California Wildfires and PG&E Bailout Play a Big Role
Will Newsom Escape Recall?
by Patrick Monette-Shaw
Many people are questioning whether Governor Gavin Newsom will escape being recalled. It’s a valid question at this late date.
As of August 16, polls showed Newsom had lost ground in recent polling about his prospects to survive the recall election on September 14. Newsom was in a dead heat, with 52% of likely registered voters opposing recall, and 48% supporting recall. The margin of error of the polling wasn’t announced, but it bodes ill for Governor Gavin.
An August 18 analysis of other polls by Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight polling aggregation website shows that 48.8% of voters are against (“No”), and 47.6% are for it (“Yes”). Newsom’s one-point margin is extremely thin, and may worsen; he needs 50%+1 (“No”) to survive, so he’s under water.
Newsom’s situation is so dire, I received U.S. Mail on August 17 from the California Democratic Party asserting the recall election is tightening and extremely close, and begging me to donate up to $2,500 to help Newsom save his job. I’m a retiree and don’t have that kind of disposable income sitting in my bank account. That’s putting aside that I wouldn’t spend that level of a political campaign donation to save Newsom his job, because there are too many other deserving Democrats facing tough national election and re-election contests next year whom I desperately want to support. Newsom won’t get a dime from me, any more than I’d give Donald Trump one of my dimes.
What the California Democratic Party didn’t know was that I had already received my ballot from the San Francisco Department of Elections on August 13, filled it out the same day, and sent it back the following day on Friday, August 14. I had already returned my ballot before learning I had inadvertently voted the way Newsom later recommended — which recommendation may well end up spelling his own doom. (More about that later.)
I won’t be at all surprised if Newsom doesn’t escape unscathed.
For the first half of August, the Bay Area was inundated by a single TV ad broadcast almost non-stop opposing Newsom’s recall. The ad featured — somewhat ironically — only U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a dyed-in-the wool “progressive” Democrat, who is supporting “moderate” Gavin Newsom. Warren’s unchanged ads claimed Republicans have “abused [California’s] recall processes.”
Tell that to victims of California’s wildfires, plenty of whom may suspect Newsom’s time in office involves misconduct, and/or political corruption.
Warren may not have understood California’s recall processes are limited to breaches of office, serious misconduct, or corruption, not just political disagreements between the two major political parties. The case for Newsom’s recall for breaches of office, misconduct, or corruption may not be that weak.
News surfaced on August 17 reporting Newsom pledged stronger wildfire responses during his visit to the devastated Big Basin State Park near Boulder Creek in Santa Cruz County. Newsom claimed hiring more firefighters, increasing forest management, and deploying new weather monitoring technology were priorities in spending the state’s nearly $80 billion budget surplus this year. Given the devastation from wildfires that have happened since 2017 — and in particular, wildfires occurring now in 2021 — Newsom should have pledged stronger wildfire responses long before now.
Perhaps the recall election caused Newsom to make new, albeit belated, pledges. California’s wildfires may well be something voters care about deeply as they consider how to vote on his recall.
Newsom’s 2019 “Brokerage” Role in AB-1054 to Protect PG&E
As far back as when Newsom was San Francisco’s mayor, his cozy relationship with PG&E was of great concern to San Franciscans worried about corruption in his City Hall “family.” After he became Lieutenant Governor in 2011, Newsom’s cozy relationship with PG&E continued unabated.
Ten months after being sworn in as California’s governor in January 2019, “The Gavinator” — as Newsom nicknamed himself — shrugged off questions during a TV broadcast back on November 1, 2019 “about the appearance of a possible conflict of interest in trying to lead PG&E’s bankruptcy negotiations, insisting that he [was] not swayed by the $208,400 donation PG&E made to help him win the 2018 election.”
The TV report involved Newson’s announcement his “office would seek to ‘broker’ a deal to end PG&E’s bankruptcy,” and that Newsom had “inserted himself into a massively complex fight that pits fire victims, governments, shareholders, and bondholders against each other. Tens of billions of dollars [were] at stake.” Not directly mentioned, but entirely relevant, PG&E’s own ratepayers — me included — wound up pitted against everybody else.
For its part, KTVU Channel 2 reported in July 2018 that PG&E had been diverting money away from its power line undergrounding projects for decades to what PG&E called “other high priority system improvements”
PG&E filed for bankruptcy protection on January 29, 2019 to shield itself from an estimated $30 billion in wildfire liabilities, including four wildfires that killed a total of 97 people in 2018: The Carr fire, Mendocino Complex fire, Woolsey fire, and Camp fire, the latter of which killed 85 people and destroyed the Town of Paradise. That was on top of the 22 people who died as a result of the Tubbs fire in October 2017.
Illustrating that PG&E and Newsom were clearly in bed together, not too surprisingly, bankruptcy documents revealed PG&E offered to support its own bankruptcy plan but only if terms of the bankruptcy were “acceptable to Governor Newsom’s Office.” Don’t hog the bedclothes, Gavinator.
Less than a month after PG&E filed for bankruptcy and just two months after Newsom became governor, a bill was introduced in the California Assembly on February 22, 2019 — AB-1054, Public utilities: wildfires and employee protection — that would take effect immediately as an urgency statute.
Some PG&E critics believe Newsom gave the company a priceless gift in the form of the hastily-written and hastily-passed AB-1054 that was aimed at protecting power monopolies from financial trouble when they start future wildfires.
Fire – Power – Money
Luckily, Sacramento-based ABC Channel 10 has been broadcasting a series of articles entitled “Fire – Power – Money” since 2019 examining connections between California’s wildfires, PG&E, and PG&E’s influence on California politics. The series of articles are by investigative reporter Brandon Rittiman, a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, who is a winner of regional Emmy awards and other awards. Fortunately, ABC Channel 7 in San Francisco has re-broadcast many of the segments in Rittiman’s Fire – Power – Money three seasons of episodes. They’ve probably been re-broadcast by other ABC TV affiliates in California.
Rittiman’s investigative series reveals how California’s state government under Newsom responded to PG&E’s deadly crimes by granting the company rewards and protection.
Rittiman’s reporting revealed that in October 2019 the California PUC approved a ratepayer surcharge to pay for a $21 billion wildfire fund that the state’s three big power companies can tap if their equipment ignites a wildfire that results in significant damages, provided the PUC determines the utilities had acted responsibly.
AB-1054 requires investor-owned utilities San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and PG&E to pony up half of the money in the $21 billion fund. The other $10.5 billion half comes from ratepayers across the state. One problem is that PG&E tied its share of contributions to wildfire victims by issuing shares in the company, which stocks have dropped precipitously in value. The loss in stock value has lowered PG&E’s compensation to victims of wildfires.
Between May 2019 and January 2021, my monthly PG&E bill more than doubled, including the now monthly “Wildfire Fund Charge” surcharge the California Public Utility Commission granted to PG&E following adoption of AB-1054 to help PG&E out of bankruptcy.
Under AB-1054, power companies were required to receive a first-of-its-kind safety certification from the state. In order to tap the wildfire fund, the companies must tie executive compensation to safety performance, establish wildfire safety committees on their respective boards, and meet other financial and safety measures. PG&E received its first safety certificate in 2020.
California’s PUC again certified PG&E as an officially “safe” utility for a second time in April 2021 under AB-1054 that Newsom had signed into law in 2019. The CPUC granted the electric monopoly its 2021 state safety certificate even though PG&E was charged in April with 33 crimes for sparking the 2019 Kincade Fire, is under investigation for possible murder charges from the 2020 Zogg Fire that killed four people, and had plead guilty in 2020 to 84 felony counts of manslaughter and one other felony for sparking the 2018 Camp Fire. All that was after a jury had convicted PG&E of six felonies in the deadly 2010 San Bruno gas explosion.
AB-1054 essentially helped bail PG&E out of bankruptcy, and provides that utility companies pre-certified with safety certificates as being “safe” aren’t required to prove they had acted reasonably before charging customers for costs of damages caused by wildfires, grants the utility companies the ability to tap into the state wildfire fund paid in part by their customers to pay damages to fire victims, and — disgustingly — caps [limits] the amount of damages utility shareholders would be on the hook for paying back to the wildfire fund, which in turn cuts compensation to actual wildfire victims.
Many believe the safety certificates were just rubber stamped.
Former California PUC director Alice Stebbins — who signed PG&E’s first safety certificate — claims she was told to sign it, and signed it because AB-1054 had essentially made PG&E’s certificate automatic, not that PG&E had actually become safe. Stebbins is pursuing a wrongful termination lawsuit against the state government alleging she was fired by PUC commissioners who are appointed by California governors because of her investigation of $200 million missing from CPUC’s books. A ProPublicainvestigation subsequently revealed Stebbins had been correct.
In an August 10, 2021 broadcast Rittiman reported Newsom had not only signed the new financial protections for PG&E into law, Newsom’s office had hired private lawyers at the New York offices of the O’Melvany and Myers law firm to draft the legislative language of AB-1054 in the Spring of 2019 before it was introduced in the state legislature. O’Melvany and Myers reportedly billed the state $3 million for its services drafting AB-1054.
In an August 11, 2021 segment, Rittiman reported that Newsom had brokered a bankruptcy plan that prioritized PG&E and French Laundry friend’s clients over PG&E fire victims. That’s when we belatedly learned Newsom’s 2020 French Laundry restaurant fiasco involved a birthday party for Newsom’s friend of almost 20 years, lobbyist Jason Kinney. Newsom apologized profusely for the French Laundry dinner, claiming “he was only human.”
Kinney ran a lobbying shop, Axiom Advisors, that had landed a major client in PG&E’s bankruptcy, a committee of companies PG&E owed money to. Axiom Advisors met periodically with the Governor’s office, and earned $400,000 in fees according to documents filed in bankruptcy court.
Rittiman’s investigative reporting about PG&E and California’s wildfires have been just terrific, despite the fact that Newsom and the governor’s office not only ducked answering many questions Rittiman had asked, it also stalled records requests under the California Public Records Act (CPRA), and declined or ignored Rittiman’s ten requests for interviews.
The Mercury Newsreported on July 21, 2021 that PG&E claims it plans to place 10,000 miles of power lines underground to reduce the possibility of sparking massive wildfires in Northern and Central California, asserting the 10,000 miles of undergrounding could cost up to $20 billion. California’s Utility Reform Network (TURN) estimates it will cost double that, possibly $40 billion, but it will probably take a decade before any such work will be completed. PG&E will most likely con the California PUC into another rate increase that will be tacked on to ratepaying customer’s PG&E monthly bills. [I can hardly wait to see my PG&E bill climb yet again.]
PG&E has over 100,000 miles of power lines. If undergrounding 10,000 miles of those power lines may take a decade to complete at $40 billion, will it take fully 100 years before all 100,000 miles are undergrounded and potentially cost $400 billion? Or will the entire state burn down by then?
For its part, KTVU Channel 2 reported in July 2018 that PG&E had been diverting money away from its power line undergrounding projects for decades to what PG&E called “other high priority system improvements.” Channel 2 reported that in 2000, PG&E claimed there had been zero unspent dollars on power line undergrounding, but according to documents by 2016 nearly $44 million dollars had been left unspent. KTVU reported that according to the California PUC’s own study of its statewide undergrounding program there was a statewide balance of unused undergrounding money totaling about $1 billion.
As of 2021, even after massive fines and criminal conviction of PG&E the corporation is reportedly still handing out significant bonuses to PG&E executives.
PG&E Induced Wildfires
It’s thought that since 2010, wildfires PG&E appears to have caused have destroyed 20,000-plus homes and displaced very large numbers of people. The Camp fire alone displaced approximately 40,000 people.
A quick review of deaths between 2010 and 2020 caused by PG&E-related wildfires and the San Bruno gas pipeline explosion compiled from a mix of civil settlements, CAL FIRE determinations, and felony convictions (including conviction for the Camp fire) documents 143 deaths between the Butte fire, NorCal Firestorms (including the Tubbs fire), Camp fire, Zogg fire, and the San Bruno explosion. The 143 deaths included one suicide following the Camp fire, and 22 deaths from the Tubbs fire that CAL FIRE had cleared PG&E of, but which PG&E paid civil damages for anyway during its bankruptcy proceedings.
That averages 13 deaths per year.
Recent California Wildfires
Take the recent history of wildfires in California. While it is clearly true that climate change-induced years of statewide drought have contributed to California’s increasingly catastrophic wildfires, bad actions of electric and gas companies — think PG&E — have clearly contributed to our State’s wildfire problems.
Consider Wikipedia’s lists of California wildfires that are based on data from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, a.k.a., CAL FIRE. [Note: The following data does not suggest that PG&E was responsible for every one of the 20 largest, the 20 most destructive, or the 20 deadliest fires documented on Wikipedia.]
Largest Fires: Wikipedia reports that of California’s 20 largest wildfires between 1932 and 2020, six of them occurred in 2020 alone, destroying over 2.7 million acres and 6,072 structures, and killing 21 people. Those six fires include the August Complex fire, the SCU Lightning fire, the Creek fire, the LNU Lightning Complex fire, the North Complex fire, and the SQF Complex fire.
Most Destructive Fires: Wikipedia reports that of California’s 20 most destructive wildfires between 1932 and 2020, six of them also occurred in 2020 alone, destroying over 2.25 million acres and 8,644 structures, and killing 22 people. Those six fires include the North Complex fire, the Glass fire, the LNU Lightning Complex fire, the CZU Lightning Complex fire, the August Complex fire, and the Creek fire.
The towns of Berry Creek and Big Creek were mostly destroyed in 2020.
Add in the Dixie fire that has now burned for 39 days (since July 14) and has destroyed another 721,298 acres, which translates to approximately 1,127 square miles — 23 times the size of San Francisco County. So far, the Dixie fire has destroyed 1,247 structures (including over 650 homes), and damaged another 90 structures as of August 22. It has completely destroyed the Town of Greenville. PG&E admitted it’s power lines probably started the Dixie fire on July 14, although CAL FIRE is still investigating the cause of the blaze.
The Dixie fire is burning in the same mountainous canyon where PG&E’s negligence sparked the 2018 Camp fire. And the Dixie Fire is now threatening payments from the AB-1054 wildfire victim fund to previous PG&E victims.
Deadliest Fires: Wikipedia reports that of California’s 20 deadliest wildfires between 1932 and 2020, seven of them occurred between October 2017 and 2020, destroying over 1.2 million acres and 31,219 structures, and killing 151 people. Those seven fires include the North Complex fire, the LNU Lightning Complex fire, the Camp fire, the Carr fire, the Atlas fire, the Redwood Valley Complex fire, and the Tubbs fire. [Note: Newsom became California’s Lieutenant Governor in January 2011; he’s known about California’s worsening wildfires for over a decade.]
The Town of Paradise was totally destroyed by the November 2018 Camp fire.
The Gavinator Ducks Questions
All too frequently Newsom claims he is not naïve (one of his pet claims), but his hubris may be getting the better of him. On August 19, 2021 Newsom was interviewed by ABC Channel 7 in San Francisco. He claimed in response to a direct question about his potential mistakes that any of his “mistakes” as Governor should be excused because “I’m a human being.” [Newsom had used the identically lame I’m only human excuse to justify his French Laundry dinner with Axiom lobbyist Kinney.] Newsom’s naïve excuses ignore that voters are human beings, too, and they’re probably not happy hearing that claim from him yet again.
The Gavinator also ducked answering a direct question on August 19 about whether he has been delaying issuing additional state COVID-related mandates due to the recall election. Newsom’s evasion answering that question during what is clearly a public health-related Delta crisis, lowered what little remaining respect I had for him.
In addition to Newsom’s pathetic record on wildfires and PG&E, there are other issues voters are very concerned about, including the meltdown at California’s Employment Development Department’s (EDD) that handles unemployment claims, which has become a huge political liability to Newsom.
After EDD wrongly paid out over $31 billion in fraudulent EDD claims following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of Californians who wound up unemployed had their EDD accounts frozen, unable to collect unemployment benefits despite not having engaged in fraud. Although Newsom reportedly formed a strike team at the very end of July 2020 to overhaul EDD’s outdated technology, he’s largely avoided commenting on the beleaguered department and the plight of the unemployed, knowing it’s likely at the top of mind to a very large number of voters, Democrats and Republicans alike.
Newsom’s Questionable Surrogates
Along with Senator Warren, Newsom’s choice of surrogates is worrisome.
On August 13, Newsom kicked off his no-on-recall campaign at an event at Manny’s Restaurant in San Francisco, dragging along some of his surrogates, including Mayor Breed (who was just hit with a large Ethics Commission fine), embattled District Attorney Chesa Boudin (who may soon face his own recall election), State Senator Scott Wiener (who has angered single-family homeowners across the State), and Assemblymember David Chiu, among others. Newsom and these state Democrats are clearly worried the recall election is far closer than they want voters to believe.
Newsom is in such a precarious position he’s lined up Vice President Kamala Harris (and is hoping to line up President Biden) to come to California on August 27 to help campaign against his recall. That will more than likely be way too late, since many voters will have already had two weeks to return their ballots, as I have. I fully expect a blizzard of campaign mailers will flood my U.S. mailbox in the next three weeks, which will also be far too late and a waste of Newsom’s money.
Recent polling is also showing that messaging from the Democratic party — and messaging from Newsom’s surrogates — is just not working to rally voters. Apparently, framing the recall election solely in terms of party line loyalty, or fear of right-wing Republican Larry Elder becoming governor may be demobilizing and may not be helping, the opposite of what Newsom desperately needs. Courage California, (formerly named the Courage Campaign), came begging in my e-mail on August 21 for a $75 donation to help Newsom figure out his messaging. They won’t get a dime from me either, despite my disgust and distaste for Mr. Elder. If Newsom can’t figure out his own messaging, why is he governor?
Five days after I voted on August 13, I received the California Voter Guide in U.S. Mail, too late for the guide to have been of any use. I was somewhat shocked skim-reading it and discovering Governor Gavin’s “Governor’s Recall Argument” in the state voter guide was written entirely in the third person, whereas the majority of candidates seeking to replace him should Newsom be recalled wrote their voter guide statements using the first person. Sounds like a “messaging” problem to me.
Newsom doesn’t seem to get it that voters want to hear him speak in the first person, not read a voter guide statement one of his aides or a political consultant may have written using the third person. Newsom’s statement read eerily like what we’d read from disgraced and disgruntled Donald Trump, asking voters using third-person language “do you distrust Trump?”
Newsom bragged in his voter guide Recall Argument that his $100 billion “California Comeback Plan” would include $600 direct relief payments to two-thirds of California’s working families. Newsom had announced the relief payments on May 10, 2021 — a mere 14 days after the petition to recall him from office was verified and determined to have a sufficient number of signatures by California’s Secretary of State on April 26. The coincidence in timing between the two dates is odd.
Problem is, those $600 relief payments do not appear to have been made, and voters may not receive them before the September 14 recall election. Is this another messaging problem?
Some observers believe Newsom is showing more gall than desperation, and is out of touch with even likely Democratic voters, given Boudin and his ilk campaigning for Newsom. Some people wonder whether Newsom’s surrogates may have found the event at Manny’s, rather than at the French Laundry, more palatable but still questionable.
Breed’s Ethical Lapses
On August 2, 2021 Breed acknowledged responsibility for and agreed to pay $22,792 in administrative penalties to the San Francisco’s Ethics Commission for four counts of ethics violations of San Francisco Campaign & Governmental Conduct Code. The four counts included two counts for failing to disclose campaign contributions for construction of her 2015 Gay Pride Parade float and the contributions had exceeded the $500 maximum allowable; one count for use of her City title for personal purposes and potential gain in her letter to then-Governor Jerry Brown seeking commutation of her brother’s prison sentence; and one count for accepting gifts from Mohammed Nuru, Breed’s subordinate employee as the then-director of DPW.
For the four-count stipulation, Breed had faced a total of $35,584 in maximum administrative penalties. She got off lucky with the reduced administrative penalty of $22,792 she agreed to pay.
Newsom’s Recall Recommendations
Newsom’s potentially naïve recommendation — Don’t vote for any of the candidates in Question 2 — may well contribute to his own undoing.
Many folks, including me, wonder whether Newsom and his campaign team are pursuing an extremely risky strategy by urging voters to vote “no” on the first ballot question involving whether he should be removed from office, and advising voters not to vote at all on the second ballot question of which candidate should replace him if he loses on the first question.
As the [San Jose] Mercury Newsreported, in response to a question about Newsom’s current strategy and whether it might backfire by on him by effectively allowing Republicans to pick his successor should he lose on the first ballot question, “Newsom said he is focused on getting people to vote no and called the second question ‘moot’ if [enough] people turn out.”
That’s a big “if.” Newsom seems to be naïvely ignoring what might happen if voter turnout is low. His strategy effectively disenfranchises Democratic voters from choosing who should replace him. That strategy may well end up backfiring on Newsom and his surrogates, handing California a Republican governor who could appointment a successor to 88-year-old U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and, therefore also threaten the Biden administration’s agenda along with control of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and ignoring that a Republican governor would likely eliminate COVID prevention and vaccination mandates across the state on day one.
Newsom, Senator Warren, and other Newsom surrogates are desperately trying to frame the recall as a fringe Republican movement backed by right-wing extremists, Trump supporters, and QAnon conspiracy theorists. But Newsom isn’t telling the whole story about who supports his recall, trying to omit that a significant number of Democrats and independent voters — who combined, dominate California’s electorate — also signed the recall petitions.
Newsom and his surrogates don’t like mentioning that 300,000 registered Democrats had signed the recall petition, fully 20% of the 1,495,709 minimum petition signatures that were required for the recall petitions to be declared valid. How many Independent voters signed the recall petitions hasn’t been widely reported. Newsom’s response to his recall campaign, and Rittiman’s coverage of PG&E and wildfires, read like a tragic soap opera of Newsom’s own doing.
When I returned my ballot to San Francisco’s Elections Department on Friday the 13th — often a very unlucky day — I did as Newsom later recommended and didn’t vote on Question 2. I may live to regret having done so should Newsom lose on Question 1, since elections have consequences, which is true despite being a cliché.
...not like the usual old pipelines that leak... It is the seismically reinforced, 36 inch wide, 4.4 miles long, replacement pipeline paid for by the $4.8 billion Water System Improvement Program (WSIP) bond...
Is the Commission Serious about Staffing Redeployment?
by Patrick Monette-Shaw
On June 16, San Francisco’s Police Commission passed a Resolution prescribing methodologies Police Chief “Bill” Scott should use to prepare the Police Department’s 2021 staffing report required by the November 2020 “Prop. E” ballot measure that removed from the former City Charter the mandate to have a minimum of 1,971 sworn police officers in SFPD.
The Resolution specifying the methodologies to be used by Chief Scott passed unanimously by the five Commissioners present on June 16, given the absence of Police Commissioner Larry Yee.
Unfortunately, there are problems with the methodologies the Police Commission adopted and transmitted to the Chief. The most glaring problem is that the Police Commission’s Resolution made no mention that Scott’s report must include an analysis of the current number of full-duty sworn officers. There are other shortcomings to the methodologies the Commission adopted.
“Prop. E” required that the Police Commission adopt a policy by July 1 prescribing the methodologies the Chief may use in evaluating police staffing levels, and further requires the Police Commission to hold a public hearing regarding the Chief’s staffing report by December 31, 2021. The Commission directed Chief Scott to provide a verbal update during a public meeting of the Commission by August 31 on progress on developing his staffing report, and include any foreseen need to deviate from the methodologies the Commission directed he use.
The Westside Observerreported in June 2021 that during May and June San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors Budget and Appropriations Committee held hearings on each City Department’s proposed two-year budgets for Fiscal Year 2021–2022 and Fiscal Year 2022–2023.
San Francisco reportedly has more larcenies per capita than every other city in the U.S. From 2009 to 2018, property crimes dropped 23% across the country while property crimes in San Francisco increased 46%, which represents a 66% point spread”
As we reported last June, Police Chief William Scott proposed to the Police Commission in February 2020 that police officer staffing beginning July 1, 2020 should be increased to 2,715 sworn officers — 744 more than the 1,971 sworn officers previously mandated as the minimum in the former City Charter. We also reported that based on the total number of hours sworn officers had worked during the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2020 SFPD had 2,605 full-time equivalent (FTE) sworn staff based on the total number of regular- plus overtime-hours they had worked, 634 more than what the Charter had mandated.
Finally, we noted in June that one red herring is the notion that reductions to SFPD sworn police officers must be done using a 1:1 ratio of replacing police officers with civilian counterparts.
Somewhat shocking — but not too surprising, given that the Board of Supervisors has not yet finished developing and adopting the City’s next two-year budget — news reports surfaced during June 2021 on ABC Channel 7 broadcasts that SFPD and the Mayor began claiming SFPD was facing staffing shortages of approximately 200 police officers. Some observers suspected the 200-officer shortage was rolled out hoping to affect outcomes of SFPD’s next budget award. The observers wondered whether San Francisco’s Police Officers Association (POA) was involved in the 200-officer shortage claim.
At about 5:20 p.m. on July 5, Channel 7 broadcast a report about increased burglaries and robberies in the City. The broadcast featured Deputy Chief David Lazar, who suddenly asserted that SFPD is approximately 400 officers short. Those observers then wondered how the officer shortage grew from 200 to 400 within a single month.
[An unverified rumor — not yet reported in, or verified by, the mainstream media — has surfaced that between 72 and 100 SFPD officers turned in their guns during June alone, decamping for other jurisdictions or opting to retire from City employment. It’s unclear if the rumor may also have originated from the POA. At this point it remains just a rumor.]
Methodologies the Commission Adopted
The methodologies the Police Commission adopted in its Resolution directs Chief Scott to focus on four main areas of interest to the Commission:
Workload-based methodology, taking into account the time needed to complete tasks, multiplied by volume, to assess the total number of workload hours for each position;
Ratio-based methodologies, including span-of-control analyses, support to other staff, and ratios based on other variables such as instructor-to-student ratios, or the number of “Part 1” crimes to each available officer;
Non-scalable methodologies, including selective analyses for positions that provide the Department with a specific capability or analysis of unique roles that do not scale, such as senior leadership positions; and
Fixed-hours methodology, for positions whose staffing needs are based on a fixed number of hours that need to be staffed (e.g., SWAT and K9).
In addition, the Commission’s Resolution includes additional guidelines to be used in the police staffing report, including that the Chief must ensure his staffing analysis includes discussion of:
Staffing redeployment strategies, and consideration of the potential impact of the Street Crisis Response Team to future disposition (re-assignment or reduction) of sworn police officers;
Calls for service and the potential impact on police staffing levels from transferring the primary response duties for 9–1–1 “Priority C” calls — calls where there is no present or potential danger to life or property — to other City agencies for homelessness, mental health, substance abuse, well-being, and traffic enforcement issues;
The relationship between the amount of time dedicated to foot or vehicle-patrols in each Police District;
Civilianization opportunities to maximize the number of sworn officers performing operational duties; and
Other factors the Chief may deem appropriate.
Problems With Police Commission’s Methodologies
There are a number of problems with some of the methodologies the Police Commission laid out.
FBI UCR Part 1 Crimes
For the ratio-based methodologies, it’s curious why the Police Commission may only be concerned about UCR Part 1 crimes.
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program collects official data about crime trends across the United States. The UCR is a nationwide, statistical effort of approximately 18,000 city, university and college, county, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies that voluntarily report data on crimes brought to the attention of the FBI.
Part 1 crimes are collectively known as “Index” crimes because those crimes are considered quite serious, tend to be reported more reliably than others, and reports are taken directly by the police, not by a separate agency. Part 1 crimes are broken into two categories: Violent crimes and property crimes.
Part 1 violent crimes include: Aggravated assault, forcible rape, murder (including non-negligent manslaughter), robbery, human trafficking (commercial sex acts), and human trafficking (involuntary servitude). [Note: The two human trafficking offenses were added to the UCR in 2013.]
Part 1 property crimes include: Arson, burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft.
Some observers suspect SFPD doesn’t want the public to easily access murder and homicides statistics. Indeed, SFPD’s Crime Dashboard website — which has a feature to easily display aggregated year-to-date crime data — does not include or display murders and homicides, as shown in the Crimes Dashboard for the period ending July 4, 2021. Instead, members of the public are forced to go to another website page for monthly “CompStat” (computer statistics) reports and manually compute murder data for a given year from 12 separate monthly reports.
The Police Commission should direct Chief Scott to include the homicide/murder data on the Crime Dashboard website, so members of the public don’t have to go to the CompStat web site to find monthly reports reporting the homicide data, and then have to compile annual homicide data manually.
Table 1 illustrates SFPD’s Crime Dashboard comparing apples-to-apples periods during the COVID pandemic between March 17 and June 15, 2020 to the same post-COVID three-month period in 2021:
It’s clear aggravated assaults, robberies, and larceny thefts (including, but not limited to, shoplifting) were each up by statistically significant percentages (22.2%, 10.4%, and 44.1%, respectively) in 2021, and total Part 1 Crimes (excluding murders that are not reported in the Dashboard) were up by an overall 20.3%.
Indeed, the CompStatreport for May 2021 shows that comparing May 2021 to May 2020 murders were up 100%, robberies were up 28%, aggravated assaults were up 20%, overall larceny thefts were up 49%, and thefts from vehicles were up 105%.
Before Bill Scott was hired as Police Chief, his predecessor’s reports contained sub-categories for each Part 1 crime category. For example, the CompStatreport for November 2016 just before Scott became Chief included Robbery data broken out for sub-categories of robberies involving firearms, knives or other cutting instruments, other dangerous weapons, and strongarm robberies not involving a weapon. Similarly, the Burglary category reported sub-categories for forcible entries, unlawful entries without force, and attempted forcible entries.
But when former-Mayor Ed Lee appointed Scott as Police Chief in January 2017, the CompStat monthly report for January 2017 no longer reported any of the various sub-categories of data.
As well, Chief Scott appears to have added a section to the CompStat monthly reports showing Part 1 Arrests, in addition to the Part 1 Crimes in the January and February 2017 monthly reports. Then, the Arrests section was quickly removed from the March 2017 report and was no longer reported.
The Police Commission should also direct Chief Scott (and future Chiefs) to resume reporting the Arrests data, in addition to the Part 1 Crimes, to the CompStat monthly reports. Perhaps resuming public disclosure of Part 1 Arrests data might spur embattled District Attorney Chesa Boudin to actually prosecute those who are arrested, rather than let them off the hook and return them to the community to repeat their offenses.
San Francisco reportedly has more larcenies per capita than every other city in the U.S. From 2009 to 2018, property crimes dropped 23% across the country while property crimes in San Francisco increased 46%, which represents a 66% point spread.
FBI UCR Part 2 Crimes
It’s curious that the Police Commission choose to exclude requiring Chief Scott to analyze the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system’s Part 2 crimes in developing staffing recommendations. The UCR system may only collect actual Arrest data for Part 2 crimes.
Part 2 crimes include: Simple assault, curfew offenses and loitering, embezzlement, forgery and counterfeiting, disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, drug offenses, fraud, gambling, liquor offenses, offenses against the family, prostitution, public drunkenness, runaways, sex offenses, stolen property, vandalism, vagrancy, and weapons offenses.
There is a pyramid of crimes. The ones at the bottom — Part 2 crimes — are considered to be the most venial crimes, but perhaps the most voluminous and which may occur far more frequently than Type I crimes. Observers note that SFPD doesn’t have the time, or political will, to tend to the “small stuff,” like Part 2 crimes. One knowledgeable observer wonders whether the Police Commission may just be “decriminalizing” Part 2 crimes because so many people of color may go to jail for them.
It’s hard to believe there have been zero Part 2 crimes and arrests in San Francisco over the years. San Franciscans deserve to be told about the Part 2 data. The Police Commission should direct Chief Scott to begin reporting Part 2 crime data in CompStat monthly reports to provide the public with increased police accountability and transparency.
Span of Control
Law enforcement agencies typically use military style chains of command, with higher-ranking staff supervising the ranks just below them.
Based on a seat-of-the pants, quick-and-dirty analysis, the 2,411 named sworn police officer staff in the City Controller’s payroll database for the period ending June 30, 2020 the average spans of control appear to be pathetically low.
For instance, of the 519 sergeants in SFPD as of June 30, 2020 each may supervise an average of just 3.36 of the 1,746 Police Officers, which suggests a big span-of-control problem. Clearly, the Police Commission should closely watch Chief Scott’s span-of-control analysis when he submits his recommended staffing report later in 2021.
Current Sworn Officer Staffing
Most concerning, the Police Commission failed to direct Chief Scott to take into consideration current staffing levels of sworn officers in SFPD using the number of Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) officers currently on the City’s payroll.
There are a number of ways of looking at the current levels of SFPD sworn officer staffing.
Table 2 presents the number of sworn officers on the City payroll for the past three fiscal years. It shows that as recently as June 30, 2020 the City had 194 more FTE officers than the actual 2,411 named sworn officers on the payroll (based on their regular hours plus overtime hours worked).
Before “Prop. E” passed in November 2020, the previous Charter mandated that SFPD have a minimum of 1,971 sworn officers. But as of June 30, 2020 the 2,411 officers on the City payroll involved 634 more FTE officers than the 1,971 the former Charter had mandated.”
Of note, Table 2 shows that, in the three year period between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2020 almost half — 46.4% — of the 194 extra FTE’s involved 90 “supervising” officers (80 additional Sergeant FTE’s and 10 additional Lieutenant FTE’s).
Table 3 below shows that as of June 30, 2020, SFPD had 2,605 FTE’s compared to the 2,411 named officers on the City payroll, a difference of 184 additional “equivalent” sworn officers based on their hours worked.
Another way of looking at the current level of sworn officers is by comparing the computed FTE’s to the former City Charter and to other reports. Before “Prop. E” passed in November 2020, the previous Charter mandated that SFPD have a minimum of 1,971 sworn officers. But as of June 30, 2020 the 2,411 officers on the City payroll involved 634 more FTE officers than the 1,971 the former Charter had mandated. Two other indicators paint a slightly different picture of excess sworn officers.
One of the other indicators in Table 3 involved the Matrix Consulting Group’s recommendation in early 2020 to increase sworn officers to 2,107 FTE’s, ostensibly an increase above the 1,971 minimum sworn officers prescribed by the former City Charter. Matrix Consulting had been hired by the Police Commission to help analyze SFPD staffing needs.
Table 3 also shows that the 2,605 FTE police officers on the City payroll as of June 30, 2020 involved nearly 500 more officers than the 2,107 FTE’s Matrix Consulting recommended several months before the end of June 2020.
The other additional indicator in Table 3 is from the CompStat reports listing monthly Part 1 UCR crime statistics posted on SFPD’s web site. Weirdly, every monthly report going back five years to the last report former Police Chief Greg Suhr authored in April 2016 (and before) all show in the report header that SFPD had 2,217 sworn officers. [Perhaps Police Command staff overlooked ever adjusting the number of sworn officers displayed on the CompStat monthly reports, and perhaps no SFPD clerical staff ever pointed out this error.]
That said, the 2,217 sworn officers reported on the CompStat reports involved 246 more officers than the 1,971 sworn officers mandated by the former City Charter. More significantly, Table 3 shows that the 2,605 FTE police officers on the City payroll as of June 30, 2020 involved almost 400 more sworn officers (388, actually) than the 2,217 listed on the CompStat reports.
Meanwhile, the City Controller’s payroll database shows that over the last three fiscal years, the payroll costs (excluding fringe benefits) for the current sworn police officers — excluding Commanders, Assistant Chiefs, and Deputy Chiefs on SFPD’s Command Staff — grew by $36.3 million as of June 30, 2020.
Current Staffing Redeployment
Although the Police Commission rightly noted Chief Scott needs to consider the potential impact of the Street Crisis Response Teams — that Mayor London Breed introduced about a year ago — when considering potential strategies for redeployment of sworn officers, the Commission made no mention that the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Appropriations Committee is considering reallocation of Police budget dollars to an additional Compassionate Alternative Response Team (CART) program.
The Commission also failed to direct Chief Scott to consider redeployment or elimination of police officers assigned to SFPD’s Airport Division, given that the Budget and Appropriations Committee may also be considering replacing SFPD staffing at the Airport with staff from the Sheriff’s Department, instead.
