It’s Former Mayor Willie Brown’s World

Mohammed Nuru and Mayor London Breed

City Hall is so infested with Brown appointees, Brown lobbyists, Brown confidants, and Brown contributors that San Francisco can no longer effectively police itself.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is now doing what City Hall either could not or would not do.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed was caught receiving a $5,600 “gift” from her subordinate, Mohammed Nuru, and not reporting the gift.

George
George Wooding.

In a carefully worded statement, Breed acknowledged not only having a past romantic relationship with Nuru, but also accepting an unreported $5,600 gift from him for car repairs.

Breed stated, “To be clear: I never asked Mohammed Nuru to do anything improper, and he never asked me to do anything improper. I was not aware of the schemes alleged by the FBI until shortly before they became public, and when I was informed, I immediately reported the information to our City Attorney—Dennis Herrera.”

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Nuru was not the FBI’s main target of the investigation—he was the bait to lure someone bigger. The FBI was looking for a big fish, so they released Nuru on the condition that he cooperate with “a pending public corruption investigation.

In addition to identifying City employees or officials involved in potential violations of local law, Herrera said the investigation will also examine contracts, grants, and other government decisions possibly “tainted by conflicts of interest.”.

Breed’s disclosure was designed to legally comply with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, the State’s campaign monitor. The State does not require disclosure of gifts “by an individual with whom the official has a long term, close personal friendship unrelated to the official’s position.” Nuru’s job as head of the DPW is directly related to Mayor Breed. She is his boss.

Another huge problem for Breed, “San Francisco law prohibits City officials from accepting gifts from subordinates over $25.” This law means that City officials cannot accept a gift from a subordinate employee if the official directs or evaluates that employee’s work.

Herrera and the San Francisco Ethics Department are almost certain to come to Breed’s rescue.

The San Francisco public will stop demanding justice just as soon as some mid-level scapegoats are punished (Nuru). Fortunately, the public’s memory is short.

Ethics Commission

The Ethics Department’s byzantine rules, rule parsing and snail-like pace, dictate a decision on Breed’s unethical behavior in about three years.

The Ethics Commission was established by San Francisco voters with the passage of Proposition K on the November 1993 ballot. Ethics was designed to serve the public, City employees and officials, and local candidates through education and enforcement of governmental ethics laws, including public information. The Commission has virtually stopped serving citizens and now protects City politicians while collecting penalties and fees.

The fine issued by the City Ethics Commission or the State Fair Political Practices Commission for Breed’s ethics violation will be approximately three times the amount in question. So, Breed’s decision to let Nuru give her an unreported gift for $5,600 would cost her about $16,800 in fines. Breed’s annual $301,000 base salary is the highest in the nation among mayors. Breed’s fine would amount to 5.5 percent of one year’s pay.

San Francisco’s Ethics Commission will probably waive this fine—because they can.

Under the City Charter, the only person who can remove or suspend a local official from office is the Mayor. And chances are Breed isn’t going to remove herself. The only way that Breed will leave is through voter recall.

The noose is firmly around Mohammed Nuru’s neck. Nuru, 57, and San Francisco restaurateur Nick Bovis, 56, are both charged with wire fraud. Nuru is separately charged with lying to the FBI after initially being arrested on January 21 and being told to keep quiet about the FBI investigation.

To the FBI, Nuru was collateral damage in San Francisco City Hall’s corruption. He allegedly had accepted $2,000 bottles of wine and a free trip to China. David Anderson, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, accused Nuru of “corruption, bribery kickbacks and side deals.” Nuru was not the FBI’s main target of the investigation—he was the bait to lure someone bigger. The FBI was looking for a big fish, so they released Nuru on the condition that he cooperate with “a pending public corruption investigation.”

Nuru was made the permanent head of DPW by then-Mayor Ed Lee in 2012. Prior to his appointment, Nuru worked for 11 years as the department’s Deputy Director for Operations and was long considered a protégé of former Mayor Willie Brown. Lee was also appointed by Willie Brown to head the DPW.

For all of Nuru’s alleged corruption, he would probably have received reduced charges for cooperation if he had simply allowed the FBI to continue tapping his phone.

So…who was Nuru so desperate to protect that he broke his deal with the FBI? Nuru is now facing more than 20 years in jail.

DOMINOS Nuru told City Administrator Naomi Kelly—another Willie Brown appointee— that he was being investigated by the FBI. Kelly told Mayor Breed who then told Herrera. Incidentally, Naomi Kelly is married to Harlan Kelly, Jr. head of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC)—another Willie Brown appointee. Brown officiated Naomi and Harlan’s wedding.

After interrogating Nuru, Herrera’s office has issued 14 subpoenas to firms with ties to either Walter Wong, a San Francisco building permit consultant/expeditor, or Zhang Li, a billionaire real estate developer from China. Wong and Li have not been charged with any wrongdoing.

On March 17, Tom Hui, head of the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) resigned. Hui was ensnared in City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s probe of criminally charged ex-DPW boss Mohammed Nuru: In an 11-page memo to Mayor Breed, Herrera outlines a lengthy history of alleged misconduct by Hui. Sources within DBI described Hui and longtime city permit expediter Walter Wong as “joined at the hip.” 

Both Breed and Nuru owe their positions and careers to former Mayor Brown’s political machine. (This was covered in last month’s article, City Hall is Getting Nervous.)

Breed started working for Brown as his babysitter. Brown appointed Nuru to run San Francisco’s League of Urban Gardeners (SLUG). Nuru was later appointed to head the Department of Public Works (DPW).

Brown has worked closely with Gavin Newsom, Ed Lee, London Breed and Kamala Harris.

Board of Supervisors

On Monday, February 24, the city’s Rules Committee reviewed Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s proposal to allow the Government Audit and Oversight Committee to issue subpoenas and compel people to take an oath to testify truthfully, under the penalty of perjury.

The San Francisco Chronicle quoted District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen, “There is rampant corruption in this city. It’s been so normalized that, despite evidence of it coming out every single day, it takes the FBI to do anything about it,” she said. “I feel it’s a top priority to root out corruption. If this subpoena power makes it easier for us to do that, now is the time to put it forward.”

San Francisco is still Willie Brown’s World.

George Wooding, Neighborhood Emeritus

February 2020

Is City Hall Getting Nervous?

Mayor London Breed is falling down.

The Mayor recently wrote on her blog of accepting a $5600 gift from Department of Public Works (DPW) head Mohammed Nuru and she did not report it for over one year. Nuru was recently arrested on public corruption charges stemming from an FBI investigation into tranactions involving restauranteur and non-profit head Nick Bovis.

Mayor Breed with Mohammed Nuru

Why is it that only the FBI can find criminal malfeasance in a City with only one political party?

Sources tell me that many Top City Officials are worried that Nuru is about to negotiate a plea bargain deal naming names as he is facing twenty years in prison. If Mayor Breed topples, Willie Brown will probably lose much of his remaining hold over San Francisco politics. By utilizing unions, high technology and big business contributions, Brown helped elect and influence Gavin Newsom, Edwin Lee, and London Breed.

As the king of patronage politics in San Francisco, Brown has the political connections and the gold. So, he rules. In 2018, Breed received approximately $3.9 million in re-election contributions and now controls a $12.3 billion City budget.

Breed and Nuru are close and have enjoyed the job patronage of Willie Brown since the ‘90s. Breed admitted that she used to date Nuru and that they have remained close through the years.

Willie Brown’s former babysitter and his gardener have thrived under Brown’s tuteledge.

The Orange County Register’s September 26, 2018 edition states, “And then we have ‘the baby-sitter’, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who used to babysit Brown’s kids. Apparently, Breed was a good babysitter and was amply rewarded with one political appointment after another.”

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… City Officials are worried that Nuru is about to negotiate a plea bargain deal naming names as he is facing twenty years in prison.”

Nuru has a long history with the San Francisco’s political establishment. He started running the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners (SLUG), a city-funded nonprofit that tended to community gardens and provided job training. As early as 1999, the Bay Guardian reported that Nuru used SLUG employees to actively campaign to elect and then re-elect Willie Brown as Mayor.

In 2004, the City Attorney’s Office investigated Nuru’s former nonprofit, SLUG, and found that it also coerced employees into supporting the campaigns of Gavin Newsom and former District Attorney Kamala Harris.

In 2011, Nuru was appointed to become the director of DPW by Mayor Lee.

District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen stated, “It –the $5,600 gift- is a huge problem and I believe that she needs to resign.”

District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar states, “I believe Mayor Breed should do the right thing and temporarily step back from her duties until a full, independent investigation can be completed.”

District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney was quoted in Joe Fitzgerald’s Examiner column: “She absolutely cannot take a $5,600 gift from a subordinate and not report it until an FBI investigation is announced,” Haney said. “The fact that this subordinate is under investigation from the FBI for public corruption, this is as serious as it gets.”

In 2003, voters passed the San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code-3.216C which states the following: (c) In order to maintain the public’s confidence in the integrity of governmental decisions related to the appointment and discipline of public officers and employees, public officers and employees must not give or receive anything of value in consideration of their appointment or accept anything of value from their subordinates, and must not participate in decisions related to their own character or conduct or that of their family members.

Breed has accepted an unreported $5,600 gift from a subordinate—Nuru. She did not report that gift publicly with either the State Fair Political Practices Commission or the San Francisco Ethics Commission.

Attorney Jon Gollinger states, “It’s critical for the integrity of City government that the Mayor entirely recuse herself from any involvement in the investigation of the Nuru allegations. The Mayor also should disclose any and all gifts she has received from “best friends” since she has been mayor or supervisor. We desperately need a clean sweep of City government.”

George Wooding, Neighborhood Emeritus

February 2020

Mark Rocha

Chancellor Mark Rocha (right) at Mission Campus, Feb. 28, 2018, with Trustee Tom Temprano (left to right), Assemblyman David Chiu and Trustee Brigitte Davila. Photo by Janeth R. Sanchez/The Guardsman

Salarygate at City College San Francisco (CCSF)

George Wooding

This is the sad saga of the attempt of CCSF Chancellor Mark Rocha to greatly increase Administrative Salaries while eliminating over 300 once- offered classes, and over 100 faculty jobs, by reducing the number of educational counselors, full-time faculty, course listings and library hours.

The stated CCSF goal was to decrease a $32 million CCSF deficit to approximately $16 million. The most important goal should be to provide the best education experience possible for CCSF students.

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Many times I have shot myself in the foot. This is a case ... in which I tried to shoot my foot clean off,” Rocha told CCSF budget chair Ivy Lee and budget committee member John Rizzo and the standing-room-only crowd, as he made his case for the raises.”

General Obligation Bond CCSF will be presenting an $800-$845 Million General Obligation Bond for the March 2020 election. Unlike other property bonds, this bond will add $11.00 for every $100,000 in assessed value of property. For example, if your house is worth $1 Million your annual property tax will include a separate line item for $110.00. Do you want Chancellor Rocha handling this bond money? After CCSF’s latest salary fiasco, I no longer trust his oversight.

CCSF’s Board of Trustees, Alex Randolph, Tom Temprano, Brigitte Davila, Ivy Lee, John Rizzo, Thea Selby, Shanelle Williams and Bryan Daily, fought back Rocha’s hidden salary increases. In many cases the administrative pay increases were over 100% higher than the prior year. Rocha himself makes over $360,000 a year.

