Pomp And Protesters: Inside Mayor Ed Lee’s 2016 Inauguration

by Brittany Hopkins, Nuala Sawyer : hoodline – excerpt

Mayor Ed Lee’s second inauguration drew thousands of people—including state and federal politicians, city supervisors, heads of city departments and hundreds of angry protesters—to City Hall this morning.

But before the doors officially opened to the public at 11am, protesters were already gathering for a planned demonstration in support of Mario Woods, who was shot and killed by police in the Bayview on Dec. 2nd. Supporters carried posters with messages like “Fire Suhr,” “Jail Killer Cops” and “Black Lives Matter,” though word trickled through the relatively quiet group that they wouldn’t be allowed once inside…

Lee addressed the protesters early on in his speech, responding to chants of “Fire Chief Suhr” with “Thank you, we heard you.” Later in the speech, he briefly spoke to protesters’ concerns: “I won’t stop until we build better trust between law enforcement and the communities they’re sworn to protect, especially young men of color.”

“I think the mayor did an extraordinary job under difficult circumstances,” former mayor Gavin Newsom told the Examiner after the event. “Few people can go up there like that and follow through.”

Following the ceremony, protesters reconvened to continue their efforts on the front steps of City Hall, as the politicians inside mingled.

This afternoon, Eileen Hirst of the Sheriff’s Department confirmed that no arrests had been made at the event. “There were about 75 protesters,” she said. “10 of them were detained for a few minutes for disrupting a public meeting, waving signs in front of people so they couldn’t see the ceremony, that kind of stuff. But there were no arrests, no citations. Everybody was released very quickly.”… (more)

New D3 Supervisor Peskin Talks Rent Control, Subway, Crime And Spending

by Geri Koeppel : hoodline – excerpt

District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin took his seat, so we caught up with him to chat about some of the current concerns his constituents have, some projects he’s already working on, and things he has in the hopper…(more)

Mayor Lee Asks the City to Cut its Budget and Gets Accused of Corruption

By   : sfweekly – excerpt

Mayor Ed Lee asked the city to cut its budget, and the Ethics Commission just plain said no.

In fact, it was closer to “hell no.”

San Francisco is looking at a projected $100 million shortfall next fiscal year, and another $240 million hole the year after, so the mayor’s office directed all city departments to trim their budgets 1.5 percent. This is a far cry from 2014, when Lee’s administration adopted a “let the good times roll” policy and told everyone not to worry about cuts. 

A representative from the mayor’s office came to this morning’s special meeting of the Ethics Commission to helpfully explain that department’s obligation to cut back. (Actually, he ended up explaining the budget process from start to finish, because Chairman Paul Renne kept prompting him to continue, and when Renne asks you for something in his soothing, James Garner-like voice, it’s basically impossible to say no.)

Once they’d reviewed the entire procedure, Commissioner Benedict Hur posed a deceptively simple question: “What if we don’t do it?”

Yep, the mayor asked for cuts — ordered them, really, to the degree that he’s allowed — and the first response he got was, “What if I don’t feel like it? What are you going to do ?”

At first it sounded like the mayor’s man was honestly stumped by this query, but after a couple seconds of cringing contemplation, he replied that the city had a legal obligation to pass a balanced budget. Which you’ll notice doesn’t actually answer the question….

“At a time like this, doesn’t the city need a more robust watchdog, not less?” Hur asked. “Investigations have to be done. The revenue has to be there. For us to compliantly cut out 1.5 percent when, if anything, we should be adding? Unacceptable.”

This segued into a potentially awkward line of questioning: Just where did all that money go?…(more)

Maybe it is time for the Department heads to listen to the public and quit spending billions of dollars on the most expensive solutions when there are much more popular options that cost a lot less.

The SFMTA and Rec and Park are overblown and out of control. They spend more money every year on new capital improvements that they cannot support or maintain. Someone needs to convince them that they need to pull back and do a lot less. They should drop their planning department and go back to running the public transit system. We are hoping that the Board of Supervisors will figure this out.

The cheapest solution is to managing the streets is to LEAVE THEM ALONE. Leave the parking meters open for public and quit cooking the books by moving money from one budget year to another. The bulbouts everyone hates costs a lot more than the simple street repairs everyone wants. The curbside BRT options favored by the public are a lot less costly than the middle of the road designs SFMTA wants. We dont’ need to replace any street trees or light posts. 

City Hall 2015: dominated by housing crisis, capped off by political change

By  : sfexaminer – excerpt

San Francisco’s City Hall has said goodbye to another year of rising rents, evictions and an increase in homeless people.