Finally, the Police Commission did not consider or issue guidance requiring Chief Scott to analyze Police Cadets and Community Police Services Aides staffing, whose numbers have grown substantially — particularly at the Airport — to handle such things as traffic control duties instead of sworn officers.
My reporting in September 2020 noted Community Police Services Aides are paraprofessionals who perform a variety of police-related duties for the San Francisco Police Department, including directing traffic, issuing citations for parking violations, processing complaints, and completing reports, among other duties.
There has been a 97.2% change increase in Community Police Services Aides, from 145 in 2009 to 286 in FY 2019–2020. And there’s been a 139.5% change increase in total pay (excluding fringe benefits) for just the Police Services Aides — from $9.3 million in 2009 to $22.2 million ending June 30, 2019.
To the extent consideration is being given to transfer traffic control duties from sworn POLICE officers to civilians, the Police Commission should also consider whether those duties should also be transferred from Police Services Aides to civilians.
The Police Commission did not issue guidance to Chief Scott about prioritizing restoration of positions the Commission had previously identified and approved for civilianization in the initial FY 2021–2022 proposed budget. According to the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Legislative Analyst’s May 12, 2021 report on Law Enforcement staffing, Mayor Breed’s proposed FY 2020–2021 budget deleted 45 of previously-approved 75 civilianization positions that were vacant, a loss of 30 positions that had been earmarked for civilianization.
The Board of Supervisors restored funding for nine of those positions, for a total of only 39 civilianized positions. But that left 37 of the 75 previously-approved civilianization positions eliminated. The Commission should have directed Chief Scott to again revisit civilianizing those previously-identified 37 positions, in part because “Prop. E” explicitly directed the Police Commission to “civilianize as many positions as possible.”
Conspicuously, the Police Commission did not explicitly direct Chief Scott to civilianize positions in SFPD’s Media Relations unit or positions staffing the Police Commission.
A possible solution: There are at least two SFPD positions that should be rapidly civilianized, both involving highly-paid Police Sergeants.
The first involves Sgt. Michael Andraychak, the Officer-in-Charge-of SFPD’s Media Relations Unit and SFPD’s spokesperson. He was paid a total of $215,186 (excluding fringe benefits) in the year ending June 30, 2020, including $33,350 in overtime pay and $24,371 in so-called “Other Pay.” There are likely additional sworn officers staffing SFPD’s Media Relations units the Police Commission — if not the Board of Supervisors — might consider civilianizing.
The second involves Sgt. Stacy Youngblood, Secretary to the Police Commission. He was paid a total of $180,153 (also excluding fringe benefits) in the year ending June 30, 2020, including $19,065 in overtime pay and $4,350 in “Other Pay.”
Between Andraychak and Youngblood, the pair of Sergeants were paid a total of $395,340 in the year ending June 30, 2020, including a whopping $52,595 in combined overtime pay. [The pair may have been paid substantially more in the fiscal year that just ended on June 30, 2021.] Surely the two could be replaced by civilians and returned to performing sworn officer duties (say, foot patrols or larceny thefts, aggravated assault, and robbery investigations).
While the Police Commission has made a commendable start in beginning to develop methodologies the Police Chief should follow in future years, the Commission has a lot of work yet to do to meaningfully address SFPD’s sworn officer staffing.
Again, the Police Commission might remember that one red herring: reductions to SFPD’s sworn police officer staffing must be done using a 1:1 ratio of replacing police officers with civilian counterparts.
“Prop. E” specifically noted that the Commission is not required to accept or adopt any recommendations Chief Scott may eventually submit when he issues his recommended staffing report. Nor are the Board of Supervisors.
Should the Police Commission and City Supervisors flex their collective muscles?
Can You Trust a Public Health Department That Lies?
A $167.4 Million Database That Couldn’t
by Patrick Monette-Shaw
Help, I lost my patient!
Ifirst heard that plaintive cry from a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) running up and down stairs and hallways when I worked at Laguna Honda Hospital (LHH) for a decade. She couldn’t find a patient she was supposed to be monitoring as a “sitter” using 1:1 observation.1
The sight of the distressed nurse would have bordered on being comical, had it not involved patient safety. Luckily, the patient was eventually found safe. But had the outcome been different, the nurse would have been in a lot of trouble and may have faced discipline for failing to provide 1:1 patient monitoring she had been assigned to.
But what if “Help, I lost my patient!” turned out to apply to an entire Public Health Department that claimed it didn’t track patients who had been discharged out of county from its hospitals?
Imagine that the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) had initially obtained Board of Supervisors budget approval for a $341.9 million overhaul of its electronic health record (EHR) system for patients of its public hospitals and clinics network. The $341.9 million was offset by $161.6 million in savings by eliminating existing contracts and other operating costs, for a revised project total of $181.3 million. (Funding for the replacement EHR was later reduced to needing just $167.4 million.)
Then imagine the same Department asserted after the new EHR was rolled out and implemented when it went live almost two years earlier in August 2019, that the new system doesn’t track whether patients were discharged out of county.
That claim was complete hooey! But it’s remarkably like losing your patient and unable to do post-discharge follow-up.
DPH’s History of Lying
I began a quest for out-of-county discharge data after badgering the Laguna Honda Hospital Joint Conference Committee (LHH-JCC) — a subcommittee of the San Francisco Health Commission — for months during 2012 and 2013 to publicly release aggregate data on the number of LHH patients discharged out of county. The then-chairperson of the LHH-JCC was Health Commissioner David Sanchez, who finally agreed during the LHH-JCC’s November 21, 2013 meeting that LHH would begin reporting out-of-county discharge data beginning in January 2014, mid-year into FY 2013–2014.
The first trickle of data I obtained was for 28 LHH patients discharged out of county during FY 2013–2014. SFDPH even produced out-of-county discharge data for LHH patients going back to July 1, 2006 and continued providing me with periodic updates of out-of-county discharge data during the past eight years. As of the date of this article, San Francisco hospitals have discharged at least 1,746 San Franciscans out-of-county, but the data is wildly incomplete for several reasons.
On January 3, 2020 I placed a records request to SFDPH seeking data on out-of-county discharges from SFGH and LHH between July 1, 2019 and December 31, 2019. After several months of being stonewalled due to COVID, I persisted by placing numerous follow-up requests. SFDPH finally claimed on September 16, 2020 that its recently replaced electronic health records (EHR) system named “Epic”:
“… does not track OOC discharges, meaning the requested information is not readily available. Instead, the numbers must be counted manually, which will be time-consuming and involve use of scarce public resources. In addition, we are not required to create a document not already in existence. Admin. Code §67.21(1).”
First, DPH’s claim that it is not required to create documents not in existence was patently ridiculous, because California Government Code §6253.9(a)(2) — which is part of the California Public Records Act (CPRA) — specifically requires local agencies to extract aggregate data from databases they maintain. It was even more ridiculous because DPH had been extracting data on out-of-county discharges for at least eight years, since 2013.
SFDPH seems incapable of understanding that extracting data from existing databases housing the records is not the same thing as creating new records.
Second, it turns out that Epic, the new EHR system, does in fact track discharge destinations. SFDPH had lied, however unintentionally.
That Hiramoto and Sarieh were able to lie is due, in part, to the fact that City employees testifying during Board of Supervisors hearings are not required to do so under oath, or under the penalty of perjury; they can — and do — lie during official Board meetings.”
I continued questioning DPH’s public records staff, asking whether SFGH was continuing to use another database known as SFGetCare that dates back to 2006, which I strongly believe captures out-of-county discharge information. Despite the public records staff having asked SFGH repeatedly whether it was still using SFGetCare, they apparently never received a clear answer from SFGH.
When I pushed DPH’s public records staff again on May 4, 2021 for discharge data for two more different time periods (between 7/1/20 and 12/31/20, and between 1/1/21 and 4/30/21) DPH again responded on May 19, 2021:
“DPH’s electronic records system does not currently track out of county discharges.”
This is complete nonsense, and more than likely a lie (however inadvertent). If that were true, then the $100 million to $167 million budgeted would make Epic the database that couldn’t — the polar opposite of The Little Engine That Could.
SFDPH’s wild assertion that its new Epic database does not track patients who have been discharged out-of-county is not the first time DPH has been caught lying.
Back on May 29, 2014 DPH’s then- and current-Transitions Manager, Kelly Hiramoto, claimed to then-Supervisor David Campos during a Board of Supervisors hearing that DPH had no way of ascertaining out-of-county discharge data because “a database had not worked as designed.” DPH’s then-Director of Public Health, Barbara Garcia, who was present during that hearing, didn’t correct Hiramoto’s falsehood for Campos.
Subsequently, DPH’s then-Public Information Officer, Nancy Sarieh, claimed in response to one of my records requests on June 9, 2014 that the database that “had not worked as designed” was the SFGetCare database. I knew then Sarieh’s claim was complete nonsense, because the SFGetCare database had been rapidly prototyped from a database I had helped develop for over a decade while an employee at LHH that I knew damn well had contained discharge destination tracking.
As I wrote four years ago in December 2017, I was concerned seven years ago in 2014 about the risk of reputational harm to RTZ Associates so I e-mailed RTZ’s owner, Rick Zawadski, on June 20, 2014 seeking a request for comment on Sarieh’s claim the SFGetCare database didn’t work as designed. He replied on June 23, saying:
“RTZ Associates stands behind the functionality and integrity of the software we have developed for the City of San Francisco, and any data fields related to LHH Diversions requested by the City of San Francisco are fully functional and work as designed.”
Zawadski was being diplomatic in countering Hiramoto’s and Sarieh’s misinformation — their lie.
Why would SFDPH and San Francisco’s Department of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS) collaboratively spend over $13 million across an almost 20-year period (between 2003 and 2021) for many enhancements to the functionality of SFGetCare, including adding additional new modules? Why would anyone continue to pay for something that didn’t work?
That Hiramoto and Sarieh were able to lie is due, in part, to the fact that City employees testifying during Board of Supervisors hearings are not required to do so under oath, or under the penalty of perjury; they can — and do — lie during official Board meetings. [That may be why disgraced public officials like Mohammed Nuru, the former head of the Department of Public Works, get away with corruption.] And sadly, there’s no requirement in San Francisco’s Sunshine Ordinance or in CPRA that public records staff in each City department abstain from lying. They’re not under oath, either.
Of interest, the fifth amendment to RTZ’s contract indicated DPH intends to migrate functionality of several SFGetCare modules into DPH’s EHR system purchased from Epic
SFDPH may also have cast reputational harm — however inadvertently — when it claimed Epic Corporation’s EHR system doesn’t track patients discharged out-of-county.
The Long, Winding Road to Epic’s Intergalactic Headquarters
You have to love a corporation that appears to have a sense of humor. Epic Systems Corporation’s websitereports its Intergalactic Headquarters is located at 1979 Milky Way in Verona, WI — about nine miles southwest of Madison, WI. Epic has nine international offices, including in Saudi Arabia; the United Kingdom; Denmark; The Netherlands; Finland; Dubai, UAE; Melbourne, Australia; and Singapore.
Epic lists no offices on planets other than on Earth, and there are no intergalactic offices listed anywhere within the Milky Way Galaxy, or anywhere between the Milky Way, the Triangulum Galaxy, the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy, the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy, or the Andromeda Galaxy. We’ll have to see how soon Epic grows into a truly intergalactic corporation. Meanwhile, Epic Corporation’s sense of humor is at least refreshing, albeit hyperbolic.
That said, Epic was founded with one-and-a-half employees in a basement in 1979. Forty-one years later, Epic has grown into an employee-owned corporation having 10,000 employees as of 2019. Its revenue has grown to $2.9 billion as of 2018 (ostensibly annual revenue) from its academic medical centers, community hospitals, city governments, and other clients. In San Francisco, Epic’s clients include the San Francisco Department of Public Health, UCSF, Sutter Health (including CPMC facilities), Kaiser Permanente Hospital, and Brown and Toland Physician Services — each of whom appear to be using Epic’s MyHealth internet portal for patients to communicate with their doctors and hospitals.
SFDPH’s Road to Epic’s Intergalactic HQ
Since 2010, SFDPH had relied on its Invision and Lifetime Clinical Record (LCR) system from Siemens Medical Solutions USA, Inc. (acquired by Cerner Corporation in 2015), for DPH’s electronic medical records system that had been in use for over 20 years. DPH faced risking or losing a substantial portion of its $650 million annual revenue from Medi-Cal (Medicaid). Medicare, and commercial insurance companies unless it consolidated multiple legacy computer systems, many outdated, into a single platform to unify EHR systems between hospitals and clinics. Cerner did not plan to support DPH’s EHR systems after the year 2020.
SFDPH began its trek down the road to Epic’s intergalactic headquarters in 2016.
Beginning with investments made in the FY 2015–2016 budget under then-Mayor Ed Lee, SFDPH began laying the foundation for its new enterprise-wide EHR. In early 2016, the Board of Supervisors authorized then Director of Public Health Barbara Garcia to enter into negotiations with UCSF Medical Center for shared use of UCSF’s existing EHR, called Advanced Patient Centered Excellence (APeX). After two years of planning and infrastructure preparation, DPH began negotiating sharing use of APeX as the Health Commission’s and DPH’s top departmental priority. DPH’s goal was to begin implementation in FY 2016–2017.
In 2016 the Board of Supervisors authorized DPH to negotiate directly with the Regents of UCSF for shared use of UCSF’s EHR system that had evolved from APeX into a potential sublicensing accreditation agreement between UCSF and Epic Systems Corporation, because UCSF had become an Epic “Community Connect” partner.
After negotiating with UCSF for six months but unable to reach a fair and reasonable agreement for both entities, DPH began a competitive solicitation program to procure its own EHR system. Eventually, Epic City Government, LLC — a wholly-owned subsidiary of Epic Systems Corporation — was awarded a ten-year contract term with SFDPH for $167.4 million, including a $17.9 million contingency amount, with an option to extend the contract for one or more terms.
The contract involved installing and hosting Epic, along with migrating and archiving data from DPH’s previous EHR system into Epic.
To date, vendor payments in the City’s DataSF database shows that almost $93 million has been spent, or is in the remaining balance, for Epic’s purchase and implementation.
Of the $89.1 million spent to date, $65.4 million (73.4%) has been paid to Epic City Government. It’s not yet known whether the $23.7 million paid to other vendors to date is in addition to the $167.4 million contract with Epic, or if the $23.7 million is coming from additional sources of funding. The ongoing operating costs and annual fees to Epic for maintenance and hosting are estimated by the Board of Supervisors Budget and Legislative Analyst (Harvey Rose’s LLC) to be $20 million.
SFDPH issued a press release on August 20, 2019 indicating that its Epic electronic health record system went live with its August 3 Wave 1 launch, presumably after the migrating and archiving of data from SFDPH’s previous EHR system into Epic had been completed. The Wave 1 launch involved DPH’s largest patient care facilities at SFGH, LHH, primary care and specialty outpatient clinics, and numerous ancillary service programs. An infographic shows Wave 2 involves other ancillary services (including Jail Health Services) that appear to mostly have gone live during 2020; DPH says it may be still rolling out portions of Wave 2. Planning for unknown features yet to be rolled out during Wave 3 is apparently just beginning.
The infographic rolled out a “whole person care” module named “Coordinated Care Management” in the third quarter of calendar year 2020 during Wave 2 implementation. The module supports programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental health challenges, and other social barriers
DPH has not responded yet to a records request asking whether SFDPH may have purchased an additional and optional Epic add-on module known as “Clinical Case Management” (CCM), and if it did when it may have been rolled out. One of the primary features of the CCM module includes additional Discharge Placement tools that case managers and discharge planners can use to track the discharge destinations being considered for any given patient and which destination is ultimately chosen.
Epic HQ Refutes SFDPH Nonsense (Lie)
Epic’s web site describes Epic and its EHR features, indicating the standard base “enterprise” Epic package includes a Patient Flow module is included; it’s a standard component, not an add-on. The Patient flow module includes a “LOS Reduction” feature with discharge management tools for discharge planners and members of interdisciplinary care teams. LOS refers to length-of-stay reduction to help shorten patient stays in acute care hospitals.
After consulting with its in-house subject-matter experts, Epic’s Media Relations Department confirmed that the Patient Flow application includes database fields for Discharge Disposition — the broad category of where a patient is discharged to, e.g., returned to home vs. discharged to a skilled nursing facility, a rehabilitation facility, a Long-Term Care Acute Hospital (LTCAH), or perhaps a Residential Care Facility for the Elderly (RCFE) — and the actual discharge location (including the name, address and city, phone number, and type of facility).
Epic’s Media Relations department indicated Epic also has an optional “Clinical Case Management” add-on module with primary features for Discharge Placement that case managers can use to track which discharge destinations were considered and which location was ultimately chosen.
Epic's Media Relations staff also indicated that in addition to standard reporting tools, information systems computer professionals can write their own custom, facility-specific, ad-hoc database queries into Epic’s various components, including its Patient Flow, LOS Reduction, or Clinical Case Management modules.
According to the City Controller’s payroll database for the period ending June 30, 2020 SFDPH had 156 Information Systems employees on its staff, collectively paid $20.7 million, including 46 “I.S. Engineers,” 102 “I.S. Business Analysts,” and 8 “I.S. Programmer Analysts.”
Surely at least one of those 156 DPH employees should know computer programming well enough to be able to write a simple ad hoc database query in Epic (and store it for subsequent re-use) to extract aggregate data on how many patients have been discharged out-of-county.
After all, during my decade assisting with developing a Microsoft Access relational database at LHH, I learned that a selection of records combination query is as easy to write as “Like San Francisco” against a patient’s address and city at the time of admission, plus “Not Like San Francisco” against the patient’s address and city at the time of discharge … even if the two data points are stored in separate tables within the same database.
That data combination would obviously identify only San Franciscans who were discharged out-of-county, precisely because San Francisco is the only city in San Francisco County. Ergo: any patient not discharged to an address in San Francisco automatically was an out-of-county discharge. The simple query logic to identify which data to extract is obvious, even to me in spite of my not being a computer programmer.
Since Epic’s subject matter experts double-checked and confirmed that the discharge destination data is a standard feature incorporated into Epic’s base enterprise system, having to write such a database query would only be required if Epic doesn’t already include such a built-in “canned” report in its standard reports.
Following the patient sexual abuse scandal at LHH announced in June 2019, its disgraced CEO, Mivic Hirose, was let go but her golden parachute landed her a cushy $230,464 annual salary job as an Informatics Clinical Nurse Specialist in SFDPH’s Information Technology unit assisting the Clinical Informatics team with configuring, testing, implementing and training clinical staff on aspects of Epic’s EHR package. Hirose’s resume showed she has no formal training or on-the-job experience in computer science, information systems, or informatics. Perhaps that’s why SFDPH falsely claimed Epic doesn’t track out-of-county discharges.
My own healthcare clinician contacts and my primary care physician — whose group practice is affiliated with Brown and Toland, an Epic client — have confirmed discharge disposition data is available in Epic’s core enterprise package, secondary confirmation that SFDPH’s claim Epic doesn’t track out-of-county discharges is a lie, when not pure hooey.
SFDPH brags on its COVID-19 data web page that San Francisco’s “response to the coronavirus emergency is grounded in data, science and facts,” and claims DPH is “committed to providing accurate, reliable reports to the public.”
If DPH really believes in providing accurate and reliable facts to the public, how can you trust this public health department about COVID or anything else, when it lies about whether its $187 million EHR database is able to track how many of its patients have been discharged out-of-county?
1 1:1 observation is used to provide safety to patients who may be suffering from cognitive impairment, may be at risk of falling, or who may cause harm to themselves or others. It requires keeping a patient within sight at all times of the day and night.
This article is dedicated to George Floyd, Ken Zhao, and Dr. Terry Palmer’s 103-year-old mom, Berenice Palmer
When the Board of Supervisors five-member Budget and Appropriations Committee scheduled a meeting for 11:30 a.m. on May 12, 2021 as a lead-up to eventually adopting the City’s budget for Fiscal Year 2021–2022, nobody suspected it would involve a marathon eight-and-a-half hour Committee meeting.
The third item on the Committee’s agenda included a hearing to receive a Budget and Legislative Analyst report providing a budget and policy analysis of City law enforcement functions that could be performed by other City agencies and other functions that do not provide public safety. The hearing did not explicitly address defunding the Police Department.
But by the time the Committee’s meeting adjourned at 8:08 p.m., the five supervisors had received an earful of public testimony demanding the defunding of San Francisco’s Police Department.
First Up: Free MUNI Pilot Program
The first two agenda items on May 12 involved a proposal for San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) to implement a Free MUNI Pilot program; the two items were heard together. The two items involved a proposed Ordinance to appropriate $9.6 million from the City’s COVID Contingency Reserve to the SFMTA for a three-month trial of free MUNI service during July, August, and September 2021. During the hearing, Committee chairman Matt Haney introduced an amendment to increase the appropriation from $9.6 million to $12.5 million.
MUNI director Jeffrey Tumlin testified to the Committee that the thing he is most concerned about is full-service restoration because MUNI is now only at 50% of pre-COVID capacity since San Francisco’s Department of Public Health won’t allow more people on the buses. He indicated the source of the proposed funding is the biggest reserve fund that had been designated as part of the City’s COVID-recovery system. Tumlin indicated that money is one-time funding that is going to run out at some point, and would need to be recategorized from a contingency account to a reserve account. He indicated MTA’s priorities are focused right now on addressing the severe over-crowding that it is experiencing and MTA’s capacity to take on more riders, in part given a shortage of MUNI drivers.
Despite Tumlin’s concerns about the source of the funding and current capacity of MUNI’s system, Haney’s amendment to increase the appropriation passed on a five-to-one vote (with Supervisor Dean Preston being allowed to vote, even though he is not a member of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, and with Supervisor Hillary Ronen excused because she had not yet joined the hearing).
Does this portend that at $12.5 million for just a three-month “trial period,” that free MUNI service for a full 12 months might cost $50 million annually? If so, after this COVID-contingency reserve fund runs dry (out of money), where will the Board of Supervisors come up with $50 million annually to continue providing free MUNI rides?
Given poor time management by Chair Haney, the Committee members, invited speakers, and Tumlin droned on and on for two-and-a-half hours before the Committee voted to continue the Free MUNI Pilot item to its May 19 meeting. Haney then recessed the meeting at 1:55 p.m. for lunch and reconvened the meeting at 2:25 p.m., at which point Ronen finally showed up.
Third Up: Law Enforcement Staffing
Leading up to adopting next year’s City budget, the Committee’s third agenda item was about law enforcement staffing (beginning at 2:43:40 on audio and video tape).
The Committee received a Budget and Legislative Analyst’s (BLA) report from Harvey Rose’s LLC ahead of the May 12 hearing. Of note, the BLA was asked to provide an analysis of alternatives to services currently provided by law enforcement agencies, and were specifically asked to answer the following questions: (1) Can the City provide a civilian response to 9–1–1 calls related to homelessness and mental health crises?, (2) What is the public safety impact of certain Police assignments?, (3) Are there funded alternatives to certain programs currently carried out by the Police Department?, (4) Are there opportunities to civilianize work-ordered services provided by the Police and Sheriff Departments to other City departments?, and (5) Are there opportunities to reduce administrative costs at the Police and Sheriff Departments?
BLA’s Apples-to-Oranges Analysis
Unfortunately, BLA employees Nicolas Menard and Dan Goncher essentially used an apples-to-oranges analysis during the Budget and Appropriations Committee meeting on May 12.
Page 24 of the BLA report on Law Enforcement staffing authored by Goncher stated “In June 2020, the Police Department reported it had “1,828 ‘full duty sworn staff’ in the City.” Goncher went on to report the BLA estimated SFPD had 40 fewer Police Officers in May 2021 — presumably 1,788 full-duty sworn officers — due to historical attrition and the Board of Supervisors cancelation last summer of the Spring 2021 SFPD Police Academy class.
On page 25 of the BLA report, Goncher also estimated that because the Board of Supervisors had eliminated General Fund-funded Police Academies in FY 2021–2022, SFPD’s sworn officer staffing will decrease by approximately an additional 80 officers, presumably to a total of 1,708 sworn officers.
One question is: Since when does the BLA rely on self-reporting from a City department, rather than the BLA performing its own fact-checking, or relying on other more credible sources of information to verify facts? Another question is: Why was the 40-officer reduction a mere “estimate”? Couldn’t the BLA ascertain the actual number of SFPD retirements and other attrition that occurred between June 2020 and May 2021?
The Westside Observer learned that in response to a public records request questioning the BLA’s usage of the term full duty sworn staff, Mr. Menard responded saying “A full-duty officer refers to the headcount of sworn staff that are available for duty (so does not count people on leave). This is distinct from full-time equivalent (FTE), which is a budget measure of full-time positions.” The BLA’s definition of “full duty” as excluding officers out on leave is an extremely narrow interpretation. Full-duty officers are the oranges, here.
T he Controller’s voter guide statement clearly indicated that the Board of Supervisors have complete discretion to reallocate funding formerly set aside for the minimum sworn police officer staffing, and additional discretion to use any portion of that funding for any public purpose”
Clearly, the BLA, Goncher, and Menard all know what FTE’s are — the apples here — and know that FTE is the preferred term, since it is typically used throughout San Francisco city government and by the Board of Supervisors, as well as all by governments and companies around the country (and likely the world) as the typical unit of measuring headcount staffing.
For example, if you have two employees who both work only half time at 20 hours per week, their combined forty hours weekly represents just 1.0 FTE, since 40-hour work weeks are the norm for one person. Alternatively, if you have two employees who both work full-time at forty hours per week and each of them work overtime for another 20 hours each week, their combined 120 hours worked equals 3.0 FTE’s (not 2.0 full-duty people, since neither one is out on leave).
Menard and the BLA should not have conflated the number of officers available for work — sworn people who are not out on leave — with the separate issue of the total number of full-time equivalent hours those people are actually working.
Why didn’t the BLA use the budget measure terminology of FTE’s in its report to this Budget Committee, given that FTE’s is the typical “budget-speak” the Committee is accustomed to using?
Actual SFPD Sworn Officer Staffing
Rather than having relied on SFPD’s June 2020 self-reported data about full duty sworn staff, the BLA should have been aware that Police Chief William Scott had presented his two-year budget proposal for SFPD on February 12, 2020 to the Police Commission.
Scott’s budget proposal was for the two-year FY 2019-2020 and FY 2020–2021 budget cycles. He reported SFPD then had 2,581 sworn officer FTE’s and proposed increasing them to 2,715 for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2020 — an increase of fully 134 additional FTE’s.
The 2,715 sworn officer FTE’s Scott proposed beginning on July 1, 2020 included 887 more FTE’s than the 1,828 “full duty sworn staff” that the BLA had cited going into July 2020. The 2,715 sworn FTE’s Scott proposed involved 1,007 more FTE officers than the 1,708 full duty sworn staff than the BLA had implied would remain after attrition going into July 2021.
Alternatively, the BLA should have turned to the City Controller’s Office to ascertain (if only for purposes of fact-checking) just how many sworn officer FTE’s had been on the City payroll at the end of June 2020. I’ve obtained the City Controller’s payroll database at least once each year for many, many years under public records requests. The BLA should have had that payroll data available at its fingertips.
As shown in the bar chart accompanying this article, my analysis of the City Controller’s payroll database for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020 showed the City had somewhere between 440 and 634 more sworn officers on the City payroll than mandated by the former City Charter.
The Controller’s payroll database for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020 revealed SFPD had 2,411 named sworn officers, (including Police Officers, Sergeants, Lieutenants, and Captains), fully 440 more than the minimum staffing of 1,971 mandated by the 1994 changes to City Charter.
The BLA should have known that the 2,411 named sworn officers on the City’ payroll as of June 30, 2020 involved 583 more officers than the 1,828 “full duty” officers as of June 2020 that SFPD tried to palm off on the BLA.
As well, as shown in Table 1, when you add up the total number of regular-time hours worked plus the total number of overtime-hours worked by the 2,411 named officers on the City payroll and divide the total by 2,080 hours (representing a 1.0 FTE) — a methodology the City Controller’s Office confirmed was a valid calculation — the 2,411 named sworn officers mushrooms to 2,605 FTE officers based on their total hours worked. There were actually 634 more sworn officers on SFPD’s payroll than the minimum staffing of 1,971 formerly mandated by the City Charter before voters weighed in last November and approved revising the Charter to remove the SFPD minimum staffing requirement.
The City Controller had indicated each officer costs $155,000 annually. Having 634 more sworn officers than required costs the City approximately $98.3 million each and every fiscal year!
Matrix Consulting Group, the consultant chosen by the Police Commission in consultation with the City Controller to assess police staffing levels issued a report in early 2020 that recommended a low-ball increase to 2,107 sworn officer FTE’s — which means that with 2,605 sworn police officer FTE’s on the City payroll as of June 30, 2020 the City had 500 more than what Matrix Consulting had recommended! Those 500 excess sworn police officers cost the City $77.5 million annually.
Law Enforcement Budgets
The BLA report noted that in the four years between FY 2017–2018 and FY 2020–2021, SFPD’s budget increased by $79.6 million to a total of $667.9 million. The Sheriff’s Department budget also increased by $13.2 million to a total of $245 million. Between the two law enforcement agencies, their combined budgets in FY 2020–2021 totaled $922.9 million.
The BLA’s law enforcement budget data potentially appears to be massively under-reported. Data available in the SF OpenBook dashboard on the City’s web site (sfgov.org) reports that in FY 2020–2021, the City’s combined “Public Protection” budgets stood at $1.13 billion — fully $213 million more than the $922.9 million the BLA reported to the Board of Supervisors Budget and Appropriations Committee on May 12, 2021.
For it’s part, the San Francisco Chroniclereported on June 13, 2020 that in the decade between FY 2010–2011 and FY 2019–2020 SFPD’s budget increased from $523.5 million to a total of $692.3 million — a 32.2% change increase of $168.8 million across that decade — not merely the $79.6 million increase the BLA reported across just four fiscal years. The Chronicle article helped document that on average, approximately 88.9% of SFPD’s budget historically comes from the General Fund.
There’s surely room to whittle away at SFPD’s and the Sheriff’s budgets and their General Fund support.
Chief Scott’s presentation to the Police Commission in February 2020 noted that SFPD budgeted funds to provide interdepartmental services (work orders) to eight City agencies — including to MUNI/MTA; the Port Authority; Human Services Agency; the Main Library and Eureka Valley Branch Library; Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families; Treasure Island; and the Moscone Convention Center, along with other smaller partnerships — totaling $6.7 million in FY 2020–2021, a 13.8% change increase from $5.9 million in FY 2019–2020. SFPD’s work orders just for MUNI/MTA totaled $4.4 million in FY 2020–2021, a 17% change increase from $3.77 million in FY 2019–2020.
As part of its mandate to identify whether there are alternatives to services currently provided by law enforcement agencies, the BLA itemized various work-order services provided by SFPD to 14 different agencies and programs for FY 2021–2022 totaling $8.76 million, but its not clear what kind of appetite either the Board of Supervisors or taxpayers may have to cut back on those services. That appetite is in question, in part, because $3.44 million of the $8.76 million is for a 15-officer dedicated unit to respond to 9–1–1 calls on MUNI. Otherwise, MUNI would have to rely on regular, non-dedicated, police officers, which might end up decreasing police response time for MUNI-related 9–1–1 calls.
More promising for cuts may be the additional $22.3 million the Sheriff’s Department has budgeted for FY 2021–2022 to provide security for the City’s public health facilities, including SFGH, Laguna Honda Hospital, and DPH Clinics.
The BLA report contains a one-page discussion about civilianization of the Police Department, noting that the Board of Supervisors “could choose to fund the civilianization positions recommended by the Police Commission in FY 2021–2022 [starting July 1, 2021] or enhance funding for civilianization positions based on the recommendations of prior staffing studies.” But the BLA incorrectly and disingenuously claimed:
“In November 2020, voters approved Proposition E, which modified sections of the City Charter pertaining to Police Department staffing. City Charter Section 4.127 requires the Police Commission to annually review Police Department staffing to ‘civilianize as many positions as possible’ and submit a report to the Board of Supervisors each year that identifies opportunities for civilianization. City Charter Section 16.123 states that no sworn officer may be laid off in the processing of civilianization.”
The BLA’s “summary” of “Prop. E” isn’t entirely accurate because of what the BLA had left out!
While the BLA accurately reported that the replacement text of Charter §4.127 requires the Police Commission to conduct an annual review to civilianize as many positions as possible, that legal text is way down in §4.127. The BLA completely omitted that before that text appears in the revised Charter, the Charter explicitly states:
“By no earlier than October 1 and no later than November 1 in every odd-numbered calendar year, the Chief of Police shall transmit to the Police Commission a report describing the department’s current number of full-duty sworn officers and recommending staffing levels of full-duty sworn officers in the subsequent two fiscal years. The report shall include an assessment of the Police Department’s overall staffing, the workload handled by the department’s employees, the department’s public service objectives … ”
In other words, the main focus of changes to §4.127 was to remove the specific minimum number of 1,971 police officers from the Charter and replace it with a requirement that the Chief of Police prepare a report assessing and analyzing overall staffing in the Police Department, and only secondarily to focus on the process involving civilianization.
While the new Charter also uses the term “full duty sworn officers,” it is thought “full duty” was more broadly intended to assess the full-time equivalent of officers working full-time (not just those who are not out on leave).
The Charter goes on to say the Police Commission must hold a public hearing regarding the Chief’s staffing recommendations report during the Commission’s consideration and approval of SFPD’S proposed budget every fiscal year, but the Commission is not required to accept or adopt any of the Police Chief’s recommendations.
It’s obvious the Police Commission is empowered to do much more than just “civilianize as many positions as possible.”
Indeed, the City Controller’s statement on page 76 in the November 2020 voter guide also advised voters that the Police Commission is not required to accept or adopt any recommendations in Chief Scott’s staffing report when it considers and approves SFPD’s proposed budget every fiscal year. [By extension, the Board of Supervisors are also not required to adopt recommendations from Chief Scott or from the Police Commission when approving SFPD’s upcoming two-year budget.]
Of note, the Controller’s voter guide statement clearly indicated that the Board of Supervisors have complete discretion to re-allocate funding formerly set aside for the minimum sworn police officer staffing, and additional discretion to use any portion of that funding for any public purpose. Clearly, Charter §4.127 is not restricted to just civilianization; rather the Charter section is more broadly intended to address all SFPD staffing, not just civilianizing jobs.
Demands to Defund SFPD
Former Supervisor Norman Yee introduced a Charter Change ballot measure on May 19, 2020 titled “Police Department Staffing Levels,” which was assigned to the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee.
Yee’s Charter Change proposal did not explicitly cut police staffing levels. Instead, it merely sought to eliminate the artificial “minimum” staffing level of 1,971 sworn police officers set in stone in the Charter in 1994, which was based at the time on 40-year-old data obtained in the 1980’s. Yee’s Charter Change proposal only sought to put in place a process for regular evaluations of police officer staffing levels.
It only requires the Police Chief to periodically analyze staffing levels and submit a report to the Police Commission, and requires the Police Commission to consider the Chief’s report.
The Police Officers Association (POA) attempted to derail Yee’s Charter Change and keep it off of the ballot, but eventually the City’s Department of Human Resources ruled it only involved a management issue that wasn’t subject to meet-and-confer processes the POA could object to.
Developing the ballot measure legislation had been a years-long project for Yee, which he had begun long before the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. Indeed, San Francisco Deputy City Attorney Alicia Cabrera had signed off on Yee’s legislation “Approving it as to Form” days before Yee introduced it.
Although Yee had introduced it just six days before Floyd’s death, Yee had been working on developing it during 2019, before nationwide calls had begun to defund the police. By the time the Rules Committee held hearings and recommended that the full Board of Supervisors vote on whether to place it as “Prop. E,” on the November 2020 ballot, Yee’s legislation had gained a total of 10 Supervisors as co-sponsors (excluding District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani). Eventually, Stefani joined with the Board and it was placed unanimously on the ballot by all 11 City Supervisors.
The “defund the police” slogan became common during the summer of 2020 following the nationwide George Floyd protests. By the time of the November 2020 election, the drumbeat calling for defunding police had grown deafening. Yee’s Charter Change was passed by 71.3% of San Francisco voters.
