SF Democratic Party votes against the Mission

County committee rejects community call for a break in runaway development

The Yes side: Mission community activists were well represented

The Yes side: Mission community activists were well represented

By Tim Redmond

MAY 28, 2015 – As if there were any doubt left, the Democratic Party of  San Francisco demonstrated how far  it has gone from its progressive roots and how closely it’s become aligned with the real estate industry last night as the party’s leaders voted against a temporary moratorium on market-rate housing in the Mission.

The vote was 13-10, with Assemblymember David Chiu, who ran for office touting his “shared progressive values,” joining those who voted against the measure.

“The sends a clear message that the Democratic Party is not interested in what the neighborhoods want,” Sup. David Campos, who is sponsoring the moratorium measure, told me after the vote.

The Democratic County Central Committee has no direct authority over land use (or any other city policy), and the measure will still come before the full Board of Supervisors June 2.

But the meeting was an early showcase of exactly what the debate will look like next week – and put every member of the committee on the record on one of the most critical issues in the city.

We saw the arguments on both sides with exceptional clarity. The residents and merchants in the Mission, along with housing advocates from across the city, said that the neighborhood needs a break from the rush of new luxury housing to create a new plan for future development.

Opponents, including Sup. Scott Wiener and the groups SF Bay Area Renters Federation and GrowSF, argue that more development would bring down prices, and anything limiting new projects would just mean higher prices and more evictions.

Most of the people who spoke against the moratorium were white. Some worked in the tech industry. Many of those who spoke in favor were Latino.

In fact, just about every grassroots group in the Mission supports the idea. It’s fair to say that the moratorium plan is something that came out of the community, and has overwhelming community backing. Continue reading

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Some strange rumblings in the SF economy

Too much office space — or too little? Is the rent too damn high even for tech workers? Is it time to take a little break here?

So many new luxury condos that maybe even tech workers can't afford ... what's going on here?

So many new luxury condos that maybe even tech workers can’t afford … what’s going on here?

By Tim Redmond

MAY 27, 2015 – I keep hearing strange rumblings these days about the San Francisco economy, stuff that ought to be grounds for at least some discussion in the public sphere.

For one thing, while the mayor and some in the tech industry complain about a lack of office space in the city (and developers are converting industrial space to offices, often without permits, as quickly as they can), the SF Business Times is reporting that there’s a glut of space coming on the market as existing companies either consolidate or decide SF is too expensive and go somewhere else.

As more companies ditch their office spaces, it raises alarms for a potential commercial real estate downturn, as I detailed last month. Those alarms may blare more loudly now that these potential listings put sublease space at about 1.7 million square feet, San Francisco’s highest total since the tail end of the recession in the last quarter of 2009.

Me, I don’t see a commercial real-estate downturn as any cause for alarm; cheaper office space might mean less of a land grab for what is now Production, Distribution, and Repair space.

But it’s worth talking about in light of the fact that I’m hearing lots of talk about the Prop. M development limits and how they might “stunt” the job market. Continue reading

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OPINION: An Ethics proposal that encourages sleaze

Secret dirty politics could come back if new proposal gets through the Board of Supervisors


By Larry Bush

MAY 27, 2105 — An anonymous mailer arrives at your door with a photo of a synagogue defaced with a swastika alleging that a candidate is an anti-Semite. You answer the phone to hear a robo-call on a controversial political issue on the ballot — but it doesn’t tell you who paid for the call. Mailers touting an official who happens to be running for election appear as fundraising pitches for a local nonprofit, with no disclosure about who paid for them.

San Francisco put the kibosh on that kind of secret dirty politics in 2006, but it could come back from the dead this November as a result of new loopholes proposed by the SF Ethics Commission and Board President London Breed up for a vote at Thursday’s Rules Committee.

In the name of clarifying and simplifying the law, the commission and Breed have produced a “reform” that includes elements that worsen rather than improve our politics. Maybe it’s because they don’t know why the law was written in the first place, but whatever the reason, this proposal needs to be amended by the Rules Committee or go back to the workshop to be overhauled.

Few people will notice the changes being proposed, much less their impact, until they see the results made possible as soon as this November’s election. Continue reading

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The Agenda, May 26-31: Round One in the Mission Moratorium battle

Democratic Party will debate the issue; expect fireworks. Plus: Public hearings are part of civic life. Get used to it.

Protesters sit in front of Mayor Lee's office to demand a halt to luxury housing in the Mission

Protesters sit in front of Mayor Lee’s office to demand a halt to luxury housing in the Mission

By Tim Redmond

MAY 26, 2015 – So now even that radical left-wing rag The Wall Street Journal has weighed in on the housing crisis in major US cities, mostly NY and SF, and concluded, in part, that too much luxury housing has an impact on existing rents and “is adding to the rent squeeze.”

The Journal isn’t exactly calling for a limit to new high-end housing, but the paper has helped identify the problem.

And it’s a critical time: The proposal for a moratorium on luxury housing is heading for a huge, high-stakes showdown at the Board of Supervisors June 2. Sup. David Campos, the sponsor, convinced his colleagues that the item should be heard by a Committee of the Whole, meaning all 11 supes will hear what should be hours of testimony for and against the idea before voting on it.

In the meantime, we will get a preview of the arguments, and the organizing, Wed/27 when the proposal comes before the Democratic County Central Committee. Already, the emails out of SFBARF and GROW SF, two groups that want to build as much dense housing as possible, with no regard for the price, in the desperate hope that eventually prices will come down (we should live so long), are pumping up the DCCC meeting and urging opponents of the Campos plan to attend and speak. Continue reading

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Political notebook: Peskin files first

Plus: Text messages and public records — and why is Ed Lee headlining the City College commencement?

The mayor doesn't trust his own planning commissioners to listen to public testimony

The mayor doesn’t trust his own planning commissioners to listen to public testimony

By Tim Redmond

MAY 22, 2015 – Former Sup. Aaron Peskin is the first to the finish line in the race to file signatures to make it onto the November ballot. Peskin will file the last of more than 1,000 signatures at noon today, enough to qualify him for the District Three race.

Supervisor Julie Christensen, the incumbent, has been collecting signatures but hasn’t reached the threshold yet. It’s pretty clear that she will, but the Peskin campaign is celebrating its early finish.

“We have been out in every part of the district,” Nate Allbee, Peskin’s campaign manager, told me.

Gathering signatures for a campaign like this isn’t just about qualifying for the ballot; it’s an organizing technique. You get 1,000 people to say they want you on the ballot, and that’s potentially your first 1,000 votes.


The big news earlier this week was the scoop by my friend Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, who obtained text messages showing that the Mayor’s Office contacted a planning commission member during a meeting and told her to change her vote on Airbnb.

That’s not surprising – we know this mayor likes to run a tight ship and tell everyone how to vote. There’s been some discussion of past mayors doing the same thing (except that Willie Brown knew better than to leave any kind of paper or electronic trail).

But there are two interesting points to be made here. The first is that the voters changed the rules for Planning Commission members a few years ago, in the wake of Brown firing Commissioner Dennis Antenore when he refused to side with the mayor on a major policy issue. Continue reading

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