Hidden Salary Increase

The new administrative salary increases had been carefully hidden on page 105 in a 110-page budget document one day before the trustees were to vote for approval. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “CCSF officials appear to have violated their own public disclosure policy by adding executive raises to their budget just one day before trustees adopted the spending plan.”

Here is an example of one of Rocha’s salary increases: the base salary for vice chancellors at the low end would more than double, from $124,358, to $250,000. The base salary for the same job at the high end would rise 23%, from $210,895 to $260,000. Who receives a $125,000 raise in one year?

College staffers broke no law, CCSF attorney Steve Bruckman told trustee Ivy Lee. But he remained mum on whether the action “met the spirit” of state and local laws meant to give the public enough time to review matters up for a vote.

“The board did NOT approve pay raises,” Trustee John Rizzo said, “secretly or otherwise, in closed session.” The raises were approved in open session, but not discussed. Nor did the public know that the raises were voted on.

CCSF Trustees: Alex Randolph, President, Tom Temprano, Vice President, Brigitte Davila, Ivy Lee, John Rizzo, Thea Selby, Shanelle Williams

Is public transparency dead at CCSF?

A cloak of secrecy and suspicion is starting to envelop the Rocha administration. There are too many off-site retreats, altered documents, violations of CCSF’s policies, and attorneys speaking on behalf of the administration.

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With all respect to you trustees, are you out of your minds? Have we not been through enough hell?” Janet Lohr, an art instructor, told the trustees ...”

CCSF policy gives the public at least two days to examine documents up for discussion. But on Aug. 22, when the board approved the executive raises that had been added to the thick budget the day before, “it could be argued that the (college) district did not comply” with its policy, Bruckman told trustee Lee.

Lee, a professional legislator and lawyer, knew better. She understood that the California Brown Act superseded CCSFs policy and refused to vote for the budget without a public hearing. The Brown Act is intended to provide public access to meetings of local government agencies. Its purpose is described in the Act: “The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them.”

E-mails sunshined by the Chronicle, “offer a behind-the-scenes look at how City College officials stepped into a public-relations debacle by doubling executive pay after complaining to City Hall about their deep financial woes. The e-mails reveal that college leaders tried to hide the damage by claiming it never happened — days after their lawyer privately confirmed to them, on Sept. 11, that the new executive pay rates had been legitimately adopted as part of the newly approved budget.”

Staff and Faculty React

When CCSF staff and faculty found out about the increases weeks later, and accused the trustees and Rocha, they were enraged. On September 25th, students and faculty gathered at RAM Plaza where a mock funeral, advertised as “A Celebration of the Life of City College of San Francisco: Death by a Thousand Cuts”, was held to point out the failing educational hopes and dreams of students. The protest was hosted by City College’s Higher Education Action Team (HEAT).

Several community members walked around campus handing out flyers with event programs and lyrics to the live music that was played so that attendees could sing along. Protesters held posters that said “My tuition is for college not for admin pockets” and “stop killing our college.”

After protests and rallies, Rocha apologized and issued a statement saying, “The fact of the matter is that the administrator salaries have NOT yet been approved.

“I take full responsibility for the process and the errors in the process on salaries,” Rocha told an auditorium of faculty, students and city residents who had staged protests and had angrily admonished him and the trustees before lower salary increases were proposed.

“It is time for us, especially myself, to be peacemakers. To come together as a college,” Rocha said.

A shot in the Foot

“Many times I have shot myself in the foot. This is a case ... in which I tried to shoot my foot clean off,” Rocha told CCSF budget chair Ivy Lee and budget committee member John Rizzo and the standing-room-only crowd, as he made his case for the raises. There is never a good time to propose a salary increase, Rocha said. “However, this is the best time.”

Lee, the budget committee chair, moved to recommend that before considering the salary proposal, they hire an independent financial analyst to determine if it is “reasonable and fiscally feasible, and how our salaries compare with other institutions.” Trustee Rizzo seconded the motion

On Sept. 26, the trustees replaced the big administrative raises with much smaller ones: 10%, of which the college will pay only 6.74%. The rest will be covered by a state-funded cost-of-living increase. They also voted to hire a consultant to study whether additional raises make sense.

Rocha and the next four highest-paid executives — including Bruckman — will see no increase unless the consultant recommends it and the trustees approve it.

Why did City college hire Mark Rocha?

A five-year battle over CCSFs’ accreditation status ensued after the State Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) threatened to revoke CCSF’s accreditation.

Finally, in 2015, the ACCJC voted to establish a new accrediting system for CCSF. With full accreditation, CCSF then needed a fulltime chancellor. Out of 34 job candidates for chancellor, they voted six to one for Mark Rocha as fulltime chancellor.

Disturbingly, Mark Rocha was forced to leave his last chancellor position at Pasadena City College after the Faculty Senate voted 23-0 to express “no confidence” in his management. Rocha had also received a “no confidence” vote at Rancho Santiago Community College.

The CCSF teachers’ union, AFT Local 2121, lobbied furiously against him, but the trustees, in closed session, voted to offer him the Chancellor position.

“With all respect to you trustees, are you out of your minds? Have we not been through enough hell?” Janet Lohr, an art instructor, told the trustees, expressing the views of most speakers.

Lone Vote of Opposition

Trustee Rafael Mandelman—now the current District eight Supervisor, the lone no vote, said it will be a “tough thing for the chancellor” to work in an atmosphere of opposition. But he pledged to “do everything I can to make him a successful chancellor.”

Regarding CCSF, Trustee Lee stated, “My goal is to ensure that this venerable institution remains a resource and a bridge to opportunity for decades to come.

“The very first step to realize that goal must be to stabilize the College’s financial footing so that everyone, from the chancellor to the administrators, to the faculty to the classified staff and students, can focus on education rather than the constant struggle to make ends meet. Stabilization requires having steady and rigorous financial oversight in real time — an annual audit is simply not enough because that only looks backwards. An audit only tells us what went wrong and suggests how to fix it in the future. We need a controller who can identify budgetary red flags before they become costly errors.”

Further, “Stabilization also requires implementing transparent budget controls at every level of the College — we should never be surprised by the budget or its content — and the entire college community, especially those in positions of decision-making power should be aware of our budget, our actual expenditures vs. budgeted expenditures, our enrollment projections, which play such a critical role in revenue, and the impacts that our budget will have on the class schedule and the physical locations that we are able to offer courses. This is not rocket science but it does require firm budget discipline.”

Finally, “There are so many programs at the College that are ready to grow and that provide San Franciscans with opportunities for real, solid-paying jobs, but also for a chance to achieve their educational dreams. That’s why it’s so important to keep pushing forward past the challenges, so many of which are a result of the chronic underfunding of education. Because the students of City College are worth the effort and worth our investment.”

George Wooding, Neighborhood Emeritus

December 2019

G5 tower
Close Proximity Microwave Radiation Antennas (CPMRA) can be installed on PG&E utility poles in public right-of-ways. These CPMRA installations are NOT “small” at all, and will destroy property values, create visual blight, and completely change the character of our neighborhoods

Is Faster Always Better?


George
George Wooding.

A new generation of faster, more intense, untested, and potentially dangerous radio frequency radiation (RFR) waves are about to bombard San Franciscans.

5G technology uses high-energy millimeter-wave ionizing radiation that is dangerous, because it can break chemical bonds.

Fifth-generation wireless (5G) is the latest iteration of cellular technology, engineered to greatly increase the speed and responsiveness of wireless networks for technological devices.

In addition to delivering faster connections and greater capacity, a very important advantage of 5G is the fast response time referred to as “latency.” Latency is the time devices take to respond to each other over a wireless network. 3G networks had a typical response time of 100 milliseconds, 4G is around 30 milliseconds, and 5G will be as low as one millisecond.

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Hundreds, to thousands, of new 5G antennas will be attached to telephone poles or placed in street-level metal cabinets. 5G has an extremely short, intense frequency broadcast signal which necessitates an abundance of antennas.

The 5G infrastructure is still a work-in-progress, using standards that have yet to be finalized. However, you can roughly assume 5G to be around 10 to 100 times faster than your present-day cellular connection.5G Tower

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors (BOS), the Department of Public Works, and San Francisco’s City Attorney were hoodwinked — by large telecommunications companies and an overreaching interpretation by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) declaratory ruling 18-133 — into giving up all local control over the implementation of 5G wireless.

After a large contingent of concerned citizens testified at the October 22 BOS meeting against the installation of 5G technology, Supervisors Aaron Peskin (D3), Gordon Mar (D4), and Ahsha Safai (D11) decided to hold a future hearing on the environmental and health impacts of 5G technology.

In July 2019 the City Attorney was approached by telecommunications companies indicating that San Francisco needed to comply with the new FCC Order 18-133 to streamline deployment of small cell towers (4G/5G). Under the recommendation of the City Attorney, the Personal Wireless Service Facilities Site Permits Ordinance, File No. 190-19 was then discussed at the BOS San Francisco Land Use Committee chaired by Supervisor Peskin. This new ordinance was then brought as an agenda item to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors (BOS) on the consent calendar, which passed unanimously. The BOS asked that the Department of Public Works (DPW) write permitting rules to the amend Ordinance 190-19.

The DPW’s new amendments include:

• Hundreds, to thousands, of new 5G antennas will be attached to telephone poles or placed in street-level metal cabinets. 5G has an extremely short, intense frequency broadcast signal which necessitates an abundance of antennas.

• Telephone poles can have up to four 5G antennas placed on them.

• 5G antennas can be placed within six feet of a private residence.

• Placement of antennas is “ministerial”; therefore, residents do not need to be notified of the placement of antennas.

• San Francisco has given up the right of “conditional use permits,” and has forfeited its right of oversight and review. It requires only a ministerial permit to approve small cell towers in the right of way, not the current conditional use permit that is fully vetted.

• There will be no antenna setbacks for schools or homes.

• The DPW will place as many 5G antennas as possible in the first 90 days.

• Close Proximity Microwave Radiation Antennas (CPMRA) can be installed on PG&E utility poles in public right-of-ways. These CPMRA installations are NOT “small” at all, and will destroy property values, create visual blight, and completely change the character of our neighborhoods.

The FCC Declaratory Ruling and Third Report 18-133 is being misused and abused by the FCC and President Donald Trump to 1) illegally steal San Francisco’s Conditional Use Permit protections, and 2) speed up the impacts of local regulation permits for the siting of wireless telecommunication facilities and cell towers.

Ajit Pai
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai responded, “I want to thank you again,
Mr. President, for your leadership on 5G. Your White House
has advanced your vision in many ways, from international
treaty negotiations to much-needed regulatory reforms.
Photo: truthdig.com

San Francisco Ordinance 190-19 will greatly accelerate deployment of small 5G cell antennas on sites in the public right of way. It took effect January 14, 2019. The League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, among many others, feel this declaratory ruling by the FCC is a huge overreach of Federal authority over municipalities. 