So, it came as no real surprise that during the Budget and Appropriations Committee hearing on May 12, the vast majority of public comments on agenda item 3 phoned in to the remote virtual hearing called for defunding SFPD (beginning at 6:04:20 on tape and lasting for over two hours).
Of approximately 91 public commenters given one minute each, 40 callers explicitly used the word “defund” in their testimony. Another 25 callers used terminology like divest (rather than the word defund) from policing and jails, and instead reinvest those funds away from law enforcement to finance investing in community services to support San Franciscans — like housing, education, and accessible health care programs. That totaled 65 callers — 71.4% of the 91 — who support re-allocating SFPD funds.
Just seven callers explicitly stated they don’t want SFPD defunded. An additional seven callers said they want SFPD academy classes resumed and funded, along with staffing levels increased for foot beat patrols. Those 14 callers represented just 15.4% of the 91 callers during public comment. The views of the majority could not have been clearer.
Please bear with some redundancy: The City Controller clearly noted the Board of Supervisors have complete discretion to re-allocate funding formerly set aside for the minimum sworn police officer staffing, and additional discretion to use any portion of that funding for any public purpose — like financing increased investments and alternatives in community services.
Before public comment had been opened, representatives from the Sheriff’s Department noted their Department needed to retain the $24.7 million in savings from closure of County Jail #4. To his credit, Supervisor Shamann Walton indicated he was having trouble “trying to understand the conundrum of how we close the jail, but we have still high expenses in terms of personnel, because it would seem to me [that] closing the jail would coincide with [the need for] less funding [to the Sheriff’s Department].”
Several people who phoned in to provide public comment also noted closing County Jail #4 had saved the City over $24.7 million from the Sheriff’s budget alone, not to mention the police budget.
The BLA report also noted:
“The Board of Supervisors could make it City policy for the Sheriff to assume law enforcement responsibilities at the Airport and request the Airport Commission to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Sheriff. This would allow Police assigned to the Airport to instead be assigned to duties in the City … ”
Indeed, Chief Scott’s two-year budget proposal presented to the Police Commission on February 12, 2020 reported that in FY 2020–2021 SFPD had 332 sworn police FTE’s at the Airport. Given the City Controller’s estimate of $155,000 each year for each police officer, that translates to $51.5 million annually in police staffing at the Airport. All the Supervisors need to do is come up with the political will to enact significant law enforcement reforms NOW, before passing the next two-year City budget for FY 2021–2022 and FY 2022–2023.
There’s no point delaying law enforcement budget reforms for another two-year period by kicking the can down the road again to a nebulous “sometime in the future.”
Indeed, language now incorporated in revised Charter §4.127 specifically states:
“The Chief of Police may, but is not required by this Section 4.127 to, submit staffing reports regarding full-duty sworn officers to the Police Commission in even-numbered years.”
The president of the Police Commission, Malia Cohen — formerly president of the Board of Supervisors representing District 10, current Board president Shamann Walton’s district — could, and should, demand along with the full Board of Supervisors and particularly Chair of the Budget Committee Matt Haney, that Chief Scott rapidly produce a police staffing report now, even before the first report is due between October 1 and November 1, 2021.
One red herring is having to wait until October 2021 before receiving a SFPD staffing report from the Chief of Police. Given nationwide calls to defund law enforcement and reinvest those savings into desperately-needed and alternative services, a police staffing report should be expedited. The Board of Supervisors must require that the Police Chief produce a staffing report annually, not biannually.
Another red herring is the notion that reductions to SFPD sworn police officers must be done using a 1:1 ratio of replacing police officers with a civilian counterpart. To the extent San Francisco had 634 more sworn police officers on the City payroll as of June 30, 2020 than the 1,971 minimum mandated by the former City Charter does not mean that all 2,605 SFPD sworn FTE’s must be replaced with civilian employees.
As we reach the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death, leaving San Francisco’s bloated sworn police officer staffing levels unaddressed and unresolved is an insult to racial inequities highlighted during last year’s protests following his murder, and an insult to Floyd’s legacy.
It’s clear the Board of Supervisors have a menu of options that could save substantial millions of dollars annually from law enforcement budgets.
Now is the time — as part and parcel of nationwide calls for police reform — to drastically reduce the bloated number of sworn police officer positions in SFPD based on their number of FTE hours worked. In addition, the Board of Supervisors should eliminate police academy classes for the next two fiscal years and allow attrition due to retirements to further reduce sworn officer staffing levels at SFPD without resorting to 1:1 civilianized replacements.
Any savings from reducing the number of sworn police officers and eliminating police academy classes should be re-allocated to the Department of Public Health to fund providing gap subsidies to facilitate opening a sub-acute Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) — since the City currently has no such public- or private-sector facility in the City — to halt out-of-county patient dumping of patients, like Ken Zhao, who require sub-acute level of care.
That’s because another complete canard would have you believe the City can’t come up with the $3 million to $5 million that appears to be needed to open a sub-acute SNF facility somewhere in the City.
Surely, this Board of Supervisors can identify $5 million in cuts to law enforcement budgets and mandate those savings be earmarked to open a sub-acute SNF rapidly. The lives of people like Ken Zhao who need one in-county, matter.
Drastically reducing the number of sworn police officer FTE’s is intrinsically linked to defunding SFPD.
One-man Lawsuit Stalls 2019 Affordable Housing Bond
by Patrick Monette-Shaw
Who knew the $600 million Affordable Housing Bond passed by voters in November 2019 has been delayed and held hostage to a citizen’s lawsuit first filed in San Francisco Superior Court on December 26, 2019?
Clearly, the Mayor’s Office, the City Controller’s Office, and the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) have done everything they can to keep this news out of media reporting.
As far as is known, this news is being exclusively reported for the first time here in the Westside Observer newspaper.
It was very disappointing when the San Francisco Citizens’ General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee (CGOBOC) — which is charged with oversight of all voter-approved G.O. bonds — held a hearing on March 22 to receive updates on three separate Affordable Housing Bonds that were presented.
Between the three presentations made by MOHCD and the question-and-answer period from CGOBOC members, the three bonds were discussed and dispensed with, within a record-setting 34 minutes flat.
Fully 60% of the 34 minutes involved the 2016 Bond, which repurposes unused funds left over from the 1992 Seismic Safety Loan Program general obligation bond. It focuses only on preservation and seismic safety of properties at-risk of conversion to market-rate uses in order to preserve the affordability of existing rental housing, protect residents at risk of displacement, and improve seismic safety. The 2016 Bond doesn’t finance new affordable housing construction or acquisition of properties without seismic improvements.
The 2015 Bond involves $310 million for new and rehabilitated affordable housing projects and the 2019 Bond involves $600 million for the same purposes.
Considering the hearing involved over $1 billion in Affordable Housing Bonds, a mere 34 minutes does not suggest adequate oversight is being performed by CGOBOC.
There was next to no news presented during the March 22 CGOBOC meeting about the status and progress of San Francisco’s $600 million Affordable Housing Bond passed nearly a year-and-a-half ago in November 2019.
Then on March 30, I received a Google alert about Laguna Honda Hospital (LHH) that I had set up 20 years ago to receive any news involving the hospital. The alert indicated LHH is being leveraged as collateral — again! — for an additional $80.2 million issuance of Certificates of Participation (COP’s). [Editor’s Note: COP’s are a form of long-term municipal debt that requires payment of both principal and interest, but do not require voter approval to issue.]
Curious about the new COP’s for $80.2 million, I contacted the City Controller’s Office. I was shocked while talking to City Controller staff when I stumbled across news that a lawsuit has been stalling the 2019 Affordable Housing Bond.
Indeed Mr. Denny — perhaps spellbound by the Libertarian Party’s slogan “Minimum government, maximum freedom” — has single-handedly held the 2019 Bond hostage with his futile lawsuit to overturn passage of the 2019 Bond, despite the fact that 143,055 San Franciscans voted in favor of passing the Bond.”
Here’s what has recently been learned.
March 22 CGOBOC Hearing
As has been reported in the past, CGOBOC converted from semi-annual updates about each bond measure under its oversight to just a single formal annual presentation from each bond’s sponsoring City Department, plus an informal update six months later from the CGOBOC member assigned as a liaison to a given bond.
The March 22 CGOBOC meeting included a single agenda item for the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) to present updates to CGOBOC on the 2015, 2016, and 2019 Affordable Housing Bonds.
MOHCD presented updates on the 2015 and 2016 Housing bonds in extremely fast and sketchy updates: Just 3 minutes and 13 seconds on the 2015 Bond, and 10 minutes and 5 seconds on the 2016 Bond.
For their part, CGOBOC members asked a paucity of questions on both Bonds, spending just 9 minutes asking questions and getting answers on the 2015 Bond, and 10 minutes and 13 seconds asking questions and getting answers on the 2016 Bond.
MOHCD indicates 98% of the first tranche of the $310 million 2015 Bond, 93% of the second tranche, and just 12% of the third tranche of the 2015 Bond have been spent to date. Spending of the remaining 2015 Bond amount is expected to accelerate in 2023, eight years after passage of the 205 Bond! What’s taking so long?
MOHCD indicated the 2015 Bond has produced 400 housing units to date, and another 379 units are currently in construction, for a total of 779 affordable housing units. MOHCD claims another 740 are in predevelopment, but as I have reported in the past, spending for the vast majority — at least 454 — of those 740 units are not actual new or rehabilitated affordable housing units. Rather, MOHCD is padding its total housing units produced by the 2015 Bond by tacking on additional units that will be constructed with non-Bond proceeds that are served by infrastructure projects funded by the 2015 Bond, such as roads and sidewalks in the Sunnydale and Potrero public housing projects.
Indeed, the Sunnydale and Potrero public housing projects involve renovating or replacing existing public housing units to reach eligibility for accelerating moving them from HUD’s Section 9 program (Public Housing Operating Fund) into its Section 8 program (rental housing for low-income and elderly tenants). That work was supposed to have started over a year ago, but starting that work was delayed due to COVID.
The only other news about the 2015 Bond is that MOHCD informed CGOBOC verbally that Midpen’s teacher housing project at the Francis Scott Key annex site at 43rd and Irving Street is not going to open until 2025, contradicting MOHCD’s accompanying written report that indicated construction is expected to be completed in 2023. MOHCD didn’t indicate to CGOBOC why it may end up taking an entire decade to get the teacher housing project at Francis Scott Key completed. Sadly, no CGOBOC members bothered to ask why it may take an entire decade. The failure to ask that question reeks of rotten and weak “oversight.”
As for the $600 million 2019 Affordable Housing Bond, MOHCD spent a miserly one minute and 29 seconds on March 22 updating CGOBOC members about progress on the 2019 Bond.
MOHCD merely reported that a list of projects to be funded by the 2019 Bond had been approved by San Francisco’s Capital Planning Committee and the Board of Supervisors on October 6, 2020, and that the first $252.6 million tranche of the 2019 Bond (“Social Bonds – Affordable Housing 2019, Series 2021A”) would be sold by the end of the month of March. Indeed, the delivery date of that first tranche of the 2019 Bond occurred on March 30, 2021, which appears to have taken a month longer, because it was previously reported in October 2020 that the first tranche was projected to be sold by February 2021.
That was completely ridiculous. The first tranche of the 2015 Affordable Housing Bond was sold on Wednesday, October 19, 2016 — 11 months after voters approved the bond in November 2015. No member of CGOBOC bothered asking why it took 17 months to sell the first tranche of the 2019 Bond when it had taken only 11 months to sell the first tranche of the 2015 Bond. More rotten oversight by CGOBOC.
Sadly, CGOBOC members spent no time at all asking any questions or getting answers about the 2019 Bond.
During the March 22 hearing, CGOBOC member Jane Natoli made some remarks in her role as CGOBOC’s liaison to MOHCD on the 2015 Bond and 2016 Bond. She spent a total of 4 minutes and 32 seconds presenting her Liaison Report.
She pointedly noted that no CGOBOC member had been appointed — or had volunteered — to be CGOBOC’s liaison to MOHCD on the 2019 Bond. Perhaps that’s why CGOBOC members raised absolutely no questions about the 2019 Bond.
Although $150 million — fully 25% — was set aside for Senior Housing in the 2019 Bond, no CGOBOC members asked any questions about why only 100 senior housing units may be being funded from the Bond for the senior housing project at Laguna Honda Hospital, after the developer selected by MOHCD for the project (Mercy Housing) had proposed building 375 senior housing units at LHH.
For my part, I provided remote oral testimony by phone and 150-word written public testimony for inclusion in the March 22 CGOBOC meeting minutes, indicating that it was absurd that neither members of the public nor CGOBOC members have been presented a list of projects to be funded by the 2019 Bond. That stands in stark contrast to the 2015 Bond, because just three months after voters passed the $310 million Affordable Housing Bond in November 2015 MOHCD presented its initial planning report to CGOBOC in January 2016, and by June 2016 MOHCD presented a preliminary detailed list by street location to CGOBOC and the public.
At the end of the section of the meeting about the three Affordable Housing Bonds on March 22, Natoli appears to have gotten the message and pointedly noted that CGOBOC should be given a list about what is being funded by the 2019 Bond.
CGOBOC is now scheduled to hold its next hearing on all three Affordable Housing Bonds on December 6, 2021, a little earlier than a full year between formal report presentations.
Notably, MOHCD didn’t share with CGOBOC members on March 22 that a lawsuit may be stalling progress on the 2019 Bond. You’d think MOHCD would have been upfront about the lawsuit to the very committee — CGOBOC — providing oversight on all three Affordable Housing Bonds. But you’d be wrong.
New $80.2 Million COP’s
The Google alert I received on March 30 about Laguna Honda Hospital indicated a $80.2 million COP’s Series 2021A (Multiple Capital Improvement Projects) would use LHH’s North and South patient residence towers plus LHH’s Pavilion Building, along with San Francisco’s San Bruno Jail complex, as leased assets to secure the COP financing.
Proceeds of the Series 2021A COP’s will be used to finance acquisition of property for purposes of relocating the operations of San Francisco’s Hall of Justice building.
When I contacted the City Controller’s Office with questions about these new COP’s, Controller staff indicated my memory was correct that LHH’s two residence towers and its Pavilion Building has previously been used as “collateral” multiple times in the past for several different COP-funded projects, including for Road Repaving and Street Safety (RRSS), in addition to General Obligation Bond funding voters had previously passed at the ballot box for other RRSS projects.
Almost lamely, Controller staff admitted concerns have been raised about the LHH property having been repeatedly used as leased-asset collateral in the “pool” of assets the City relies on to secure COP financing. The Controller’s staff indicated the Controller’s Office is working with the City’s Real Estate Division to identify other City property and assets that can be added to the asset pool in the future.
The Citizen’s Lawsuit Stalling Affordable Housing Bond
On December 26, 2019 Michael Denny filed an In Pro Perlawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court against John Arntz, San Francisco’s Director of Elections and City Attorney Dennis Herrera contesting San Francisco’s 2019 municipal election (San Francisco Superior Court case number CPF19516970). The lawsuit is a special Superior Court proceeding, alleging multiple violations of California’s election code and San Francisco’s municipal election code regarding the November 2019 “Proposition A” $600 million Affordable Housing Bond.
In Pro Per is used to describe people who handle their own cases, without the benefit of a licensed lawyer. Mr. Denny — a previous Secretary of the Libertarian Party of San Francisco (LPSF) — has filed multiple lawsuits in the recent past as an independent citizen, not in his role as a member of LPSF. LPFS itself appears to be ineligible to be listed as a complainant on lawsuits filed independently by its members.
It should be noted that LPSF was the official opponent of the November 2019 “Prop. A” in the voter guide, even though it may have been ineligible to sign on to Denny’s Superior Court lawsuit. LPSF asserted in its official Opponents Argument in the November 2019 voter guide that “affordable housing programs in reality make housing less affordable,” and that “affordable housing programs are NOT an incentive to build more housing.”
Just like the YIMBY’s who misguidedly believe market-rate housing will somehow trickle down to create affordable housing, LPSF apparently believes San Francisco’s government should “get out of the way” and allow developers to build whatever they want.
LPSF members — including Denny on at least two occasions — have filed lawsuits in the past requesting election results be invalidated, asserting that local governments can present bond measures on ballots — but the ballot measures must include a true and impartial synopsis of the purpose of the proposed measure, and must use language that is neither argumentative nor likely to create prejudice for or against the measure.
Denny’s lawsuit challenging the 2019 Affordable Housing Bond asserted seven contested grounds of action alleging highly arcane technical violations.
The first ground alleged that the question put to voters on the ballot did not contain the phrase “shall the measure be adopted?” that is required by California Election Code 13119(a), using instead the phrase the “… shall the City and County of San Francisco issue $600,000,000 in general obligation bonds?”.
The third ground alleged California Election Code 13119(c) requires official ballot statements use “language that is neither argumentative nor likely to create prejudice for or against the measure.” Denny alleged much of the language used in the official ballot statement and the voter guide used terminology presenting reasons to pass the Bond measure, therein creating prejudice favorable for the measure.
The remaining five grounds Denny presented in his lawsuit were equally as arcane.
On February 5, 2020 Superior Court Judge Ethan P. Schulman dismissed Denny’s Superior Court lawsuit. In doing so, Schulman noted Denny had raised substantially identical claims in a separate pre-election challenge, which the Superior Court had previously dismissed on demurrer (i.e., that the petitioner’s claim(s) were irrelevant or invalid). Schulman further noted Denny’s post-election challenges were simply a continuation of his prior pre-election challenge of the same “Prop. A” ballot measure by substantially raising the same claims and issues, again.
Schulman dismissed Denny’s grounds 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7 since his challenges alleging the lack of impartial analysis of ballot measure applies only to pre-election activities, and that Denny had not demonstrated that the so-called forbidden activities had affected the outcome of voters passing “Prop. A” in November 2019.
Despite having lost his pre-election and post-election lawsuits about the 2019 Affordable Housing Bond, Denny chose to file an appeal to the Court of Appeal on March 26, 2020. It took the Superior Courts Appeals Division until August 28, 2020 to complete that the appeal had been certified by the Court of Appeal.
It’s almost as if Denny, other members of LPSF, and LPSF itself may believe that filing lawsuits to challenge the 2019 Affordable Housing Bond will somehow get government out of the way and allow developers to build whatever types of housing that they wish.
Of San Francisco’s 511,325 registered voters there are just 2,906 registered Libertarians, a paltry 0.6% of registered voters (as of April 5, 2021). It’s shocking that the LPSF political party representing less than one percent of San Francisco’s registered voters, yet a single LPSF member has managed to hold the 2019 Affordable Housing Bond hostage to get the government “out of the way” of housing developers.
Indeed Mr. Denny — perhaps spellbound by the Libertarian Party’s slogan “Minimum government, maximum freedom” — has single-handedly held the 2019 Bond hostage with his futile lawsuit to overturn passage of the 2019 Bond, despite the fact that 143,055 San Franciscans voted in favor of passing the Bond.
It’s not yet known if the Court of Appeals has concluded hearing Denny’s appeal, or whether Denny will petition the State Supreme Court to review any decision from the Court of Appeal.
What is currently known, is that the City of San Francisco is confident and expects it will prevail, regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision.
While Mr. Denny may have been within his First Amendment rights to file his lawsuit, it’s clear his lawsuit delayed issuing the first tranche of the 2019 Bond. The Controller’s Office of Public Finance presented a bond issuance timeline on September 19, 2020 indicating it planned to sell the Bonds in November 2020, but they weren’t sold until five months later in March 2021. City Hall sources have confirmed there was a nexus between Denny’s lawsuit and the five-month delay selling the first tranche of the bond. The introduction of the request to the Board of Supervisors seeking authorization to sell the bonds may have also involved additional months of delay.
Mr. Denny, Nicholas Smith (who is also an LPSF member), and Starchild (who is now LPSF’s chairperson), filed an earlier lawsuit (Superior Court Case number CGC19575070) on April 5, 2019 also challenging the November 6, 2018 Embarcadero Seawall Earthquake Safety Bond, alleging many of the same issues Denny raised challenging the November 2019 Affordable Housing Bond. Although the Superior Court dismissed the Seawall lawsuit, Denny, Smith, and Starchild appear to have also appealed that dismissal to the Court of Appeals.
As far as the 2019 Affordable Housing Bond goes, several loose ends remain unanswered.
Language in the legal text in the November 2019 voter guide indicated that as part of oversight of, and transparency involving, the 2019 Housing Bond, the City would (“shall”) create a web page outlining and describing the bond program, including progress and activity updates. As of April 1, MOHCD has not created such a web page or made it available on-line.
Language in the legal text in the voter guide also promised that an annual report on the 2019 Bond would be provided to the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors. MOHCD indicated on April 6, 2021 that no annual report was presented to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors, responding by saying:
“Other than the information provided to the Board (and previously sent to you) when seeking their approval for the first issuance of the 2019 Affordable Housing Bond, there have been no subsequent reports to the Board.”
MOHCD was referring to the October 6 report presented to the Board of Supervisors seeking authorization to sell the $252.6 million first tranche of the 2019 Bond. By not producing an annual report on the 2019 Bond, MOHCD is signaling that it decided it didn’t need to comply with the oversight promises made in the legal text in the 2019 voter guide.
Finally, MOHCD previously indicated that Mercy Housing’s feasibility analysis concerning its proposal to build 375 senior housing units on the campus of Laguna Honda Hospital would be provided by January 15. MOHCD still hasn’t responded by the submission deadline for this article to a recent records request to obtain that feasibility analysis, even though the Board of Supervisors were advised on October 6, 2020 that the first tranche of the 2019 Bond would include allocating $3 million for predevelopment of only 100 senior housing units at LHH, not 375.
The secrecy involving placing housing on LHH’s campus continues, unabated.
[Full Disclosure: I took out a paid argument in the 2019 voter guide opposing the 2019 Affordable Housing Bond, not because I believe San Francisco government should get out of the way of housing developers and not because I oppose affordable housing. Instead my paid argument was because of MOHCD’s truly rotten track record and performance on San Francisco’s 2015 Affordable Housing Bond, since it appears that bond will produce less than 1,000 new affordable housing units, voters weren’t told beforehand that MOHCD would reserve up to 30% of new units would be allocated for the homeless, too much of the bond was earmarked for infrastructure rather than housing units (including infrastructure to support 125 market-rate units), and because a $42 million program for middle-income rental units promised to voters was unilaterally eliminated by MOHCD post-election.]
As I wrote last November, Mayor London Breed — aided and abetted by Dr. Grant Colfax and the Department of Public Health — have failed miserably when it comes to reporting of COVID cases in San Francisco’s skilled nursing facilities (SNF’s), which data is more robustly publicly available elsewhere. It should be easily and readily available on local government web sites.
To repeat, it took until November 6 — fully eight months after Breed shut down Laguna Honda Hospital to visitors and then issued her first COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place order — before DPH under Breed’s reckless watch began publicly reporting data about COVID cases in San Francisco’s SNF’s on DPH’s COVID Data Tracker web site.
When DPH did begin reporting limited local SNF COVID data on-line in November on its new “COVID-19 in Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs)” web page, DPH decided to present data only on the number of COVID cases among residents of the 19 SNF’s in the City, eliminating reporting cumulative case reporting for healthcare workers (staff) at the 19 facilities.
DPH decided to present data only on the number of COVID cases among residents of the 19 SNF’s in the City, eliminating reporting cumulative case reporting for healthcare workers (staff) at the 19 facilities.”
That was patently ridiculous, because on-line data published on both the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and California’s Department of Public Health (CADPH) web sites have been presenting data reporting COVID cases and deaths for both SNF residents and SNF staff all along.
For good measure, DPH decided to pad its SNF data by including COVID cases from the SNF operated by the VA Medical Center located on Clement Street near 40th Avenue. That’s ridiculous, first because those SNF beds are reserved only for armed services members who have received a service-related disability determination, and excludes those who have served in the military but do not have a documented service-related disability; and second, because that facility is not licensed as a SNF by the State of California since it is a federal facility, and is not included in COVID SNF reporting on either the CMS or CADPH web sites.
Reckless COVID Case Discrepancies
It’s crucial that members of the public, and families of patients in SNF’s, receive accurate and up-to-date information about COVID cases in local skilled nursing facilities, in part to decide whether the risk of acquiring COVID in a SNF warrants taking their relatives out of a problematic SNF for safety reasons.
Not only does DPH’s on-line “COVID-19 in Skilled Nursing Facilities” web page exclude reporting COVID cases among SNF staff, but it also reports resident cases in the 19 (to 20) SNF’s into a single aggregate summary. Ideally, DPH should be releasing and publishing up-to-date resident and staff COVID cases for each individual SNF on-line, since each SNF is required to provide daily updates to DPH. Displaying public data for the 19 separate SNF’s is not rocket science and would not require very much effort by DPH staff to maintain and update daily.
As of Tuesday, January 12 DPH reported 487 cumulative COVID cases and 53 COVID-related deaths for residents across the 20 SNF’s, but the edited screen shot shown here indicates that data was for the period ending December 31, 2020 — fully 12 days ago. By contrast, CMS’ web site reported data through December 27 that became available on January 7 publicly reported there were 298 cumulative COVID cases among residents across the 19 SNF’s in San Francisco and 50 deaths.
The difference between CMS’ data ending December 27 vs. data DPH is itself reporting through December 31 represents an increase of three resident deaths, and a whopping 189 additional resident COVID cases across those four days. It will take some time before the CMS data reports the same data as DPH reported for December 31.
More than likely, the 487 COVID cases among SNF residents DPH reported on January 12 is now far higher, given the surge in cases now underway and the likelihood the British COVID variant has probably been long on the loose in the Bay Area.
The screen shot also misrepresents the percentage of deaths among SNF residents to all COVID deaths in San Francisco. The 24% reported appears to use a more recent denominator for the 53 SNF resident deaths as of December 31. In reality, there were actually 194 total COVID deaths in San Francisco, so using 194 as the denominator means that the 53 SNF deaths as of December 27 represented 27.3% of all COVID deaths in the City, not 24%. This is but one example of SFDPH fudging its numbers.
DPH claims the data it presents on its SNF page needs a seven-day lookback lag period — compared to just a three-day lag for most all other COVID reporting elsewhere on its larger COVID Data Tracker web site. For example, the data reported on January 12 for Sexual Orientation cases on SFDPH’s COVID Data Tracker web site is updated daily and only lags back to January 9. If DPH can use a three-day look back period for most of the subsets of data it updates daily, it should use the same three-day lookback for reporting SNF data, which should also be updated daily — not 12 days or longer and only updated twice a week, on Wednesday’s and Friday’s.
To the extent San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors mandated that DPH publish sexual identity data on DPH’s COVID Data Tracker web site, the Board of Supervisor should mandate that DPH list the data for each of the 19 SNF’s and be updated daily.
LHH’s Family and Resident COVID Reporting
The federal CMS web site provides COVID data for each of the 15,000 SNF’s nationwide; CMS has an 11-day lag in case reporting. The most recent CMS data for the week ending December 27 became available for download on Thursday January 7, reporting there were 103 cumulative COVID cases among LHH staff, and 32 cumulative cases among residents.
However, LHH’s resident/family web page that I just inadvertently stumbled across, which had only recently become available, reported that as of January 8 there had been 149 staff and 53 resident cumulative cases. That represented an increase of 46 staff infections and 21 resident cases since the December 27 CMS report.
Four days later on January 12, the LHH resident/family web page reported that as of January 11 there were 157 cumulative staff COVID cases at LHH and 58 resident cases, another increase of eight more staff and five more residents across just three days since January 8. That’s an increase of 54 cumulative COVID staff cases and an increase of 26 cumulative resident cases since December 27.
To the extent LHH can update its resident/family COVID information web page daily, why is it the SFDPH only updates its SNF facility web site just twice a week, with an excessive lag in daily reporting?
I have to wonder how long it is going to take CMS to report updated LHH data for the week ending January 14.
So much for Breed’s reckless claim LHH was a national model on how to prevent the spread of COVID cases in SNF’s!
The day after this article was submitted for publication, SFDPH updated its “COVID-19 in Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs)” web page on January 13, reporting case data through January 5, 2021 — given the seven-day lag DPH claims is needed for data validation. DPH should have provided data through January 6. That web page only reports SNF resident cases, and excludes any mention about SNF staff infections.
CMS reported that through December 27, there was a cumulative total of 379 staff COVID infections across the 19 SNF’s. SFDPH’s COVID in SNF’s web page mentions nothing about staff infections at all.
The data through January 5 reported a total of 564 cumulative resident COVID cases among residents and 59 COVID-related resident deaths across the 20 SNF’s. The previous update dated December 31 had reported 487 cumulative cases and 53 resident deaths from COVID.
That means in the intervening five days between the two most-recent reports, there were 77 additional SNF patient COVID infections and six more patient COVID deaths.
Again, CMS had reported that as of the week ending December 27, there were just 298 cumulative resident COVID infections in the 19 SNF’s and 50 deaths. So, SFDPH’s January 5 data suggests that in the nine days between December 27 and January 5 there were an additional 266 resident COVID infections (to 564) and nine additional COVID patient deaths in San Francisco’s 19 SNF’s.
Five of the additional nine patient deaths appear to have been residents of LHH, because CMS’ data reported LHH had one COVID patient death as of December 27 and LHH’s new Resident/Family COVID-19 Information Page web page reported a total of six COVID patient deaths as of January 13.
The Board of Supervisors needs to rapidly mandate that SFDPH immediately address its recklessly anemic SNF data reporting on-line by improving data reported, including — at minimum — cumulative SNF staff infections by facility name, and resident cases and deaths by facility name, and do so daily, not twice a week.
Laguna Honda Housing Project Reduced to 100 Units?
by Patrick Monette-Shaw
The adage “the more things change, the more they stay the same” has never been truer than when it comes to placing 100% affordable housing projects on San Francisco’s public lands.
Back in early 2019, Mayor Breed and her allies started planning to place “Prop. E” on San Francisco’s November 2019 ballot, hoping to convince voters that placing 100% affordable housing or teacher housing projects on public parcels throughout the City would help speed up affordable housing production in the City.
As I wrote in July 2019 (“Breed’s Blank Check: Re-Zoning Public Lands”), Breed and her allies asserted that placing housing on public parcels would save massive amounts of time in gaining approval to get affordable housing projects through the maze of zoning processes in the City and significantly reduce the time it takes get through the proposed projects pipeline.
During her June 11, 2019 press conference, Breed stated, in part:
“When we have an opportunity on public property that’s underutilized to build 100% affordable or teacher housing, we can do it without going through a lengthy two-year re-zoning planning process.
As I reported in July 2019, the San Francisco Chronicle published an article on June 21, 2019 with a sidebar that then showed land-use entitlements and re-zoning typically occur during environmental review of housing project developments during Step 4-A, a step that can take 12 to 24 months. (The sidebar has now vanished from the Chronicle’s web site.) The Chronicle reported that the re-zoning portion of the environmental review is concurrent and simultaneous with detailed design, permitting, and financing steps during the same 12- to 24-month period. Obviously, streamlining the re-zoning portion is not going to streamline the design, permitting, and financing process. Step 4 will still take up to 24 months.
Breed and her allies asserted that placing housing on public parcels would save massive amounts of time in gaining approval to get affordable housing projects through the maze of zoning processes in the City and significantly reduce the time it takes get through the proposed projects pipeline.”
There had been no real need to rezone all public land for 100% afford housing or teacher housing projects, precisely because the Board of Supervisors routinely rezones parcels — and does so relatively quickly. It has approved Special Use Districts in the past. They had that authority to do so all along.
Little has changed in the now nearly two years since Breed began planning her ballot measure, or in the 13 months since voters passed “Prop. E.” The status quo has essentially stayed the same. There was never any real need to re-zone public land Citywide.
Rip Van Winkle Oversleeps
During 2019 and 2020, the Board of Supervisors took a Rip Van Winkle-size nap. It overslept and just woke up.
Although the Board of Supervisors claimed to a City Hall source in June 2019 that it “only saw the Mayor’s [re-zoning public land] proposal” the night before she submitted it to the Elections Department on June 18, 2019, on the very same day the Department of Elections had two competing re-zoning measures posted on its web site, both carrying date-stamps of June 18, 2019. One of the two measures included one from four members of the Board of Supervisors (Supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer, Aaron Peskin, Shamann Walton, and Matt Haney).
Following the December 14 hearing, members of the public still have no idea of what specific projects are in the portfolio of affordable housing projects Peskin referred to on December 7.”
It’s thought that no public hearings were held at the Board of Supervisors before the four submitted their ballot proposal to the Department of Elections. Instead, it was introduced during a Board of Supervisors meeting on June 18 (on the same day it was submitted to the Elections Department) and assigned to the Board’s Rules Committee. The first hearing on the Board’s ballot measure was heard at its Rules Committee on July 11.
What this suggests is that the four Supervisors had to have been planning to introduce the measure long before June 18 in order to be certified “as to form” by a Deputy City Attorney.
The Board of Supervisors and Mayor Breed finally duked it out, and instead of placing competing ballot measures on the same ballot, Breed withdrew her version and a compromise bill reached voters on November 5, 2019 that voters passed.
The Board of Supervisors then began its Rip Van Winkle nap. Nothing further was heard officially about placing affordable housing on public land until December 7, 2020. That’s when the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Transportation Committee (LUT) scheduled a hearing to explore:
“… strategies the City can pursue to maximize the creation of affordable housing on public land, with a goal of 100% affordable, including a review of public land that’s been developed for housing or is under consideration for future development” and other related issues.
Why did the Board wait for at least 13 months to even begin considering strategies? Due to time constraints since the December 7 meeting lasted long, the LUT continued the hearing to its next meeting on December 14. But before the December 7 hearing was adjourned, I was able to testify verbally by calling into the hearing. I testified, in part:
“For at least the last 22 months — nearly two years — the Board of Supervisors has dragged its feet to consider strategies to maximize creating affordable housing on public land, given planning that had been underway as far back as March 2019 (or earlier) to place “Prop E” on the November 2019 ballot.
… So, it’s somewhat ironic that the Board of Supervisors is just getting around to holding today’s hearing to ‘explore strategies to maximize creating affordable housing on public land.’ It’s kind of like Johnny-come-lately coming late to the party, two years late.”
It was completely ridiculous that nearly two years had passed before the Board of Supervisors got around to exploring strategies to place affordable housing on public land. Wasn’t there any urgency?
I also testified on December 7:
“As part of today’s hearing, I urge the LUT Committee to require that MOHCD rapidly issue an inaugural quarterly report to Citizen’s General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee CGOBOC on planned projects for the 2019 Affordable Housing Bond. Here we are 13 months after passage of the $600 million bond in November 2019, and CGOBOC has not yet received any written reports from MOHCD describing projects planned for any of the various categories of affordable housing promised to voters in the bond.
Yes, 13 months after the bond was passed by voters neither CGOBOC, nor members of the public, nor the Board of Supervisors have any idea of what specific affordable housing projects will receive funding from the 2019 Bond.”
Following my testimony, Supervisor Peskin responded, saying:
“I appreciate the fact that the City, by and through MOHCD — and I’m not responding to the [previous] speaker [Patrick Monette-Shaw] — could communicate better about affordable housing deliveries. Having said that, we actually have a good portfolio to show.”
Supervisor Peskin’s rejoinder was wholly inadequate. While he acknowledged Mayors Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) isn’t communicating well — with either members of the public, or with (CGOBOC) who performs oversight of all bonds passed by voters — Peskin’s assertion that there may be a “good portfolio” of affordable housing projects being funded by over $1 billion across three various affordable housing bonds was cavalier, because the portfolio of projects being funded by the 2019 Affordable Housing Bond is not available to members of the public as of today’s date.
The Board of Supervisors may have a general idea of proposed projects that may be funded from the first tranche of the 2019 Bond now moving forward, but MOHCD has admitted that documents submitted during the recent bond approval process are not an adequate report of planned bond-funded affordable housing projects.
When the LUT Committee held its continued hearing on December 14, MOHCD presented a PowerPoint presentation that dealt mainly with general criteria for placing affordable housing on public land. And the hours-long hearing on December 14 (available for review on the SFGOV-TV web site) didn’t really explore any new strategies to maximize the creation of affordable housing on public land.