But unlike the past several years, the year ended with a political shift in the election of Aaron Peskin in District 3 over Mayor Ed Lee’s appointee, Julie Christensen, which has already shaken up some of the entrenched policies and approaches to those aforementioned challenges since he took his seat Dec. 8.

Peskin’s victory was among the most significant stories of 2015, and the race largely colored the political inner workings of City Hall — as soon he threw his hat into the ring in March.

Housing policy dominates

Housing has remained on the forefront of City Hall politics as stories about the impacts of the housing crisis and the proposals to address those impacts continue to garner much attention. Mayor Lee announced a “blueprint” for achieving a goal of 30,000 new or rehabbed housing units — with one-third below market rate — by 2020, and succeeded in passing a $310 million housing bond. The Board of Supervisors approved the legalization of in-law units in District 3 and District 8. Supervisor Jane Kim also passed increased protections for tenants to counter “gotcha” evictions.

The year saw a number of large public gatherings at City Hall, indicating both the unrest and significance of the debates over housing policies.

One of the largest turnouts at City Hall by the public was a protest in support of a Mission moratorium on market-rate housing. Supporters argued the method was needed to place a priority on below-market-rate housing to counter gentrification and displacement. The board failed to approve the proposal in June and voters later rejected it as well.

Progressive shift

Another large turnout met with success in December. Those who opposed a new jail proposal, which cost $240 million without debt service, convinced the board to defeat the project as they called for greater investment in housing and rehabilitation services instead.

The jail defeat, which came after Peskin assumed his seat, was seen as emblematic of the political shift his presence has affected, turning the board into a progressive majority and challenging the mayor’s political agenda.

Politics under the influence…

The Arts Commission illustrated just how severe artist displacement was during the year. A survey found 70 percent of the nearly 600 respondent artists were displaced or were being displaced from their homes, workplaces or both. Twenty-eight percent, or 125, said they were at risk of displacement.

Looking into 2016

Many of the challenges of 2015 will continue into the new year. The debate over regulating Airbnb short-term rentals is expected to return to the board….(more)

How the 2016 races shape up

by Tim Redmond : 48hills – excerpt

Control of the city, and its future, on the line in a year of high-octane, high-stakes politics

DECEMBER 4, 2015 – The next 11 months are going to be a whirlwind of political activity in San Francisco, with control of the city – and potentially its political future – at stake.

The addition of Aaron Peskin to the board gives the progressives a sometimes-if-shaky six-vote majority, but only for a year: Six seats are up on the Board of Supervisors, and three of the most progressive members are termed out.

A high-profile state Senate race will send one supe to Sacramento – and possibly set that person up to run for higher office when Mayor Lee is termed out and Rep. Nancy Pelosi decides to retire.

The first round of the Senate race between Scott Wiener and Jane Kim will come in June – at the same time that progressives will have a chance to take back the local Democratic Party, which is now controlled by real-estate interests.

Add races for School Board and Community College Board during a presidential election year and we’re talking big opportunities to establish new leadership.

Here’s how things are shaping up right now:… (more)

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The Agenda, Nov. 23-Nov. 30: The problem with affordable housing bonuses…

by Tim Redmond : 48hills – excerpt


The city has more than 30,000 sites where a “density bonus” could be allowed for building taller housing with some affordable units

By Tim Redmond

NOVEMBER 23, 2015 – There’s not a lot going on at City Hall this week; things tend to slow down for the holiday. Which gives us a chance to talk about a couple of things that have been floating around this fall and that have gotten lost in the campaign season.

There is, for example, this grand plan for what city officials call an “affordable housing density bonus.”

Here’s how it’s supposed to work: If you are going to build new housing in the city, and you are seeking permits in an area with pretty low height limits (like most residential neighborhoods) you can get as much as two stories or extra height if you agree to build more affordable units.

Nice, right? We aren’t talking about giant highrises, just and extra ten or 20 feet in exchange for an increase in below-market units. Let the developers do what they do, and make the new places just a little taller, and we suddenly have thousands of new “affordable” units.

But Tommi Avicolli Mecca, a longtime tenant advocate at the Housing Rights Committee, points out that there’s a huge loophole here:

What happens if developers decide to demolish existing rent-controlled housing units to build taller buildings with more units – but no rent control?

There are thousands and thousands of places in the path of the city’s density-bonus program that are smaller than what the plan would allow. Among them, Mecca told me, is the site on Castro where Harvey Milk’s camera shop once stood.

“Are they going to tear down that building?” he asked.