These cell antennas/towers can be batched so dozens of antennas can be automatically approved at once. There is an increasing sentiment that this FCC Ruling should be overturned to give cities back what little authority they had in the placement of cell tower sites per the Telecommunications Act of 1996. That Act requires proof that there is a significant gap in coverage and that the least intrusive methods should be used. Those provisions were removed from the FCC’s ruling.

In September 2018, FCC Order 18-133 restricted the fees cities can charge Sprint and other telecom companies for siting of wireless towers and other infrastructure in their communities. Several lawsuits challenging the FCC’s action have been consolidated before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Case No. 19-70146). Opening briefs were filed on June 10, 2019. Final briefs were scheduled to be filed by September 18.

In addition to restricting fees that cities can charge for building new wireless networks, Order 18-133 limited the time allowed for review of the proposed construction. The FCC imposed a so-called “shot clock” on cities and towns. If the local government has not acted within as few as 60 days on a construction permit, the project is deemed approved.

In March 2018, the FCC eliminated environmental and historical review for siting of certain cell towers and other wireless facilities. On August 9, 2019 the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the FCC’s action finding that the Commission’s attempted explanations for eliminating environmental and historical review “did not meet the standard of reasoned decision-making.”

While the FCC has limited the review by others, the Commission at the same time has refused to update its own health and environmental guidelines. The Commission’s guidelines date from the 1990’s. In 2012, the General Accountability Office found that the existing guidelines may not reflect current knowledge and recommended that the FCC formally re-assess its guidelines. 

The FCC’s guidelines address only one aspect of potential harm from electromagnetic radiation: Heat. The current guidelines do not address other ways in which exposure to increasing electromagnetic radiation from wireless communications can harm human health, as well as the natural systems around us upon which all life depends. 

Despite the many health and environmental studies that demonstrate 5G networks create a host of health problems, President Donald Trump has pushed the FCC to establish 5G as fast as possible.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai responded, “I want to thank you again, Mr. President, for your leadership on 5G. Your White House has advanced your vision in many ways, from international treaty negotiations to much-needed regulatory reforms. I appreciate all these efforts, and in the same spirit, this FCC will help build a great and lasting legacy of American success on 5G.”

Pertaining to health and environmental matters, the FCC has become a rogue agency. Now that it is politicized, the agency only cares about network speed. To achieve the RFR speeds necessary for 5G to work, the FCC is forcing municipalities around the country into converting to 5G.

Many cities have decided not to use 5G technology after a recent $30 million research examination by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) concluded there is clear evidence that male rats exposed to high levels of radio frequency radiation (RFR) like that used in 2G and 3G cell phones developed cancerous heart tumors, according to its final reports.

Imagine how the rats would have fared being tested using 5G cell phones.

There was also some evidence of tumors in the brain and adrenal glands of exposed male rats. For female rats, and male and female mice, the evidence was equivocal as to whether cancers observed were associated with exposure to RFR. The final reports represent the consensus of NTP and a panel of external scientific experts who reviewed the studies in March 2018.

The NTP concluded: “Fiber optics are the best and only solution. They are energy efficient, less vulnerable to shut down due to Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) or hacking, and do not create hazardous RF emissions that cause damage to health and the environment.”

Cindy Lee Russell, MD said San Francisco should take the following actions regarding 5G technology:

• Delay action on the San Francisco Personal Wireless Service Facilities Amendment of Department of Public Works Code for Small Cell Towers, Ordinance No. 190-19. This has been accomplished.

• Instead of passing the 190-19 amendment, bring this back to the Board of Supervisors and have a full public hearing of this very complex subject matter This has been accomplished. 

• Review other ordinances that local cities have recently passed, such as Los Altos that have listened to its citizens and have incorporated reasonable setbacks and provisions that they consider legal.

I agree. Faster isn’t always better.

San Francisco needs to do a better job protecting the health and safety of its residents and environment.

Please email the BOS and tell them that you are against the installation of the 5G antennas (Ordinance 190-19), and demand another hearing be held as soon as possible.

George Wooding, Neighborhood Emeritus

November 2019

Call to Action

Save Juvenile Hall

Westside neighborhoods, schools, churches, and businesses need to stop the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (BOS) from closing down the Youth Guidance Center (YGC) and converting it into a Navigation Center.

George Wooding

The Juvenile Probation Department’s calendar year 2018 Annual Report shows there were 695 bookings (detentions) of minors — involving just 331 separate individuals — into Juvenile Hall. Of the 331, 269 were booked only once, 39 were booked twice, 10 were booked three times, and 13 were booked four or more times.

The 269 booked only once represents 81.3% of the 331; the remaining 62 booked multiple times represents an 18.7% recidivist rate during a single year.

Of the bookings, 259 of were not for new crime offenses, but for other reasons such as probation violations, home supervision violations, warrants, court-ordered holds, in-custody transfer cases from other jurisdictions, etc. The remaining 436 YGC bookings were for Part I or Part II crimes listed in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting nomenclature.

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The City needs this facility for offending-youth rehabilitation. There are many more wayward youth — at least 331 involved in 695 bookings in 2018 alone. With a strong District Attorney, the YGC population will increase. If we don’t write to City supervisors in protest, $80 million will have gone up in smoke and the YGC will soon become an $80 million homeless Navigation Center.

Division Circle Navigation Center, Photo: Sprung Structures
Division Navigation Center, Photo: Sprung Structures

Of the 436 bookings, 326 (75%) involved Part I crimes, which are felonies; the remaining 110 (25%) were Part II crimes that can be booked as felonies or misdemeanors. Of the 326 Part I crimes, 164 (50%) involved robbery, 59 (18%) were burglaries, and 53 (16%) involved aggravated assault. Two of the 326 Part I crimes were booked as willful homicide. Of the 110 Part II bookings, a total of 61 (55%) involved weapons offenses, assault/battery, or drug abuse violations, including narcotics (not marijuana).

In 2018, the YGC averaged housing 40 juvenile offenders a day; each stays an average of 23 days. The 695 bookings in 2018 involved at least 15,985 nights of services.

Mayor London Breed appointed a task force to plan for the future uses of the YGC for juveniles after the San Francisco Chronicle published a series of articles titled “Vanishing Violence.” The articles showed juvenile felony crime had fallen 86% between 1980 and 2016.

How could this massive drop in Juvenile crime happen, the report pondered? No explanation was put forward or answered.

Many believe a combination of new state laws to reduce felonies to misdemeanors and San Francisco’s permissive prosecution rates have decreased the YGC’s population.

San Francisco has the highest crime rate among the 20 largest cities in the country. Burglary, larceny, shoplifting, and vandalism are included in this category. The rate of car break-ins is out of control: In 2017 over 30,000 reports were filed. Other low-level offenses — including drug dealing, street harassment, encampments, indecent exposure, public intoxication, simple assault, and disorderly conduct — are also rampant. Mercifully, crime is slightly on the decline in 2019.

All of this crime, yet the YGC population continues to fall.

California law enforcement blames much of the crime wave on Proposition 47, which in 2014 downgraded possession of illegal narcotics for personal use and theft of anything under $950 in value from felonies to misdemeanors. Theft is indisputably booming, and narcotics activity is epidemic on sidewalks, parks, and playgrounds

When City police now catch youths committing crimes, the minor is given what amounts to a parking ticket for their offense. The next day, the minor may be back out on the streets committing additional crimes. In San Francisco, youth crime is a revolving door, with few juvenile offenders being prosecuted.

The lack of enforcement for these crimes is a conscious choice by the D.A.’s office, not always a limitation in existing law. A stay at the YGC could help many of our young offenders through rehabilitation. Thankfully, current D.A. George Gascón has announced his retirement.

The historic closure of San Francisco Juvenile Hall (by 2021) does not have the support of District Attorney candidate Nancy Tung. According to Mission Local, Tung stated that “The problem that I have with closing down our secured facilities (YGC) completely is that there are still going to be minors [who] are found by a judge that need confinement …” Tung also worried about “farming out” convicted minors outside of their communities.

Although critics keep stating that there are 150 beds at YGC, the facility was only designed to house 79 offending youth. The rooms are extremely small.

According to testimony submitted by Chief Probation Officer Allen Nance to the BOS on May 14, 2019 prior to the Board’s June 4 vote to close the YGC, “The rooms designed for two youths can hardly be characterized as ideally suited for two teens given their size and the presence of a toilet which the youths would be expected to use in the presence of their peers. For the past five years, all youth in SF’s juvenile hall are on single room status.”

Nance further testified, “Most youths involved in San Francisco’s juvenile justice system do not require secure custody. However, for the approximately 40 youths housed at Juvenile Hall on any given day, the facility represents a safe, secure, nurturing and necessary environment where their needs can be assessed, and a plan for their return to the community can be developed, meeting their best interests and in the furtherance of public safety. As such, judges, probation officers, and other practitioners must weigh the benefits and consequences of its use. The highest JH census thus far this year was on 01/22/2019.”

Nance also testified, “Closing the existing facility without a clear alternative denies these marginalized, disenfranchised, and vulnerable youths, the very interventions collectively designed to meet their needs.”

He also wrote that African American and LatinX youth would be impacted the most. The more than two-thirds reduction in juvenile court referrals is a clear indication that our youth are better off today than a decade ago. Since closing the current Juvenile Hall does not eliminate the county’s obligation to detain juveniles, we can ill-afford to suffer a gap between the closure of the existing facility and the creation of an equally effective alternative. It has been discussed that the need would not exceed 15 beds. It is unclear how this number was determined, nor is there clarity as to the manner in which youth classification and housing requirements will be met as promulgated by the Board of State and Community Corrections in state regulations Title 15 and Title 24. 

Chief Nance’s testimony noted that of 50 juveniles in the YGC on March 31, 2019, 30 (60%) were there for felony offenses.

Probation officials responded to the BOS 10-to-1 vote for YGC closure by offering a new plan called “Commitment to Success.” 

The “Commitment to Success” proposal targets male offending juveniles age 16 to 18, and would require youths to spend at least six months in the maximum security setting, participating in a range of programs including anger management, financial literacy, health education, vocational training and social skills development, according to an overview submitted to the Juvenile Probation Commission.

The program would target young people who have escalating criminal behavior and for whom other interventions have failed.

A rehabilitative program in juvenile hall would fill the void, probation officials said, providing an alternative to out-of-state placements and long-term sentences to juvenile hall — a facility designed for short-term stays.

beds in navigation center
A view inside one of the tents at the
Division Circle Navigation Center, which houses 126 homeless
Photos courtesy of Sprung Structures

Within two months, the BOS passed legislation on June 4 with a veto-proof vote of 10-to-1 to get rid of the YGC. Only District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani voted against closing the YGC. What were the other Supervisors thinking? 

A confidential source has stated Breed was “furious” that the vote was designed to undermine her own YGC Task Force. Breed was against the YGC closure and stated, “she is concerned that if juvenile hall is closed, San Francisco would have to send young people to another county when a judge orders detention.”

The BOS — particularly Hillary Ronen (D-8), Matt Haney D-6) and Shamann Walton (D-10) — were ecstatic. San Francisco is now the first major municipality in the country to close its Youth Guidance Center. Another BOS farce involving “political correctness” — albeit, minus common sense.