Instead, the hearing was mostly a rehash of the difference between public land owned by City departments supported by the General Fund (which the Board of Supervisors has authority to legislate over) vs. public land owned by City “enterprise” departments — the latter of which are self-supporting departments that do not require or receive General Fund budget allocations from the City budget and whose revenue is restricted on how it can be spent because they generate their own revenues by charging fees for services — which the Supervisors do not have authority to legislate over.
A significant amount of discussion involved the appropriateness of placing market-rate housing on public land. MOHCD prefers mixed-use projects that include market rate housing to help subsidize the cost of building 100% affordable housing projects.
Of interest, during the December 14 hearing an oblique reference was made in passing that soon-to-be-replaced President of the Board of Supervisors, Norman Yee, “may have thought [the Supervisors] didn’t need a hearing to discuss one site that is in progress for affordable housing.” An inquiry has been placed to discover which site Supervisor Yee may have thought it unnecessary to hold a public hearing about.
Following the December 14 hearing, members of the public still have no idea of what specific projects are in the portfolio of affordable housing projects Peskin referred to on December 7.
Silence on Proposed LHH Housing Proposal
On October 6, the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee had to hold a hearing to approve moving forward with issuing the first $252.6 million tranche (slice, or portion) of the $600 million 2019 Affordable Housing Bond passed by voters in November 2019. The first tranche has not actually been sold, and it is thought won’t be sold until February 2021.
The presentation MOHCD made to the Budget and Finance Committee on October 6 indicated that $3.0 million of the first tranche would be allocated for construction of 100 of units senior housing on LHH’s campus. The $3 million is most likely for predevelopment expenses.
It’s not yet known if the 375 units of senior housing proposed by the developer, Mercy Housing, has been scaled back to just 100 units, or whether more housing units for LHH will receive additional allocations from subsequent tranches of the 2019 Bond. It’s also not yet known whether Mercy Housing has completed its financial feasibility analysis about whether the proposed 375 units are actually financially viable, which feasibility analysis may require Board of Supervisors approval.
To date, no public hearings have been held on the LHH housing proposal by either the Board of Supervisors or by the Department of Public Health’s Health Commission, which owns the land at LHH.
Of note, MOHCD and the Board of Supervisors had sold the first tranche of the $310 million 2015 Affordable Housing Bond on October 19, 2016, 12 months after voters approved the 2015 Bond. It appears the first tranche of the 2019 Bond will take at least 16 months before it is actually sold. There has been no explanation of why it is taking significantly longer for the first tranche of the 2019 Bond to be sold, and whether the delay may be COVID-related.
Also of note, within eight months of passage of the 2015 Bond, MOHCD issued its second report to CGOBOC on July 28, 2016 identifying projects by name planned to be funded by the 2015 Bond. But here we are 14 months after passage of the 2019 Bond, and MOHCD hasn’t issued to CGOBOC (or to anyone else, including members of the public) a preliminary status report of which projects (by name or location) will be funded by the 2019 Bond.
MOHCD claims it has not issued an initial report of proposed 2019 Bond-funded projects because the first 2019 Bond tranche hasn’t been issued. This stands in stark contrast, because MOHCD had released a report of 2015 Bond-funded projects at least three months before the first tranche of the 2015 Bond was issued. Why did MOHCD make a sudden change in its processes?
Is this something else that soon-to-be former-Supervisor Yee may have thought unnecessary, because it would alert members of the broader public of his pet LHH housing project, which is an inappropriate location for seniors and people who are disabled?
This Resolution is long-overdue, but woefully inadequate.
Simply “urging” City departments to establish clear standards for naming rights for public buildings and public properties via an essentially unenforceable Resolution such as this is akin to “souffle is for people without teeth” — meaning, there is no real teeth to this Resolution.
To begin with, when Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg donated money to buy medical equipment for the replacement SFGH, the Health Commission did not have then — and does not have now — a formal process or procedure in place to name any of its buildings or property after any donor or after anyone.
This is similar to the Department of Public Health naming the main hallway in the replacement Laguna Honda Hospital Pavilion Building the “Louise H. Renne Esplanade” via Health Commission Resolution 15-10 a decade ago in 2010.
The same resolution simultaneously named a community meeting room in the Pavilion Building in the replacement hospital as the “John T. Kanaley Community Center.”
Those naming rights were granted without any public input, and without Board of Supervisors review and pre-approval.
SFGH isn’t Zuckerberg’s personal plaything, ”even if he and his wife did donate $75 million, in part to purchase fixtures and equipment for the replacement hospital. Just because his net worth is $101.2 billion as of November 2020, and Priscilla Chan’s net worth is $50 billion, that’s no reason for Zuckerberg’s name to despoil the good name of SFGH.
Ms. Renne had pledged to raise funds for fixture, fixtures, and equipment (FFE) for the LHH Replacement Hospital project … but in the end, her Foundation raised not one penny for the FFE. The State of California forced Renne to shut down her LHH Foundation in 2013. Naming that hallway after her — after she had failed to raise any funds for the hospital — was a complete joke.
Similarly, before his untimely death in 2009 Mr. Kanaley was widely despised for running roughshod over LHH’s staff, which the Health Commission had to have been aware of; that community room shouldn’t have been named in his honor.
SFGH isn’t Zuckerberg’s personal plaything, even if he and his wife did donate $75 million, in part to purchase FFE for the replacement hospital. Just because his net worth is $101.2 billion as of November 2020, and Priscilla Chan’s net worth is $50 billion, that’s no reason for Zuckerberg’s name to despoil the good name of SFGH.
Given the many scandals involving Zuckerberg and his Facebook platform, the Board of Supervisors should vote today that the Department of Public Health must remove the word “Zuckerberg” from the name of our General Hospital.
Go back to the drawing board and set a formal City policy — via an enforceable Ordinance — requiring that all City departments must obtain pre-approval from the Board of Supervisors before naming any City buildings (or portions of buildings) or any City property after any person.
When it comes to our local COVID crisis, Mayor London Breed was pinned between “Yes” and “No” when it came to reopening San Francisco. She appears to have recklessly raced towards “Yes.”
As the San Francisco Examinerreported, one of Breed’s biggest actions to expand reopening of businesses and activities in the City was her decision on September 30 to allow restaurants to increase indoor dining capacity from 25% to 50%. At that point, San Francisco’s cumulative COVID cases stood at 11,275 confirmed cases, as publicly reported in daily postings online on the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) COVID Data Tracker webpage. Another 3,048 COVID cases occurred between October 1 and November 21, 21.3% of the cumulative total over a two-month period.
Sixteen days later on October 16, the Examinerreported Breed was publicly pushing getting children back into classrooms. Acknowledging opening schools wouldn’t be easy and tough choices would be required, Breed said “The School District and the Board of Education need to do what needs to be done to get our kids back in school.”
Tracking San Francisco’s COVID Data Tracker daily since it was rapidly developed and first rolled out online on approximately March 21, 2020 and paying close attention to the COVID data, many were alarmed by Breed’s insistence about getting kids back into the classroom for in-person education.
... paying close attention to the COVID data, many were alarmed by Breed’s insistence about getting kids back into the classroom for in-person education.”
DPH’s COVID Data Tracker reports 1,632 (11%) of the City’s cumulative COVID cases as of November 21 have involved children younger than 18 years old. Some observers believe pushing schools to reopen when 11% of our local COVID cases are among school-age children is simply reckless.
Breed’s anxiety about getting kids back in school sounded eerily like President Trump's tweets about the same issue. Like Trump, Breed is worried about reopening our economy and our public schools as quickly as possible. Does she think kids bringing COVID to other students and teaching staff and home to their families and their grandparents isn’t reckless?.
Of interest, on Thursday, November 19 Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered New York City’s entire public school system be shut down again to combat the rise in coronavirus cases.
Reckless Reporting of COVID Waves
Leading into Wave 2 of COVID cases in San Francisco, Mayor Breed held regular press briefings televised from City Hall, during which she regularly trotted out DPH’s Director of Public Health, Grant Colfax.
Then the pair went on hiatus, around the same time that Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force went into hiding.
It was not until around November 16 — well into Wave 3 — when Breed and Colfax came out of bunkers in their basements, begging San Franciscans to again change their behaviors and announcing news San Francisco had seen a roughly 250% increase in COVID cases between October and November.
But as the table above shows, the number of cases reported daily on DPH’s COVID Data Tracker reported no such thing: The daily reports showed there were just 1,067 COVID cases reported in October, and 1,924 cases reported in November (as of November 11). That’s nowhere near a 250% increase in cases reported.
And the Tracker web site does not display for members of the public any weekly or monthly summaries, and its difficult trying to capture summaries comparing month-over-month data sets. Instead, the web site features daily updates and cumulative data from onset of data collection to the current date.
On November 20 the Examinerreported Colfax claimed 217 COVID cases had been reported during the week of October 12, and 768 newly diagnosed cases were reported during the week of November 16. He indicated the quadrupling of additional cases over a one-month period portends San Francisco’s health care system could soon be struggling again to deal with the burden of the virus.
While the change from 212 cases to 768 cases does represent a 262.3% increase (through November 16, with almost half of November remaining), Colfax is rounding up from a 3.62 increase to a four-fold increase. He’s guessing cases quadrupled, but he ignores that occurred not during a traditional one-month period, but across 35 days (October 12 and November 16 inclusive).
The best members of the public can tell from the daily reports, updated online, is that rather than 212 cases during the week of October 12 there may have been 186 cases reported in the week ending October 12 (between October 6 and October 12) — or alternatively 228 cases reported in the week beginning October 12 (between October 12 and October 18), not the 212 cases Colfax claimed. He didn’t provide a date range to define the week.
Similarly, again calculating from the daily update Tracker reporting, rather than 768 cases during the week of November 16 there may have been 675 new COVID cases reported in the week ending November 16 (between November 10 and November 16) — or alternatively, 658 cases reported in the week beginning November 16 (between November 16 and November 22), not the 768 cases Colfax had claimed.
To the extent San Francisco is soon forced to roll back from the State’s Yellow Tier (the least restrictive) to the Purple Tier (the most restrictive) and re-impose more stringent lockdown protocols, this may be a result of Breed’s too-rapid re-opening of various businesses in a rush to revive the City’s economy and get kids back into public school. That, too, may prove to be callously reckless.
Nursing Home Recklessness
Breed — aided and abetted by Dr. Colfax and the Department of Public Health — have failed miserably when it comes to COVID cases in San Francisco’s skilled nursing facilities (SNF’s) for which data is publicly available.
Wierdly, data is either difficult to come by or simply not publicly available about COVID cases in other “congregate” living facilities in the City, such as board and care homes, Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFE’s), city jails, juvenile detention facilities, and other congregate settings.
Skilled Nursing Facilities Data
Sadly, it took until November 6 before DPH — under Breed’s reckless watch — began publicly reporting data about COVID cases in San Francisco’s SNF’s on DPH’s COVID Data Tracker web site.
And when it did begin reporting local data, DPH chose to only report data on the number of COVID cases among residents of the 19 SNF’s in the City. DPH is reporting just 208 COVID cases of residents in SNF’s, 1.5% of all COVID cases in San Francisco.
Completely absent on Tracker is data about the 216 (or more) known COVID infections among staff in the 19 SNF’s — which we know about from other public data sources. Why DPH chose to exclude data about staff infections is unknown, and hasn’t been explained. It should be something the San Francisco Board of Supervisors should immediately look into.
After all, we know of at least 412 COVID cases (between staff and residents) in the City’s SNF’s, despite Tracker reporting 208 resident-only COVID cases. Of those 208 cases, there have been 33 resident deaths, which alarmingly represents 21% of San Francisco’s current 158 COVID-related deaths, despite resident cases being just 1.5% of all COVID cases.
Back on May 24, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors pushed DPH into tracking and posting on Tracker the number and percent mix of COVID cases among gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. Through November 21, Tracker has reported there are 476 COVID cases among gays and lesbians, 4.2% of San Francisco’s total COVID cases to date. As of November 21, there has been just one COVID-related death among gays and lesbians, representing just 0.8% of the City’s current 158 COVID deaths. There have been another 83 COVID cases among bisexuals (0.77% of total COVID cases in the City). Those Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) COVID cases barely exceed the 412 COVID cases in SNF’s.
By contrast, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has been reporting the number of residents and staff COVID cases in all 15,000+ SNF’s nationwide since it first began reporting them on May 24.
Around the same time, the California Department of Public Health began reporting on-line COVID cases for both staff and residents in the state’s roughly 1,244 SNF’s.
California’s Department of Social Services also began posting data on-line for COVID cases in RCFE’s and Adult Residential Facilities (ARF’s).
Since the first CMS report May 24 about COVID cases among staff and residents in SNF’s, there have been 25 weekly updates. As of November 1:
Nationwide, there has been an increase of 405,661 COVID cases, to a total of 538,934 cases across the 15,000 SNF facilities.
In California SNF’s, there has been an increase of 35,619 COVID cases, to a total of 44,395 cases across the 1,224 SNF facilities.
At Laguna Honda Hospital, there has been an increase of 26 COVID cases, to a total of 92 cases at the facility.
Reckless Disregard for SNF Resident Visitation
Mayor Breed and DPH have shown callous disregard for the rights of SNF residents to have in-person, in-facility visitation with their families, friends, and caregivers.
After guidance from CMS allowing in-person visitation in SNF’s provided some conditions are met, the California Public Health Department also issued guidance authorizing in-facility visitation of residents in SNF’s.
San Francisco’s DPH issued guidance on September 4 allowing only outdoor and window-based visitation for SFGH and LHH patients, and also for other private SNF’s in the City. The guidance did not permit indoor visitation.
It was an egregious delay of CMS and State guidelines, since DPH still appears to be refusing to follow state guidelines about honoring human rights of the residents by allowing indoor visitation in the many facilities that are COVID-free, provided other conditions are met.
California Department of Public Health released updated guidance recently allowing indoor visits in 46 Red-, Orange-, and Yellow-Counties, along with other precautions and conditions — such as visitor screening for fever, everyone wear masks, and hand washing when entering the facility. Facilities must not have had any new COVID cases among staff or residents for the past 14 days.
An important caveat includes not allowing indoor visits in Purple Tier counties, which San Francisco is now at risk of becoming. Purple Counties have higher COVID prevalence, typically involving not being allowed to have indoor visitation.
Dr. Louise Aronsen, a noted geriatrician at UCSF, said she thinks we can safely say there is abundant evidence that 1) Ongoing visitation restrictions are leading to irreversible declines and deaths among nursing home residents, 2) Nursing home residents are being deprived of their civil and human rights in ways other populations are not — with the possible exception of prisoners, and 3) SFDPH leaders have been informed of this growing evidence-base repeatedly over a five-month period.
In addition to DPH leaders knowing this, so too must Mayor Breed. San Francisco’s November surge in COVID cases is intimately tied to Breed’s reckless re-opening of the City too soon.
If there’s one thing Breed knows, it’s the art of the tongue (with apologies to singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell).
Just days before the November 3 election, Mayor Breed is desperately attempting to use blatant spin control to urge voters to pass the three-pronged “Prop. A” bond measure.
Prop A Bond Measure
As I wrote in the September 2020Westside Observer, San Franciscans are being asked to approve a hybrid $487.5 million general obligation bond measure that purports to tackle three disparate issues and three distinct types of projects. Tack on $472.5 million in interest projected by the City Controller. This bond will cost $960 million, just shy of $1 billion, between paying down the principal and interest.
$207 million (42.5 percent) for a vast spectrum of substance abuse, mental health, and homelessness “facilities.”
Since March 2000 voters passed three parks bonds totaling $800.5 million in principal and interest. If this new bond passes, the $239 million parks portion will cost approximately $470 million in principal and interest, pushing park bonds to approximately $1.3 billion.”
There ought to be a law prohibiting “ganging” three disparate issues into a single bond measure!
Since March 2000 voters passed three parks bonds totaling $800.5 million in principal and interest. If this new bond passes, the $239 million parks portion will cost approximately $470 million in principal and interest, pushing park bonds to approximately $1.3 billion. Perhaps we have too many parks and playgrounds, given San Francisco’s dwindling population of children as their parents flee to lower-cost environs.
Since March 2000, voters passed two bonds for street repaving and improvements totaling 1.2 billion in principal and interest. If this new bond passes, the $41.5 million street repaving portion will add $81.7 million in principal and interest, pushing street repaving bonds to a total of $1.3 billion.
The $207 million for homeless facilities enumerates 11 distinct types of facilities, including permanent and transitional supportive housing, shelters (currently closed during the COVID pandemic), psychiatric skilled nursing, respite, detox and sobering, and board-and-care facilities, among others. The $207 million won’t go far spread thinly across 11 facility types.
One problem is the City may have suspected voter fatigue might well doom another standalone $200 million homeless housing bond so soon after passage of the $600 million 2019 Affordable Housing bond, and the City may have deliberately “ganged” the street resurfacing and parks projects onto the November 2020 “Prop. A” bond to avoid voter fatigue killing another homelessness bond. Tossing in parks and street repairs may have been done to sweeten moods of voters.
But Mayor Breed’s recent TV ads now claim the bond is for the City’s COVID “economic recovery.” That’s pure spin control, when not outright propaganda. The TV add only discusses the street repair and parks projects, which (admittedly) may lead to jobs for City workers. But if my memory serves me, Breed’s TV ad does not mention the 11 types of homeless housing, again perhaps to avoid voter fatigue.
It’s thought the wheels were set into motion on this bond language long before COVID descended across America. So, in reality this bond is not — and was never planned to be — a COVID economic recovery bond. She’s blatantly spinning this propaganda just to garner sympathy votes for the homeless housing portion of “Prop. A.” Don’t believe her spin!
Vote “No” on Prop. A!
“Prop. E” Removes Police Minimum Staffing from City Charter
Elsewhere, I have encouraged San Franciscans to pass “Prop. E” because the City Controller’s payroll database for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020 clearly shows the city already has 440 more sworn officers than mandated by the Charter.
The City Controller’s payroll database ending June 30, 2020 (FY 2019–2020) revealed SFPD had 2,411 named sworn officers, (including Police Officers, Sergeants, Lieutenants, and Captains) currently on the payroll, fully 440 more than the minimum staffing of 1,971 mandated by the 1994 changes to City Charter.
However, converting the reported regular hours worked plus the overtime hours worked by all of those 2,411 named officers into so-called “full-time equivalent” (FTE) positions — via dividing the total hours worked across all officers by 2,080 hours (annual hours for one employee) — calculates to 2,605 sworn officer FTE’s on the payroll, 634 more than the 1,971 mandated.
At a cost of $155,000 annually for each officer’s salary and fringe benefits, the excess 634 sworn officers may cost $98.3 million more than the Charter requires.”
At a cost of $155,000 annually for each officer’s salary and fringe benefits, the excess 634 sworn officers may cost $98.3 million more than the Charter requires.
The San Francisco Examiner’s editor preliminarily accepted my single Op-Ed on “Prop. A” and “Prop E,” but suggested I publish them as separate Op-Ed’s. Then the Examiner’s managing editor quibbled about my calculations and rejected both Op-Ed’s — even though the police overtime has nothing to do with the logic I presented urging voters to reject “Prop. A” — after I tried explaining to the Examiner that City Controller staff agreed my conversion of regular hours worked plus overtime hours worked by the 2,411 police officers indeed translates to 634 full-time equivalent employees (not merely 440 more officers) more than the 1,971 sworn officers mandated by the City Charter when their overtime hours are added to their regular hours, and the resulting total is extrapolated to full-time equivalent “warm bodies.”
The Controller’s Office expressly confirmed “[Sworn officer] FTE’s based on total hours worked in [FY 2019–2020] is 2,605, when overtime hours are included.” End of story, which didn’t sway the Examiner.
Upshot: My math is correct, per the City Controller, but the Examiner won’t budge an inch on an appeal I submitted clarifying the City Controller confirmed I am essentially correct, even if the Examiner has never seen official City records showing I’m right and that there’s nothing wrong with my math skills.
You can lead managing editors to water, but it’s no guarantee they’ll drink the water. Such hubris!
Six days after the City yanked funding in 2018 for a 150-unit senior project on the Forest Hill Christian Church property in 2018, Supervisor Norman Yee pitched a proposal to the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) thirty months ago in March 2018 to build 160 units of senior housing on Laguna Honda Hospital’s (LHH’s) campus.
MOHCD promptly shot down Yee’s proposal, saying LHH’s campus “wasn’t big enough,” as noted in July 2018 Westside Observer. Indeed, the Assisted Living Workgroup of the so-called Long-Term Care Coordinating Council (LTCCC) appears to oppose Yee’s LHH housing proposal. The LTCCC prefers smaller six-bed facilities spread throughout the City, not “Monster-in-the-Mission”-sized developments.
Like an ostrich in search of a sand dune to bury his head in, Yee pressed ahead. At long last, news quietly surfaced on July 7 that Mercy Housing California has been chosen as the developer for the LHH housing project, after Mercy proposed building up to 375 units of independent housing and assisted living units.
If LHH was too small for 160 units, how is it now suddenly big enough for up to 375 units?
If LHH was too small for 160 units, how is it now suddenly big enough for up to 375 units?”
Yee’s pitch to place housing on LHH’s campus was a terribly misguided idea. There’s actually very little land on LHH’s campus that can be pressed into service for housing. Essentially, only two spots on the northwest side of the campus are viable, because the campus has largely been built out.
There are many reasons why the housing proposed for LHH’s campus is inappropriate. They include:
Eliminates Future Expansion of the Hospital: The spots where Yee and MOHCD envision placing housing on LHH’s campus are the last two large pieces of undeveloped land on the campus for construction. If Yee succeeds in placing senior housing on the same spot as the 420-bed skilled nursing tower that was eliminated due to cost overruns on the LHH replacement facility rebuild, it will permanently impede the City’s ability to build out additional medical facilities on LHH’s campus as the City’s population increases and ages.
Lack of Neighborhood Serving Retail: There’s absolutely no neighborhood-serving retail within an eight-block radius of the Laguna Honda Hospital campus. After hiking three to flour blocks down the hills to even get off of LHH’s campus, the closest grocery store and pharmacy — Mollie Stone’s and CVS — are on Portola Drive, at least an eight-block walk up steep hills, and difficult to access by public transportation.
Inadequate Public Transportation:LHH operates and funds a wheelchair accessible shuttle van using hospital employees to provide transportation for hospital employees and visitors between the Forest Hill MUNI Station and the hospital’s main entrance in its new Pavilion building. The shuttle van only operates five days a week, every 30 minutes between 6:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., leaving employees, patients, and visitors without a van transport on weekends and evening hours.
Transportation / Parking Impacts: The project will affect both transportation and traffic flow in the surrounding neighborhoods, and also exacerbate problems with parking on the campus.
My July 2018 article announced that the Department of Public Health is renovating the old “M” and “O” patient “finger wings” into administrative offices for up to 480 DPH employees being relocated from the Civic Center area, funding the project by issuing $60 million in Certificates of Participation. Obviously, adding almost 500 more employees plus 375 elderly renters onto the campus will affect transportation in the neighborhoods, and on-campus parking.
There will be additional drop-off and pick-up traffic by adding a childcare center and an Adult Day Health Care facility.
Alternate Site Is Even More IsolatedThe full version of this article documents several more reasons why the proposed housing site is more, not less isolated, and wholly inappropriate.
LHH Neighbors Ignore Project Scope Creep: Several LHH neighbors — including Joe Bravo, Walter Caplan, Dave Yoo, George Wooding, Midtown Terrace homeowners neighbors Timothy and Anne Poirier, Fr. Mesrop Ash, Evernease McKnight, Dena Williams, Andrew Sparks, Peggy de Silva, and Janis and Frank Lee — may be unaware of, or are ignoring, the scope creep to 375 housing units.
There’s much more to this story.
Monette-Shaw is a columnist for San Francisco’s Westside Observer newspaper, and a member of the California First Amendment Coalition (FAC) and the ACLU. He operates stopLHHdownsize.com. Contact him at email@example.com.
COPs & Robberies & Bond Measures
by Patrick Monette-Shaw
No, this article isn’t about the uptick in a variety of crime increases and robberies facing the City and Westside residents. And COP’s in this article title doesn’t refer to police officers.
Instead, the acronym refers to another funding mechanism the City uses wantonly — Certificates of Participation (COP’s) — that don’t require voter approval but adds further principal and interest. Between general obligation bonds and COP’s, San Franciscans are essentially held hostage to what amounts to financial robberies.
There have been 16 general obligation bond measures since 2000. If this new bond passes, the 17 bonds will reach $6.2 billion in principal, plus an estimated $4.3 billion in interest, for a total of over $10.5 billion in bond debt service.
Problem is, Citizens’ General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee has held only one meeting in 2020, on January 27. Then COVID detonated. Unfortunately, CGOBOC never figured out holding remote meetings accessible to the public. CGOBOC hasn’t held meetings since January, and as of September 1, hadn’t developed a meeting schedule for the remainder of the fiscal year. As if public transparency regarding bond spending is no longer required.”
Oversight of bond spending was assigned to the Citizens’ General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee (CGOBOC) when it first created in March 2002, requiring each City department sponsoring a given bond to present formal status reports to CGOBOC twice annually. The following year, a ballot measure passed creating a City Services Auditor program mandating CGOBOC review all auditor reports in an additional role as the Citizens’ Audit Review Board, increasing CGOBOC’s workload. CGOBOC also performs oversight of the City’s employee whistleblower program.
Once again, we’re faced with a San Francisco general obligation bond measure purporting to tackle three disparate issues. The November Prop. “A” bond proposes a hybrid $487.5 million bond for three distinct type of projects, under the claim CGOBOC will provide bond oversight. Tack on $472.5 million in interest projected by the City Controller. This bond will cost $960 million, just shy of $1 billion.
This hodgepodge bond includes $239 million (49 percent) for parks improvements, $41.5 million (8.5 percent) for street repaving and curb ramps, and $207 million (42.5 percent) for a vast spectrum of substance abuse, mental health, and homelessness “facilities.” There oughta be a law prohibiting“ganging” three disparate issues into a single bond measure!
PARKS As for parks, since March 2000 voters passed three parks bonds totalling $800.5 million in principal and interest. If this new bond passes, the $239 million parks portion will cost approximately $470 million in principal and interest, pushing park bonds to approximately $1.3 billion. Perhaps we have too many parks and playgrounds, given San Francisco’s dwindling population of children as their parents flee to lower-cost environs.
STREETS Since March 2000, voters passed two bonds for street repaving and improvements totalling 1.2 billion in principal and interest. If this new bond passes, the $41.5 million street repaving portion will add $81.7 million in principal and interest, pushing street repaving bonds to a total of $1.3 billion.
HOMELESS FACILITIES The $207 million for homeless facilities enumerates 11 distinct types of facilities, including permanent and transitional supportive housing, shelters (currently closed during the COVID pandemic), psychiatric skilled nursing, respite, detox and sobering, and board-and-care facilities, among others. The $207 million won’t go far spread thinly across 11 facility types.
The CGOBOC Bottleneck
Despite its massive workload, CGOBOC changed its processes in late 2019: Beginning in 2020, the committee now meets only five times annually, and sponsoring Departments will present just one formal written status report on their bonds annually. A CGOBOC member assigned as liaison to a bond’s sponsoring City Department is supposed to make an informal update halfway through each year. As an aside, CGOBOC’s liaison to the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) on the 2015 and 2019 Affordable Housing Bonds — Jane Natoli — did not prepare an informal update for CGOBOC’s May 19, 2020 meeting, which reasonable people expected she would have prepared and submitted remotely, even though that meeting was cancelled due to COVID.
Problem is, Citizens’ General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee has held only one meeting in 2020, on January 27. Then COVID detonated. Unfortunately, CGOBOC never figured out holding remote meetings accessible to the public. CGOBOC hasn’t held meetings since January, and as of September 1, hadn’t developed a meeting schedule for the remainder of the fiscal year. As if public transparency regarding bond spending is no longer required.
Only on September 21 did CGOBOC get around to announcing its first remote meeting will finally be held on October 19 (assuming, of course, that the meeting isn’t cancelled again due a lack of quorum).
Of the $10.5 billion in principal and interest on the 17 bonds, over $1 billion involves Affordable Housing bonds. We’ve received no information about the spending of either the 2015 or 2019 Affordable Housing bonds since January. This new bond won’t receive sufficient oversight from CGOBOC.
An Example of Bad COP’s: Laguna Honda Hospital
As part of its exit strategy to vacate its seismically-unsafe headquarters building at 101 Grove Street adjacent to City Hall, the Department of Public Health announced in 2018 that it would issue $60 million in COP’s to convert LHH’s old wings into office spaces to accommodate moving 480 DPH employees from the Civic Center area to LHH’s campus, identifying the “O” and “M” patient “finger wings” at the rear of the old main hospital as the two buildings that would be renovated (which had previously been targeted for complete asbestos and hazard materials abatement before being completely demolished).
Then, a City Controller’s memorandum dated August 31, 2020 surfaced, showing the price tag of the COP’s for the LHH office conversion project had jumped to at least $84 million. The increase from $60 million to $84 million across just two years for the same project represents a 40% change increase since 2018.
The report on August 31 said the project had been switched to the “K” and “M” finger wings.
A subsequent records request uncovered that during the past two years the City fretted that it would lose a potential new site for future additional development on the campus using the location of the “L” and “O” finger wings. Wanting to preserve the “O” wing for potential demolition for future development or other re-use, the City switched the COP’s to renovating the “K” and “M” wings.
As designs progressed, structural engineering consultants informed the City that seismic renovation of the “M” wing was somehow tied structurally to the “O” wing. So, the City was forced to revert back this September to using the COP funding for renovating the initial “M” and “O” wings first envisioned. That delay tacked on $13 million, pushing costs from $60 million to $73 million.
During this two-year delay, Department of Public Works staff also realized the project could not simply replace selective windows — apparently included in the initial $60 million budget — but all windows would need to be replaced to meet the goal of a “natural ventilation ”system. DPW also identified additional seismic upgrades are necessary, and full hazardous abatement is required, rather than localized abatement.
DPW’s concerns tacked on an additional $11 million, pushing the budget for needed COP funding to $84 million. The pro-rata share apportionment of the larger COP Exit Strategy project will require approximately $52.4 million in interest payments, pushing the LHH renovation project portion to a total price tag of $136.4 million.
Rather than spending $136.4 million to renovate the two 90-year-old buildings, wouldn’t it make more prudent fiscal sense to demolish both of the two wings completely, and dedicate that $136.4 million toward new buildings that could last for another 90 years? This a prime example of why COP-funded projects are so bad for San Franciscans, which should be funded by capital improvement funds from the General Fund.
On Housing Proposal for Laguna Honda Hospital’s Campus
District 7 Candidates' Cavalier Responses
by Patrick Monette-Shaw
I distinctly recall a conversation I had a decade ago with a then-sitting district Supervisor when I sought help with an issue regarding Laguna Honda Hospital (LHH).
I was shocked then — and still am — by his response, in which he indicated that Supervisors tend to take a hands-off approach when it comes to issues about facilities in other Supervisor’s districts, and they routinely defer to D-7’s Supervisor (regarding LHH).
It was preposterous, precisely because LHH is not an “asset” reserved for — and subject to the whims of — a single district Supervisor. It’s a citywide public healthcare facility, and always has been.
It would be analogous to a Supervisor saying they were reluctant to address issues involving San Francisco General Hospital, which is located in District 10. Clearly, SFGH is also a citywide resource available to all San Franciscans, regardless of the districts they live in. Obviously, all 11 Supervisors should be involved in issues regarding both LHH and SFGH since their constituents rely on both public health facilities.
The Westside Observer featured an article in August 2020 surveying six candidates for District 7 Supervisor ... The questionnaire sent to candidates barely mentions whether housing on LHH’s campus is appropriate, but responses to three questions were informative.”
The Westside Observer featured an article in August 2020 surveying six candidates for District 7 Supervisor in the November 2020 election to replace Supervisor Yee, who is termed out. The questionnaire sent to candidates barely mentions whether housing on LHH’s campus is appropriate, but responses to three questions were informative.
“CEQA Streamlining” Question
The six candidates were asked whether the Planning Department’s “streamlined” Standard Environmental Requirements (SER) run counter to CEQA, and whether they support it. CEQA is California’s 50-year old Environmental Quality Act that was signed into law in 1970 by then-Governor Ronald Reagan a year after the National Environmental Policy Act was implemented at the federal level. CEQA was designed to supplement the new federal law with even stricter standards regulating pollution and preserving the natural environment. CEQA requires California’s public agencies and local governments to measure the environmental impacts of development projects or other major land use decisions, and to limit or avoid those impacts when possible.
Five of the six D-7 candidates don’t support the Planning Department’s SER. Only Mr. Pinto supports it.
Candidate Matranga replied saying “CEQA provides an important opportunity to study impacts of irresponsible development, such as landslides. I oppose the current SER proposal because the public will be shut out of the process and projects would be pushed through without discussion.” Matranga was the only one of the six candidates to even come close to noting that LHH’s campus is located in a landslide-prone neighborhood. He was not the only candidate to express concerns about shutting members of the public out of the discussion and development processes.
Candidate Murase thoughtfully responded by writing “I stand with the Sierra Club opposing the SER Ordinance being pushed through now while environmental advocates and the public are struggling against a global pandemic. … There must be full discussion on legislation that could undermine CEQA.”
Engardio wrote, “While I support less bureaucracy and more government efficiency, I am disappointed that the planning department chose to initiate changes during the pandemic when the community could not gather to express their views and concerns. … Planning has said the streamlining is not meant to avoid CEQA environmental review, but the manner in which they tried to push it through with minimal public input does not instill confidence. Developments that will change our neighborhoods for generations deserve robust community-driven review.”
Unfortunately, following his first two unsuccessful attempts at being elected D-7 Supervisor, Engardio neglected to mention there has been zero — not robust — community-driven input or review of Supervisor Yee’s proposal to build 375 senior housing units on LHH’s campus during the two-and-a-half-years since Yee introduced his proposal in March 2018.
Melgar responded to the candidate questionnaire saying she doesn’t support the Planning Department’s SER change, writing “CEQA is an important tool. This proposal attempts to shortcut community process by assuming environmental impact, and requiring mitigation of those impacts upfront. The problem with this approach is that it gives staff all the power, and assumes that community input is not valuable. I disagree.” Melgar also didn’t mention that there has been no community processes on Yee’s LHH housing proposal.
Candidate Nguyen replied, saying, “I oppose the SER Ordinance. As a general rule, I vocally oppose measures that reduce transparency and oversight, especially given the corruption at City Hall. SER would give the Planning Department and Planning Commission too much unilateral control over environmental issues. CEQA is one of California’s most important environmental safeguards and should be protected.”
Martin-Pinto was the only D-7 candidate who backed Planning’s change. Has he studied, or thought about the problem? Martin-Pinto wrote simply “I support any process that reduces bureaucracy and simplifies approval processes.” Apparently, Martin-Pinto doesn’t care whether members of the public are completely shut out of the process when it comes to development in their respective neighborhoods.
Of note, none of the six candidates mentioned anywhere in any their responses that the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development(MOHCD) and Supervisor Yee’s LHH housing proposal has been designed over the past two-and-a-half years to avoid a new — or any additional — CEQA review of Yee’s LHH housing proposal. MOHCD and Yee are hoping to “grandfather” the now 375 housing units proposed for LHH’s campus by shoehorning it on to LHH’s initial CEQA review in 2002, despite the intervening 18-year period. They are willfully ignoring the fact that the now proposed 375 housing units are far more than the 240 assisted living units proposed in the CEQA review for the entire LHH rebuild project, but were never built.
the now 375 housing units proposed for LHH’s campus by shoehorning it on to LHH’s initial CEQA review in 2002, despite the intervening 18-year period. They are willfully ignoring the fact that the now proposed 375 housing units are far more than the 240 assisted living units proposed in the CEQA review for the entire LHH rebuild project, but were never built.
