to Sixteenth Street. 

Besides, as Sup. Aaron Peskin has pointed out in the past, the EIR for the Eastern Neighborhoods predicted about 2,000 new units, and more than 3,400 are now either constructed, approved, or under review.

“The underlying assumptions of the [plan] have, for the most part, proven to be incorrect,” the appeal states.

What this is really about is gentrification, and that argument that high-end housing winds up displacing existing vulnerable communities. In a remarkable statement responding to the appeal, the Planning Department denies that there is any truth to a claim that is pretty well proven by the track record of fancy projects in the Mission:

The Department disagrees with the appellant’s position that development under the Eastern Neighborhoods rezoning and area plans such as the 1726‐1730 Mission Street project are responsible for residential or commercial displacement. As shown in the attached analysis (Attachment A) prepared for the 2675 Folsom Street CEQA appeal, the appellant’s contention that the proposed project would cause or contribute to socioeconomic effects that would in turn result in significant impacts on the physical environment that were not previously identified in the Eastern Neighborhoods PEIR is contrary to the evidence. Based on the available data and expert opinion presented in the academic literature, it appears that the fundamental causes of gentrification and displacement in the Mission and elsewhere in San Francisco are likely related to broader economic and social trends, such as the mismatch between the supply and demand for housing at all levels, the strength of the regional economy, low unemployment, high wages, favorable climate, and a preference for urban lifestyles and shorter commutes. 

That reads like a chapter from the Yimby Party textbook. 

The hearing starts at 3pm.

The Agenda: Tasers, traffic, and cannabis

Why do we keep hearing that the cops need yet another weapon?

The San Francisco Police Department hasn’t by any means given up on getting Tasers — apparently, Chief William Scott is a big fan of the zapping weapons. The Commission has declined to approve the request in the past, but it’s back — and there will be two key public hearings in the next two weeks.

The SFPD refuses to give up on Tasers

The first one, Tuesday/12, is at Bill Graham Auditorium at 6pm. The second one is Tuesday/19, at the City College Phelan Campus Student Union, Lower Level. The department wants you to sign up in advance, which you can do here.

The cops say that Tasers will help them avoid shooting and killing people, which they’ve done a lot in the past few years. If there’s a “less lethal” alternative, they argue, it makes sense to have it available.

But some of the shootings we’ve seen were instances where even a Taser would have been inappropriate, where the situation could have been deescalated without any sort of excessive force. 

And, of course, Tasers can be lethal, particularly if they are used incorrectly — and sometimes, even if they are used correctly.

Some critics also note that if cops have Tasers, they will use them — not as an alternative to a pistol but as an alternative to calming down, avoiding violence, and finding alternatives. Lots of people are going to get zapped — not just those who present a deadly threat. Tasers, critics have found, become a crutch.

It’s going to take a lot of community resistance to keep the stun guns out of the SFPD. That starts Tuesday night.

 

The One Oak issue is back at the Board of Supes Tuesday/12, after Sup. London Breed held a series of meetings with the project sponsors, city planners, and Jason Henderson, who filed an appeal of the environmental impact report.

At issue is not just one 304-unit condo building; the decisions around how the city analyzes traffic impacts could affect Muni service all over the city.

The developer will no doubt offer some concessions, including more affordable housing, but the supes might want to ask a few questions about the existing deal. The developer has given three lots in the Octavia corridor to the city and will underwrite the construction of at least 70 units there — but some critics are raising questions about the financing. Is Build Inc, the project sponsor, really going to fund 100 percent of the cost of building those 70 units (at least $40 million)? I don’t see that amount of cash in any of the documents on file so far.

The hearing’s at 3pm, unless the parties reach a deal and it’s called off.

 

Sup. Malia Cohen wants to stop the city from issuing medical cannabis permits for 45 days (and these interim controls tend to become year-long controls). She argues that the state is still figuring out how to deal with legalization — and so is the city’s cannabis office. Will existing medical dispensaries get permits to sell to anyone over 21? How will the city issue licenses for new permits to sell recreational weed?

The problem, as the Small Business Commission points out in an Aug. 22 letter to the board, is that there are 27 applications for MCD permits that are already under review by the Planning Commission. Those applicants played by the rules, put up a substantial amount of time and money into their applications, and, that commission argues, they should at least get a hearing and a chance to get a permit.

The city has 39 dispensaries. Some of them may apply for permits to sell recreational cannabis. This, I suppose, is alarming to some people. But according to a quick check with the the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, there are 89 active permits to sell booze in a retail outlet just in my zip code, 94110. There are another 53 in 94117 (the Haight) and 42 in 94114 (Castro).

The Sunset, which seems to be adamantly opposed to any cannabis dispensaries, has more than 50 off-sale liquor licenses.

In other words, the number of outlets that can sell you a bottle of bourbon is vastly greater than the number that can, or with current applicants, possibly could, sell you cannabis, which by many accounts is far less dangerous than alcohol.

Just something to think about.

Cohen’s moratorium bill is at Land Use and Transportation Monday/11 at 1:30 pm.

Transportation, housing, criminal justice, and climate change. That’s ….

Public Defender Jeff Adachi wants criminal justice reform in Sacramento

The national news media still seems to be talking about the relatively minor incidents of violence in Berkeley when the white supremacists came to town last weekend. I have read so many anguished Facebook posts by people who say the “antifa” are ruining the progressive movement, that violence has no place in politics, and that we are tarnishing the history of the civil rights movement.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi wants criminal justice reform in Sacramento

As I said before: I’m not condoning violence. I think the vast majority of the protesters I saw were peaceful. And now this from four Christian clerics who are all supporters of nonviolence:

The civil rights movement was messy, disorderly, confrontational and yes, sometimes violent. Those standing on the sidelines of the current racial-justice movement, waiting for a pristine or flawless exercise of righteous protest, will have a long wait.