The qualified or unqualified San Francisco non-profits who work with troubled youth are also ecstatic at the windfall largess in City money that they now may receive. San Francisco taxpayers will subsidize these non-profits’ high costs and fee increases.

Obviously, the BOS wants the YGC building for other purposes. Construction of Juvenile Hall was funded using Certificates of Participation (COP’s), not bond money. City Hall can issue COP’s without voter approval. The 30-year COP’s were issued in September 2003 for $41.96 million, plus $37.5 million in interest, for a total of $79.5 million, which won’t be paid off until June 2034. The building was completed in 2007 to be a juvenile detention center, not a Navigation Center for the homeless.

Navigation Centers are different from traditional homeless shelters in that they have few barriers to entry and intensive case management. Unlike traditional shelters, people with partners, pets, and possessions are welcome at Navigation Centers. Drug users and alcoholics are also welcome. Clean syringes are passed out freely and often.

Homeless shelter residents aren’t prisoners and have total access to surrounding neighborhoods. Locating a Navigation Center at the YGC will allow easy access to Westside schools, neighborhoods, businesses, and churches.

Former Mayor Willie Brown was quick to state in his September 7 San Francisco Chronicle column Time to Help SF’s Homeless: “Here’s a thought: San Francisco’s progressives appear committed to cutting back on the number of people incarcerated in the city’s justice system. We’ve even set a 2021 closure date for juvenile hall.So let’s turn it and underused jail space into Navigation Centers.”

The BOS are also scheming to replace San Francisco’s troubled youth with a Navigation Center homeless population. This population bait-and-switcheroo must be done quietly and out of public view. The BOS wants to appear blameless. Replacing troubled youth with the homeless is nothing to be proud of. It’s cowardly.

Now, with no plan for the care of San Francisco’s juvenile offenders in place, the BOS is vaguely mumbling about keeping offending youth in the community and building another “hidden” YGC for the more violent offenders. Many of these Juvenile offenders will undoubtedly be shipped out of county, away from their families, at substantial tax-payer expense.

Please help save San Francisco’s YGC. The City needs this facility for offending-youth rehabilitation. There are many more wayward youth — at least 331 involved in 695 bookings in 2018 alone. With a strong District Attorney, the YGC population will increase. If we don’t write to City supervisors in protest, $80 million will have gone up in smoke and the YGC will soon become an $80 million homeless Navigation Center.

George Wooding, Neighborhood Emeritus

October 2019

YGC: A Confederacy of Dunces

George
George Wooding.

The Youth Guidance Center (YGC) will be closed and turned into a Navigation Center. The YGC was built to help youth see there are new paths they can follow.

On June 4 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 10 – 1 to close the YGC by December 31, 2021. Supervisors could be seen celebrating their lame decision. From beginning to end, the legislative process took only two months.

Mayor London Breed was against the YGC closure and stated, “she is concerned that if juvenile hall is closed, San Francisco would have to send young people to another county when a judge orders detention.”

Youth Guidance Center YGC Under Construction.
YGC Under Construction

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the YGC closure was based on a juvenile delinquent study by the Chronicle. The study — hardly “independent” — showed that as YGC juvenile delinquency rates declined, overall facility costs rose.

This article is about: 1) The stupidity of closing the YGC facility, 2) The City’s repurposing of mental health facilities to create Navigation Centers, and 3) The repurposing of the YGC to become a large Navigation Center.

Navigation Centers are designed to shelter San Francisco’s highly vulnerable and long-term homeless residents who are often fearful of accessing traditional shelter and services. Navigation Centers provide these otherwise homeless San Franciscans room and board, while case managers work to connect them to income, public benefits, health services, shelter, and housing.

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I don’t want the Youth Guidance Center to be closed. I don’t want the YGC facility to become a Navigation Center or mental health “justice” center. Please contact your Supervisors and Mayor Breed to voice opposition.

Navigation Centers are different from traditional homeless shelters in that they have few barriers to entry, and intensive case management. Unlike traditional shelters, people with partners, pets, and possessions are welcome at Navigation Centers. Drug users and alcoholics are also welcome. Clean syringes are passed out freely and often.

Shelter residents are not allowed to take drugs or drink alcohol inside of Navigation Centers; therefore, they will drop used hypodermic needles and bottles throughout the surrounding neighborhoods.

Shelter residents are not prisoners and have total access to surrounding neighborhoods. Locating a navigation center at the YGC will allow easy resident access to Midtown Terrace, Forest Knolls, Forest Hills, St. John Armenian Church, Greater West Portal Neighborhood Association, Twin Peaks Improvement Association, Miraloma Park, children’s parks, public trails, Mount Davidson, Mount Sutro, City streets, Laguna Honda Hospital, St Brendan Parish School, Rooftop Elementary School, Clarendon Alternative Elementary School and just across the street, The Ruth Asawa School of the Arts High School.

Legislative wording: “The City may not close the Juvenile Hall until the Board of Supervisors has approved by resolution a final plan following the submission of such a plan by the Close Juvenile Hall Working Group as provided in Section 5.40-6(d).”

This wording means that the current YGC has approximately a 90% chance of being converted to a navigation center. The City will have public meetings, but the Mayor and the BOS can move forward on Navigation Centers without any public approval.

SEC. 5.40-7. SUNSET DATE.

Legislative wording: “This Article XL shall expire by operation of law, and the Working Group shall terminate, when the Chief Juvenile Probation Officer certifies in writing that Juvenile Hall is closed and there is a substitute place or places of detention, approved by the Court, that is available for wards of the Court and persons alleged to come within the jurisdiction of the Court. In that event, after the sunset date, the City Attorney shall cause this Article XL to be removed from the Administrative Code.”

Everybody talks about the rights of homeless people, but nobody talks about the rights of residents to have a peaceful existence in their neighborhoods.

Despite completing the brand new YGC for $45 million in 2007, the City will consider rebuilding a “hidden” YGC. This will allow the participants who closed the 2007 facility to continue to feel good about themselves.

Allen Nance, San Francisco’s Chief Juvenile Probation Officer, hates the idea of closing the YGC. Nance states “that he has concerns that 2.5 years is not enough time to create and implement alternative settings for youth.” Nance acknowledges most juvenile detentions in San Francisco are for serious, violent felony offenses.

Nance and representatives from local chapters of the NAACP have called on the supervisors to keep the facility open and update its treatment programs.

“It will be a real challenge to do that,” Nance stated. “There are entities outside of my department and outside the city and county of San Francisco that would have to look at those plans, approve those plans, and look at the feasibility and suitability of whatever vision is created.”

Many San Francisco juvenile delinquents may now be shipped out of county where they may face much harsher conditions. Separating youth from their families and communities by dumping them into out-of-county alternatives may harm their rehabilitation.

Further, “Nance added that key stakeholders were not consulted before the measure was introduced, including leaders in the African American community and the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Commission.”

This idiotic action makes San Francisco the first major City in the country to shut down a juvenile hall in an effort to eliminate the jailing of children. Another first for “politically correct” San Francisco.

“For me this is about history,” said Supervisor Ahsha Safaí. “We incarcerate more people ... than any other country in the world. We have a culture of incarceration.” The average stay at the YGC is 23 days.

Only D-2 Supervisor Catherine Stephanie voted to keep the YGC. Thank you for your intelligence, Supervisor! Stephanie called for additional community input prior to such a drastic step and before real alternatives are in place. “I think we all know we can do better and things need to change, and we need to put our youth first,” Stefani said.

More interesting, Supervisors have said that transfer out of county would not be necessary, since the legislation requires creation of community-based facilities, including a secure environment for those who need it. Those settings would include mental health services, job training, and other support systems.

Really? Creation of community-based facilities rarely happens. It cost $45.5 million to build the YGC in 2007 and now with no plan, the City is considering duplicating facilities throughout the city and/or paying out-of-county fees for services. No wonder a $12.2 billion City budget leads to deficit spending!

Ultra-progressive co-sponsor, District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney, led the charge to get rid of the YGC.

Citizens may remember Haney, the former president of San Francisco’s Board of Education, wanted to paint over the 13-panel, 1,600 square foot mural at Washington High School depicting scenes from “slave owner” George Washington’s life. Members of Isis and the Taliban would be proud of Haney’s revisionist history.

Haney tried to rename Washington High School after Maya Angelou. One problem, Angelou dropped out of Washington High at the age of 14. He also wanted to distribute free condoms to ten- and eleven-year-olds.

Yes, getting rid of the YGC is right up Haney’s alley. It doesn’t help that the Board of Supervisors has reportedly not developed a plan for what to do with the vacated YGC facility.

Haney is currently developing legislation called “Navigating Homelessness Together” that would force all eleven supervisorial districts to build at least one Navigation Center in the next 30 months. Supervisors Gordon Mar (D-4), Hillary Ronen (D-9), and Shamann Walton (D-10) are already co-sponsors.

Supervisors based their votes on the decline of juvenile crime and the costs of operating the facility per occupant. The YGC was operating at a lower rate of occupancy. Thus, the cost per juvenile delinquent increased.

If more children were prosecuted for crimes — such as breaking into cars, vandalism, assault, or robbery — the YGC would soon be full.

As former D7 supervisor Tony Hall brilliantly stated in his July Westside Observer article, “(I)f our laws were enforced, the YGC would be filled to capacity. The last thing we should be doing is eliminating what was intended to be an established correctional, rehabilitative, counseling and vocational justice community half-way houses. This unprofessional treatment increases the dangers to the community at large. The fact that the present YGC has not operated as it should have, or at near capacity is not due to lack of street crime, but to the permissive policies pursued by the last three administrations.”

NACCP president and former district Supervisor Amos Brown called on supervisors to consider African American youths, who make up the majority of those in juvenile hall, saying he was concerned they would be “shipped out of town to other facilities.”

“If we close down juvenile hall, where will violent or sexual offenders and those with mental health issues go?” Brown asked. “Through sensible, respectful conversation, we should tweak the facility and amend it, but not end it.”

According to the Chronicle “Supervisors have said that if juvenile hall closes, there will be community conversations about what to do with the facility, including possible uses to address homelessness or mental health needs, among other ideas.”

The Chronicle reported August 25 that California’s Deputy Attorney General Leif Dautch, a November candidate for San Francisco District Attorney, has “proposed transforming the nearly empty juvenile hall into a mental health justice center to treat people battling mental illness.”

San Francisco politicians have a long history of social engineering. Few remember how Mayor Ed Lee dismantled the Mental Health Rehabilitation Facility (MHRF) in June 2013, after Mayor Gavin Newsom had reconfigured it in 2008 by reducing its 147 psychiatric beds to just 47.

The MHRF was constantly over-budget by approximately $8 million to $12 million annually. An enlightened Lee decided that mental health patients would be better served by placing them back into the community. “In the community” often means in out-of-county communities. Does this sound familiar?

Many of the mental patients had trouble either receiving their medications and/or taking their medications. Within a year many of the mental patients were back on the streets and homeless.

Mayor Gavin Newsom did the same thing with Laguna Honda Hospital by eliminating 420 skilled nursing beds from the LHH rebuild, promising more community-based alternatives — which were never built! At least 1,659 San Franciscans have been discharged out-of-county because of the severe shortage of long-term care medical facilities in the City.