“Balboa Reservoir, Parkmerced, and Laguna Honda Housing”
Candidates were asked — given the work-from-home and telecommuting trends resulting from the COVID pandemic — whether they support the need for the Balboa Reservoir development, Parkmerced expansion, and housing development on Laguna Honda’s campus.
Five of the six candidates responded without any apparent clear understanding.
Candidate Matranga replied predictably saying lamely “Many of these projects have been approved by the current Board of Supervisors. I believe it is critical that the incoming Supervisor ensure that promises made to our community are promises kept.”
What Matranga appears to have missed is that the full Board of Supervisors has not approved Supervisor Yee’s questionable proposal to build housing on LHH’s campus, and neither has San Francisco’s Public Health Commission, which essentially owns the land. Clearly, Yee’s LHH housing proposal has not been “promised,” so this can’t possibly be about keeping promises kept.
Murase responded by writing “No, we still need all of these developments because they represent important additions to housing stock, especially affordable and family-friendly units.” How did she completely miss understanding that the proposed LHH housing is not for family-friendly units?
Engardio wrote “The pandemic has not lessened the need westside residents have when it comes to senior housing to age safely in place near their neighborhood or middle-income housing for their adult kids and grandkid to remain in San Francisco. A reasonable amount of housing at Balboa Reservoir (with ample parking) could be helpful. But we shouldn’t give the public land away for a song!”
What escaped Engardio is that the senior housing Yee is proposing for LHH’s campus that the MOHCD is now trying to shove through does not provide for building the senior housing throughout the entire City or anywhere near their current neighborhoods. Instead, Yee is aiming to cram 375 housing units into a single neighborhood, District 7, that he represents. And the housing at LHH is not for middle-income adult kids of the seniors.
Melgar, for her part, responded “No, all [of] those projects should go forward. … We are still very far from solving our housing shortage, particularly housing for middle income families.” Melgar doesn’t appear to understand that the housing proposed for LHH is not housing for middle-income families. Instead, it appears to be housing restricted to seniors earning between 30% and 80% of AMI, which is considered to be low-income housing.
Mr. Nguyen responded by saying “No. All of the developments above need to continue.” Clearly, Nguyen put no thought into this.
Candidate Martin-Pinto was the only one of the six D-7 candidates who appeared to have put any original thinking into his response, writing “Before we up-zone all of San Francisco which could have permanent, unintended, adverse effects, we need think about whether this is necessary.”
Martin-Pinto clearly missed the biggest adverse effect: if Yee succeeds at placing senior housing on the same spot as the 420-bed skilled nursing tower that was eliminated due to cost overruns on the LHH replacement facility rebuild, it will permanently impede the City’s ability to build out additional medical facilities on LHH’s campus as the City’s population increases to address hospital surge capacity.
The spot where Yee and MOHCD want to place housing on LHH’s campus is the last large piece of undeveloped land on the campus for construction. If it is used for housing, there will be no space left to build additional medical facilities on the campus as the City’s needs and population evolve.
“Open Space” Question
Many neighborhoods surrounding LHH refer to the campus as the “Laguna Honda Hospital Open Space Reserve.” Whether or not it is formally designated as an Open Space worthy of protection, the trails are referred to as the Laguna Honda Community Trails System, which has received Open Space funding to restore the trails.
Candidates were asked whether they support preserving “Open Space” in the City for future generations. Open Space is broadly defined as undeveloped land not intended for housing or commercial purposes that is generally publicly-owned and open to the public. Indeed, as land owned by a government agency LHH’s campus is zoned “P” [Public], which prohibits any residential uses and essentially bars building residential housing on public parcels, unless the Board of Supervisors creates a Special Use District — which has not happened.
Five of the six candidates didn’t equivocate. Candidate Ben Matranga said he favors preserving Open Space, and opposes privatizing public parks. Candidate Emily Murase said she is committed to preserving these for current and future generations. Candidate Vilaska Nguyen says he supports preservation of our Open Spaces, and says we need to fight to protect and maintain them. Candidate Joel Engardio said there is limited open space in San Francisco, and added “We can’t give precious parkland space up for anything else.” Candidate Stephen Martin-Pinto responded saying he supports preservation of open space, because “There is little of it left and we need to protect what remains.”
The five of them should all fight aggressively to oppose privatizing any portion of LHHs campus, which is both public land and parkland, via LHH’s urban trails.
Only candidate Myrna Melgar hedged her bets, responding by saying “Some revenue producing buildings on parklands provide enjoyable amenities to parkgoers as well as needed revenue. As long as there is a transparent process that includes public input, follows contracting rules, and provides for periodic performance review of operators, I support revenue producing buildings on parklands.”
One problem Melgar all but ignores is that there has been absolutely zero public input regarding Yee’s proposal to build housing on LHH’s campus, and there has been nothing transparent about it since Yee first pitched his proposal back in March 2018. Another problem she ignores is that placing housing on LHH’s campus is not revenue-producing for the City. It would only be revenue-producing for a private-sector developer chosen to build the housing project.
Notably, none of the six candidates bothered to mention the Laguna Honda Trails, which encircles most of the perimeter surrounding the Laguna Honda Hospital campus and is considered to be Open Space. The trails were restored through a partnership between the San Francisco Urban Riders (SFUR), Laguna Honda Hospital, and other organizations to help construct a citywide network of bike-friendly trails. The trails also double for other uses, like hiking and trail running.
Nor did any of the six candidates bother to mention Laguna Honda Hospital’s entire campus — including its hiking and dirt bike’s trails system encircling the campus — has been locked down to members of the public and under quarantine for over six months, since March 6 when Mayor Breed issued her shelter-in-place quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If housing is built on LHH’s campus, when the next inevitable pandemic hits San Francisco will the housing be exempt from some future campuswide quarantine, or will occupants of the housing also be forced into lockdown mode?
Yee has acknowledged that he had been working for four years, since 2016, to bring senior housing to 250 Laguna Honda Boulevard. Then he moved it to LHH’s campus. Four years later, Yee’s vision for his legacy project has gone nowhere, and should be abandoned.
All six D-7 candidates should re-evaluate their policy positions regarding placing housing on LHH’s campus. It’s a citywide resource, not a plaything of any incumbent D-7 Supervisor. District 7 voters and their supervisorial candidates should not forget that.
Pivoting from the COVID-19 fast ball to solving the City’s budget deficit slow ball, Mayor Breed pulled out her cudgel. She struck out.
She should have reached for an SFGH surgical scalpel. That might have prevented her own senior City managers represented by the Municipal Executives’ Association (MEA) from almost instantly rejecting her budget plea.
Displaying sheer hubris, Mayor Breed demanded in the Examiner on July 31 that City employees postpone scheduled raises in December, raises Breed claims will save between $55 million and $270 million. They were actually raises due July 1, 2020 that had been first postponed automatically by explicit language incorporated into labor union contracts members had ratified and adopted before July 2019. Of course, she’s not mentioning that she’s now demanding a second delay to the long-scheduled raises.
That’s not a balanced budget; it’s a gaping hole she plans to solve by kicking pay-raises bargained for in good faith down the road.”
Stomping her foot and shaking her curls, Breed asserted that if City employees don’t agree to re-open and hopefully re-ratify their contracts by agreeing to delay raises they desperately need, layoff’s will ensue. She didn’t mention contracts between the City and its labor unions have not formally been forced to re-open since then-Mayor Newsom forced unions to re-open contracts in February 2009 to accept unpaid furlough days in lieu of a scheduled 3.75% pay raise.
Re-opening contracts to approve negotiated side letters mid-course may be routine. But re-opening contracts to alter negotiated scheduled pay raises rarely happens, even in San Francisco. You could count that using a single hand.
The $55 million represents just four-tenths-of-one-percent (0.4%) of the $13.7 billion City budget for FY 2020–2021 she submitted last week to the Board of Supervisors.
Breed’s second-year budget for FY 2021–2022 is $12.6 billion, for a combined total of $26.3 billion across the two fiscal years (FY 2020–2021 and FY 2021–2022). She also wants employees to defer additional raises already negotiated for FY 2021–2022, and claims she’ll save up to $270 million by deferring wage hikes in both years. Although $270 million would represent just 1% of the $26.3 billion combined two-year budget, both the $55 million and $270 million amounts Breed is tossing around appear to be bogus numbers.
Breed Ignored Two Budget Hurdles
When Mayor Breed met with her director of public policy and finance, the City Controller, and the Board of Supervisors’ Budget Analyst to prepare the March 2020 Joint Report required before developing the City budget for Fiscal Years 2020–2021 and 2021–2022 starting on July 1, 2020, all four knew the first hurdle involved a $1.7 billion budget shortfall.
When they met, they knew a second hurdle involved 50 separate union contracts staring them in the face that contractually promised pay raises on July 1, 2020.
They introduced a first-year budget of $13.7 billion for FY 2020–2021, adding another $1.4 billion above Breed’s $12.3 billion budget for FY 2019–2020, essentially ignoring the $1.7 billion budget shortfall. In fact, when the FY 2020–2021 budget was initially introduced in July 2019 and adopted as the then-second-year budget, it stood at $11.9 billion. But it grew by $1.7 billion to $13.68 billion when it became the first-year budget for FY 2020–2021, as if Breed and company had simply tacked the whole $1.7 billion shortfall onto the second-year budget adopted in July 2019, as if they were playing a game of pin the tail on the donkey or Whack-A-Mole.
When the four met to develop the new budget, they also knew the majority of contracts with City unions — including the MEA, MUNI transit employees, SEIU Local Per Diem Nurses, and SEIU Local 1021 Miscellaneous — all contained contract language to award employees three percent raises on July 1, 2020 and a half-percent raise on December 26, 2020, plus similar raises totaling an additional 3.5 percent during 2021. The contracts contained written clauses to postpone each of the four raises for up to six months.
The Examiner reported Breed said “I want to be very clear — if the unions don’t agree to delay their raises, then we will be forced to lay people off. We will be forced to cut city services.” She essentially threatened City employees, suggesting her hiring binge as mayor was somehow the employees’ fault.
Forcing Contract Re-Opener
The budget Breed announced and submitted to the Board of Supervisors on July 31 was not a balanced budget, as required, because it assumes she will succeed at hoodwinking City employees into delaying their scheduled pay raises for the next two years to reportedly save her $270 million. The only way she can do that legally is if unions members voluntarily agree to re-open their contracts, and she only has until December to get this done.
That’s not a balanced budget; it’s a gaping hole she plans to solve by kicking pay-raises bargained for in good faith down the road.
Breed’s playing a new game of raise-revoker, via a contractual do-over to postpone the July 1, 2020 raise a second time. Back in 2018, the City first got around to finally building into written labor agreements explicit language allowing postponing raises for up to six months when the City can demonstrate looming budget deficits of over $200 million. The three percent raises she wants postponed in January are actually the same three percent raises that were due on July 1, 2020 but automatically postponed, given existing contract language.
But she’ll have to get all unions to agree to re-open, and then re-ratify, their contracts to postpone that raise a second time to June 2021. If she succeeds, she’ll be the first mayor to ever pull the stunt of delaying a single pay raise twice. That’s not much different than Donald Trump stiffing his contractors and employees.
Cost of Raises Disputed
Within 24 hours after the Examiner article appeared in print, the MEA — which represents the highest-paid managers across the City who do such things as analyzing budget data for the Mayor — sprang into action and wrote to its MEA members on August 1 opposing Breed’s demand to forgo raises. The MEA’s position — standing in solidarity with all other labor unions — is: No layoffs. No wage cuts. And no furloughs.
MEA members — who all have a better understanding of City data than Breed does — documented that delaying the 3% raise due July 1 and delaying the 0.5% raise scheduled for December 26 would save Breed just $46.4 million, not the $55 million Breed claimed. And the MEA asserted the 3.5% raises for the following year in 2021 would save $48 million, for a combined total of $94.8 million across the two years, not the $270 million B.S. Breed pulled out of thin air.
The $270 million claim never made any sense. If the budget savings would have even been $55 million in the first year, why would it have mushroomed to $270 million in savings the second year? Breed’s math, once again, simply doesn’t add up. Maybe math isn’t her forte.
Breed Asserts Her “Sacrifice”
Piously, Breed flung gasoline on the fire, saying “I don’t think this is too much to ask. We all need to do our part to share in that sacrifice.” This is more hubris: What sacrifice has Breed shared in?
On July 1, 2018 she became mayor and her salary increased from $121,448 as a member of the Board of Supervisors to $322,073 as mayor through June 30, 2019 — a whopping 165.2 percent change increase in salary. That’s not what most folks call sacrifice.
Despite that $200,625 raise in pay, she accepted $5,600 split between two payments during 2019 from her subordinate, Mohammed Nuru, which she only belatedly got around to officially reporting to the Ethics Commission on May 29, 2020. Nuru first gifted Breed a $4,809 car repair bill on January 10, 2019.
After Nuru’s first gift Breed received another $28,462 raise on July 1, 2019 pushing her salary to $350,535 through June 30, 2020 — an additional 8.8 percent change increase in salary. Folks don’t call that a sacrifice, either.
Inexplicably, she then received Nuru’s second gift of a paltry $719 for a car rental 12 months later on Christmas Eve in December 2019 — after having pocketed $229,000 in City pay raises. Why was there a one-year delay between Nuru’s two gifts to her?
Decade-Long Mayoral Hiring Binge Was Unsustainable
If Lee or Breed learned nothing else as mayor, they should have at least learned that their decade-long patronage hiring binge of employees earning over $100,000 annually was unsustainable.
When Ed Lee was sworn in as Mayor on January 11, 2011 he inherited former Mayor Newsom’s FY 2010–2011 City budget of $6.6 billion. Two years later, London Breed was sworn in as a City Supervisor in January 2013; she became Board president two years later in January 2015. The ten budgets Lee and Breed submitted between FY 2011–2012 and FY 2020–2021 increased the City budget by $7.1 billion — to a staggering $13.7 billion — a 108% percent increase over Newsom’s final budget.
Lee and Breed added 8,398 City employees, resulting in 42,381 paid positions now on the City payroll through June 30, 2020. The extra 8,398 paid positions involved $1.48 billion in additional salaries (plus fringe benefits), pushing the City Controller’s payroll to $3.98 billion in total pay (before benefits).”
Lee and Breed added 8,398 City employees, resulting in 42,381 paid positions now on the City payroll through June 30, 2020. The extra 8,398 paid positions involved $1.48 billion in additional salaries (plus fringe benefits), pushing the City Controller’s payroll to $3.98 billion in total pay (before benefits).
Of the $1.48 billion in additional payroll costs since FY 2010–2011, 97% of the increase ($1.44 billion) went to the additional 8,630 employees now paid over $100,000 in total salaries. The 18,008 employees who earn over $100,000 now cost $2.7 billion annually. Just $42.3 million of the increased salaries went to employees earning less than $100,000 annually; there are now 24,373 employees who earn less than $100,000 as of June 30, 2020, down by 232 fewer employees in FY 2010–2011.
Among the new hires were 150 additional senior managers hired at MUNI (at an increased cost of $25.9 million), and 287 senior managers hired or promoted in the 50-plus additional City departments (at an increased cost of $74.3 million). Combined, the 437 senior managers have cost the City an additional $100.2 million in salaries (excluding benefits) alone.
Across that decade, Lee and Breed added 1,953 additional employees earning over $200,000 annually, at an increased cost of $458.8 million. In 2010–2011, there were just 267 employee earning over $200,000 at a total cost of just $60.3 million. The now 2,220 employees earning over $200,000 now cost a combined $519 million annually. The increase from 267 to 2,220 employees earning over $200K annually represents a 731.5 percent change increase.
Stepping down the salary food chain to those earning over $100K, the additional 8,630 employees earning over $100,000 annually pushed the total to now 18,008 employees earning over $100K, at a combined cost of $2.7 billion as of June 30, 2020. The 18,008 have average salaries of $150,012 (each) compared to the 24,373 City employees earning less than $100,000 annually, who have average salaries of just $52,591 annually (each). There’s that equity problem again!
Breed’s Own Hiring Binge
Lest anyone say the senior manager and excessive salaries hiring binge was all Ed Lee’s fault, a look at Breed’s own record is in order.
The City Controller’s payroll database shows that in the one-year period between FY 2018–2019 to FY 2019–2020 Breed eliminated 2,956 employees (from 27,329 down to 24,373) earning less than $100,000 in order to save her $38.1 million cut from the City payroll.
Across the same one-year period, Breed added 1,197 employees earning between $100,000 and $249,999 at an increased cost of $203.2 million, and also added an additional 135 employees paid over $250,000 at an additional cost of another $38.3 million. That was in her budget submissions, not Lee’s budgets.
On paper, it looks like the $38.1 million Breed saved by eliminating the 2,956 employees earning less than $100,000 was used to fund the $38.3 million awarded to the extra 135 employees earning over $250,000. Patronage cost-shifting never looked more transparent.
Where’s the Surgical Scalpel?
Breed’s message to her own employees was essentially “Let them eat cake.” They instantly understood she wasn’t watching their backs. She was watching her own backside, by doing the least amount of budget planning she could get away with. What she didn’t count on was that her own employees wouldn’t be so dumb by shooting themselves in the foot.
It’s clear Breed wanted to balance her budget on the backs of the City’s lowest-wage employees by demanding contracts be re-opened and all employees forgo scheduled raises. Luckily, the MEA seemed to have found its cojones. Instead of simply caving into her demands, the MEA sang Breed a sweet song: “Gee, Officer Krupke, Krup you!”
Instead of using an across-the-board budget cudgel that all employees forgo pay raises, Breed should have pulled out one of SFGH’s scalpel’s to surgically chop City salaries over $100,000 from the top, since those salaries seem to have metastasized during her watch. Maybe Director of Public Health Grant Colfax — wearing a face mask — could show Breed how to wield a scalpel, not a cudgel.
No layoffs! No wage cuts! And no furloughs.
An expanded version of this article with tabular data is available on the author’s web site at stopLHHdownsize.com.
Is Hiding Data an Effective Strategy Against the Virus?
COVID-19’s Cruel Visit to Laguna Honda
by Patrick Monette-Shaw
Four months into the pandemic, San Franciscans and Californians obtained little transparency from Mayor Breed or Governor Newsom, and even less accountability.
Both Breed and Newsom reversed course over the June 27 weekend, rolling back their premature re-opening plans. After all, neither of them has been transparent about COVID in nursing homes in the City and across the state.
Since COVID-19 surfaced four months ago SF’s Department of Public Health (SFDPH) refuses to report the number of infections among staff and patients in its 21 skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) on its website. That’s not transparency. It’s dereliction.
It’s not known why the data reported by each Skilled Nursing Facility directly to California Department of Public Health is considerably higher than the data reported to Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and whether the discrepancy is due to President Trump wanting CMS to “slow down” the testing and positive test results numbers nationwide. Nor is it known whether future reports to CMS will clear up the 5,410 disparity reported for California”
Similarly, California’s Department of Public Health (CDPH) refuses to accurately report the number of staff and patient infections in each of its 1,224 SNFs on its website. That’s not transparency either. SNFs are required to report each new COVID case within two hours. Promptly posting the full data — without “scrubbing” — should be relatively quick and easy.
Rather than aggregated data for each facility, CDPH obscures facility-level data by “de-identifying” cases — reporting only “<11” for facilities having fewer than 11 cases, claiming it does so to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the federal health privacy law. This is a pretext to avoid disclosing crucial data. Nothing in HIPAA prohibits releasing aggregate data that doesn’t include patient identifiers, so hiding behind HIPAA is bogus — there’s no way to identify patients from aggregated data.
COVID Visits San Francisco SNFs
While Mayor Breed announced on May 6 that San Francisco hadn’t flattened its COVID curve, data posted to the SFDPH’s COVID-19 Tracker website documented in the week ending May 9, 341 new positive cases, the highest weekly case total since March 7 when data collection began.
Mayor Breed knew that record was shattered in the week ending June 27 when weekly cases soared to 503, pushing total cumulative positive cases to 3,561, due, in part, to cases at Laguna Honda Hospital (LHH) that rose from 7 cases on March 26, to 29 cases on May 18, to 80 cases as of June 21, long after LHH prohibited visitors on March 6.
She also knew San Francisco had six additional COVID-related deaths during the 14-day period ending June 27 (over 10% of the City’s 50 deaths).
For Governor Newsom’s part, he knew that in the one-week period ending June 27, California reported an additional 35,567 cases — over 5,000 new cases each day and 406 additional COVID-related deaths statewide.
Finally, Newsom knew the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported an increase of 5,751 infections among staff and residents across California’s 1,224 nursing facilities in the five-week period ending June 21, pushing the statewide total to 14,527 infections in SNFs alone.
No wonder both Breed and Newsom reversed course on premature re-opening: The curve in the state hasn’t been “crushed,” let alone “flattened,” particularly not in SNFs and other congregate settings, like prisons.
Reviewing the timeline is instructive:
• It’s been four months — fully 124 days — since Mayor Breed issued her initial Statement of Local Emergency on February 25.
• As early as March 6, the City closed LHH to all visitors. Soon after, Health Officer Tomás Aragón prohibited non-essential visitors from all long-term care facilities within City limits.
• Over 100 days have passed since Breed’s shelter-in-place order on March 16, and since Newsom’s order on March 19. It’s 95 days six staff and one patient at LHH tested positive for COVID back on March 26.
• The next day, Breed wrote the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services begging for 110 federal employees to help “slow the spread of COVID-19 [and protect] our vulnerable skilled nursing residents.” (The feds sent only six federal doctors; her office claims she received no written response.)
• During April and May press briefings, she brought Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of DPH, to present updates and case counts at LHH. On May 1, news surfaced that DPH would conduct testing of staff and residents in all SNFs beginning on May 4 (it actually began at LHH May 6).
• On May 15, Dr. Colfax said cases at LHH rose from 7 (March 27) to 29 cases (18 staff / 11 residents). That was the last publicly released LHH’s case count. Breed’s press conferences essentially vanished.
• On June 2, DPH informed its Commission that testing in 17 of the 21 Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) was complete.
• In response to a public record request for the number of COVID-positive patient tests uncovered in the completed 17 SNFs, and a list SNFs not yet completed, DPH had no: “responsive records at this time.” Tossing in — “We are committed to protecting the privacy and confidentiality of patients.”
CMS to the Rescue
Since last May, President Trump has successively claimed “If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few [COVID] cases,” as if there would be no cases if there were no testing to detect new cases. As if!
Trump claimed in Tulsa on June 20, “When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people; you’re going to find more cases. So, I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please’.”
That was after Trump’s administration, on May 12 called for expanded testing of all nursing homes by the end of May.
Luckily, CMS came to the rescue, so we now have a modicum of facility-level data regarding infections in SNFs.
Despite Trump’s call for slowing down, his own CMS rolled out a new dashboard on its website reporting case counts for infections of both staff and nursing home residents in the 15,400 SNFs nationwide. All SNFs are now required to submit weekly update reports electronically to CMS.
Unfortunately, there’s an 11-day lag between reported data before CMS posts it. The data for the first week ending May 24 became available June 4. The latest data released on July 2 is worrisome.
CMS’ Nursing Home Data for California
Though SFDPH and CDPH chose not to release data for SNFs, data from CMS’ website became available.
It reveals that as of June 21, San Francisco’s 19 SNFs had 186 cases (104 staff / 82 residents), plus 18 deaths (all patients), up 26 cases since the week ending May 24, when there were 160 cases. Data for June 21 also reported 49 “suspected weekly COVID cases” (5 staff / 44 patients) that may convert to confirmed cases.
As for Laguna Honda, the data reveals (as of June 21), 80 cases (52 staff / 28 patients), up from 66 cases on May 24. The 52 staff cases at LHH represents 50% of the 104 staff infections across all 19 San Francisco SNFs. Data for June 21 also reported an additional 9 “suspected weekly COVID cases” at LHH (4 staff /5 patients).
The Mayor and the Health Commission knew these numbers as early as June 2 when SFDPH informed the Health Commission that 17 of San Francisco’s 21 SNFs had completed testing. (This may include two SNFs the City may utilize outside the City, whereas CMS only counts San Francisco’s 19 SNFs.)
CDPH and CMS’ Nursing Home Data Discrepancies
Comparing CDPH’s website to data posted on CMS’s new website revealed additional problems with the accuracy of the data.
The number of patient and staff deaths in SNFs statewide differ by 398 deaths (CMS reported a total of 1,991 staff and patient deaths in California SNFs through June 21, whereas data on CDPH’s website for June 21 reported 2,388 deaths).
Beyond deaths, the discrepancy of confirmed COVID positive infections reported by the two agencies differed remarkably.
CMS’s website reported 14,527 confirmed cases across California (6,089 staff /8,438 residents) as of June 21, but CDPH’s website reported a total of 19,937 confirmed cases (7,655 staff /12,282 patients) as of June 21, a difference of 5,410 total confirmed cases in California SNFs. It’s not known why the data reported by each SNF directly to CDPH is considerably higher than the data reported to CMS, and whether the discrepancy is due to President Trump wanting CMS to “slow down” the testing and positive test results numbers nationwide. Nor is it known whether future reports to CMS will clear up the 5,410 disparity reported for California.
Unfortunately, neither the CMS or CDPH websites include confirmed case counts or deaths that have occurred in Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFE’s) and other types of assisted living facilities; both of the two sites report data only for California SNFs.
California’s Department of Social Services (CDSS), which licenses RCFE’s in California, does post on-line separate data for COVID cases and deaths in RCFE’s and Adult Residential Facilities (ARF’s). Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that there is a website that reports COVID infections and deaths in RCFE’s and ARF’s nationwide.
As of June 21, CDSS reported 2,969 confirmed COVID cases in RCFE’s and ARF’s, pushing the total from 19,937 (CDPH) confirmed cases (only) in SNFs to 22,906 confirmed COVID cases statewide.
Similarly, there were an additional 398 staff and patient deaths in RCFE’s and ARF’s, which pushed the death toll from 2,388 in (only) SNFs to a total of 2,786 deaths across the various types of elder care facilities statewide as of June 21.
The June 21 CMS data reported 1,566 suspected weekly cases in SNFs nationwide, including 49 suspected cases in 19 SNFs in San Francisco, and nine suspected cases at LHH.
Avoiding Transparency and Accountability
Adding to the dearth of transparency regarding infections in nursing homes across California, Mayor Breed has avoided accountability, failing to respond to multiple requests:
• No comment on having only 29 infections at LHH (18 staff / 11 residents) reported by Dr. Colfax on May 19, to 80 confirmed cases (52 staff / 28 residents) reported to CMS for the week ending June 21.
• No comment on the cases rising to 186 cases (104 staff / 82 residents) across all 19 SNFs in the City by June 21, given that Dr. Aragón ostensibly locked down SNFs to visitors two months earlier.
• CMS has reported 18 COVID-related deaths in San Francisco SNFs since the week ending May 24. Neither Breed, Colfax, nor Aragón have mentioned those 18 deaths (although DPH’s COVID-19 Tracker website does publish cumulative death data). Those 18 deaths represent 38% of San Francisco’s 48 COVID-related deaths as of June 21.
• No comment regarding COVID-19 Data Tracker deficit of information any of its sub-pages about cases and data in SNFs.
The devastation from COVID isn’t over. Not even close. Pausing the re-opening is justified, because the worst yet to come. Surely Breed and Newsom know this. Secrecy and misinformation from the highest levels of government have worsened the affects from COVID-19.
Forbes was right: The most important statistic is that well over 42% of COVID-related deaths in the U.S. have come from the 0.6% of the nation’s population living in nursing homes. None of these lives were “disposable” or “expendable.”
“How much worse will COVID-19’s cruelty in skilled nursing homes get before it gets better?” “Why can’t you produce truly transparent COVID-in-nursing-home data?”
A slightly expanded version of this article — containing a table showing data by facility name for each of San Francisco’s 19 SNFs — is available at stopLHHdownsize.com. A companion piece, written to be an historical summary of the first four months of the COVID pandemic nationwide and in California, is also available on the author’s website.
COVID-19’s Impact on Affordable Housing Production
Public Records Are “Essential” in a Pandemic
by Patrick Monette-Shaw
M ayor London Breed is to be congratulated for issuing her shelter-in-place (SIP) Order on March 13 hoping to contain spread of the COVID-19 virus and flatten the curve from the global pandemic, and its impact on San Franciscans. She did so before Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide SIP three days later.
... journalists and citizens know trade-offs need to be made, including restricting inspection of records at City Hall ... But suspending access to public records altogether, even temporarily, is clearly dangerous to open government. That’s why transparency is even more essential during states of emergency ....”
Hopefully, now that wider COVID-19 testing is belatedly beginning to occur in our City, her relatively early actions may sustain flattening of the curve.
But curiously, Breed’s SIP Order on March 13 raised some questions. That Order followed Breed’s declaration of a local emergency announcement on February 25. One question is why it took 17 days following the declaration of emergency before she issued her SIP order on March 13, particularly since she had issued an order closing Laguna Honda Hospital to visitors a week earlier on March 6.
Declaring a state of emergency is a procedural measure allowing a county to leverage state funds and mutual aid resources if cases of the virus are confirmed locally. The declaration of an emergency allowed San Francisco officials to secure emergency state and federal funding, and other resources and personnel, to accelerate emergency planning and expand capabilities for a rapid response.
Another question involves Santa Clara County, which issued its local emergency declaration on February 3 when its first two COVID-19 cases caused by international travel were initially reported. Why did it take Breed 22 days after Santa Clara had issued its emergency declaration before she issued San Francisco’s emergency declaration order? As our South Bay neighbor, weren’t the two counties coordinating on a regional basis with all nine Bay Area counties to simultaneously announce and implement uniform emergency declarations regionally?
Breed Clamps Down on Open Government
Breed’s antipathy to our local Sunshine Ordinance is well known, and dates back years to when she was president of the Board of Supervisors. On April 4, 2018 the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force ruled 7-to-0 that Breed had failed six times between 2015 and 2017 to respond to public records requests, and had failed to appear or send a representative on her behalf to 10 Sunshine Task Force hearings to explain why she had ignored responding to the records requests. The Task Force referred her failures to then District Attorney George Gascón for enforcement. (Predictably, Gascón took no action so Breed skated.) In addition, back in 2015 Breed initially voted as the lone dissenter on a Board of Supervisors vote on legislation requiring all City supervisors to publicly disclose their appointment calendars.
During an emergency, or a national public health crisis, journalists and citizens know trade-offs need to be made, including restricting inspection of records at City Hall and offices of other City agencies, and delays responding to records requests because of understaffing of government agencies. But suspending access to public records altogether, even temporarily, is clearly dangerous to open government. That’s why supporting government transparency is even more essential during states of emergency, to prevent long-term damage to our open government once the COVID-19 crisis eventually passes. (Unfortunately, it may be with us for a long, long time.)
Breed essentially has no patience for public records requests, following in the footsteps of her mentor, Wille Brown. Her record while on the Board reflects that she did not support open government.
Part of Breed’s March 13 Order temporarily suspended San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance §§67.25(a) and (b), the “Immediate Disclosure Request” provision in Sunshine that strengthened the California Public Records Act (CPRA) to provide for expedited release of public records. Ten days later, Breed issued a supplementary Order on March 23, further temporarily suspending Sunshine Ordinance §§67.21(a) and (b), which provide that members of the public can inspect or examine records in person at City offices open to the public, provided they comply with CPRA.
While it may be totally understandable that many City offices are closed during the COVID-19 pandemic because employees may be furloughed, are working and telecommuting from home, or assigned other duties as disaster service workers, suspension of portions of the Sunshine Ordinance is a matter of public concern. It’s also completely understandable that city agencies may have fewer resources to dedicate to public records requests, some city employees may be unfamiliar with particular records or may be physically separated from the records, and appropriate redactions may be harder to make due to employees working remotely.
What is not understandable is why Breed clamped down on our local Sunshine Ordinance, when Governor Newsom’s emergency orders did not waive responsibilities to respond to public records under CPRA. Breed shouldn’t have done so with San Francisco’s Sunshine Ordinance.
The City Attorney’s Office noted on March 30 that City agencies still have a legal duty provide public records promptly, have a legal duty to advise records requestors of the date on which an agency expects to actually produce requested records, and a duty to provide the records on a rolling basis. The City Attorney noted City agencies should make reasonable efforts to provide records to the extent feasible, and cannot adopt a blanket policy unnecessarily delaying or denying records requests carteblanche during Breed’s suspension of Sunshine.
The City Attorney’s “opinion” (which is an opinion, not a matter of settled law) gives the green light for City agencies to delay even starting to search for a given public record for a period of time, perhaps including not having to start a search for public records until after Breed’s temporary shelter-in-place order is lifted on May 3. But what happens if she extends her Order into June or July? Will that add even further delays in starting records searches?
Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) Of grave concern, in response to a public records request about progress on the RFQ to select a developer for a senior housing project on the campus of Laguna Honda Hospital, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) issued its “Emergency Policy on Sunshine [records requests]” on April 3, stating that it “may even be[come] necessary for MOHCD to delay the start of a search for records until [Breed’s] stay-at-home Order is lifted [in May].”
To a whistleblower, citizen watchdog, and columnist like me, that sounds like a dog whistle that MOHCD may end up implementing a blanket policy unnecessarily delaying or denying records requests carte blanche for any affordable housing projects currently being developed, in the pipeline, or under consideration.
After all, MOHCD is in the process of administering $1.2 billion in Affordable Housing Bond-funded projects (including the $310 million affordable housing bond passed in 2015, the $600 million affordable housing bond passed in 2019, plus the remaining $261 million from the PASS bond that was re-allocated to fund affordable housing).
Public records involving MOHCD’s stewardship of the affordable housing bonds should not be subject to having to wait for Breed’s stay-at-home order to be lifted before records searches even begin. How many other City departments have implemented, or are considering implementing, blanket policies to delay the start of searches for public records until Breed’s SIP Order is eventually lifted?
Advocacy Groups Support Transparency During COVID-19 Crisis
Obviously, openness in government is essential to the functioning of any democracy. California’s State Constitution stipulates in Article 1, Section 3(b)(1) “The people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business, and, therefore, the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny.”
On March 20, over 130 organizations — including the California First Amendment Coalition, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation — signed a letter calling for custodians of public records at all levels of government to leverage technology resources to make governance more inclusive, more credible and more accessible, and not to suspend compliance with public records laws providing transparency and accountability. Another article notes that legitimacy of government decision-making requires a renewed commitment to transparency during emergencies, particularly public health emergencies, now more than ever.
Surely in the heart of Silicon Valley, we currently have the technology to make transparency happen.
After all, the City’s current state-of-the-art technology enables staff working from home to remotely access all of their e-mail records, and other computer files on departmental network drives, so long as their respective City departments have made the features available with network permissions. While I’m not a lawyer or a technology expert, I know from past employment with the City that costs to provide remote network access are either non-existent because they’re included in the City’s Microsoft Outlook basic configuration contract, or minimal additional cost for such things as VPN access or network “authentication” permissions, given that the City has a $12 billion annual budget.
For mission-essential City employees, the technology is already largely in place to increase government transparency. That technology needs to be expanded to all boards and commissions, not just City employees.
Essential City Boards and Commissions
Unfortunately, too many policy bodies that provide essential functions have suspended their meetings indefinitely. Among them are agencies involved in affordable housing production. It’s time for Breed to re-visit which City boards, commissions, and policy bodies are essential and should fully resume their operations using remote meeting access.
Citizens’ General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee (CGOBOC) Breed’s various Orders have restricted construction of commercial buildings, but allow affordable housing construction to continue as an “essential” service.
However, the Citizens’ General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee (CGOBOC) has been affected by Breed’s Orders. CGOBOC not only is monitoring oversight of the $1.2 billion in affordable housing bonds, it also provides oversight of public health and safety bonds, parks bonds, Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response (ESER) bonds, Road Repaving and Street Safety (RRSS) bonds, other transportation and road improvement bonds, and other bonds.
Each bond program will have all issuances in the same appearance on the CGOBOC agenda, e.g., all Parks bonds regardless of year issue are all heard together during a single CGOBC meeting, and all three Affordable Housing Bonds are presented during a single meeting.
CGOBOC currently meets only five times per year, with meetings typically restricted to two or three hours each. Formal reports and presentations on the status of each Bond are made only once annually. Each bond is updated verbally by the CGOBOC member assigned as a liaison to various City departments at the CGOBOC meeting nearest to six months from their formal presentation date.