The current city law makes it hard to demolish existing residential units. Any demolition plan requires a conditional use permit, which means a full hearing at the Planning Commission. The code is designed to discourage any housing demolition; the default assumption is that housing should be preserved.

But what happens when a developer comes to the commission and says: Hey, I’m tearing down six units – but I’m going to build ten, and three of them will be affordable?

The way this commission, and for the most part this Board of Supervisors, has been trending, anything that offers more housing is good. So that’s an argument that might have traction.

Two problems: A lot of that existing housing is in irreplaceable Victorian buildings, part of the city’s historic legacy, which would be turned to dust in the name of (ugly) new utilitarian structures that maximize space.

And under state law, all housing constructed after 1979 is exempt from rent control.

So you tear down rent-controlled housing, which means the existing residents are evicted and forced out of town, probably out of the Bay Area. (Any eviction of long-term working-class tenants or people on fixed incomes today means they are gone, forced to move to another part of the country.)

Then new units that are not under rent control are built, along with some below-market units – probably fewer than the existing affordable units that were destroyed.

Oh, and the existing tenants won’t have any preference for those affordable units, which won’t be built until those tenants have already fled the region.

In the end, maybe, net loss of affordable housing.

Remember: In a housing crisis, the most important, and least expensive, housing is what already exists. The first priority has to be preventing the loss of rent-controlled housing stock.

“We went to the planners and asked about this, and they said they would get back to us,” Mecca told me.

I tried the same thing: I posed the question to the chief planner on the program. What, I asked, will prevent developers from demolishing existing rent-controlled housing to build more new units that might not be under rent control?

No answer.

I don’t think the battle over Fifth and Mission is over – and the same goes for the board’s approval of a highrise condo complex on the waterfront at 75 Howard.

There’s a good chance of lawsuits challenging the EIRs in both projects – and there’s also the prospect of ballot measures.

The developer of 8 Washington got all of his City Hall approvals, too. And that is now dead, thanks to a vote of the people.

Voting is on for the local board of the Sierra Club, and a pro-development group is trying to take control. If you’re a member, you get to vote (and a lot of members don’t). There’s a big difference between the slates, and you can figure it out pretty easily – the ones who have only been members since 2014 are the developer-driven candidates who want to make the local chapter promote more market-rate housing. The ones who have been members for many years are credible environmentalists.

There’s also a battle for control of the SF Bicycle Coalition, between a group that is more focused on the single-issue of bicycles and a group that wants the organization to veer more toward larger transportation justice issues. Also: One group wants to eliminate elections for board members in the name of “privacy.”

The coalition has always walked a fine line between doing the narrow mission – advocating for better conditions for bicycling in SF – and being part of a larger progressive coalition. In the last election, for example, the coalition endorsed both Aaron Peskin and Julie Christensen, who might both like bikes but who have very different vision about issues of economic and transit justice.

The November municipal election is over. Two key environmental groups are just starting theirs… (more)

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Did Airbnb Win or Lose On Prop F?

Did Airbnb Win or Lose On Prop F?

by Raz Godelnik, Triple Pundit, 11/10/15
Last Tuesday was an election day in the U.S. This is of course off-election year, and therefore this day could be easily ignored unless your kids go to public school and you had to find an alternate arrangement for them — or you’re Airbnb.

Yes, Airbnb, one of the leading companies in the sharing economy was involved in a fight over Proposition F in San Francisco: “a measure that would have imposed substantial restrictions on Airbnb rentals in the city,” including a reduction of the number of days that Airbnb hosts in the city can rent their places (from 90 to 75 per year).

So, who won? The measure was voted down 56 percent to 44 percent, and Airbnb as you could imagine was extremely happy about the results. “Tonight, in a decisive victory for the middle class, voters stood up for working families’ right to share their homes and opposed an extreme, hotel industry-backed measure,” Airbnb said in a statement that could easily be used in November 2016 with some light changes by the Clinton campaign, if it will be able to generate similar results.

But did Airbnb actually win? Even though the measure was voted down, and Airbnb wants to export its campaign strategy against the proposition to other cities around the world where it faces similar challenges, I’m not sure the company really won.

Here are five things to consider when answering this question:

Narrative change No. 1: From David to Goliath…

Narrative change No. 2: Not the nice guy anymore…

Narrative change No. 3: Airbnb has fucked up the culture…

Narrative change No. 4: Airbnb struggles with design for complex relationship…

Narrative change No. 5: The (missing) resilience factor…

If Airbnb learned the wrong lesson from the fight over Prop F, I’m not sure it actually won.

So, what do you think – did Airbnb won or lose the fight over Prop F?…(more)