Now, Mayor Breed is shoving long-term mental health patients out of beds that some of them have lived in for 15 years. Breed engineers with a hammer.

The City is preparing to close dozens of permanent, residential treatment beds at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital in order to increase capacity in a short-term psychiatric respite program also operated at the hospital.

Breed has prioritized short-term stays for the homeless over long-term mentally ill patients. She is creating another Navigation Center at SF General.

According to the San Francisco Examiner, “The proposed closure of 41 beds in the unit, which currently operates 55 residential beds reserved for patients with severe mental health challenges who are unable to live independently, would reduce its bed count to 14.”

Further, “None of the patients currently living in the Adult Residential Facility (ARF) will lose their homes, stressed Department of Public Health spokesperson Rachael Kagan, who said that the beds are being ‘redistributed’ to allow for a 27-bed expansion at the hospital’s Hummingbird Place, a low-barrier homeless shelter, called Navigation Center, that specifically serves clients struggling with mental health and substance use issues.”

Hall wrote, “To those who vote them in [politicians] and are footing the bill, you’d better be prepared to fight. Don’t forget, YGC sits on Laguna Honda property. Look at what our leaders have done to that once nationally-acclaimed facility – once the envy of cities across the country for needy seniors. Now home to conflicting populations of mental and substance abuse patients and homeless indigents, forcing our less fortunate elders to seek refuge and treatment in more expensive out-of-town facilities.”

I don’t want the YGC to be closed. I don’t want the YGC facility to become a Navigation Center or mental health “justice” center. Please contact your Supervisors and Mayor Breed to voice opposition.

George Wooding, Neighborhood Emeritus; Contact him at gswooding@gmail.com.

September 2019

Our State Senator’s War on Neighborhoods Accelerates

Wiener’s Unethical Gut-and-Amend

Senate District 11 residential homeowners may have the most unethical State Senator in California:  Scott Wiener. Wiener’s latest act of poor governance? On June 12, Wiener used what’s known as a “gut-and-amend” maneuver to completely rewrite SB-592. The original SB-592 addressed licensure for barbers and cosmetologists. He completely gutted it, now calling it the Housing Accountability Act.

Wiener eliminated all language in the original barber’s and cosmetologist’s bill, and replaced it with new language, essentially an amended version including the first part of SB-50 and the first part of SB-330, sprinkled with a dose of SB-167 on top.

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Wiener’s goal is to increase the size of Westside housing (McMansions) or demolish existing housing and build four - to five-story buildings with no parking.”

He did so in part because SB-592 had successfully passed the Senate Appropriations Committee, whereas his SB-50 had been suspended in Appropriations. He did so to avoid vetting public review during further public hearings and to avoid having to start at the beginning of the process.

SB-592 would once again undermine a long list of local controls over residential development, at the same time Mayor London Breed is trying to override neighborhood input into affordable housing projects with her proposed November 2019 City Charter change.

Gut-and-amend bills are designed for legislators to deceive the public. With this maneuver, a legislator at the last moment before adjournment strips a bill that has gone through multiple committee hearings of its original content and inserts new language usually completely unrelated to the original bill.

The problem isn’t just gut-and-amend,” said Jim Mayer, director of the nonpartisan think tank California Forward. “Every gut-and-amend — it’s really a power play — comes with the suspicion that it’s to avoid public scrutiny.

The abuse of process is breathtaking,” said Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo.

According to Daily Post correspondent Elaine Goodman, “The Housing Accountability Act (SB-167), enacted in 1982, is intended to make it harder for local governments to block housing projects. It’s sometimes referred to as the anti-NIMBY law, refering to those who say ‘not in my backyard’ to new development.”

Goodman adds, “Wiener’s new version of SB-592 would clarify that a housing development doesn’t have to be a multi-unit project to be covered by the Housing Accountability Act (HAA). A project could be a single housing unit; an accessory dwelling unit, or so-called granny unit; or even the addition of one or more bedrooms to an existing home, under the bill.

Goodman also says, “If a developer takes a city to court for rejecting a housing project and wins, SB-592 would allow the developer to receive compensatory damages, in addition to attorney fees.

With virtually no public scrutiny, Wiener has created a situation where it is beneficial for developers and housing lobbyists to sue cities for big settlements, and/or development concessions. Local legislators will see their budgets looted.

Wiener’s strongest allies are housing lobbyists who receive contributions from the same contributors that he does — real estate developers and high-techs. They’re called “Yes In My Back Yard” (YIMBYs).

Brian Hanlon, the president of YIMBY, helped Wiener write SB-827 and was involved in the amendments to SB-167. He also consulted with Wiener on SB-50.

In 2015, YIMBY formed the California Renters Legal Advocacy Fund, or CaRLA, to sue the suburbs. CaRLA has used the HAA — SB167 — to sue on behalf of developers in Sausalito, Berkeley, San Mateo, Sonoma, Dublin, and Lafayette. YIMBY will now use SB-592, the tougher HAA version, to intimidate cities.

CaRLA is a so-called 501(c)3 non-profit that holds cities accountable that they consider are acting in perceived violation of state laws. CaRLA pursues legal action where developers have not, bringing suit against cities that fail to approve compliant housing. CaRLA claims to work for renters, not homeowner wealth.

Wiener’s new stealth housing act will include an amended portion to help groups such as YIMBY coerce or sue cities to build housing.

Amateur lawsuits can lead to unintended housing consequences.

In a huge defeat for YIMBY, Lafayette developer O’Brien Homes had initially proposed 315 apartments at the intersection of Deer Hill and Pleasant Hill roads. O’Brien eventually received approval for 44 single-family homes, which will be far more expensive.

Let’s see. 271 affordable homes will not be built in Lafayette and 44 very expensive homes will be. Of course, YIMBY declared victory. Is their mission still to create more affordable housing?

Lafayette supports smart growth, not indiscriminate growth. In this case, the city and the developer agreed to work together on a more suitable plan for that parcel. That’s good government,” said Steven Falk, Lafayette’s city manager.

YIMBY should look around — there is a multifamily construction boom in downtown Lafayette and at least seven major developers are now entitling and building projects,” Falk continued. “YIMBY is intent on suing the suburbs over the housing crunch. In this case, they sued the wrong suburb. 

Put a tent over this circus.

On June 21, John Mirisch, the Mayor of Beverly Hills, wrote to Scott Wiener “We are extremely concerned that SB 592 would stifle opportunities for our residents to engage in a transparent public process and to provide comments on projects involving single-family homes and accessory dwelling units.”

Further. “Our residents expect us to take every step that we can to protect the character and excellent quality of life in their neighborhood, but SB 592 would rob us of the ability to carry out this responsibility.”

According to Larry Gersten,1 Ph.D., “Under the rules of the legislature, bills are supposed to be vetted through numerous committee hearings where individuals, experts and organizations like the CMA and others [can] speak up. Sometimes they win and sometimes they lose, but the process is transparent.”

Gersten added, “That’s what makes the gut-and-amend strategy so unfortunate. With a simple parliamentary ruling of the Senate Rules Committee, the committee process can be tossed aside ... why have committees in the first place? There’s nothing illegal about gut-and-amend. Whether it’s ethical is another matter.

Wiener is supported by 700 development and high-tech contributors. His goals are to increase developer incentives, market rate housing, and to promote himself.

In 2018, his SB-827 failed to pass, Planning and zoning: Transit-Rich Housing Bonus. It received two votes. Then he reintroduced SB-827 as SB-50 Planning and zoning: housing development: streamlined approval: incentives.

Both SB-827 and 50 were developer giveaways and entitlements.

SB-50 is currently in the Appropriations Committee and can’t be voted on before 2020. His failure may kill SB-50 — a major legislative setback.

Wiener’s goal is to increase the size of Westside housing (McMansions) or demolish existing housing and build four - to five-story buildings with no parking.

The SF Land Use Coalition has scheduled a forum on “The Impact of Increased Housing Density on the Westside of San Francisco.” It will be held at 7 pm on Thursday, July 18 at St. John Armenian Church, 275 Olympia Way. President of the Board of Supervisors Norman Yee and D4 Supervisor Gordon Mar will discuss housing issues. A presentation on the impacts of proposed state legislation and its impact on Westside housing will be made. There will be plenty of parking and admission is free. Tell your friends!

George Wooding, Coalition For San Francisco Neighborhoods. Contact him at gswooding@gmail.com.

JULY 2019

Don Quixote’s Banjo Player

Westside: Scott Wiener Does Not Represent Us

George
George Wooding.

With one foot on a banana peel and the other foot sliding off the national stage on housing issues, San Franciscans have to start asking ourselves: Do we really want to re-elect Scott Wiener in 2020?

Most politicians have negatives. But the extreme dislike of Wiener by knowledgeable residential property owners is way past a negative. Wiener’s Senate District 11 consists of all of San Francisco County, including Treasure Island; Colma; Daly City; 27% of South San Francisco; and 17% of San Mateo County.

In his Don Quixote quest to pass statewide density housing legislation, Wiener has become a lobbyist for developers and high-technology companies at the expense of the residential homeowners in Senate District 11 and throughout the state.

No one denies that California has a housing problem. Wiener’s developer-driven, Sacramento-based, build-at-all-costs legislation will ultimately be much less successful than intelligent locally-planned growth. Wiener wants developers to build San Francisco’s housing by giving developers incentives to increase their profits. That’s like Quixote tilting at windmills.

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Wiener has become a lobbyist for developers and high-technology companies at the expense of the residential homeowners in Senate District 11 and throughout the state.”

The results of Wiener’s Senate Bill 50 (SB-50) would create a wonderland of poorly-designed, ugly, housing density for high-earning workers in a town that already has 30,000 vacant units. The average new unit would be approximately 500- to 800-square-feet in size, preferably in buildings that are five stories high but with no parking. The buildings would be near San Francisco’s aging transit centers, or could be built in any residential neighborhood next door to your home.

Thus, Wiener has led an all-out attack on the 70% of his constituents who live in single-family housing. According to his legislation, existing single-family housing needs to be torn down or rebuilt so that larger apartment structures can be built. San Francisco’s Westside is one of his primary targets. Low-income areas are also in jeopardy because the housing costs less. This leads to gentrification and residential displacement. Over one-third of the San Francisco Mission District’s Hispanic population has already been displaced.

Wiener has accused the West Side of being racist and exclusionary. Early West Side developers wrote Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) that were racially exclusionary, but these old CC&Rs were rescinded 51 years ago in 1968. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin or sex.

According to the San Francisco Supervisor Districts Socio-Economic Profile report: 57% of District 4 is Asian, 1% Black, 34% White, 6% Latino, and 7% Mixed Race. The District 7 demographics are: 34% Asian, 4% Black, 52% White, Mixed Race 10%, and Latino 11%. District 4 is 66% non-white; District 7 is 48% non-white. Are they all exclusionary racists?

Clearly Districts 4 and 7 are racial melting pots, not homogeneous white enclaves.

This is one of Wiener’s racial comments about his detractors on the West Side on February 4, 2018. Wiener twittered: “It’s fascinating when racist anti-growthers pretend they’re opposing pro-housing bills b/c, they say, low income communities & communities of color will be harmed. These folks should be honest about what they want: to keep those same exact communities out of their neighborhoods.” Perhaps Wiener should more closely study the demographics of San Francisco’s districts.