CGOBOC’s January 2020 meeting crammed in including reports about multiple Parks bonds, the ESER bond, a liaison report on the public safety bonds, and the three Affordable Housing Bonds. Strangely, next to nothing was presented in January reporting on the $600 million Affordable Housing bond passed in November 2019.
Then, after Breed had issued her local emergency declaration on February 25 and her SIP order on March 13, CGOBOC cancelled its March 16 meeting, which was to have heard formal presentations on the RRSS bonds and transportation bonds, and the six-month liaison report on the Parks bonds.
CGOBOC’s next meeting is scheduled for May 18 to hear liaison reports on the ESER and Affordable Housing bonds — provided it isn’t cancelled, too. But at this point, it’s doubtful that City boards and agencies like CGOBOC will resume their public meetings just 15 days after the SIP order is scheduled to be lifted on May 3, and for all we know now Breed may choose to extend the SIP again. Anthony Fauci believes SIP orders should remain in place at least through the end of May, not May 3.
Breed should not end social distancing and reopen San Francisco’s economy until we know the infection rate is nearly zero. That means not just flattening the curve. It means crushing the curve completely. That’s not going to happen within 15 days from May 3. That suggests she needs to turn to rapidly expanding remote meeting access for policy bodies like CGOBOC and MOHCD.
Breed needs to make sure CGOBOC’s meetings continue to be held — remotely, if necessary — and ensure each CGOBOC member and relevant City departments are able to hold meetings remotely by beefing up their state-of-the-art technology and access to conduct meetings remotely. Their meetings, involving essential bond-funded infrastructure and housing construction, should not continue being cancelled until we have a vaccine against COVID-19, perhaps a year to 18 months from now. If the Board of Supervisors is using technology successfully to hold remote meetings, then all policy bodies dealing with essential City business should be equipped for remote meetings, too.
After all, on March 17, 2020 the Board of Supervisors authorized their full Board and Sub-Committee meetings to convene remotely and allow for remote public comment, pursuant to restrictions on videoconferencing and teleconferencing that have now been lifted. All City policy bodies and City Departments should immediately implement videoconferencing and teleconferencing.
Stalled LHH Housing Project
Anecdotal reports have surfaced that MOHCD has had trouble getting affordable housing funds out the door for at least three months, even before Breed issued her SIP Order. And one project, the proposed 280-unit housing project on Laguna Honda Hospital’s campus Supervisor Yee proposed as his legacy, has run into a different roadblock.
In December 2019 I published “LHH Housing Proposal Ignores Dire Shortage of Skilled Nursing Facility Beds,” exploring why Supervisor Yee’s housing proposal was so hush-hush, in which I reported MOHCD had released an RFQ on November 18, apparently prematurely since the property was not then, and is not now, under MOHCD’s jurisdiction.
The RFQ indicated a selection panel would hold interviews with prospective bidders during the week of February 17 or the week of February 24, and an announcement of the developer team chosen would be made during the week of March 9. Yee managed to stack the selection panel with two hand-picked District 7 neighbors. And an external consultant to the Department of Public Health, whose company is on track to receive $7.2 million for bond planning services through the year 2023, Mark Primeau, appears to have also been added to the selection panel, replacing an actual DPH employee.
On March 10, MOHCD responded to a records request saying the selection process had been delayed until March 30, 2020, ostensibly because MOHCD needed additional time to organize the interview and review panel. MOHCD’s March 10 response was ridiculous on its face because a source who requested anonymity independently confirmed subsequently that the interviews with potential developers were, in fact, completed during the week of March 9, albeit two weeks later than the planned week of February 17 interview schedule initially announced.
Since then, even though the interviews were completed and the selection panels’ bidder scoring sheets were reportedly provided to MOHCD, MOHCD’s staff have dragged their feet for over a month, and have apparently not completed review of the external selection panelists’ interviews.
Does that mean the announcement of the developer chosen is being held hostage until Breed eventually lifts her SIP Order? If MOHCD staff do not have access to either videoconferencing and teleconferencing capabilities, or network permissions to remotely access all of their e-mail records and other computer files on departmental network drives, they should be provided with such technology immediately. After all, if Yee’s housing proposal for LHH’s campus proved not to be financially viable during or following the developer interviews, then MOHCD should move along and select another senior housing project elsewhere in the City.
COVID-19 We may have to prepare to go through a similar COVID-19, or a COVID-20, resurgence in the fall perhaps with more shelter-in-place orders, and perhaps further restrictions on physical (social) distancing and public meetings. We can’t allow funding and development of affordable housing to face further delays. As much as the public records are essential during this pandemic, so too are affordable housing units essential.
In future articles, I’ll explain why I have thought all along that placing this housing on LHH’s campus was terribly misguided from the beginning. But shut down of access to essential public records remains worrisome.
“It’s a Newspaper’s Duty to Print the News and Raise Hell”
A Civic Duty: Digitize Neighborhood News
by Patrick Monette-Shaw
The deckhead for this article is a Wilbur Storey quote 159 years ago in an 1861 article in the then-Chicago Times. Back then, newspapers and journalists were unafraid of taking on the “Establishment” and raising some hell. It’s a sentiment widely held by those of us who’ve been privileged to publish in the Westside Observer over the years, and with which I strongly agree.
As the Observer migrates to an on-line-only news outlet printing the real news, please continue to support us as we start our new journey in raising hell.
The City’s mainstream media are not covering the real news of our hyper-local neighborhood communities, and in particular are not covering neighborhood and local news in granular detail as we do here at the Westside Observer.
Indeed, 50 years ago Time Magazine published an article1 in November 1970 noting large-circulation mainstream newspapers tend to be part of the Establishment, and, therefore, part of the problem. The Time article reported “San Francisco’s Examiner and Chronicle, for instance, are so comfortably settled that the … City has become one of the worst-newspapered cities in America.”
The Westside Observer has been a leading source of neighborhood news on the west side of San Francisco for the past 12 years, and even before it took over the West of Twin Peaks Observer.”
Time went on to praise Bruce Brugmann, publisher of the former San Francisco Bay Guardian Weekly, for improving the state of journalism in San Francisco.
During the past 50 years, the Examiner has gotten somewhat better after it added reporters Joe Fitzgerald Rodriquez, Laura Waxman, Joshua Sabatini, and others. But the Chronicle continues to omit covering local news in-depth, when not altogether, and buries local news often in the back pages of its paper. That leaves us still being one of the worst-newspapered cities!
Because the mainstream media ignores the problem of inadequate local news coverage, it’s left to our local neighborhood newspapers to flesh out details of local news.
As citizen-journalists, Observer columnists share a sense of duty to dissent by researching news that affects our neighborhoods, and to build opposition to City policies where needed. We’re here as an antidote to flesh out and publish news and raise hell! And we’re intent on evolving with the times.
The Westside Observer has been a leading source of neighborhood news on the west side of San Francisco for the past 12 years, and even before it took over the West of Twin Peaks Observer. In 2008, the San Francisco Neighborhood Newspaper Association had 20 local monthlies in the City. But with the recent news the Observer is ending its print edition, there will now be only eight neighborhood monthly newspapers in print in the entire City. Like other neighborhood papers, the Observer is expanding its former web site into an on-line-only publication.
The Observer grew into the best damn newspaper in town with great leadership from its publishers and a stable of contributing authors covering the entire spectrum of topics — from neighborhood issues not covered at all by our local daily newspapers to in-depth reporting, analyses, and commentary on citywide issues also not covered in any meaningful way by the mainstream media.
Our columnists are largely engaged citizens who routinely place public records requests to uncover details of stories the mainstream media neglect to research.
I’ve reflected on how I got here.
On a cool, slightly-cloudy 52-degree morning, I trudged up the 100-step staircase for my first day of employment at Laguna Honda Hospital (LHH) on May 17, 1999. I had no idea how my life would suddenly change.
I fretted the whole way up about whether I’d survive a six- to twelve-month probationary period, because I had been a very vocal “accountability” critic of the then-director of Public Health, Dr. Mitch Katz, and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. So, I fretted about the potential for political payback, hoping I could last long enough to pass probation.
I published “The Fleecing of AIDS in America: Part 1 — San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s Unfair Distribution of AIDS Walk Funds” on July 15, 2001 after having stopped fretting about passing probation.
On July 20, 2003 I launched my first public website — TheLastWatch.com — dedicated to exposing accountability problems with “AIDS Inc.” By then I was no longer afraid of Katz, or then-Mayor Willie Brown. On October 1, 2004 I launched stopLHHdownsize.com to try to prevent eliminating one-third — 420 — of the 1,200 beds planned for the LHH replacement hospital.
In November 2004 I filed my first San Francisco Superior Court lawsuit against the City involving the downsizing of LHH, with pro bono representation from public-interest public-health ace lawyer Lynn Carman. The lawsuit sought to require the City use all of the Tobacco Settlement Revenues (TSR) to offset the LHH replacement project cost overruns, and sought to recover $25 million misappropriated from the TSR account earmarked to rebuild LHH.
In February 2008, I filed a second San Francisco Superior Court lawsuit against the City involving the Chambers Settlement agreement, again represented by Mr. Carman. The lawsuit sought to stop the Chambers Settlement mandate to eliminate 420 beds from the 1,200-bed rebuild project. I lost both public-interest lawsuits.
Also in February 2008, the Westside Observer published my first article “Downsizing Laguna Honda: Who Gets the Boot” which focused on reducing LHH to just 780 beds, and which patients would be forced out, perhaps out-of-county.
In March 2012, I received a James Madison Freedom of Information Award in the Advocacy category from the Society of Professional Journalists–NorCal Chapter for my articles in the Westside Observer as an advocate for LHH’s patients.
In January 2019 SPJ-NorCal awarded the Westside Observer the James Madison award in the Community News Media category, indicating the Observer “stands out among San Francisco’s neighborhood newspapers for fostering citizen journalism based on public records disclosures that shed light on city government and promote community engagement.”
Please bear with a slight digression: While employed at LHH I audited a UC Berkeley Extension course in writing after hours, where I stumbled across a seminal September 1997 essay written by Wendy Kaminer in The Atlantic, titled “A Civic Duty to Annoy.” Kaminer was then a contributing editor of The Atlantic, a public-policy fellow at Radcliffe College, and president of the National Coalition Against Censorship.
A Civic Duty to Annoy instantly became my all-time favorite essay. Kaminer’s premise was not that we have a civic duty to annoy others just for the sake of aimlessly annoying them. Instead her premise was that communities are not composed solely of people who share a single monolithic point of view, and never engage in conflict. She argued communities are built on compromise, compromise presupposes disagreement, tolerance presupposes the existence of people and ideas we might not like, and one test of tolerance is provocation.
Read her essay. You’ll understand why Kaminer concluded the piece writing “When you sit down to dinner with your disagreeable relations, or comrades who bask in their rectitude and compassion, you have a civic duty to annoy them” — to provoke them to think, to challenge their assumptions and beliefs, and to re-examine their premises.
I had no idea the Observer would continue to publish me for the past dozen years. I’m grateful to Mitch and Alice Bull, and Doug Comstock, in addition to my fellow Westside Observer columnists from whom I’ve learned so much, including Doctors Derek Kerr, Maria Rivero and Theresa Palmer who were also my co-workers at LHH, George Wooding, John Farrell, Glenn Rogers, Nancy Wuerfel, Kathy Howard, Lou Barberini, and Steve Lawrence, among many other Observer feature writers.
If you want award-winning news for the neighborhood and the whole City, follow us in our transition to an on-line-only publication. Please join us as we continue to digitize the news, raise hell, and provoke debate. We promise not to disappoint!
Proposed Laguna Honda Housing Ignores Dire Shortage of Skilled Nursing Beds
by Patrick Monette-Shaw
Thirteen days after San Francisco voters passed the $600 million Affordable Housing Bond on November 5, and also approved allowing construction of 100% affordable housing and teacher housing projects on public land zoned “P, Public” that previously barred residential housing on public parcels, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development released a Request for Proposal (RFP) to build housing on Laguna Honda Hospital’s (LHH) campus on November 18. Neither the Health Commission nor the Board of Supervisors held public hearings before the RFP was issued.
Project Proposal The RFP claims the project will include everything but the kitchen sink, including an unspecified number of independent senior housing rental units in studio and one-bedroom apartments restricted to those earning 30% to 80% of Area Median Income ($25,850 to $68,950 for a one-person household). Another portion of the project calls for an unspecified number of assisted living units, and an unspecified number of Residential Care Facility for the Elderly (RCFE) units, which are similar but a different kind of facility, collectively referred to as the “Assisted Living” component of the project.
... the City has dumped at least 1,659 San Franciscans into out-of-county facilities between July 2006 and June 2019 ... Despite having been asked repeatedly to sponsor legislation requiring all facilities report their number of out-of-county discharges annually, Yee has failed doing so.”
The Illusive Assisted Living Component The assisted living component hinges on a future “financial feasibility study” MOHCD hasn’t conducted. Worrisome, MOHCD, at its sole discretion, may elect to make the Assisted Living component a separate project under a separate RFP to ensure creating a financially viable sub-project. It may vanish if not viable financially.
The project also calls for an early childhood education center, and an Adult Day Health Center (ADHC) for an unspecified number of adults needing day care.
Where’s the Site? MOHCD claims the project will be built on an “unbuilt lot” adjacent to the two new patient towers of the LHH replacement hospital.
The San Francisco Examiner reported November 21 city officials “envision” at least 200 units will be built. It’s unclear whether the 200 units are for the entire project, or just for the independent rental housing component of the project.
Approval Uncertain MOHCD is proposing to transfer the undeveloped lot site, subject to final approval by the Board of Supervisors and the Health Commission, to a qualified developer through a long-term ground lease. A prominent West Side leader who has attended multiple pre-planning sessions with Supervisor Norman Yee and his staff believes the project will be awarded two-thirds ($100 million) of the $150 million portion of the Affordable Housing Bond earmarked for senior housing.
This suggests the earmarked senior housing funds may largely benefit a single Supervisorial District, Supervisor Yee’s.
Major problems with the proposal.
First, the “undeveloped site” is a northeast spot on the Laguna Honda Hospital (LHH) campus that went undeveloped when 420 of the Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) beds were eliminated from the planned hospital rebuild in 2010 after cost overruns soared to nearly $200 million.
In February 2016 the Health Commission documented San Francisco had lost 1,163 hospital-based and freestanding SNF beds between 2001 and 2015, a 52.3% decline in SNF beds.
The report also documented San Francisco faces a 1,745-bed SNF gap between supply and demand within 14 years, by 2030, in part because 192,000 San Franciscans aged 65 and older will comprise 20% of San Francisco’s population by 2030.
Second, the City has dumped at least 1,659 San Franciscans into out-of-county facilities between July 2006 and June 2019 from our two public hospitals and two of the six private-sector hospitals, in large part because of the severe shortage of in-county SNF beds. Despite having been asked repeatedly to sponsor legislation requiring all facilities report their number of out-of-county discharges annually, Yee has failed doing so.
The report also documented San Francisco faces a 1,745-bed Skilled Nursing Facility gap between supply and demand within 14 years, by 2030, in part because 192,000 San Franciscans aged 65 and older will comprise 20% of San Francisco’s population by 2030.”
Third, the proposed site is extremely far away from the Forest Hill MUNI station, making use of public transportation extremely difficult, given that the slope of LHH’s campus hills are prohibitively steep for elderly people to walk up, or down.
Fourth, there are virtually zero nearby neighborhood amenities — like grocery stores, restaurants, and pharmacies — within walking distance of the proposed site.
Fifth, prioritizing space for a childhood pre-school over space for SNF or Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFE) beds, or senior housing, is simply obscene. Seniors do not find “purpose,” as Yee alleges, babysitting three- and four-year-old barely-verbal preschoolers.
Sixth, LHH eliminated its long-existing Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) from the rebuild project, which should have been included in the replacement hospital.
Finally, the proposed site should be reserved for additional SNF beds, to capitalize on economies of scale and ready access to LHH’s existing medical services like the physical therapy and occupational therapy gyms, therapeutic swimming pool, nutrition services that provide meals to patients, and the hospital’s cafeteria, among others.
Yee’s Problem Yee may want a legacy of building more housing for the elderly, but he’ll forfeit a legacy of addressing the dire shortage of SNF beds.
Yes, there’s dire need for more senior housing and RCFE facilities. But failing to address the also-dire shortage of medical-based SNF beds may kill us all, or exile us out of county.
It’s time to stop pitting the need for additional SNF beds against the need for senior housing and RCFE beds. We desperately need more SNF beds on that “vacant” spot of land.
Here we are six months after first learning from Mayor London Breed about the outrageous abuse of 23 to 130 patients at Laguna Honda Hospital (LHH) dating back to 2016. We’re no closer to getting answers about key questions because the scandal remains shrouded in secrecy as an on-going State investigation.
On October 23, LHH’s leadership was finally fingered as primary contributor to the patient abuse and failure to report the abuse.
What’s the Police Department — specifically its Special Victims Unit — doing? Why hasn’t the State Attorney General’s Elder Abuse Unit filed charges against the perpetrators? And why hasn’t CDPH denounced the abuse and publicly released its findings?”
Fines Imposed On September 3, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) imposed a $1 million fine against LHH for the 156 days between February 6 and July 11, 2019 during which patient’s health and safety were in immediate jeopardy. Since 2007, LHH has been fined at least $1.35 million, but has only had to pay $966,295 because it received some 35% discounts by waiving its rights and not contesting the determinations and fines. The fines are expected to soar significantly higher.
The accompanying chart shows LHH received five major sub-standard care deficiencies in the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) July 12, 2019 survey, including the worst “L” finding, and received five additional lesser deficiencies during CDPH’s September 3 resurvey.
City Attempts to Protect Officials Even before Breed’s June press conference, LHH CEO Mivic Hirose was forced to step down, and LHH’s Director of Quality Management was removed. The City tried to block release of the director’s name claiming it was a “personnel matter,” but public records and a Google search easily revealed the name of the director — Regina Gomez, RN.
The two leaders were pushed out even before CDPH released its 61-page investigation July 12 survey report. The report revealed Hirose and Gomez were interviewed by CDPH investigators three times between May 29 and June 19 in the presence of a Deputy City Attorney and LHH’s Director of Nursing (DON). A Google search and public records revealed the DON was Madonna Valencia, RN.
Hirose, Gomez, and Valencia were also interviewed individually between May 29 and June 5. But Valencia wasn’t pushed out until October 7. What else surfaced to force her out three months after Hirose and Valencia were ousted?
On October 23, 2019 CMS rolled out a new abuse icon on its Nursing Home Compare website to alert the public about nursing homes cited for abuse violations. LHH’s CMS rating was promptly slapped with the red-hand “stop” icon.
During a Government Audit and Oversight (GAO) hearing on October 23, Supervisor Norman Yee asked whether LHH’s leadership had either ignored, or didn’t know about, the patient abuse scandal. Acting LHH CEO Margaret Rykowski responded, saying:
“[SFDPH’s] review … did identify deficits in executive- and management-level positions as a primary contributor … that allowed cases of abuse … to occur, perpetuate, go unreported, and be improperly investigated over extended periods of time. We’ve made initial steps [changing LHH’s] executive leadership, and will continue to make more, as needed.” Which “deficits” weren’t stated.
Some observers wonder whether the patient abuse went unreported to CDPH because LHH was then under a two-year period during which it could lose its license completely if it received a second “Class AA” citation from CDPH. “Class AA” fines are levied if abuse or neglect were a proximate cause of a patient death. LHH had received a “Class AA” citation and a $100,000 fine on December 23, 2016. As early as November 2, 2017 — within the first year — one of the five patients who had been drugged tested positive for Methadone he hadn’t been prescribed. He was drugged eight additional times with different opioids through August 2018. He died on September 2, 2018 while the two-year rule was still in effect. It’s probable LHH may receive another “Class AA” citation for his death.
Pensions, Penalties Pending? During the same GAO hearing, Supervisor Aaron Peskin asked whether it is true the terms of separation of the six nursing assistants apparently fired by May 6 include “the fact they can no longer access pensions.” As of November 22, that question hasn’t been answered, but should the three LHH leaders forced out also lose access to their fat City pensions?
Peskin also asked whether the City Attorney could sue the perpetrators for civil monetary penalties to help recover the City’s fines. Should the City Attorney should also sue the three LHH leaders for their failure to report the abuse to the State?
Many key questions remain. The California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform asked on September 11: What’s being done to bring the perpetrators to justice? What’s the Police Department — specifically its Special Victims Unit — doing? Why hasn’t the State Attorney General’s Elder Abuse Unit filed charges against the perpetrators? And why hasn’t CDPH denounced the abuse and publicly released its findings?
After all, the drugging of patients with unprescribed opioids was first detected and reported to LHH’s Medical Director, Dr. Michael Mcshane, as early as February 26, 2018 by doctors at other hospitals where five patients had been transported with life-threatening conditions, including respiratory arrest. Mcshane replied the same day that an internal investigation was underway at LHH. Did Mcshane ever conclude that internal investigation?
Culture of Silence In his November Westside Observer article, former LHH physician, Dr. Derek Kerr — wrongfully terminated in June 2010 in retaliation for whistleblowing — asked what had happened with investigations by LHH’s physician-run Medical Quality Improvement Committee and its Performance Improvement and Patient Safety Committee, since both committees have offered only silence. That mirrors LHH’s pandemic culture of silence.
Personally, I wonder why the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office hasn’t announced criminal charges in this scandal?
Oversight? A key part of DPH’s leadership problems extends to Health Commissioners Dr. Edward Chow and Dr. David Sanchez who have served as Commissioners for 30 years and 22 years, respectively. Both men served repeatedly on the Commission’s LHH Joint Conference Committee that is charged, in part, with receiving LHH’s Quality Management reports.
Hirose, Gomez, Valencia, Chow, and Sanchez all had to have known the December 2016 “Class AA” citation’s two-year period hadn’t ended. Is that why the patient abuse wasn’t reported to the State?
On November 19, CDPH responded to a records request saying “CDPH cannot comment on an ongoing investigation.” Why has CDPH’s investigation dragged on from at least May 29 to November 19 without conclusion? Stay tuned.
A greatly expanded version of this article with significant details is available at stopLHHdownsize.com.
Monette-Shaw operates stopLHHdownsize.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Multiple Efficacy Problems Questioned
Invisible Successes Navigating the Homeless
by Patrick Monette-Shaw
When it comes to solving the City’s multiple homelessness-related problems, San Franciscans desperately want the Emperor’s New Clothes to cover backsides of City officials, not “invisible successes” waltzing around exposing their rear ends.
Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) director Jeff Kositsky blurted that the Homeless Outreach Team’s (HOT) successes are invisible during a September 18 Board of Supervisors hearing to extend the HOT contract for two years at a cost of $15 million. Despite concerns about the HOT program’s effectiveness and efficacy, the full Board approved the contract extension.
Kositsky’s invisible successes may extend to the efficacy of additional homelessness services provided by HSH, including the contentious Navigation Centers and the dubious Healthy Streets Operations Center (HSOC).
The SFPD data didn’t include Part II crimes that are charged as either felonies or misdemeanors, including assault-and-battery, sexual battery, vandalism, weapons offenses, and drug abuse violations, among other crimes.”
Many Problems With Navigation Centers
San Francisco’s population is estimated to now be 897,166 and our 2019 homeless count stands at 9,700, representing just 1% of City residents. The San Francisco Examiner reported October 5, 2019 Mayor London Breed is merely covering up the homeless by “pushing them from one neighborhood to another in a fruitless game of whack-a-mole.”
In March 2018 the Westside Observer published an article reporting on a mayoral debate before the June 2018 special election. Mayoral candidate Angela Alioto noted “Navigation Centers are also dead-ends, good for 120 days, then back out on the street.” Alioto was overly optimistic about 120-day length-of-stays.
In October 2019, the Westside Observer published a terrific article by Lou Barberini. He noted both Mayor Breed and Kositsky issued identical public statements, wrongly claiming: “In general, we know the data shows there is no link between the creation of a Navigation Center and an increase in crime in the surrounding area.”
Barberini reported Breed and Kositsky relied on data compiled from SFPD’s Crime Data Warehouse. Barberini noted SFPD’s data included only four Navigation Centers, and excluded crime data regarding a fifth Navigation Center at Civic Center, a known high-crime area.
The “in general” nonsense is worse than Barberini reported. SFPD also failed to analyze before-and-after crime data for a sixth Navigation Center at 1950 Mission in another high-crime area, which closed in 2018. Worse, data provided to Breed only included eight FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Part I crimes, typically charged as felonies.
The SFPD data didn’t include Part II crimes that are charged as either felonies or misdemeanors, including assault-and-battery, sexual battery, vandalism, weap ons offenses, and drug abuse violations, among other crimes.
You can’t arrive at “in general” guesswork by omitting analyzing two of the six Navigation Centers, and omit analyzing Part II crime data. Were Breed and Kositsky trying to fool Embarcadero-area neighborhoods?
In their rush to proclaim no correlation between placement of Navigation Centers and crime rates, Breed and Kositsky ignored obtaining data from another source: 9–1–1 call center data from five Navigation Centers.
Data 9–1–1 supplied revealed 786 initial calls for service were placed from five Navigation Centers during the periods they have been operating. Fully 456 (58%) of the calls were related to clients experiencing medical issues.
Significantly, 219 (28%) of the 786 calls were related to criminal activity, of which 51 (23.3% of 219) calls involved assault-and-battery, an FBI Part II offense. Fights, verbal threats against staff or other, and people with weapons categories accounted for 87 (40.2%) of the 219 calls. A whopping 71 (32.4% of 219) calls involved trespassers, something undoubtably of interest to Embarcadero neighbors. Fully 116 (53% of 219) calls were placed from the Civic Center Navigation Center.
The 9–1–1 call center data goes a long way towards disproving the false “in general” assertion there’s no correlation between placement of Navigation Centers and increased crime.
The expanded version of this article explores another source of data shedding some light on correlation to increased crime rates: Critical Incident Report forms each Navigation Center is required to submit to multiple Kositsky employees.
High Costs of Navigation Centers
The high costs associated with Navigation Centers isn’t fully known. It’s approaching at least $101 million, with costs expected to rise as one “temporary” Center closes and replacement temporary Centers are constructed.
The accompanying table shows costs involved with seven Navigation Centers.
• $38.8 million has been spent between capital construction expenses and costs to lease sites. How much more will it cost to open additional Navigation Centers in every supervisorial district, and replace temporary Centers closed? • The $61.5 million in costs to operate the Navigation Centers will climb significantly when Kositsky awards a contract to operate the Embarcadero Navigation Center.
Kositsky’s staff eventually coughed up an explanation of the initial time-limited Navigation Center lengths of stays. Homeward Bound clients being sent back to other jurisdictions receive one- to three-day stays. Homeless individuals referred by HSOC partner organizations can stay for up to seven days. Other homeless individuals referred by Kositsky’s outreach staff can stay for up to 30 days, and can receive a one-time 30-day extension in certain circumstances. Homeless people having a priority status in Coordinated Entry or HSH Outreach programs can stay until they gain housing in permanent supportive housing.
This is part and parcel of the whack-a-mole problem, and nowhere near close to Ms. Alioto’s optimism of 120-day stays. Breed’s focus on forcing the homeless into 30-day and 7-day Navigation Center stays is not a sustainable substitute for real solutions to house the homeless.
The HSOC was created and activated on January 16, 2018 to coordinate efforts among City departments.
During a June 13, 2019 Budget and Finance Committee hearing, chairperson Sandra Lee Fewer noted: “Police officers [at] the Richmond [District Police] Station are saying ‘Yeah, officers get pulled for HSOC, and they don’t replace them. We’re short officers at district stations.’ [Whenever] HSOC or anyone comes in and does a sweep, we’re just seeing more homelessness, moving it around. … [Pulling] officers from [District] stations and outlying stations is a problem.”
Fewer said a mouthful on June 13! She said a second mouthful on June 21 when she chaired another Budget and Finance Committee hearing focused on staffing of the HSOC, saying: “I’m hearing from my own [Richmond] District [police] officers that, yeah, they get pulled off [their regular job duties] to go to the HSOC.”
One source, speaking on condition of anonymity, reported that one District police station is so shorthanded a lieutenant recently instructed a group of officers during lineup before starting their shifts “not to arrest anyone,” because the Station didn’t have enough cops to manage the District if two officers got tied up processing an arrest. Is Supervisor Fewer aware this is how bad the situation has gotten?
Is this a new “get-out-of-jail-free” card: “We don’t have enough officers to process your arrest because they’re deployed to the HSOC, so we’re not going to arrest you”? That essentially turns the concept of “nobody is above the law” on its head.
The HSOC’s efficacy was also called into question June 21.
• Supervisor Fewer repeatedly asked, but was unable to obtain an answer, about the total number of FTE’s (full-time-equivalent employees) the HSOC has, because the Board of Supervisors hasn’t seen the HSOC’s entire budget.
• Fewer asked Kositsky what impact the HSOC is having on the homeless population and whether HSOC is just duplicating efforts by the HOT team. Kositsky lamely responded the HSOC is intended to coordinate efforts across multiple City departments. • Supervisor Hillary Ronen peppered Kositsky with questions, fretting: I’m not sure it makes sense to continue to add additional staff to [the HSOC], because I’m not sure it’s having the intended impact.”
Kositsky responded saying they were having a hard time because staff were being swapped in and out of the HSOC, so “we’re struggling to capture data, because we don’t have any full-time staff [at the HSOC].” Kositsky stated to Supervisor Norman Yee that “our budget request is primarily to improve data collection.” Homeless people need actual housing, not better data collection. • Fewer concluded the June 21 hearing noting: “We just gave a nod to $4 million worth of new FTE’s to HSOC but I haven’t seen a [single] metric on impact and what [HSOC] has been doing, how well it’s been operating, and how many [employees] there are in HSOC.” She added: “There is much more that we need to know about the efficacy” of the HSOC.
A City Controller’s report on the HSOC noted that of referrals submitted by SFPD homeless outreach officers to the HSOC, “At present, there is no means to track how many HSOC referrals result in linkage to care.” Another “invisible success”?
The Controller reported the HSOC was activated in January 2018 as a working group to implement a combination of collaborative efforts across multiple departments using existing staff, not as a budgeted sub-unit cost center in any City department.
That changed in the FY 19–20 budget process. During Budget and Finance Committee hearings in June, 11 new budgeted positions to support the HSOC costing $4 million were approved and added to departmental budgets starting on October 1, 2019. Supervisor Fewer, clearly exasperated at times, couldn’t get a straight answer about how many police officers are assigned to the HSOC. Police Chief Bill Scott eventually indicated 40 police officers are detailed to the HSOC.
Still unanswered is how much it costs (in dollars and employees) to temporarily divert 40 police officers to the HSOC.
No Bang for the Bucks Efficacy
Expenditures on invisible successes from questionable efficacy of the HOT Teams, the HSOC, and the Navigation Centers are probably not going to save the tourism industry, or bring the American Medical Association back. Nor will it help solve San Francisco’s homelessness problems in providing the homeless stable housing.
The expanded version of this article at stopLHHdownsize.com includes additional data and discussion, including data obtained from “Critical Incident Reports” that each Navigation Center is required to submit to Kositsky’s Department of Homelessness.
California cities have long been in a protracted war with the State over who should control housing decisions. Local control over housing and land-use policies were at risk, which the State sought to usurp.
Why would San Francisco seek to usurp hyperlocal (at the neighborhood level) input into local land-use policies? That’s essentially what Prop E — to re-zone public land (except parks) citywide in San Francisco — on the November ballot seeks to do. Prop E makes things worse, stripping out neighborhood input into local processes. It screams: “We don’t want neighborhood input.”
Sadly, two bills — AB-1487 (Assemblyman David Chiu) and AB-1486 (Assemblyman Phil Ting) — each contain provisions to allow privatization and appropriation of regional public lands. Both bills are sitting on Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk awaiting his signature.”
As the Westside Observerreported in July 2019, news surfaced June 19 that the Elections Department had received two dueling ballot measures to re-zone San Francisco’s public lands: One submitted by Mayor Breed, and the second submitted by four Supervisors (Supervisors Peskin, Fewer, Walton, and Haney).
Both proposed measures reeked of State Senator Scott Wiener’s various legislation designed to strip and override local planning rules by fiat, eliminating local control, like Wiener’s misguided SB-50 attempt to rezone the entire state. Sadly, two bills — AB-1487 (Assemblyman David Chiu) and AB-1486 (Assemblyman Phil Ting) — each contain provisions to allow privatization and appropriation of regional public lands. Both bills are sitting on Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk awaiting his signature.
Developers covet acquiring public land because it provides the private affordable housing industry opportunities for massive financial gain.
No public hearings were held prior to placing either of the dueling measures on the San Francisco ballot. After the Board of Supervisors blocked Breed’s separate Charter change ballot measure on July 11, she was forced to negotiate with the Board. Breed eventually backed down and withdrew her re-zoning Ordinance, leaving the re-zoning Ordinance proposed by four Supervisors on the ballot — now designated as Prop E — but without enough time to work out a compromise to the final ballot language before going to voters.
Clearly, San Francisco neighborhoods need better means for controlling land use, not just adding more housing, and each neighborhood should have input in controlling land-use decisions regarding public land in their own neighborhoods!
Prop. “E’s” Origins
Mayor Breed initially claimed to rationalize placing her citywide re-zoning measure on the ballot, only because it had taken over two years to re-zone the Francis Scott Key Annex on public property to allow building a teacher housing project. Breed ignored the fact that the project was delayed principally because design wasn’t yet completed and wasn’t awarded City funding before July 30, 2019. Breed’s pretext was laughable.
We debunked Breed’s baseless and untruthful claim in the Westside Observer. In July we reported that re-zoning — even if zoning changes take 6 to 12 months — occurs during Environmental Review while the developer works simultaneously on detailed design, permitting, and financing that can take up to 24 months. Eliminating re-zoning will not shorten the 24-month concurrent processes.
In our September article, even Supervisor Shamann Walton (D-10) noted on July 11, 2019 that the Annex should have been re-zoned “a couple of years ago.” Walton added, “We should not be giving away publicly owned land for market rate developments calling it affordable teacher housing.”
The Board promised trailing legislation would be written to reconcile differences between the two dueling measures. Now at the end of September, no trailing legislation has been presented during Board of Supervisors hearings. Adding to the insult that no public hearings were held beforehand, voters will also likely not see the trailing legislation before voting on Prop E.
Still unclear is whether developers will be given public land at no cost, whether they’ll purchase land outright at market-rates (income to the City), or if they’ll get long-term leases of the land. The ballot measure contains no discussion of whether developers will acquire public lands through fee simple sale, long-term ground lease, or prices below market-rate appraisal value. That issue wasn’t even included in the ballot measure, and a City Hall source thinks the issue won’t be clarified in the trailing legislation, either
It’s also unclear if the re-zoning measure will eliminate full CEQA review on each project, or whether the CEQA reviews will remain on a case-by-case basis. That likely also won’t be addressed in the trailing legislation, which may focus only on a peripheral issue involving 50% pass-through to tenants.
Prop E could deprive your ability and rights to improve projects through local jurisdiction appeal process hearings and may eliminate the Planning Commission’s discretionary review process to alter, change, or disapprove re-zoning of each parcel zoned “P – Public.”
Alphanumeric State Soup
Seven recent State legislative bills aim at eliminating local control over land-use and housing decisions. Two are discussed here briefly:
AB-1487, San Francisco Bay Area Housing Development Financing, Assemblymember David Chiu, Assembly District 17, co-authored by Senator Wiener. AB-1487 would allow for Bay Area regional ballot measures to raise money for affordable housing, perhaps through a parcel tax, gross receipts tax, employee head tax, commercial linkage fees, and bonds, or a combination of the sources.
Zelda Bronstein published a terrific article exploring AB-1487. I highly recommend reading her in-depth article. She noted pro-growth advocates view the bill as an opportunity to “facilitate the private appropriation and exploitation of the region’s public lands.”