So let’s not get all agitated about the antifa. Most of what happened last weekend was wonderful. Nobody got seriously injured. As Nato Green notes, the whole day had less violence than most major sporting events. A few fistfights do not amount to an outpouring of violence.

 

And on to this week.

Official San Francisco is back in business after the summer recess, and the Board of Supes Tuesday/5 will, among other things, consider an appeal of the One Oak project, with the state of the city’s transportation system on congested Market Street in the balance.

The way these things tend to go, the board gives a lot of deference to the supervisor from the district where the project is based — in this case, London Breed. Since this is an appeal, the supes can’t talk in advance about how they vote; Breed, like many of her colleagues, seems to prefer working out deals with developers and the community instead of killing big projects altogether.

This time, though, the appellant, San Francisco State Professor Jason Henderson, isn’t looking for more affordable housing or community amenities (although he would, I’m sure, love to see more of both). 

He’s not even trying to block the whole project; he told me he could support it, with some changes.

But he wants the city to overhaul the way it does transportation studies, to get a grip on how Uber, Lyft, delivery services and tech shuttles will impact a busy intersection when you add 304 new high-end condos. And he wants the building to comply with the code for parking, which would mean only 25 percent of the units would come with a parking space.

The developer, Build Inc., has insisted that a project without more parking won’t work; rich people aren’t going to buy multimillion-dollar condos if they don’t have a place to put their cars.

The hearing starts at 3pm in the Board chamber.

 

The state Legislature is already back in session, and a long list of key bills are either pending or dead.

A measure that would have made it harder for citizen initiatives to opposed development is dead for the year — thanks, tenant advocates say, to the growing power of the state’s tenant-rights movement.

“We welcome the demise of this misguided landlord-sponsored bill,” noted Dean Preston, executive director of Tenants Together, California’s statewide organization for renters’ rights.  “Landlords already have too much political power thanks to the corrupting influence of money in politics – we don’t need Sacramento rewriting local election laws for their benefit.”

AB 943, backed by the real-estate industry, sailed through the state Assembly, but ran into trouble in the Senate as tenant groups organized and managed to block in. The Appropriations Committee put the bill on “suspense,” meaning it’s dead for the year.

The Assembly Appropriation’s Committee gutted Sen. Scott Wiener’s bill that would allow cities to extend alcohol-service hours to 4am, leaving it as nothing but a study — which probably means that bill, which was strongly supported by the SF nightlife industry, is also dead for the year.

On the other hand, SB 35, the Wiener bill that would promote more market-rate housing development in the mistaken belief that more luxury condos will bring housing prices down, will come to the Assembly floor any day now. Fernando Marti, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, and I were on KQED Forum Friday debating this bill with Laura Foote Clark, executive director of Yimby Action; you can listen to the show here.

What I told Clark was that the whole premise of SB 35 is false. No housing gets built without financing, and most financing comes from investors who want the maximum rate of return. The private market right now will never build housing for the middle class. If you built so much that prices started to soften, that money would go elsewhere.

Much of the affordable housing that cities get comes from forcing developers into building more below-market units than they want. Take away that tool and you will get less affordable housing. Not surprisingly, the landlords and developers are among the biggest backers of this bill, and tenant and anti-eviction groups are against it.

Meanwhile, there are two bills that address criminal sentencing enhancements that Public Defender Jeff Adachi is supporting, and both of them will come up for a vote in the next few days. SB 180, by Sen Holly Mitchell, would repeal the three-year sentence enhancement for prior drug offenses. The enhancement are cumulative — you get two drug offenses, your next included an extra six years. Three priors, and you get nine more years. This has, of course, done nothing to slow drug abuse, but has forced thousands of people, mostly young men of color, into long, pointless (and expensive) stints in prison.

SB 620, by Sen. Steven Bradford, is a pretty modest proposal that would allow judges to adjust the mandatory 10-year enhancement for gun-related crimes. Right now, if you are caught with a gun during a felony, you automatically get an additional 10 years — which doesn’t always (or often) make sense.

The votes on these will be close, so check the link above for legislators who need calls and letters.

 

And finally: The devastation in Houston is terrible, and the human impacts will be felt for years. Hundreds of thousands of people will come back to find their homes ruined, good for nothing but tearing down. 

The situation in Bangladesh and India hasn’t made as many headlines in the US, but at least 1,200 are dead there — and more than 40 million, about seven times the population of Houston, have been affected.

All the good city planning in the world (and Houston has essentially no zoning at all) couldn’t prevent disaster when a tropical depression turned into a Category Four hurricane in less than 24 hours.

But the lesson here is that climate change is real, the “1,000 year flood” that this is described as will be a five-year or ten-year flood along the Gulf Coast in the future, and every city in coastal US needs to be a clue.

That includes San Francisco, where we are building and building on the waterfront and in places like Mission Bay, that are mostly fill and not far above the current sea level, which will rise as much as 6-10 feet before the end of the century. 

I have not yet heard a single professional planner in this town say that this entire development pattern is unsustainable. It’s as if we just figure that some future technology will save us. 

But when it comes to the power of nature, there’s really no app for that.