Wiener disrespects West Side residents by using the derogatory term, “NIMBYS.” NIMBY (an acronym for the phrase “Not In My Back Yard”), or Nimby, is a derisive characterization of opposition by residents to proposed developments in their neighborhoods. It carries the connotation that such residents only oppose a development project because it is close to them and that they would tolerate or support it if it were built farther away. The residents are often called Nimbys, and their viewpoint is called Nimbyism.

Wiener’s Nimby terminology is the equivalent of labeling his opposition “banjo-playing idiots.” He neither listens to residents’ opinions, nor respects West Side homeowners’ opinions. Although he has already failed legislatively twice, he still believes that nobody else is as smart as he is. It’s almost as if he believes he’s another very stable genius.

He spent the last two years trying to pass his draconian housing legislation — first, his SB-827 Planning and Zoning: Transit-Rich Housing Bonus failed in 2018, and second, his SB-50 Planning and Zoning: Housing Development: Incentives legislation failed in 2019. According to an anonymous Sacramento lobbyist, Wiener pulled the bill because he did not have enough votes to get the SB-50 legislation out of the Appropriations Committee. SB-50 will come up for a vote at the Senate Appropriations Committee no earlier than January 2020.

Should Wiener manage to get SB-50 passed in 2020, his tenure as a state Senator will effectively be over.

On May 16, Wiener was quoted on WEHOville.com, “We’re not giving up trying to move it [SB-50] forward this year,” Wiener said. “This is not over … We’re either serious about solving this crisis, or we aren’t. At some point, we will need to make the hard political choices necessary for California to have a bright housing future.” WEHOville.com is a West Hollywood news outlet.

Ironically, SB-50 was opposed by the West Hollywood City Council and other local governments that had argued the bill would unfairly reduce control over local development. It was also opposed by West Hollywood homeowner associations.

In the 2018 California Senate’s Transportation and Housing Committee’s vote, SB-827 lost four votes to six. The only two yes votes from Democrats were from the bill’s authors (Wiener and Nancy Skinner), illustrating the disconnect between the bill’s progressive goals and the demands of constituents from liberal (and often wealthy) areas. Naturally, Wiener voted for his own poorly-written housing density legislation.

Wiener used SB-827 to promote housing density and as a bully pulpit to promote himself. SB-827 would have overridden most local zoning controls. It would have allowed for much higher building heights and a higher density of new projects within a half-mile radius of any transit stop.

The result: 96% of San Francisco’s residential housing stock could be built at least five stories higher. Imagine 60-foot-high homes being built next door to normal 26-foot-high residential houses.

Mayor London Breed supports her “Good Friend” Scott’s housing density legislation.

Scott Wiener sold his soul to developers and high-tech firms in the 2016, State Senate District 11 race. Wiener was competing against former-Supervisor Jane Kim. Kim held the lead by winning the June primary but was then buried under an avalanche of Wiener’s campaign contributions. Wiener won the November 2016 general election by just under 13,000 votes.

The race between the two shaped up to be the most expensive local State Senate race in history, and was a nail-biter from the start. Backed primarily by business and developers, Wiener narrowly won in November. Wiener generated approximately three times more political contributions than Kim from over 700 developers and businesses.

On November 3, 2020 please make sure not to make the mistake of voting for Scott Wiener. Three strikes and he’s out. Despite the number of Political Action Committee (PAC) contributions by billionaire developers, Independent Expenditure Committee’s (IEC) financially contributed to by high-technology billionaires, paid volunteers, daily brochures in your mailbox, endorsements, web advertising, website platforms, television and radio commercials, campaign operatives and managers, phone banks and robo calls, please do not vote for Wiener’s re-election.

His political support will be a mile wide and an inch thick, accompanied by a banjo-playing Don Quixote.

George Wooding, Coalition For SF Neighborhoods

JUNE 2019

Time Is Running Out for the Youth Guidance Center

Do not close down SF’s Youth Guidance Center (YGC).

San Francisco Supervisors Hillary Ronen, Shamann Walton, and Matt Haney are drafting legislation that would close the YGC by the end of 2021. It has 150 beds but typically has fewer than 50 youths held inside.

I do not want juveniles who commit violent crimes to be placed in halfway houses, nor do I want them to be placed in adult prisons where they will learn to become better — or worse — criminals.

San Francisco should keep the YGC, and repurpose it by offering services to nonviolent youth offenders while continuing to incarcerate separated violent juveniles.

The relatively small number of youths for whom confinement is justified need facilities that can provide a humane and developmentally-appropriate setting in which their delinquent behaviors can be treated effectively.

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Although the United States still leads the industrialized world in the rate at which we lock up young people, the youth confinement rate in the United States is rapidly declining.”

Margaret Lemus, a concerned Miraloma Park resident, received this response from Supervisor Norman Yee’s Legislative Aide Ivy Lee regarding the potential closure of the YGC, “Supervisor Yee is in agreement with you completely that there must be a fully-informed and thoughtful development of alternatives. It’s very easy to simply call for tearing something down – it’s much more difficult to do the work of examining the issue from all sides, determining what is in the best interest of both the youth in custody as well as the best interest of true public safety improvements, and then coming up with a concrete plan of action to execute an alternative.”

Further, “Under state law, there are certain criminal charges that result in mandatory detention or at least the possibility of detention in the interest of public safety. Without a brick-and-mortar facility in the city and county, we would be forced to send youth charged with certain crimes out of county. That’s not an ideal outcome preventing recidivism… It is likely to be both more expensive as well as less effective...”

A change is underway in San Francisco’s approach to dealing with young people who get in trouble with the law. Although the United States still leads the industrialized world in the rate at which we lock up young people, the youth confinement rate in the United States is rapidly declining.

In every year for which data are available, the overwhelming majority of confined youth are held for nonviolent offenses.

The current YGC rebuild was completed in 2007 at a cost of $45.9 million — at least $9 million over budget. It was designed to house 150 minors.

Work on the new juvenile hall on Woodside Avenue began in 2003, paid for partly with a $15.1 million state grant. The old hall then located next door was more than 50 years old and still housed youths. It was considered so outmoded and rundown that a civil grand jury once called it “unfit to house the city’s children.”

The old YGC had 104 beds and today’s YGC has 150 beds, another source of controversy in a city where youth advocates want fewer juvenile delinquents locked up and more sent to alternative programs within the community.

“I don’t intend to fill the beds in the new facility at all,” said former Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Bill Siffermann, who was appointed to the job in 2005 by Mayor Newsom based on Siffermann’s efforts to reform juvenile programs in Chicago and reduce the kids in lock-up.

Mayor Newsom and Sifferman wanted to house no more than 78 juveniles at any time in the new YGC.

Now we have three City supervisors basing legislation on the difference between 150 beds and the number of beds currently being used.

Perhaps the Supervisors should work with the Community Behavioral Health Services (CBHS), a Department of Public Health division, to help promote wellness among San Francisco’s children. CBHS provides mental health prevention and early intervention through partnerships with community-based agencies, schools, health centers, shelters, child care centers and family care providers. Services may include outreach, assessment, child/classroom observation, screening, clinical/program consultation, individual/family therapy, parent support groups and other related activities and training. This would be time well spent.

“Nothing humbles you more than a tragic loss or when something doesn’t go as expected. But my experience at YGC was quite humbling, for the better,” said an anonymous former YGC member, who was 12 years old and stayed at the facility for one month.

“Growing up as an angry misguided youth, I was caught up in the wrong crowd, making bad choices. My time in YGC was very short lived but fortunately it taught me to learn from my mistakes. It wasn’t exactly the environment I wanted to be in, but it was well needed, meeting a few other kids who had gone through nearly the same situation I have and learning their motives as to why they were at YGC. I tried to look at their stories from both perspectives. I can remember the food wasn’t the worst.”

Further, “The worst thing I remember is when a fight broke out for some reason I can’t recall. I made a few friends there, but I’ve never kept in touch after that. All in all, my experience at YGC was one of my wake-up calls and my opinion on why YGC should not be closed, but rather transformed into a youth center so that kids can learn how to deal with their problems in a more positive and beneficial course of action.

“They [YGC] should open up programs such as cooking classes, movie nights, video game lounges, study halls, health and wellness classes, psychological evaluations with counselors and licensed therapists. Just anything that will benefit the youth and keep them out of the streets.”

There are two other reasons the City might want to close the YGC. The Fiscal Year 2018–2019 YGC budget is $40.4M. This would be a large sum to hijack for other budgetary uses.

The YGC is built on Laguna Honda Hospital property. Will the city demolish, remodel or refurbish the fairly new building and build and/or fund a new housing project that may feature homelessness-, mental health-, or low-income housing?

Alan Nance, the Chief Juvenile Probation Officer at YGC said, “In accordance with your [city] priorities with this funding, the Department and Commission have engaged in conversations to create up to three dedicated beds in an appropriate psychiatric setting for this vulnerable population.”

Nance added, “The [city] Policy staff and the Department of Public Health should explore flexible opportunities to provide dedicated beds for youth requiring acute psychiatric care in custody of the Juvenile Probation Department, but whose needs cannot be met within the secure facility of the Department.”

I question the Supervisors’ and City Hall’s motives for getting rid of the YGC. Their legislation should be thoroughly vetted by the neighborhoods, and their good intentions should be questioned.

Let’s keep the YGC.

George Wooding, Coalition For SF Neighborhoods

MAY 2019

The Thrill Is Gone for Neighbors of ‘Outside Lands’

Thunderous noise for three days. People cannot hear in their own homes. Windows rattle. Children and seniors covering their ears in pain. Welcome to the San Francisco Outside Lands Festival Concert (OL).

The August 2018 OL festival generated 249 noise complaints by 190 different residents over approximately 12 square miles of western San Francisco. Some of the complaints came from residents who live as far as three miles from Golden Gate Park. And some residents whose noise complaints have been ignored for years simply abandon their homes during the three-day festival.

According to the City’s own data, noise complaints in 2018 more than tripled over the average of prior years. Therefore, it appears OL complaints aren’t a mere continuation of pre-existing activities, they represent a significant increase.

Currently, California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) noise standards don’t apply to San Francisco Recreation and Park Department (RPD) land. By cleverly utilizing CEQA categories incorrectly, the RPD was able to declare that OL automatically receive a categorical exemption in Golden Gate Park.

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According to the City’s own data, noise complaints in 2018 more than tripled over the average of prior years.”

The RPD needs to use a CEQA Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND). A MND is prepared for a project when an initial study identifies potentially significant effects on the environment, but the effects no longer pose a significant environmental impact after a project is revised. MNDs require an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The report can cost millions of dollars and take up to two years to complete. Public safety should always come first.

“Categorical Exemptions” are descriptions of types of projects which the Secretary of the California Resources Agency has determined don’t usually have a significant effect on the environment. They are the lowest CEQA environmental standard. The RPD has now rid itself of bothersome CEQA environmental reports and restrictions on noise.

Plaintiffs Andrew Solow and Stephen Somerstein are suing the City for OL noise reduction and changing the CEQA Categorical Exemption to a CEQA negative declaration.