Bronstein uncovered documents that show in early December 2018 the MTC and San Francisco Foundation helped fund a secret 42-person delegate, three-day junket to New York City, including Assemblyman Chiu and Chiu’s then-Chief of Staff, Judson True. The trip claimed to be “a learning session on New York’s housing funding and finance system.”
Bronstein reported that shortly after True returned from the New York jaunt, Mayor Breed announced on December 18 that she was appointing him as her Director of Housing Delivery. [True earned $108,084 in 2018 as Chiu’s Chief of staff; his salary working for Breed starting January 2019 jumped to $188,000 annually.] True’s job for Breed mainly involves streamlining the City’s permitting processes, which explains, in part, why Breed placed her competing measure to re-zone public lands citywide in one fell swoop to allow housing on public parcels.
After all, True helped craft the AB-1487 provision to allow privatization, appropriation, and exploitation of the region’s public lands.
Bronstein noted that acquiring public land presents key opportunities for developers to defer land acquisition costs, provides a possibility of receiving discounted land prices, and a chance to leverage the public land contribution or discount as a “local match” for competitive funding programs — all for financial gain — by acquiring land through fee simple sale, long-term ground lease, or prices below market-rate appraisal value.
Mayor Breed reportedly supports AB-1487. It was submitted to Governor Newsom for signature, which he will likely sign into law.
AB-1486, Surplus Land, Assemblymember Phil Ting, Assembly District 19, co-authored by Senator Nancy Skinner. AB-1486 is designed to ease privatization of public land, mirroring AB-1487’s goal of facilitating the private-sector appropriation of regional public land.
AB-1486 will require public agencies to offer their “surplus” land for development before leasing their property. It requires local agencies to offer the right of first refusal to affordable housing developers, schools, and parks before selling, leasing, or otherwise conveying their public land.
It was submitted to the Governor, which he may also sign into law.
Prop E Ain’t Necessary
Planning Department staffer AnMarie Rogers has noted that public land must be rezoned for residential uses, re-zoning to a density zone of RH-2 or greater. But Prop E doesn’t actually re-zone the Public land from “P – Public” to RH-2 or above; it simply expands Planning Code Section 211.1 by adding a new subparagraph “(i)” to expand principally-permitted uses in “P Zones” to include residential uses for 100% Affordable or Educator Housing projects. “P Zones” currently prohibit residential housing of any type.
Proponents assert Prop E “unlocks” and “repurposes” public “underutilized” lands to build affordable housing.
City Supervisors have already allowed placing housing on parcels zoned “Public” via case-by-case variances or creating Public Use Districts. Prop E ain’t necessary!
San Francisco’s 2006 voter guide included former City Attorney Louise Renne’s paid argument against Prop D to re-zone Laguna Honda Hospital, arguing it would permit private facilities on public lands. Calvin Welch’s argument against D worried it might allow private developers to build for-profit facilities on public land in public use districts.
Awarding public land so private developers can enhance profits is against the interests of the people.
Keep public lands in neighborhoods’ — people’s — hands. Vote “No” on Prop E.
The expanded version of this article available at stopLHHdownsize.com contains additional brief discussion of SB-728, SB-50, SB-167, SB-330, SB-592, AB-1487, and AB-1486, four of which Senator Wiener authored or co-authored.
Vote “No” on Prop A: It’s a Lottery in Bond Disguise
Who Affordable Housing Bond Leaves Behind
by Patrick Monette-Shaw
During the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee hearing on July 11, 2019 Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer repeatedly asked: “Who are we leaving behind?”
If the $600 million Affordable Housing Bond passes this November, we’ll climb to over $1 billion across three general obligation bonds for affordable housing, plus $659.6 million in estimated bond interest, with little middle-income housing to show for it.
The 1996 bond promised building 3,000 new apartments, and home ownership loans for 1,000 families. Only 1,812 units — 60% — were produced. Just 340 loans were issued. Given 1996 failures, voters wised up and rejected two affordable housing bonds, one in November 2002 and one in November 2004, totaling $450 million.
Since 2014, the city has produced 710 affordable middle-income units, 710.” That is just 14.2% of the 5,000 middle-income units goal Mayor Lee had set for MOHCD. What an admission of failure!”
Voters should reject the 2019 bond, too, based on performance of the 1996 and 2015 bonds.
November 2015 Bond Disaster
Consider obvious problems with the $310 million bond voters passed in November 2015:
• Bond Issuance Delay: Now almost four years later, 30.5% ($92.5 million) of the bonds haven’t been issued and won’t be until sometime after October 2019.
• Housing Construction Delay: As of April 2019, four of nine projects funded by the bond were in construction; five projects still being designed hadn’t begun.
• Teacher Housing Delay: A Westside Observer July 2019 article debunked Mayor Breed’s untruthful assertion that the delayed teacher housing at the Francis Scott Key Annex site hadn’t broken ground only because of a two-year delay in re-zoning the parcel to allow constructing housing on public land. Breed should know $29 million for the project won’t be allocated until the third bond tranche is issued after October 2019. The project remains in the design phase.
The “Unit Counts” Bouncing Ball
Given its focus only on the number of units produced, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) appears to have inflated its data, with the total unit count bouncing around over time. In June 2015, before being presented to voters, MOHCD claimed the bond would produce 1,435 units. In September 2017, MOHCD asserted 1,785 units would be produced. It’s probably more like only 1,003 units.
• Between the March 2019 loss of 53 senior housing units at 735 Davis, and loss of 56 planned senior units at 1296 Shotwell, 109 units for seniors were removed from bond spending. In December 2018, MOHCD removed 516 units previously included in the total counts because they were only for pre-development projects that shouldn’t have been counted. Pre-development expenses include “soft costs” like architectural, engineering, and legal fees, and other pre- and post-construction expenses.
• Inexplicably, MOHCD is still including in the total units count 445 Public Housing “units” — including 125 market-rate units — that are actually infrastructure projects for roads, sewers, etc. The 445 units are being constructed from other sources of funding, not from the bond. Infrastructure projects fund new streets, gas, sewer, and electricity, or new sidewalks, streetlights, and landscaping, not new or rehabilitated housing units.
• The 2015 bond allocates just $9.5 million (12%) for construction of 72 actual public housing units; the remaining $70.5 million is for pre-development or infrastructure expenses for the 445 units.
Removing the 445 infrastructure-only “units” essentially reduces the bond total unit count to just 1,003 units — 70%, almost one third less than the 1,435 promised. No wonder voters feel betrayed.
“Failure to Build” Middle-Income Housing
On July 11, 2019 MOHCD’s then-director, Kate Hartley, surprisingly blurted during her opening presentation to the Board of Supervisors: “We have failed in our efforts to build affordable middle-income housing.” She further claimed it costs MOHCD $100,000 more per unit to build middle-income housing because of the lack of federal and state funding sources. She then noted:
“If we’re putting $100,000 extra to put an apartment that is affordable to somebody at 100% of AMI, or 120% of AMI, then that means less affordable housing to other groups of people who are desperately in need, like people experiencing homelessness.”
There you have it: MOHCD isn’t interested in spending $100,000 extra for middle-income housing units (other than for educators), because it would negatively affect those who are homeless. Hartley was, in effect, pitting middle-income households against the homeless, holding middle-income households hostage.
The 2015 bond will produce just 121 middle-income rental units, 82 for teachers and only 39 for non-teachers.
November 2019 $600 Million Bond
With a straight face, MOHCD and the City claim the 2019 bond will produce or preserve 2,755 units — nearly triple the 1,003 units funded by the 2015 bond.
The 2019 bond has six sub-categories of projects identified, in part, by four focus groups convened by Board President Norman Yee and Mayor Breed. Concerns about the six categories are described in the expanded version of this article.
• $150 million is for Public Housing, $64 million (41.8%) of which is for infrastructure projects including seven new streets, calling into question whether constructing the actual housing will be from other funding sources
• $30 million is allocated to a misnamed Middle-Income Housing category, promising 90 units. It’s not middle-income housing. Instead, it’s a lottery program for the Down Payment Assistance Loan Program (DALP) and the Teacher Next Door (TND) program of forgivable loans, both for purchase and ownership of market-rate units. The category may fund middle-income construction, but only if cost-effective opportunities arise. The category doesn’t include funds for middle-income rental housing. The DALP loans are highly profitable, because the City collects a significant share of capital gains appreciation when properties are re-sold
• $150 million is earmarked for senior housing, claiming 500 new senior housing units will be created. Unfortunately, no meaningful gap analyses were used to measure housing preferences expressed by San Francisco’s senior populations for independent rental housing, vs. affordable board-and-care homes, vs. assisted living facilities, vs. skilled nursing facilities. This is important because over 1,659 San Francisco residents have been dumped into out-of-county facilities due to a severe shortage of such facilities in San Francisco.
$1 Billion Across Three Bonds
What housing are we getting for the $1 billion across the 1996, 2015, and 2019 bonds?
• Nearly 83% ($835 million) of the combined $1 billion were or are budgeted for public housing and low-income housing, including low-income housing for seniors and low-income residents in the Mission District
• Another 8.3% ($84.4 million) is, or was, budgeted for DALP and TND loans to purchase market-rate ownership units, reserved for households earning between 80% and 200% of AMI. Translating 200% of AMI in 2019 is $172,400 for a one-person household and up to $246,300 for a four-person household. It’s hard to find much solicitude or empathy for households earning 200% of AMI.
• Combined, fully 91% ($919 million) is allocated to low-income housing or loans to purchase market-rate housing ownership units.
• Just 9% ($91 million) of the combined $1 billion is allocated to other categories of housing, including 1% ($10 million) for 39 middle-income rental housing for non-teachers, 4.8% ($49 million) for educator-only housing, and 3% ($30 million) for other affordable housing preservation.
The bonds should be renamed “Low-Income and Market-Rate Housing Bonds” to reflect truth-in-advertising.
Middle-Income Households Left Behind
Hartley replied to Supervisor Fewer on July 11: “We have failed to build affordable middle-income housing.” That’s who is being left behind.
Hartley also testified that spending $100,000 more for a middle-income housing unit (other than for teachers) might deprive housing for the homeless. God forbid funding housing equity for middle-income households might impair housing for the homeless.
• Between 2007 and 2014 San Francisco produced a paltry 19% of the RHNA target for middle-income households earning between 80% and 120% of AMI — while producing 109% of the RHNA target for market-rate units for Above-Moderate income households earning over 120% of AMI.
Hartley also admitted on July 11: “Since 2014, the city has produced 710 affordable middle-income units, 710.” That is just 14.2% of the 5,000 middle-income units goal Mayor Lee had set for MOHCD.
What an admission of failure!
Given the multiple problems described in this article, Vote NO on Prop A in November.
The expanded version of this article at stopLHHdownsize.com includes additional detail about the 2015 Bond.
Mayor London Breed should be commended for advocating for more affordable housing development.
But she’s playing from State Senator Scott Wiener’s disastrous re-zoning playbook. Wiener’s failed SB-827 and SB-50 involved legislation that would have undermined a long list of local controls over housing development.
Similarly, Breed is trying to override neighborhood input into housing projects by trampling on San Francisco’s local land-use controls.
...when Breed placed the re-zoning measure on the ballot all by herself, she must have understood she would be depriving both members of the public and the Board of Supervisors of any public debate or discussion about the merits — or lack thereof — of her proposal.”
Observers wonder whether she and Wiener are pandering to developers expecting quid pro quo campaign contributions.
Breed is putting three ballot measures on the ballot this November — a $600 million general obligation bond; a Charter change measure to hand 100% affordable housing projects “by-right” status that will deprive neighborhoods of input during public appeals and discretionary reviews, and prevent challenges under CEQA; and an Ordinance to re-zone all public land (except Park and Recreation property) to permit housing where residential housing is currently prohibited.
All three measures have serious problems. This article focuses on the re-zoning measure, arguably the worst of the bunch.
Citywide Re-Zoning of Public Lands
On June 11, Breed staged a press conference about the City purchasing 1515 South Van Ness from Lennar Multifamily Properties. She stated: “We have to be aggressive when it comes to getting more housing in the City. … The other thing that I’m proposing is an Ordinance, which I don’t have to go to the Board of Supervisors [for], thank goodness.
Breed wanted to place the “aggressive” measure on the ballot all by herself so she could sidestep opposition from Supervisors and members of the public. Breed could have introduced the same Ordinance to the Supervisors, and the Board could have approved it without asking voters to weigh in. They’ve done so before.
Clearly, when Breed placed the re-zoning measure on the ballot all by herself, she must have understood she would be depriving both members of the public and the Board of Supervisors of any public debate or discussion about the merits — or lack thereof — of her proposal.
Teacher Housing Project Misinformation
During Breed’s June 11 press conference, she implied delays with the teacher housing project at 43rd & Irving are due solely to zoning issues. Breed claimed: “Everybody is wondering why Francis Scott Key is taking an additional two years. Because the property is not zoned for housing.”
That’s pure nonsense. The delay was caused by multiple factors, re-zoning the least of them.
The Chronicle reported April 24 “developers have yet to break ground, in part because they had to apply to rezone the parcel …” On June 21, 2019 the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) admitted the project is still in its “design phase.” Third graders know you can’t break ground and begin building a project still being designed.
The Chronicle mentioned nothing about the three-and-a-half-year delay during which MOHCD has stalled issuing the third and final $92.5 million portion, or tranche — fully 30% — of the $310 million 2015 Affordable Housing Bond that won’t be issued until the Fall of 2019. The delay issuing the bonds may have contributed to the project not having broken ground.
MOHCD issued a Request for Development Proposals for educator rental housing on October 3, 2017. Six months later, MOHCD awarded development rights for the project to MidPen Housing in April 2018. It then took MidPen another seven months before it submitted a Preliminary Project Assessment (PPA) to the Planning Department on November 19, 2018. It took another four months before MidPen submitted additional applications for the project to Planning in mid-March 2019, including an Environmental application (ENV), a Project Profile (PRJ), a Zoning Map Amendment (MAP), and a Planning Code Amendment (PCA).
MidPen submitted a General Plan Amendment (GPA) to Planning for the project on May 1, 2019 to create a Special Use District for the property. So, in reality, MidPen’s re-zoning application for the project has been before the Planning Department for under 60 days since May 2019, not the two-years Breed wildly claims to rationalize her citywide re-zoning of public lands.
On June 17, 2019 the Planning Department reported “No project-specific hearings or re-zoning hearings have taken place, nor have any been scheduled” by either Planning or the Board of Supervisors on MidPen’s various applications.
“Against the Interest of the People”
Against this backdrop, the San Francisco Examinerreported on June 15 that another housing project proposed for Balboa Reservoir is against the interests of the community.
Community members are concerned selling public land to private investors is a bad idea. Labor journalist and City College advocate Steve Zelzter said:
“You are turning public land over to private developers — it’s against the interest of the people of San Francisco. We should not trust developers to take care of our interests and needs.”
Dueling Ballot Measures
News surfaced June 19 that the Elections Department received two competing ballot measures for November dealing with re-zoning of public land: One ordinance submitted by Breed and a second ordinance by four Supervisors (Supervisors Peskin, Fewer, Walton, and Haney). A side-by-sidecomparison sheds some light on their differences.
The Affordable Teacher Housing Program component of Breed’s proposal requires no less than two-thirds of the housing units must be deed restricted for affordable units. The other third can apparently be market-rate units (on public land re-zoned). That’s essentially a giveaway to Senator Wiener’s and Breed’s developer friends and campaign donors, and amounts to awarding public lands to DIMBY’s (Developers Invading Municipal Back Yards).
Inexplicably, Breed’s measure prohibits building both the 100% Affordable Housing and Affordable Teacher Housing components in RH-1 and RH-1(D) zoned neighborhoods, portending no teacher housing would be built on the West Side.
Breed’s measure contains a poison pill titled “Conflicting Measures,” which says in the event her Ordinance and any other measure(s) regarding 100% affordable teacher housing and regulation of Public (P) zoned districts appear on the same ballot, then the other measure(s) shall “be deemed to be in conflict” and her Ordinance will prevail (provided she receives more affirmative votes), and the other measure(s) “shall be null and void in their entirety.”
According to a City Hall source who spoke on condition of anonymity, the Supervisors “only saw the Mayor’s proposal” the night before she submitted it to Elections. The source noted:
“I think the Supervisors were clear in their statements … that they would prefer to do this work legislatively at the Board. But given that the Mayor has refused to sit down with the Legislative branch about any of her [three ballot measure] proposals, this [dueling measure] creates space to negotiate and work toward a compromise.”
Breed prefers to work by fiat.
If a single compromise measure is reached between the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors, they have until August 2 to submit a consolidated measure to Elections.
The best course of action would be to withdraw both competing measures from the ballot, and continue the current practice of having the Board of Supervisors hear re-zoning applications on a project-by-project basis, allowing robust public debate on the merits and impacts of housing developments on affected neighborhoods.
Disconnect on Number of Parcels
The Chronicle’s April 24 article noted Breed’s re-zoning measure would affect “about” 500 parcels zoned for public use that currently prohibit building residential housing.
In June 2018, the Planning Department provided a list of 930 parcels zoned as “Public (P)” by various Assessor “Use Types.” Weirdly, the list didn’t include a category for “Recreation and Parks” properties. Well over two-thirds of the 930 Public parcels are not vacant land on which the City can build affordable housing.
Nine parcels are our public hospitals at SFGH and Laguna Honda Hospital, which represent just 0.98% of the 930 parcels that we should reserve for medical facilities, rather than housing, in the future.
If there is going to be a re-zoning carve-out exempting Rec and Park property, there should also be a carve-out exempting “P” parcels with an Assessor’s “Use Type” of hospitals, too.
Laguna Honda Hospital Land Grab
Healthcare advocates placed Prop. D on the June 2006 ballot to re-zone LHH’s campus for only elderly and disabled San Franciscans. Opponents launched a meritless and brutal disinformation campaign, falsely claiming developers were engaging in a land grab to hand over LHH’s campus to private developers. The ensuing hysteria sank Prop. D, which voters rejected.
Ironically, Breed now wants voters to approve re-zoning all public parcels (except parks) to hand over to private developers.
The Westside Observerreported in July 2018 Supervisor Yee began pitching a proposal to MOHCD in March 2018 to build a six-story building with up to 160 units of senior housing on LHH’s campus, with a full spectrum for those who need assisted living, skilled nursing, and independent living options.
MOHCD’s director, Kate Hartley, shot Yee down, flatly claiming LHH’s site “wasn’t big enough.” Hartley also noted LHH’s campus is a Public (P) parcel that prohibits residential housing.
Yee tried again in December 2018, proposing a significantly larger “Life Care Facility” for LHH’s campus. That proposal was shot down, too.
Obviously, if LHH’s site is “too small” it shouldn’t be re-zoned to build market-rate teacher housing on the property!
Secondarily, LHH has worked with community partners to develop hiking trails on LHH’s campus, such that its recreational land should also be exempt. The Laguna Honda Community Trail project sponsored by San Francisco Urban Riders has been improving and restoring over two miles of historic multi-use trails at LHH since 2017, funded in part by Supervisor Yee’s District 7 Participatory Budget.
Breed and the Board of Supervisors need to clean house streamlining other bureaucratic delays besides zoning. Neither of the competing ballot measures will solve the other problems.
Re-zoning should be handled legislatively. There’s no reason for voters to be weighing in on this when the Board currently has authority to do re-zoning on a parcel-by-parcel basis.
An expanded version of this article with additional discussion is available at stopLHHdownsize.com.
Can you exonerate the truly innocent in a legal system having binary verdicts available: “Guilty” vs. “Not Guilty”? Unfortunately, the answer may be “No.”
I was stuck by this reading Preet Bharara’s book “Doing Justice,” in which he noted “There’s no such thing as a verdict of innocence.”
Bharara was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 2009 to 2017, when President Trump fired him. In his book, Bharara recounts several stories of innocent people who had been wrongly accused and forever injured because of a failure to sufficiently reconsider evidence and facts at multiple points in the criminal justice system, leading to injustice against innocent people.
In the end, San Francisco taxpayers will end up forking over well upwards of $53 million because police officers hadn’t gotten it right. A cast of prosecutors, judges, defense lawyers, district attorneys, and jurors also didn’t get it right, because of their combined failure to sufficiently reconsider. And the failure to reconsider shattered these innocent men’s lives.”
He recounts the case of a man who spent 17 years in Sing Sing prison for a murder he hadn’t committed along with five other defendants who had also been falsely convicted in a second murder. In 2013, the convictions against all six were overturned; the defendants received $3.9 million from the state and New York City paid the wrongfully accused $40 million in 2016.
The Innocence Project reported in March 2016 that between 1989 and 2012, wrongful convictions cost California taxpayers at least $221 million, including $80 million for costs of incarceration, $68 million for lawsuit settlements, $68 million spent on trials and appeals, and $5 million in state compensation for wrongful imprisonment.
That included $12.6 million in San Francisco for 97 wrongful arrests and convictions, and legal settlements and fees during that 23-year period. There’s been additional wrongful convictions and settlements since then.
As the Westside Observer reported last March, San Francisco taxpayers have had to foot the $90.7 million bill for City Attorney time and expenses plus settlement awards in 359 prohibited personnel practice lawsuits brought by City employees involving on-the-job bullying, wrongful termination, harassment, discrimination, and other practices between 2007 and 2018.
Wrongful Arrests and Convictions in SF
On April 3 a records request was placed to the City Attorney’s Office seeking settlements awarded to plaintiffs, plus the City Attorney’s time and expenses involved in wrongful prosecution, wrongful conviction, and wrongful incarceration lawsuits concluded in San Francisco between January 1, 1990 and December 31, 2018.
The City Attorney’s Office (CAO) responded on April 29, providing an Excel file listing 366 lawsuits, but excluded one pivotal case, which makes it 367.
The data reveals taxpayers have had to pay $53.4 million, at minimum, in City Attorney time and expenses plus settlement awards for 367 lawsuits against the City for unlawful arrest, excessive force by law enforcement officers, and other causes.
The data shows:
• Of the 366 lawsuits fully settled, 227 (62%) involved unlawful arrest, and comprised $22.6 million (56.2%) of $40.3 million in total costs.
• Among the 366 lawsuits, another 98 cases (27%) involved excessive force by police officers and “Other” types of actions by the police, comprising an additional $15.9 million (40%) of total costs.
• Of the 366 lawsuits, plaintiffs received $15.7 million (39%) in settlements, while the City Attorney racked up $24.6 million in time and expenses, 61% of total costs.
• Adding in the known $13.1 million settlement in the Trulove lawsuit, total costs grows to at least $53.4 million, which will increase when the CAO finally settles Trulove’s case and releases the CAO’s time and expenses.
Had more of Bharara’s admonition to sufficiently reconsider been given before unlawfully arresting people and using excessive force, perhaps taxpayers would not have been on the hook for the $53.4 million (and growing) costs!
Four Cases: Wrongful Incarceration
Among the lawsuits filed in San Francisco, four men were innocent, but wrongfully incarcerated. Costs of their cases involve $30.8 million, and still growing.
• Caramad Conley: Conley was wrongfully convicted in 1994 and sentenced to serve two life-without-parole terms for a 1989 drive-by shooting that left two dead and injured 11 others.
Superior Court Judge Marla Miller ruled in December 2010 that Conley had been denied a fair trial, and was wrongly and unconstitutionally convicted, in part because material information was not provided to Conley’s lawyers. The lead police investigator in the case, Earl Sanders — who later became San Francisco’s Chief of Police briefly — knew a witness had committed perjury, but didn’t correct the false testimony. It wasn’t the only case in which Sanders withheld information from defense lawyers, a Brady offense.
Conley was released in January 2011 after serving 18 years in prison.
• John Tennison and Antoine Goff: Tennison then 17 and Goff then 19, were charged with first-degree murder of Roderick Shannon on August 19, 1989. Police claimed the pair of men had been identified by two teenage eyewitnesses, one girl 14 and another girl 11.
The Court ruled prosecutors and police had information that another person might have committed the crime but did not disclose it during the trial. Tennison and Goff had filed complaints alleging numerous Brady violations.
Prison Legal News reported that two SFPD investigators — Earl Sanders and Napoleon Hendrix — had coached the 11-year-old girl who witnessed the shooting and had suppressed a video-taped post-trial confession by Lovinsky Ricard, the actual killer. In 2002 Sanders and Hendrix were accused of misconduct and colluding with prosecutors in suppressing Ricard’s confession. That confession and other information was also never turned over to Tennison’s and Goff’s defense lawyers.
U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken overturned Tennison’s conviction on August 26, 2003.
• Jamal Trulove: In 2010, Trulove was convicted of murdering his friend in 2007 at a Sunnydale housing project. A state appeals court overturned his conviction in 2014. A second jury acquitted him of murder at retrial in 2015, finding that the police had, essentially, framed him.
In 2016, Trulove sued four named SF police officers involved. “A federal jury determined that the two lead homicide inspectors on the case, Maureen D’Amico and Michael Johnson, not only made up evidence against Trulove but withheld evidence that would have helped him.”
CBS News reports Trulove accepted a $13.1 million settlement in exchange for the City dropping its appeal of the $14.5 million in damages a federal jury in Oakland had awarded him last year.
Of note, both the Conley and Tennison/Goff cases involved the same police investigators, Napoleon Hendrix (who has since died) and Earl Sanders, who retired in 2003. The Courts overturned the murder verdicts in both criminal lawsuits because investigators had illegally withheld exculpatory evidence.
In the Tennision and Goff lawsuit, the U.S. District court ruled that the prosecutor had a duty to ensure Brady evidence that came to light after conviction was provided to the defendants. That apparently didn’t happen.
The Brady doctrine is a pre-trial discovery rule based on the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case, Brady v. Maryland. The Supreme Court ruled prosecutors are required to disclose any information and exculpatory evidence favorable to the defense, in part because Brady violations send potentially innocent people to prison.
When prosecutors withhold Brady violations they engage in the worst kind of prosecutorial misconduct and violate prosecutorial ethics.
Failure to Reconsider
After Tennison and Goff eventually filed a federal lawsuit in April 2004, it took nearly another six years before they received their settlement awards in July 2010 — 19 years after their belated-justice nightmare began. Strangely, the City Attorney’s Office claims the Tennison and Goff lawsuit was finally “settled” on August 21, 2014 — four years later!
Bharara reminds us people’s understanding of the truth — whether about the correctness of a fact, or the guilt of a person — should never be unalterable. That includes sufficiently reconsidering at every step during an investigation. We need to put ourselves in Conley’s, Tennison’s, Goff’s, and Trulove’s shoes: Combined, they spent a half century wrongly incarcerated for crimes they didn’t commit.
In the end, San Francisco taxpayers will end up forking over well upwards of $53 million because police officers hadn’t gotten it right. A cast of prosecutors, judges, defense lawyers, district attorneys, and jurors also didn’t get it right, because of their combined failure to sufficiently reconsider. And the failure to reconsider shattered these innocent men’s lives.
An expanded version of this article is available on the author’s web site at stopLHHdownsize.com.
Monette-Shaw is a columnist for the Westside Observer newspaper, and a member of the California First Amendment Coalition (FAC) and the ACLU. Contact him at email@example.com.
2015 Affordable Housing Bond Update
Affordable Housing That Wasn’t
by Patrick Monette-Shaw
In November 2015 voters approved a $310 million Affordable Housing Bond. The Westside Observer has reported on the bond several times. Now’s a good time for another review, because the mayor is proposing a second affordable housing bond, even before the first one is finished.
Mayor Breed wants to increase a new $300 million affordable housing bond planned for the November 2019 ballot by $200 million—to $500 million. Supervisor Matt Haney wants a $1 billion bond.
The Supervisors have until mid-July to approve a bond measure for the ballot.
The November 2015 ballots to approve the bond explicitly stated the question being put before voters was whether the bond would include a middle-income rental program. The legal text of the Affordable Housing Bond clearly stated in the November 2015 voter guide a portion of the bond would be used to create “Middle-Income Rental Housing.”
Problems With Bond Oversight
The slow pace of the 2015 housing bonds is troublesome. The Controller’s Office confirmed that as of April 2019 just $217.3 million — 70% — of the $310 million bond has been issued so far. The first tranche was issued on November 1, 2016 for $75.1 million; the second tranche was issued on May 23, 2018 for $142.1 million, two-and-a-half years after voter approval.
MOHCD claims the remaining third tranche — for $92.5 million, representing 30% — will be issued in the Fall of 2019, four years after voters approved the bond in 2015. Why is it taking so long?
The Citizen’s General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee (CGOBOC) oversees spending of general obligation bonds. Currently $4 billion across 12 bonds.
CGOBOC has done a terrible job so far holding the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) accountable for the bond spending. Successive updates from MOHCD keep shifting planned bond uses, and CGOBOC has done little to reign in MOHCD. Why does planned spending keep shifting so often?
When CGOBOC held its first hearing on the bond in January 2016 it had eight members, five are no longer there. Because the 2015 affordable housing bond is far from over, CGOBOC’s institutional knowledge of bond spending will be severely compromised when the three remaining members are termed out.
Lack of Metrics to Evaluate Bond Spending
When CGOBOC held its first hearing on the bond, several CGOBOC members expressed the need to develop “metrics” to assess bond spending and whether the right allocation decisions had been made.
CGOBOC members in January 2016 suggested several metrics, including the dollar amount allocated per project, the Area Median Income (AMI) targets, number of new units constructed vs. number of existing housing units preserved, household size, demographics targeted (e.g., populations such as the homeless, seniors, veterans, teachers, families, etc.), and the Supervisorial districts in which projects are actually developed.
It now appears MOHCD’s only metric is the number of units produced. To date, MOHCD hasn’t provided CGOBOC members with a breakout on the number of new housing units produced versus existing units rehabilitated or preserved.
Changes in Bond Spending
In 2014 and 2015, prior to placing the housing bond on the November 2015 ballot, successive documents from the Mayor’s office included several proposed programs that were subsequently eliminated, including a $17 million Middle-Income Rental Housing program, and a $25 million Expiring Regulations Preservation category to preserve existing rental units. The two sub-categories were introduced to CGOBOC in January 2016 but were eliminated by July 2016.
The number of units planned in each of four main housing categories have bounced all over the place in successive reports to CGOBOC shown in the table. Didn’t CGOBOC members notice during the past three-and-a-half years the drastic changes in planned bond uses?
Middle-Income Housing Cuts
Despite Mayor Lee’s observation in Time magazine in January 2014 that everybody assumed the middle-class were moving out of San Francisco, uses of the 2015 bond to help middle-income residents have shrank in the number of planned units.
The Middle-Income Housing category planned for 519 units has now dropped to 275 units, a 47% percent change decline from June 2015 projections. And there’s been a massive shift from rental units to ownership units.
There are no state or federal funding sources for middle-income housing. That’s why the middle-income housing category was added to the bond. So, SF took the lead, dedicating $80 million as a local source subsidy for middle-income housing.
The bond included 235 rental units in the Middle Income Housing main category — 85 in the Middle-Income Rental Program and 150 in the Expiring Regulations Preservation subcategories. The Expiring Regulations Preservation was intended to protect existing units with affordable rents from expiring and becoming market-rate units, displacing tenants.
The remaining 284 units — 34 down-payment assistance (DALP) loans and 250 Teacher Next Door loans — were for middle-income ownership purchases, not rentals. Their drop to just 172 loans in 2018 presents a 39.4% change decline.
Although the 235 rental units were eliminated by July 2016, the main category still contains 103 rental units, 82 of which are reserved for teachers. Nevertheless, it represents a 56.2% change decline in the number of middle-income rental units.
How has the Middle-Income Rental Program Vanished?
The November 2015 ballots to approve the bond explicitly stated the question being put before voters was whether the bond would include a middle-income rental program. The legal text of the Affordable Housing Bond clearly stated in the November 2015 voter guide a portion of the bond would be used to create “Middle-Income Rental Housing.”
CGOBOC members should have known the legal text and question posed to voters mandated the Middle-Income Rental program. And they should have noticed that the Middle-Income Rental program presented to it in January 2016 when they assumed oversight of bond spending was suddenly eliminated seven months later in July 2016. But CGOBOC’s meeting minutes never reported any discussion about why the category vanished.
Given the temporal proximity in time, some wondered whether MOHCD may have decided that after Prop C passed in June 2016 that MOHCD could remove the Middle-Income Rental program from the Affordable Housing Bond a month later. It’s ludicrous. The inclusionary aspects of Prop C didn’t solve or achieve affordable rents designed to be addressed through the Middle-Income Rental program.
When asked to comment about whether Prop C’s passage had contributed to MOHCD’s decision to eliminate the Middle-Income Rental program, MOHCD’s director Kate Hartley indicated on April 23, 2019 “We did not conclude that Proposition C’s tiered income eligibility approach solved the middle-income housing need.”
Dialing for Middle-Income Dollars
Successive MOHCD reports to CGOBOC have documented drastic shifts in spending within the Middle-Income Housing category budget.
In June 2015 and January 2016, MOHCD reported to CGOBOC that between the DALP and Teacher Next Door loan ownership programs, a combined $15 million would comprise about 26% of the Middle-Income Housing budget. The Middle-Income Rental and Expiring Regulations Preservation categories — both rental programs — were expected to be awarded a combined $42 million, comprising 74% of the Middle-Income budget.
Between January 2016 and December 2018, the DALP budget for middle-income ownership units jumped by $24.4 million — from $10 to $34.4 million. By December 2018, the DALP and Teacher Next Door loan ownership programs totaled $39.4 million between the two ownership purchase programs, representing 49% of the $80 million Middle-Income Housing budget, a 23% increase.
By December 2018, the remaining $39 million in the Middle-Income category that may be for rental projects represented 49% of the budget, a drop from 74%.
City Hall needs to abandon the belief that the middle-class are fleeing the City, and needs to dedicate more local funding for middle-class rental housing production.
An expanded version of this article with additional discussion, is available at stopLHHdownsize.com.
The Westside Observer has received an anonymous tip: A San Francisco Police Department incident report, a public record, has come to light indicating that grand theft embezzlement of the Forest Hill Association was reported to the Taraval Police Station on September 24, 2018 after a forensic accountant examined the Association’s billing records.
The case involved Forest Hill Association employee Janette Najar, named in the incident report as a being a potential suspect in embezzlement of over $50,000 from the Association. She had been employed for three years but was quickly terminated when the suspected embezzlement was discovered.
Najar’s job involved booking parties and events in the Association’s Forest Hill Clubhouse community facility and depositing the rental income in the Association’s bank account. Discrepancies between amounts billed to clients renting the Clubhouse, and amounts deposited to the Association’s bank account raised concerns”
Najar’s job involved booking parties and events in the Association’s Forest Hill Clubhouse community facility and depositing the rental income in the Association’s bank account. Discrepancies between amounts billed to clients renting the Clubhouse, and amounts deposited to the Association’s bank account raised concerns among officers of the Association, who filed the police report at Taraval Station.
The incident report noted that Police Officer James Barber, who took the police report, called SFPD’s Financial Crimes Bureau and left a phone message to report the incident. Unfortunately, it is thought PD’s Financial Crimes unit has been reduced to just one employee who may have insufficient resources to pursue the incident. The Association is clearly very interested in reimbursement of its missing funds.
“As a Forest Hills resident, I am shocked and appalled learning about this police report,” says Joe Bravo. “I urge and request that this be investigated to get to the truth; no time should be wasted completing an investigation,” he added.
It’s not known if the incident has been referred to the District Attorney’s Office for restitution. Police Chief Bill Scott; former Police Chief Greg Suhr; and neighborhood officials such as Supervisor Norman Yee, former Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White, and the Mayor’s Chief of Staff Sean Elsbernd should be encouraged to follow up on this case.
Anyone having knowledge of Ms. Najar’s potentially improper activities should contact SFPD’s Financial Crimes Unit at (415) 553-1521, and Taraval Police Station Captain Nicholas Rainsford at (415) 759-3100.
Mayor Breed churned one conflict-of-interest-laden incumbent, Wendy Paskin-Jordan, for another conflict-of-interest replacement, Scott R. Heldfond, for appointment to the San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System (SFERS) board of trustees?