No Police Jurisdiction: RPD’s first step was to remove the noise jurisdiction from San Francisco’s Police Code, Article 29 Regulation of Noise, Guidelines for Noise Control Ordinance Monitoring and Enforcement. The Police Code supersedes all previous San Francisco noise guidelines. RPD no longer has to comply with City noise guidelines.

RPD now operates under a new noise standard it calls “As Required.” This new standard is a mystery. Nobody knows what decibel level the standard uses, not even the RPD.

Further, the proposed use permit doesn’t include acoustical standards or testing protocols RPD and Outside Lands use to determine if outdoor noise levels from OL are acceptable, because the City never adopted outdoor noise standards. And the use permit doesn’t even mention the possibility of retaining an acoustical engineering firm to design the sound system for each festival.

The last slap in the face for neighbors involves OL complaint reporting. Neighbors over three miles away have made noise complaints. Complaint phone numbers are difficult to find. OL is self-monitoring and it receives the complaint calls rather than RPD receiving the calls. This is the classic “fox guarding the hen house.”

Fewer noise complaints will be received and probably many complaints will go unreported. RPD has no way of knowing how many neighborhood complaints were received. Additionally, OL is a private company and cannot be Sunshined for information and records. The police simply say that they have no jurisdiction, and won’t even take noise complaint calls.

Tiffany Lin-Wilson, an RPD secretary answerable to RPD director Phil Ginsburg, Dana Ketchum, Director of Permits and Property Management, and RPD Commissioner Mark Buell responded to one Sunshine records request stating:

“The documents I sent last week, were all that I was given. I was also informed of the following: Park Rangers don’t conduct sound measurements in Golden Gate Park during Outside Lands Concerts. We are reactive to the calls from citizens who are complaining and concerns over loud music coming from the concert venue. There is no requirement as stated to monitor sound during the event. I cannot speak for the promoter ‘Another Planet Entertainment’ who hires a private company to monitor sound. I do not know their criteria.”

“The festival has drawn 2 million visitors to San Francisco and is estimated to generate $66 million annually in economic benefits,” according to Ketchum.

RPD essentially admitted it has no idea how many noise complaints there were, what the decibel levels were per complaint, or even whether sound meters used the same calibration to produce uniform results. It’s a clear example of RPD being inept and placing profits before public safety.

According to page 3 of the Wilson Hirig report Noise, Vibration and Acoustics: “It is not clear who gathered the data, though most appear to have been collected by Treeline Security, the security company retained by the concert promoters, Another Planet Entertainment, LLC (promoters of OL.) These data are not provided in a formal technical report, so there is no indication of equipment used (San Francisco requires Type 1 sound level meters), calibration traceability, or even meter settings. Additional readings appear to have been made by San Francisco Park Rangers. Again, no information was provided about the equipment, calibration, or meter settings for these readings.”

Plaintiff Solow states: “The RPD has now rid its agency of environmental reports and restrictions on noise. After spending six months trying to convince the SF Recreation and Parks Dept. to adopt objective standards for noise levels from the Outside Lands Festival, on Jan. 17, the SF Recreation and Park Commission (SFRPC) ignored complaints from more than 240 San Francisco residents and approved a 10-year extension of the Festival Use Permit with no noise limits. If the permit is adopted by the SF Board of Supervisors (BOS) on April 2nd, this permit would make it impossible to make a meaningful objection to noise from Outside Lands, no matter how loud it is, until 2031.”

Citizens don’t want to stop or harm the OL festival. We should want the following:

• A better run, more honest RPD.

• San Francisco’s RPD and the Planning Department must withdraw its deficient CEQA Categorical Exemption Determination.

• The City must promulgate quantitative noise standards that are appropriate for the OL Festival and other music performance events in Golden Gate Park.

• The City must develop a CEQA process incorporating Quantitative Noise Limits and other feasible noise mitigation measures.

After all, excessive decibel levels can damage everybody’s hearing.

George Wooding, President of the Coalition For San Francisco Neighborhoods

APRIL 2019

Welcome to Wienerville

If you want to protect your neighborhood, street, or house, it’s time to defeat or mitigate State Senator Scott Wiener’s SB-50 legislation.

oversize development
George
George Wooding.

Wiener and his allies want to replace the single-family housing stock throughout California with dense/multi-family housing. These structures will derisively be called Wienervilles and will feature many of the same sized and structural components as Hoovervilles.

SB 50 will ruin cherished neighborhoods, severely gentrify working-class areas, significantly worsen housing affordability, and displace thousands of San Franciscans.

SB-50 is designed to add housing density at the expense of residential neighborhoods. The least expensive housing is housing that is already built. This bill will impact 100% of San Francisco’s residential housing stock.

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...developers will only be constructing market rate housing—not affordable housing—under Wiener’s misguided belief market-rate housing will magically trickle down to affordable housing. This will result in housing price increases, but no increase in housing supply and a city filled with eyesores: Wienerville units. Thanks, Scott, and co-author Phil Ting.

Wiener’s goal is to get rid of residential housing by upzoning all of San Francisco. State legislated upzoning encourages development by offering entitlements to developers. Upzoning avoids any serious planning in neighborhoods, or in the city as a whole. Local residents and businesses will not be able to address serious concerns with everything from housing needs to traffic because upzoning regulations are limited to use and density controls.

small house dwarfed by developmentIf SB 50 passes, developers will become San Francisco’s new Planning Department. They will do whatever they want with the properties they purchase.

SB 50 will turn thousands of San Francisco streets into density-bonus areas. San Franciscans will have no say regarding developer decisions. Developers will choose their own incentives from a menu of rewards and waivers.

Below is a sample of existing local development standards and planning tools. SB 50 will let developers toss out up to three of them at their discretion, including height limits:

• Setbacks: Areas for trees, green belts, and side yards can be eliminated.

• Floor area ratio: Building size/density can grow 47% to 297%. This means developers can build 85-foot structures next to your house and you can’t do a thing.

• Parking: Developers can build apartment towers with no parking.

• Environmental sustainability: Any development standard adopted by a city that isn’t state law can be ignored by developers.

• Onsite open-space: Courtyards and balconies can be killed.

• Historic buildings/zones: Developers can demolish buildings not on the state’s Registry of Historic Resources.

Unlike Wiener’s defeated predecessor SB-827, which centered around transit-rich housing projects, Wiener has added a new criterion called “job-rich” housing projects. Job-rich defines a residential development within an area identified by the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Office of Planning and Research based on indicators such as proximity to jobs, high area-median income relative to the relevant region, and high-quality public schools, as areas of high job-rich opportunities close to jobs.

A “transit-rich housing project” means residential development on parcels that are within a half-mile radius of a major transit stop, or a quarter-mile radius of a stop on high-quality bus corridors. A project shall be deemed to be within a half-mile radius of a major transit stop or a quarter-mile radius of a stop on a high-quality bus corridor if any of the following apply.

From the legislation: “This bill — SB 50 — would require a city, county, or city and county [San Francisco] to grant upon request an ‘equitable communities incentive’ when a development proponent seeks and agrees to construct a residential development, as defined, that satisfies specified criteria, including, among other things, that the residential development is either a job-rich housing project or a transit-rich housing project, as those terms are defined; the site does not contain, or has not contained, housing occupied by tenants or accommodations withdrawn from rent or lease in accordance with specified law within specified time periods; and the residential development complies with specified additional requirements under existing law.”

SB 50 will require that a residential development eligible for an equitable communities incentive receive waivers from maximum controls on density and automobile parking requirements greater than 0.5 parking spots per unit, up to three additional incentives or concessions under the Density Bonus law and specified additional waivers if the residential development is located within a 1/2-mile or 1/4-mile radius of a major transit stop, as defined. The bill would authorize a local government to modify or expand the terms of equitable communities incentives, provided that the equitable communities incentives are consistent with these provisions.

Bill language: “The equitable communities incentive” shall not be used to undermine the economic feasibility of delivering low-income housing under the state density bonus program or a local implementation of the state density bonus program, or any locally adopted program that puts conditions on new development applications on the basis of receiving a zone change or general plan amendment in exchange for benefits such as increased affordable housing, local hire, or payment of prevailing wages.”

The Coalition to Preserve Los Angeles makes the following analysis of SB 50:

1) SB 50 wipes out all single-family zoning in the below “transit” areas: SB 50 bans cities from rejecting big residential luxury developments containing a small number of affordable units if a) They are proposed within a ¼-mile radius of a busy bus stop, or b) Within a 1/2-mile radius of any rail or train stop.

2) SB 50 wipes out single-family zones in thousands of neighborhoods: SB 50 overturns single-family zoning in areas “above-median income, jobs-rich, with good public schools” that lack major transit (i.e., it allows tall apartments next to houses in areas that have good schools and jobs).

3) Rewards construction of 85-foot-high towers next to single-family homes: SB 50 encourages 75-foot-high and 85-foot-high luxury towers in single-family areas that are either too close to transit or too close to jobs and good schools. The height limit is not 45 feet and 55 feet, as Senator Wiener falsely implies in SB 50.

4) Cities can’t stop a luxury tower unless it hurts public safety: SB 50 is weaponized by the Housing Accountability Act of 1982, which was quietly amended by Skinner/Wiener in 2017. It bans cities from rejecting any “density bonus” project unless the developer “puts public safety at risk.”

5) Cities can’t reject demolitions in the new SB 50-targeted areas: Also weaponized by the Housing Accountability Act, SB 50 prevents cities from fighting demolition for housing towers in “jobs-rich, good schools areas” and “transit” areas. The bill tells developers to sue, if challenged by a city.

6) SB 50 forces “sensitive communities” to upzone themselves by 2025: SB 50 openly threatens “sensitive communities” — low-income, diverse areas. It requires them to upzone their Community Plans within five years to conform to SB 50, annihilating homeowner areas. If not upzoned, Wiener’s

7) Turns developers into the fox guarding the rental hen-house: SB 50 utterly fails to protect renters. Only those cities who register their renters and closely track vacancies can stop developers from lying about rental history.

8) SB 50 puts developers in charge of their own planning: SB 50 turns thousands of streets into density-bonus-on-steroids, where cities have no say. Developers choose their own incentives from a menu of rewards and waivers.

Ironically, Wiener’s key strategy for solving California’s housing crisis by increasing the supply of cheaper housing — Wienervilles — by encouraging dense construction near transit centers, has been challenged by a new MIT university housing report.

Yonah Freemark, the study’s author and a doctoral candidate at MIT, found “no evidence for short- or medium-term increases in housing-unit construction.”

“We have a housing crisis in much of the U.S., and that crisis needs to be addressed by providing funding for construction of more units and subsidies for people to afford those units,” Freemark said. This is contrary to Wiener giving subsidies to developers so that they can make more profit.

Freemark adds, “What are the local-level impacts of zoning change? I study recent Chicago unzoning’s that increased allowed densities and reduced parking requirements in a manner exogenous of development plans and neighborhood characteristics. To evaluate outcomes, I use difference-in-differences tests on property transaction prices and housing-unit construction permits. I detect significant, robust increases in values for transactions on parcels that received a boost in allowed building size. I also identify value increases for residential condominiums, indicating that upzoning increased prices of existing housing units. I find no impacts of the reforms, however, on the number of newly permitted dwellings over five years. As such, I demonstrate that the short-term, local-level impacts of upzoning are higher property prices but no additional new housing construction.”