During the Board of Supervisors March 18 Rules Committee hearing to consider Mayor Breed’s appointment of Heldfond to SFERS, new information came to light. Rules Committee chairperson Supervisor Hillary Ronen noted an elephant in the room: that Paskin-Jordan asserted she was told by Breed that if Wendy met with and had support from the Board of Supervisors, Breed would re-appoint her to SFERS’ board. Instead, the Mayor nominated Heldfond to replace her.
Let’s take this story in reverse cuisine order: Main course Heldfond, followed by appetizer Paskin-Jordan.
Main Course: Heldfond’s Troubled History
Breed had already notified the Board of Supervisors on February 22 she had appointed Heldfond to the SFERS “seat formerly held by Wendy Paskin-Jordan.” Breed’s Chief of Staff, Sean Elsbernd, may have had his thumb on the scale getting Heldfond appointed.
Heldfond’s LinkedIn profile summarizes his background and employment with Aon PLC (Aon Risk Services) as a senior vice president, and as a director of Mendocino Brewing and UBICS, the latter two of which are subsidiaries of Vijay Mallya’s UB Group in India. [Editor: For discussion of Heldfond’s 14-year affiliation with Mallya, see Lou Barberini’s article in this issue of the Observer.]
Heldfond has served on two San Francisco city commissions, first on the Health Service System (HSS) Commission that oversees and manages health benefits for city employees, retirees, and their dependents. He currently sits on the Civil Service Commission.
During its March 18 hearing, the Rules Committee ignored a much larger elephant in the room: Heldfond’s real, and a second perceived, conflict of interest.
When the full Board of Supervisors heard the Rules Committee’s recommendation on March 19, they voted 9-to-2 to approve Heldfond. Only Supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer and Board president Norman Yee voted against Heldfond’s confirmation.
Heldfond’s Service on Health Service System Board
Heldfond served for a decade-and-a-half between 1995 and 2010 on the HSS Commission; he resigned from that Commission on September 1, 2011. His resignation letter claimed he was resigning due to a perceived conflict of interest.
In early 2011, the City Controller issued a RFP for actuarial consulting work for HSS. Aon Hewitt’s San Francisco office submitted a bid proposal on May 12, 2011.
The two-highest bidders were invited to oral interviews. The panel interviewers awarded Aon Hewitt the highest oral score. Jay Huish, SFERS’ then-Deputy Director, was one of the two panelists; Huish was clearly involved in awarding Aon the HSS contract.
Then-Supervisor Sean Elsbernd served simultaneously in 2011 as the Board of Supervisors appointee on both SFERS’ and HSS’ board of directors. Elsbernd had advocated aggressively SFERS hire Huish. Shortly after Aon was awarded HSS’ actuarial consulting contract in July 2011, Huish became SFERS’ Executive Director.
The City Controller reported on March 18, 2019 the total amount of “completed payments” as of March 10, 2019 to Aon Hewitt for the HSS contract totaled over $5 million and had run for a seven-year period through June 30, 2018, not the planned three-year period. Aon benefitted handsomely.
Heldfond’s resignation letter claimed it was just a coincidence he was an employee of a separate division of Aon. He noted “in fact, I had never met the [AON] team that won the business for consulting with HSS.” As an Aon senior vice president, how could he not have met the San Francisco Aon Hewitt team that won the contract with the Commission he served on?
And how could Heldfond not have known Aon would earn substantial fees from his real or perceived conflict of interest?
A Second Conflict of Interest “Coincidence”?
The three Rules Committee members also ignored on March 18, 2019 another larger elephant in the room: Heldfond’s potential second real, or perceived, conflict of interest involving, this time, the Retirement Fund — not HSS.
In January 2016 SFERS issued an RFP to perform investment consulting services for SFERS’ Deferred Compensation Plan. SFERS’ Deferred Comp Committee April 27, 2016 meeting minutes reported seven bid responses were received, including one bid in March 2016 from Aon Hewitt’s Chicago office for SFERS’ DC Plan RFP.
The Chicago office may be a separate location, but it appears to be a sister affiliation with Aon Hewitt’s San Francisco office, the latter of which was awarded the HSS actuarial consulting contract in 2011.
Although Aon Hewitt wasn’t selected for SFERS’ Deferred Comp Plan RFP, the “coincidence” of another Aon Hewitt entity bidding on an investment advisor contract — while Aon’s Hewitt’s actuarial services contract with HSS was still in effect until June 30, 2018 — is troubling.
To the extent various Aon affiliates continue to bid on contracts with SFERS and HSS, doesn’t that pose the same potential conflicts of interest for Mr. Heldfond?
L’Affaire Aon and Hedge Funds
On February 10, 2017 news broke in a Fortune.com article insurance broker Aon PLC agreed to sell its employee benefits outsourcing business to private equity firm Blackstone Group LP for up to $4.8 billion. Aon’s employee outsourcing benefits appears to have been handled by the outsourcing department of Aon Hewitt that was acquired by Blackstone and rebranded as “Alight Solutions.” As a venture capitalist and Aon senior vice president, did Heldfond not know about the sale?
Blackstone, readers may remember, is the first hedge-fund manager hired by SFERS’ board to invest its first $500,000 when it decided to wade into risky hedge fund investments. So now we have a SFERS hedge-fund manager that is also investing in cutting healthcare benefit costs.
During opening comments before the Rules Committee considering his appointment to SFERS Board on March 18, Heldfond asserted he had initiated the San Francisco–Bangalore Sister City Initiative.
He continues to serve as a Board member on the Bangalore Sister City Initiative. Heldfond is joined by other directors and by other Honorary and Emeritus Board members, including U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Governor Gavin Newsom, the late Mayor Ed Lee, former Mayor Frank Jordan, and by Mayor London Breed as the current Honorary Chairperson.
Back in March 2015, the Westside Observer published my article on Mayor Ed Lee’s troubling reappointment of Wendy Paskin-Jordan to SFERS’ board. The article noted her many conflicts of interest and fitness to serve as a trustee of the pension fund.
Lee had to have known two conflict-of-interest complaints against Paskin-Jordan had been filed with the City’s Ethics Commission. Luckily, the Board of Supervisors were aware of the two Ethics complaints filed in 2014. Three mainstream media outlets had contemporaneously raised concerns about Paskin-Jordan’s reappointment.
At the time, observers believed Paskin-Jordan’s investments in GMO’s Quality Fund represented, at minimum, a perceived conflict of interest. SFERS’ executive director Jay Huish claimed to the Ethics Commission that she had been given the right to invest in the GMO fund at a lower level of investing before she was appointed to SFERS’ board and it was, therefore, permissible. She didn’t personally invest in GMO until August 30, 2011 after she had already been on the pension board for over a year.
Indeed, she failed to report her investment in the GMO Quality Fund in April 2012 and only got around to reporting it in March 2013, fully 16 to 19 months after acquiring it in August 2011. She should have reported it the same year she acquired it.
As reported in 2015, Mayor Lee noted Paskin-Jordan had served on Barclays Global Investors’ (BGI) board of directors until it was acquired by BlackRock (not to be confused with Blackstone), and she served as a Trustee of various funds of BlackRock Funds. Given SFERS’ involvement with BGI, her affiliation as a Trustee of various BGI money market funds should have been thoroughly investigated — which the Board of Supervisors completely failed to do. BGI was one of SFERS’ currency overlay managers that contributed to a $60+ million loss to SFERS over eight years.
Despite all of the ethical concerns raised regarding her reappointment, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Paskin-Jordan’s reappointment on January 7, 2015 and did so without probing into any of her conflicts of interest.
Paskin-Jordan’s critics in 2015 accused her of having delayed for almost two years SFERS’ divestment from its fossil fuel investments after the Board of Supervisors called for that divestment in 2013. She stalled, saying fossil fuel divestment needed to be done on a “thoughtful, prudent financial” basis (the same gibberish Heldfond regurgitated on March 18). Following her re-appointment, she continued to stall the SFERS fossil fuels divestment, and some observers worried her investments in Jeremy Grantham’s GMO Quality Fund may have slowed SFERS down.
Follow the Money
Beneficiaries of the Employees’ Retirement System and Health Service System — active city employees, retirees, and other beneficiaries — deserve better than having to put up with conflict-of-interest-laden appointees churned to these Boards. Can’t the mayor find anyone without clear conflicts of interest? This should embarrass Breed.
Now that Elsbernd has gotten his way several times, beneficiaries of the Retirement System should probably keep a close eye on now SFERS Trustee Heldfond to monitor how he affects the SFERS hedge fund investments, and SFERS Deferred Comp plan’s infatuation with investing in insurance annuities to the probable detriment of employees trying to save for their eventual retirements, particularly considering the incestuous nature of politics and money in San Francisco.
The regime may churn, but conflicts of interest remain. As the saying goes, follow the money. Follow the politics. And follow the potential incestuous conflicts of interest.
An expanded version of this article with additional discussion, is available on the author’s web site at stopLHHdownsize.com.
It’s been observed elsewhere that keeping a bully on staff is the equivalent of burning a big pile of money in the back of your building.
By extension, keeping bullies employed in San Francisco City government is like throwing $90.7 million — and growing — of taxpayer funds down the toilet. Will there ever be a taxpayer revolt in San Francisco?
Clearly, the costs of settlements awarded and the costs of City Attorney time and expenses involved in fighting lawsuits filed by City employees that have now reached $90.7 million is just the tip of the iceberg in the total costs of workplace bullying. It’s nearly impossible to estimate the financial costs associated with employees’ lost productivity, lower morale, increased absenteeism, and costs associated with employee turnover, recruitment, and attrition.
City managers and our elected officials cannot afford to ignore the high cost of bullying, nor should taxpayers. After all, in the 11-year period between January 1, 2007 and December 14, 2018 there have been at least 461 lawsuits filed by City employees for violations of various prohibited personnel practices.
… by requiring City employee-defendants found guilty of harassment in a court of law to pay settlement costs out of their own pockets. It would have been the surest and fastest way to stop the harassment if perps knew they’d have to pay the settlements themselves.”
The term “prohibited personnel practices” refers to behavior banned by existing federal, state, and local laws as unlawful — unwanted behavior like sexual harassment and sexual discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, racial discrimination and harassment, age discrimination, disability discrimination, wrongful termination, and other illegal practices.
This On-Going Series of Articles
Back on April 16, 2013 the San Francisco Examiner carried an article by Chris Roberts reporting $11 million had been awarded to City employees in 103 prohibited personnel practice lawsuits. The $11 million was subsequently confirmed to be even higher, at a minimum of at least $12.1 million.
In May 2013, the Westside Observer published my initial article, “High Costs of City Attorney’s Advice” on the costs of retaliation and bullying of City employees.
Following up to obtain fuller data prior to issuing my first update in July 2016, additional data revealed the $12.1 million had grown to $18.6 million, by finally adding in the City Attorney’s time and expenses trying to stop the lawsuits.
Three years later I published a first update in July 2016, reporting that Dr. Derek Kerr had uncovered the underlying data through a public records request to the City Attorney in October 2012, of which I performed a secondary data analysis.
By the time of my first update (July 2016), the City’s costs had grown to $41.6 million through May 29, 2016. By the second update (April 2017), total costs grew again to $58.2 million through March 8, 2017. By the third update (April 2018), costs had risen to $70 million through December 22, 2017. In this fifth article — the fourth update — costs climbed by another $20.7 million in the one-year period between December 23, 2017 and December 14, 2018 to a total of $90.7 million since 2007 — a whopping 649.6 percent change increase since the $12.1 million was reported in May 2013.
Current Update of Lawsuits
After placing a records request on December 13, 2018 to learn how many lawsuits may have been settled in the one-year period between December 23, 2017 and December 14, 2018, the City Attorney’s Office took 41 calendar days in which to respond with corrected information on February 4, after initially providing clearly flawed and incorrect data on December 31, 2018.
It was shocking learning on February 4 an additional 38 lawsuits had been concluded at an increased cost of $20.7 million in the one-year period over the $70 million Westside Observer last reported in March 2018. That’s the largest one-year increase since first beginning writing this series of articles.
A good chunk of the $20.7 million one-year increase involved a class-action lawsuit filed by Muni drivers against the SFMTA on July 16, 2012 alleging violations of Compensation law, in which the drivers were awarded an $8 million settlement. But that doesn’t include the lawsuit’s total costs.
San Francisco Examiner reporter Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez initially reported on December 25, 2016 that the drivers were likely to earn that award because the MTA had failed to properly pay drivers.
Although the MTA Board approved the $8 million settlement on January 3, 2017, the CAO took its sweet time and didn’t officially close the drivers’ lawsuit until February 28, 2018. More shockingly, when the CAO finally reported the closure of the lawsuit, the CAO revealed it had its spent $746,970 in City Attorney time and an additional $1,884,989 in City Attorney expenses for a total of $2.6 million in addition to the $8 million settlement approved by MTA’s Board.
This single lawsuit cost the City and its taxpayers a total of $10.6 million — half of the $20.7 million one-year increase — because MUNI felt it didn’t need to follow California’s Labor Code!
The Top-Seven Lawsuit Categories
The City Attorney’s Office has 32 separate categories of prohibited personnel practices. As in past year, wrongful termination and racial discrimination lawsuits filed by City employees against the City have accounted for the lion’s share of settlements awards and CAO time and expenses.
Table below illustrates, in part:
• Of the $90.7 million in total costs since January 2007, the 283 concluded lawsuits in the top-seven categories accounted for $77.7 million (85.6%) of the total costs.
• The 57 concluded wrongful termination lawsuits accounted for almost one-quarter of the $90.7 million in total costs, despite representing only 15.9% of the total 359 lawsuits concluded.
• The City spent a staggering $11.1 million trying to stop the 57 concluded wrongful termination lawsuits.
• The 35 sexual discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits accounted for 9.7% of the total 359 lawsuits, but accounted for $11 million (12.1%) of total costs.
Other oddities in the new one-year data include:
• In the first 103 lawsuits Roberts first reported in the Examiner in 2013, we later learned that the highest amount of CAO litigation costs for a single lawsuit had involved just $529,597. Now the City Attorney apparently feels emboldened to run up costs of litigation in the MUNI drivers’ single lawsuit to $2.6 million. Can anybody say “over-litigation”?
• Fully 18 of the new 38 lawsuits concluded during the one-year period between December 23, 2017 and December 14, 2018 received no settlement awards at all, but the CAO ran up $5.4 million in time and expenses in those 18 lawsuits, 59.8% of the total $8.9 million in CAO time and expenses for all 38 cases.
• On February 4, 2019 the CAO responded to a records request about a previously-reported pending case. Amazingly, the CAO admitted that their “final closing processes” are delayed, and often it has to keep a matter open even though the case is otherwise concluded. The CAO admitted that sometimes it fails to report settlement awards and costs of litigation in some matters when a case is finally closed between records requests.
It is not known how many times in the past this has occurred, or whether the CAO has failed to provide accurate data in the past for lawsuits that are formally closed after a records request for a particular reporting period is provided due to its internal processes for coding the dates individual cases are finally closed. It’s not known how many cases have notbeen included in the running count of 359 concluded lawsuits, and whether the $90.7 million is actually under-reported.
In addition to the oddities noted, there are other problems with the data.
Misclassification of Categories Obfuscates Data
As noted in previous articles in this series, we may never know exactly how many wrongful termination or racial discrimination lawsuits cases have actually been brought by San Francisco city employees, because of the way they are classified by the City Attorney’s Office, which appears to use a different nomenclature to categorize cases than Courts do.
The CAO reclassified a “6035 Racial Discrimination” lawsuit as a “6005 First Amendment Violation” case.
The CAO classified two “6010 Wrongful Discharge” lawsuits as “6080 Disability Discrimination” cases.
• The CAO classified another “6010 Wrongful Discharge” lawsuit as a “6070 General Harassment” case. Another “Wrongful Termination” lawsuit was reclassified as a “6099 Other-Actions” case.
• A lawsuit alleging sex-based harassment by a lesbian supervisor (which would make it a “6060 Sexual Orientation Harassment”) case was classified by the CAO as a “6070 General Harassment” case.
• The CAO classified a “6080 Disability Discrimination” lawsuit as a “9113 Miscellaneous” case.
• The CAO classified a“6050 Sexual Harassment” lawsuit as a “6030 Sexual Discrimination” case.
• The CAO classified a “6055 Racial Harassment” lawsuit as a “6050 Sexual Harassment” case.
Could the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office deliberately be misclassifying various lawsuits into other categories to fudge the actual number of prohibited personnel lawsuits in each category?
San Francisco Taxpayers’ Lost Opportunity
The Board of Supervisors just created a lost opportunity for San Francisco taxpayers.
On December 13, 2018 both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed legislation unanimously in both chambers to reform how sexual harassment lawsuits are handled on Capitol Hill — including holding lawmakers liable for paying for sexual harassment and retaliation settlements out of their own pockets, rather than having U.S. taxpayers foot the bill.
During hearings on amending the City’s existing sexual harassment prevention training Ordinance to cover all forms of harassment against City employees, I urged the Board of Sups to pass legislation similar to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives by requiring City employee-defendants found guilty of harassment in a court of law to pay settlement costs out of their own pockets. It would have been the surest and fastest way to stop the harassment if perps knew they’d have to pay the settlements themselves. Their misbehavior would stop almost instantly.
The Board of Supervisors turned a cold shoulder and failed to consider and introduce amendments requiring defendants to pay settlements themselves.
As Chris Roberts noted in his April 2013 Examiner article, statewide legislation to make workplace bullying illegal had no sponsors, so the legislation was never introduced. And it hasn’t been introduced since 2013. Just ask Melania Trump how her “Be Best” campaign is going to battle on-line bullying of children. Probably not much better.
Burning this $90.7 million and counting in taxpayer funds in San Franciscans back yards is unconscionable. How long will the problem continue to be ignored at City Hall?
An expanded version of this article with additional discussion, is available on the author’s web site at stopLHHdownsize.com.
Shortage of Elderly and Disabled Healthcare Facilities
Supervisor Yee—Step up to the Plate!
by Patrick Monette-Shaw
Must Prioritize Full Spectrum Health Services
Congratulations to D7 Supervisor Norman Yee on being elected president of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors!
However, now, Yee needs to pivot quickly to working collaboratively with Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Ahsha Safai, the San Francisco Public Health Department, and other City leaders to address comprehensive solutions to the full spectrum of facilities that all have severe shortages of in-county capacity to serve disabled and elderly San Franciscans, many of whom have been discharged out-of-county.
Turf Fight Erupts
In its December 2017 issue, the Westside Observernewspaper published anarticle reporting that a tug-of-war had erupted between members of the Board of Supervisors over the severe shortage of skilled nursing facilities (SNF) throughout San Francisco.
... omissions and shortsightedness in collecting data affects developing public policy. The problem? Missing data. No data is asked for, none collected. The City doesn’t ask for data. No questions, no data.”
The tug-of-war involved, on the one hand, Supervisors Safai and Ronen who wanted to focus on the hospital-based SNF and sub-acute shortages. On the other hand, Supervisor Yee wanted to focus primarily only on Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFE’s) and assisted living facilities.
Safai held a first hearing before the Supervisors’ Public Safety and Neighborhood Services (PSNS) Committee on CMPC’s proposed closure of St. Luke’s SNF and sub-acute units on July 26, 2017. On September 12, Safai called the matter from the PSNS Committee for a hearing before the full Board of Supervisors sitting as a “Committee of the Whole.”
During the September 12 hearing Safai noted the lack of SNF and sub-acute care beds had been a “crisis in the making over the past decade … as we’ve seen a major, major decrease in the number of skilled nursing beds over the last ten to 15 years.” Then-Supervisor Jeff Sheehy noted that during the rebuild of Laguna Honda Hospital [during 2007 to 2010] “we knew then that [the City] was projecting a shortage [of] skilled nursing beds, and the reality is that instead of building [additional] capacity, we’ve been shrinking capacity.”
Supervisors Safai and Ronen wanted to explore “in-county, in-hospital solutions for San Francisco.”
They were referring to the “Post-Acute Care Shortage” report presented to the Health Commission in February 2016 documenting San Francisco had a loss of 1,012 SNF beds across 14 years. Tack on the loss of another 151 beds in “freestanding” (i.e., non-hospital-based) SNF beds between 2002 and 2014. That brings the total of lost SNF beds to at least 1,163.
The “Post-Acute Care Shortage” report also documented the loss of 16 “board and care” care facilities and 80 RCFE facilities.
Unfortunately, neither the “Post-Acute Care Shortage” report nor Yee’s most recent December 2018 proposal stratified in raw numbers how many beds have been lost in RCFE and board-and-care facilities.
The Observer reported in December 2017 San Francisco has discharged a significant number of San Franciscans out-of-county due to the shortage of SNF and RCFE beds in-county. Between July 1, 2006 and November 20, 2018 at least 1,479 San Franciscans were discharged out-of-county. That number is probably far higher.
Chinese Hospital, St. Mary’s, St. Francis, and Kaiser each failed to provide the Department of Public Health the number of San Franciscans they discharged out-of-county. The 1,479 known out-of-county discharges hasn’t been completely reported and isn’t fully known.
Yee Threw a Wrench
During the September 12, 2017 hearing, Yee threw a wrench into the proceedings claiming he asked “for a hearing on these issues” last June, ostensibly referring to SNF and sub-acute level of care facilities. He had not.
In June 2017 Yee had called for a hearing to “understand the efforts of City departments regarding institutional housing, particularly assisted living, residential care facilities, and small beds for seniors in San Francisco.”
Yee’s Anemic Efforts
The Observer reported in March 2018 Yee had been first approached to support a 50-unit senior housing project at 250 Laguna Honda Boulevard. Before anyone knew it, the developers expanded it to a 150-unit project that was eventually de-funded and scrapped.
Yee’s First Proposal to Build on LHH’s Campus
The Observer reported in July 2018 that in March 2018 Yee’s then-legislative aide, Nick Pagoulatos, began pitching a proposal in March 2018 to the Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Mayor’s Office of Housing (MOHCD) to build a six-story building with up to 160 units of housing for seniors on LHH’s campus, with a spectrum of options for those who need assisted living, skilled nursing, and independent living (presumably including market-rate units).
Pagoulatos submitted a draft document on May 15, 2018 to MOHCD’s director Kate Hartley and Amy Chan, and DPH outlining a proposal to Assemblyman Phil Ting seeking funding for a feasibility study. Hartley and Chang deleted both the 160-unit description, and flatly ruled out building either assisted living or RCFE’s units on LHH’s campus, saying LHH’s site “wasn’t big enough” and was too small.
Yee’s first May 2018 proposal to build on LHH’s campus was essentially dead on arrival.
Yee’s Second Proposal to Build on LHH’s Campus
Undeterred, Yee tried again proposing to build on LHH’s campus. In a draft position paper dated December 18, 2018 on his letterhead Yee pitched constructing a “Life Care Facility” (similar to Continuing Care Retirement Communities) to San Francisco’s new Dignity Fund proposing a spectrum of facilities on LHH’s campus, including 1) An unstated number of independent senior housing units (perhaps including market-rate units); 2) An unstated number of assisted living units; 3) a 30-bed RCFE, several of which beds would be “kept open” for patients discharged from LHH; 4) Ideally, an unstated number of Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) slots for people needing day-care supervision; and 5) Ideally, preschool to foster “intergenerational connections” between the elderly and two- to three-year-old preschoolers.
LHH voluntarily suspended it’s “outpatient” ADHC serving about 60 people daily on March 20, 2009 but continued paying state licensing fees from November 16, 2009 through June 30, 2013. LHH allowed the license to expire on November 15, 2013. At least 91 ADHC clients — including ten with Alzheimer’s — were impacted by LHH’s ADHC closure.
I became a formal whistleblower in January 2009, reporting to the City Controller’s Whistleblower Program and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division that closure of LHH’s ADHC program was a probable violation of a DOJ settlement agreement reached with the City of San Francisco.
Yee’s position paper acknowledges many older adults will eventually need to move to skilled nursing facilities due to increased mobility impairments and chronic medical issues, but his position paper doesn’t discuss increasing the severe shortage of SNF beds in-county by building more SNF units on LHH’s campus or elsewhere in the City.
In fact, Yee’s December 2018 position paper explicitly states in paragraph 5 that the “bleeding of beds continues to this day, without any plans for the City to address this issue.” That’s in the same paragraph in which Yee acknowledges both “low - and middle-income residents are being placed out-of-county.”
Yee’s grand plan for LHH’s campus will be vigorously opposed by the Dignity Fund and the Mayor’s Long-Term Care Coordinating Council (LTCCC), whose shared members vigorously opposed building any more healthcare-related units on LHH’s campus in 2007. Why would they support it now?
Thirteen days later, an Assisted Living Workgroup — a group Yee formed in April 2018 with DPH and the Department of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS) — presented recommendations on January 10, 2019 to the LTCCC. The report primarily recommended Adult Living Facilities (ALF) should be supported by the City in smaller six-bed facilities using subsidies, but not expanding the supply of new facilities.
The Workgroup’s report noted “data to document demand is limited, and systems are typically not set up to document the need” for various services.
Lack of Data No Surprise!
The Observer reported in May 2017 the Board of Supervisors Budget and Legislative Analyst (BLA ) issued a report in July 2016 (“Audit of Senior Services in San Francisco”) highly critical that DAAS has failed for years to conduct meaningful data collection via a gap analysis.
A Gap Analysis estimates unmet needs for particular services — the gap between the number of individuals currently receiving a service and the total population that might benefit from a particular service. Without a robust Gap Analysis, DAAS (and DPH) lack critical information during decision-making.
Ombudsman Benson Nadell’s Concerns
Benson Nadell, a State employee who is San Francisco’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman advocating for patients, and who investigates complaints of abuse in the City’s SNF’s, assisted living, and board-and-care facilities remains concerned.
On January 2, 2018 Nadell presented testimony about how omissions and shortsightedness in collecting data affects developing public policy. The problem? Missing data. No data is asked for, none collected. The City doesn’t ask for data. No questions, no data.
“Data can only flow from existing data. Until the right questions are asked by City and County leaders, long-term care policy will be skewed towards those questions that are asked. Data will always be missing in this context.”
CANHR: Concerns About RCFE’s, Assisted Living Facilities, and CCRC’s Lack Focus on Healthcare
In early January 2018, the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) issued a blistering report noting that during the past 20 years residents of RCFE’s are “older, sicker, and have more complex medical and care needs,” and RCFE’s now resemble nursing homes of years past. CANHR’s report notes the outdated “social model of care” (favored by San Francisco’s disability rights advocates, the Dignity Fund, and the LTCCC) has all but ignored the health care needs of RCFE and assisted living clients whose acuity levels have worsened. The CANHR report is very critical of Continuing Care Retirement Communities — such as the “Life Care Facility” Yee is proposing for LHH’s campus — for not focusing on provision of healthcare facilities.
Focus on Data Collection!
Back in 2013, the Department of Public Health and the Planning Department jointly developed a Health Care Services Master Plan (HCSMP). There was no section in the Plan to focus on long-term care healthcare services in the City.
The HCSMP is now being updated.
What these organizations fail to measure, they can’t accurately assess or fix, particularly without gap analyses measuring client preferences.
Yee needs to expand his focus to include SNF and long-term care facilities in addition to RCFE’s and assisted living facilities, and he needs to do so citywide, not just on LHH’s campus.
The Board of Supervisors under Yee’s leadership must mandate that private-sector hospitals report their out-of-county discharge data to DPH.
As Dr. Teresa Palmer, a geriatrician who worked at LHH for over 20 years notes, “If we don’t know how many folks have been forced to leave the county for long-term care, how can we plan for what San Franciscans need if we don’t collect the relevant data?”
Monette-Shaw is a columnist for San Francisco’s Westside Observer newspaper, and a member of the California First Amendment Coalition (FAC) and the ACLU. An expanded version of this article is available at stopLHHdownsize.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here for older columns by Patrick Monette-Shaw (Please view on desktop computer for best experience while we convert our older files to mobile).
Alden is widely reviled as a “vulture hedge fund” that gobbles up distressed newspapers, saddles them with the debt, draws out management fees, sells off their assets, decimates their newsrooms, cuts salaries and ramps up workloads
...not like the usual old pipelines that leak... It is the seismically reinforced, 36 inch wide, 4.4 miles long, replacement pipeline paid for by the $4.8 billion Water System Improvement Program (WSIP) bond...
At press time, recall group San Franciscans for Public Safety had collected about 20,000 voter signatures and secured campaign donations totaling approximately $400,000. The necessary 51,000 recall voter signatures must be filed by October 25, 2021 ...
"Earthquakes, climate change, and drought cause fires. Water suppresses fires. San Francisco is surrounded on three sides by water - yet today, over half the City is still not protected against catastrophic fires …
The Commission was blindsided. From its perspective it is diligently engaged in a search, in good faith and fair, for the best possible leader of an important city enterprise that has suffered from allegations of corruption.
London Breed applauding SF’s 75% vaccination rate … deserves careful scrutiny … in reality — of the 769,000 vaccine eligible residents only 56% are fully vaccinated — a number slightly higher than the state average”
Nobody wanted to defund the police. All supported the deployment of Street Crisis Response Teams to address behavioral disturbances that do not require armed officers … community organizing is essential to deter crime
... the favorite stores of thieves — Lululemon, Apple, and Victoria Secret — were also closed for the majority of 2020. Eighty-one percent of the 23% drop in “overall crime” came from just a decline in property crimes ... not Boudin’s policies.
Some people will complain that Lowell does better because it is full of rich white kids. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The student body is about 72 per cent non-white and 35 per cent socioeconomically disadvantaged
..like people, coyotes have adapted to their new habitat with ease, and basically, just want to be left alone. In addition to their adaptability, coyotes have a lot of other similarities to humans and our human society.
The California Constitution XIII (1996 Proposition 218) states that only costs for current services can be part of the customer rates. .The fundamental structure of a rate includes O&M (operation and maintenance) and debt service.
Former Chancellor Mark Rocha cut nearly a thousand classes at the same time he proposed hefty pay raises for the school’s administrators ... the current administration insists on following the same misguided course.
... access to records enables the public and press to uncover “corruption, incompetence, inefficiency, prejudice and favoritism.” The “pay to play” scandal unfolding in San Francisco makes clear the extent of corruption in government...
What happened at Lowell... is happening because of our increased awareness of inequitable opportunities for many black and brown children. But let’s not jump to a solution without properly analyzing the problem.
"The Wheel is of little or no benefit to the de Young and I am disappointed that staff are calling in support of a private, for-profit vendor based in St. Louis, MO, with no transparency, and SF Parks Alliance, a private non-profit.”
In my years of working with him before, during and after our stint together on the Board of Supervisors, he never once demonstrated that he had even the slightest knowledge or understanding of the basic tenets of good government ...
I have been assigned to chair the Land Use and Transportation Committee at the Board of Supervisors, as well as representing the Board on the First Five Commission ... We will begin holding regular office hours in the community this month ...
The Naperville, Illinois school board announced last month it would refund $10,000,000 to taxpayers this year, meaning a typical family will receive $200 to $500 ... Meanwhile, private and Catholic schools are open for learning without demanding extra tuition.
... the isolated resident, as they withdraw into depression and weakness, is quiet. Others are needy, there is always too much to do ... When they cry out or kick, family should approve sedatives. Comfort is best, isn’t it?
A public bank could provide the City with low interest loans, could provide a safe place to deposit bridge toll fares and could invest in Green Business instead of “Big Tobacco,” the fossil fuel industry or industries of war.
Only in San Francisco do you get a judge who looked at the entire trajectory ... Two strong-arm robberies, followed by a burglary, then an auto burglary, a loaded firearm charge, a third armed robbery, and finally graduating to attempted murder.
Now Rec and Park has backpedaled on the one-year commitment and asked ... for four more years. If one year is not enough, will four years be enough ... or is this the beginning of a permanent midway in the midst of our premiere landscape park?
City Faces Multiple Racial Discrimination Lawsuits
Herrera's Curious Union-Busting Law Firm
by Dr. Derek Kerr
Recent lawsuits alleging discrimination against Black employees are startling in egalitarian San Francisco. Doubling the consternation is the City Attorney’s paying a Union-busting law firm to fight these claims.
All of these reductions in value for her personal benefit were arranged while appeals for reductions before the Assessment Appeals Board from regular mom and pop homeowners were vehemently opposed by the Assessor’s Office.
Others stand by, keep these links and don't get discouraged yet!. There are A LOT of vaccine appointments... If you get a text notification, try to get an appointment right away as they may be exhausted later in the day.
"The city has a high school for the arts, and another for students interested in the trades. There is a bi-lingual Chinese-American high school. Why shouldn't there be a school for those interested in academics?
"The Wheel has been totally shut down, partially opened, and then totally shut down again ... the glaring, flashing lights are still turned on every day and into the night, and the noisy diesel generator that powers the Wheel runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
"... Berkeley-UCSF Agreement that included UC paying money every year to Berkeley for fire and emergency services ... a precedent for the City to require UCSF to offset our currently unreimbursed City costs...
Whether or not another impeachment of the lying, cheating, draft-dodging Donald Trump is inarguably warranted ... It’s no surprise that Trump aspired to pardoning himself; that would constitute his ultimate historical achievement.
(Analysts) obtained 10 years-worth of records related to the PUC’s Community Benefits Program, grants and contracts. Then…nothing. The PUC audit evaporated as City Hall, DPW and the PUC were rocked by corruption investigations
...the Atomic Energy Commission allowed NRDL researchers ... radioactive waste into laboratory drains at the shipyard, radiation contaminated materials into the industrial landfill on the shoreline and radioactive fuel ships hauled back following atomic explosions ...
DPH decided to present data only on the number of COVID cases among residents of the 19 Skilled Nursing Facilities in the City, eliminating reporting cumulative case reporting for healthcare workers (staff) at the 19 facilities.”
When the war ended they were free to leave. But they had to find their own way back. To escape the harsh weather they made their way to Kazakhstan via river raft. To return to Poland was dangerous because as Michalski noted, “nobody wanted the Jews.
For almost two decades, “pay-to-play” has pervaded our “City Family” with bribes to obtain millions of dollars in public contracts. Presently, criminal charges have been filed only against powerful non-elected officials.
While I was repeating over and over “wear a mask...wash my hands... he was creating spaced learning for the alternative universe. Don’t wear a mask... And I am not even going to touch whether he washed his tiny hands
...the largest job, almost a billion dollars, has not gone well. The so-called biosolids digesters — the heart of the operation ... pre-construction services have increased in cost by a factor of 18 times.
Will Restricting Public Scrutiny Fix City College?
... the new regime under Interim Chancellor Gonzalez abruptly ... returned to the previous agenda structure, with very limited public comment — and only near the beginning of the meeting — reservation is now required in advance as well.
In October 2009, former Supervisor Chris Daly proposed an Ordinance that prohibited department heads and employees from steering donations to “Friends of…” non-profits that raised funds for their departments ...
I agree that we should not celebrate those who represent the worst in our society. But there is true historical value to recognizing leaders who have made our world better—and recognizing them warts and all.”
DPW’s subaccounts at the Parks Alliance amassed $990,000... donated by 8 contractors who received $572 million from DPW plus 7 companies that obtained 218 building permits from the Department of Building Inspection (DBI)
The federal subpoena demanded the resumes, job descriptions, and performance evaluations for “any PUC employee who earned at least $100,000” since 2010 ... Evidently, the feds are probing cronyism as well as self-dealing
Whether it’s protests about police violence and racism or defiance of government orders to wear a mask, the most fundamental issues of our democracy are being played out every day in front of millions of people.
Irreparable Damage to City College — Legal Violations at Balboa Reservoir Project Cited
City College Stakeholders File CEQA Appeal"This is NOT the time for any Project to go forward that will all but destroy the access for 70,000 college students, most of them from working class, immigrant, black or brown communities."
"... the heralded notion of "defunding" police ... risks a return to the high-crime era of the 1960s and 1970s that damaged so many American cities. That applies to San Francisco, which suffers supervisors who berate police and ostracize them politically."
"... the issue of Black Lives Matter is on everyone’s lips. Unfortunately, many Americans do not acknowledge institutional racism. But consider the numerous steps that led to the problem and two alternative policing solutions."
Hopes were that recovering from COVID-19 would generate antibodies, thus conferring immunity and peace of mind. Plus, survivors could help treat newly-infected COVID-19 patients by donating their convalescent plasma. It's not that simple.