The Freemark research demonstrates Wiener severely miscalculates supply and demand theory. SB 50 will have no effect on housing supply in urban areas, since Wiener is building units at five to ten times the cost of the homes that he wants to let developers destroy. Due to the cost of land, construction interest rates, and increasing construction building costs, developers will only be constructing market rate housing — not affordable housing — under Wiener’s misguided belief market-rate housing will magically trickle down to affordable housing. This will result in housing price increases, but no increase in housing supply and a city filled with eyesores: Wienerville units. Thanks, Scott, and co-author Phil Ting.

On December 3, 2018, Phil Ting introduced AB 68: Land Use Accessory Units, legislation co-written by — no surprise — Scott Wiener. The bill’s purpose is to take any remaining open space in residential projects and turn that space into accessory dwelling units. Thanks again, Scott and Phil, for yet another developer incentive handout!

Wiener’s supporters consist of paid housing lobbyists, such as the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), Yes In My Back Yard (YIMBY), Bay Area Renters Federation (BARF), San Francisco Housing and Action Committee (SFHAC); and San Francisco Mayor London Breed and State Senator Scott Wiener. This housing group embodies the current status quo in California.

The paid housing lobbyists support an extreme market-rate housing philosophy of “build housing density at all costs and at any consequences to existing residents.” This is a terrible land use housing philosophy, but appeals to millennials who thought life would be easy after they graduated from college. Older generations who preceded millennials faced many of the same problems that millennials do.

All of these housing lobbyist groups and individuals receive a major amount of their funding/contributions from developers, large employers, or lawsuit settlements. Their housing positions feature extreme housing growth and density because they either agree, or have little free will.

The housing lobbyists represent a small percentage of the public, but push their extreme agenda through state legislation, including Wiener’s SB-827, SB-828, SB-50; lawsuits; and by lobbying commissions such as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC).

Wiener’s introduced bills usurp local community planning authorities. They promote demolition, evictions, displacement, congestion, and overcrowding. Wiener’s bills don’t provide funding for the infrastructure burden they bring into our communities, nor do they provide affordable housing or local community self-determination. The bills are statewide, one-size-fits-all solutions with no regard for geographic housing equity to job location. His legislation is supported by big business and special interests that will receive windfall profits at the expense of residential housing and the displacement of residents.

The long-term livability of California depends on moderately-paced growth, balancing residential and commercial development with the financial and environmental capacity of other infrastructure. It must provide opportunity for residents of all income levels and demographics. Businesses must pay fair wages and their fair share of infrastructure costs, including water, transportation, schools, and protection of the natural environment.

Wiener is resurrecting President Herbert Hoover’s “trickle down” economic theory of giving tax breaks and money to the wealthy and big business in the misguided hope housing will eventually trickle down to individuals. Hoover’s theory was unsuccessful and didn’t work during the 1930’s Great Depression. Hoovervilles — essentially “tent cities” and makeshift homes next to cities — sprang up for people who had nothing. Residents showed their displeasure by naming the housing “Hoovervilles” to mock the president.

Relying on trickle-down theory, Wienerville's are no improvement and no different. Residents must vigorously fight SB 50 in its current and any incarnations.

George Wooding, President, Coalition For San Francisco Neighborhoods. Feedback: wooding@westsideobserver.com

March 2019

Supervisor YeeCongratulations Supervisor Norman Yee

District Seven Supervisor Norman Yee was elected president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on January 8 in a 10–1 vote that came after lengthy public comment.

Supervisor Yee is the first D7 supervisor to be elected president of the Board. As president, Yee will have tremendous power over prioritizing agendas and committee assignments, and he will be next-in-line should something happen to Mayor London Breed.

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I’ve been doing this work for a long time and I feel an urgency — to respond to the crises facing our City in a time of population growth and rising inequality, and an urgency to make as much impact as I can in my last two years as Supervisor so that we can make a difference in the lives of our children, grandchildren, and families throughout the City.

The Board’s first vote for president was 7–4 with Yee receiving a majority of the votes. The other four votes were for D9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen. Three brand-new supervisors — Matt Haney (D6), Gordon Mar (D4), and Shamann Walton (D10) — plus Ronen (D-9) voted for Ronen.

Yee received votes from Sandra Lee Fewer (D1), Catherine Stephani (D2), Aaron Peskin (D3), Asha Safai (D11), Vallie Brown (D5), Norman Yee (D7), and Rafael Mandelman (D8). Understanding that Norman Yee had the majority, Supervisor Mar introduced a motion to reject the vote and re-vote by acclamation. Yee was then elected on a 10—1 vote; only candidate Ronen didn’t join the acclamation.

Supervisor Ronen said, “Some of my colleague’s reactions to my presidency campaign efforts really shocked me, because sexism should have no place at City Hall. With that said, president Yee’s strong moral character will be an asset to the Board. I have worked closely with him on many projects and I’m excited to continue improving the lives of San Franciscans, together.”

“We can find common ground,” Yee said in his first official remarks as president. “The people of San Francisco are demanding action. And I know with my 10 intelligent colleagues there are policies we can agree on without sacrificing our integrity.”

After the vote, Mayor Breed issued a statement congratulating Yee. “I look forward to working with President Yee to create more housing for all San Franciscans, help our homeless residents get the care and shelter they need, and keep our streets clean and safe.”

Supervisor Fewer, nominated Yee, “Supervisor Norman Yee and I served together on the Board of Education, and I have always known him to lead with integrity, thoughtfulness and deep compassion. Supervisor Yee will work to defend our most vulnerable communities like children and seniors, as he has done all of his career,” she said. "Not only am I thrilled to continue to collaborate with him about addressing issues for our Westside neighborhoods, but I believe that Supervisor Yee will advance the Board of Supervisors’ collective vision through strong, compassionate and steady leadership as the President of the Board of Supervisors.”

Supervisor Mandelman said, “As one of the longest-serving members of this board, Norman Yee has the experience and know-how to be a fantastic leader of the Board of Supervisors. In his first, and arguably most important, act as Board President — assigning members to various Board committees — President Yee has done an exemplary job of making sure each committee is balanced, reform-minded and reflects the values of our neighborhoods. I look forward to working together with President Yee and all my colleagues on the Board to make San Francisco a model of a great city that prioritizes neighborhood concerns while providing national leadership on issues like homelessness, public transportation and support for our most vulnerable.”

“I’m thrilled that the Board of Supervisors elected a President with a demonstrated, principled, and steady track record,” Supervisor Mar said. “And as the first act of this new Board, I thought it was important we made this vote a statement of shared principles and unity. Therefore, I made a motion to rescind the vote, and take a re-vote by acclamation to show the breadth of support for President Yee, and that those who did not vote for him on the first round are proud to support his Presidency.”

Supervisor Safai said that the recent deaths of Mayor Ed Lee and Rose Pak had left a void in leadership in the Chinese community and having a Chinese-American board president “at this moment is what weighs the most heavily on me.” Safai noted that Yee was born and raised in Chinatown.

An excerpt from Supervisor Yee’s acceptance speech is included below:

“I am humbled and honored to have this opportunity to serve as President for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors as I enter my 7th year of service and my 15th year of service as an elected public servant. I want to thank my colleagues for this distinct privilege and opportunity.

My whole life, I have been dedicated to improving the lives of children, youth and families here in San Francisco. My passion to build a better city — especially for our most vulnerable communities — started long ago. What led me to this work was my experience growing up in Chinatown. Even before my life as an elected official, I spent over 35 years working in our communities to strengthen and expand early education and other children and family services that resulted in the creation of numerous civic organizations and initiatives. While we had little, I learned how to be resourceful from an early age. Our community overcame racist, xenophobic policies and showed resilience even when we had to fight for the most basic needs — from safe housing to funding for our education and senior programs. These are the roots that ground my life’s work, especially serving the children and families of San Francisco.

When I take on a new challenge, I focus on how to make the most impact and how to best serve my community. Each time I assume a new role or start a new initiative, it’s because I see an opportunity to have a greater impact to benefit vulnerable communities and families. It is my privilege to be in a position that has the potential to lift up voices and bring people together in support of this greater purpose. Stepping into the Board Presidency is another chance to have an even greater impact. That is how I will approach this role — to focus on collective impact over personal differences.

I believe that there is more that unites us than divides us. We can find common ground and unity even across diverse perspectives to address the problems of today and ensure that we are better prepared for tomorrow. Our City faces many challenges. Too many of our residents are struggling. We have the largest income gap that continues to grow. We have residents who are working one-, two-, or even more jobs just to get by. We have an unacceptable number of people that have nowhere to sleep at night except on the streets. We have immigrant communities who live with constant uncertainty and terror.

The people of San Francisco are demanding action and I know that with my ten intelligent, dedicated colleagues — there are policy solutions we can agree on without sacrificing our integrity as individuals. I know every member of this Board shares my urgency for action and I know that drawing upon our individual strengths will lead to a stronger impact as a whole.

I believe that my job as Board President is to help amplify the collective work of this policy body, to help bridge differences and misunderstandings when needed, and to help each one of my fellow public servants be the most effective leader for their district and, together, for our entire city.

I’ve been doing this work for a long time and I feel an urgency — to respond to the crises facing our City in a time of population growth and rising inequality, and an urgency to make as much impact as I can in my last two years as Supervisor so that we can make a difference in the lives of our children, grandchildren, and families throughout the City.

I want to thank all the community members who have worked tirelessly to push the envelope and to hold us — your representatives — accountable to the people we serve. Lastly, I want to thank my family: My wife, Cathy; my daughter, Chandra and her husband James; my younger daughter, Karissa and her husband, Dan; and my baby grandchildren, Naila and Jameson. You remind me every day why I do, what I do.”

George Wooding, President, Coalition For San Francisco Neighborhoods. Feedback:wooding@westsideobserver.com

February 2019

Participatory Budget: A Chance to Spend Your Own Taxes

George Wooding
George Wooding

District 7’s participatory budget (PB) process has begun. Residents have until January 5, 2019 to submit a project proposal to qualify for a piece of the $650,000 that Supervisor Norman Yee has acquired for District 7. Apply for a project here.

PB is a democratic process in which community members decide how to spend part of San Francisco’s City budget. It gives citizens real power over real money.

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District 7’s participatory budget (PB) process has begun. Residents have until January 5, 2019, 11:59 PM to submit a project that will qualify for a piece of the $650,000 that Supervisor Norman Yee has acquired for District 7.”

Supervisor Yee states, “Residents deserve to have a voice in the decision on how to spend our tax revenue. This is why I have prioritized Participatory Budgeting in District 7 for the last six years. This year I expanded the program and categories so that residents may propose ideas and decide on how to allocate $650,000.”

In 2018, 32 projects were submitted. Thirty projects were selected, including 6 Pedestrian Safety Projects and 15 General Improvement projects. Fully 2,200 voters cast more than 19,500 votes for projects. Each person can cast more than one vote and residents as young as 16 can vote.

For 2019, District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee has set aside $300,000 to be used for Participatory Budget General Projects, $250,000 for Pedestrian Safety Vision Zero Projects, and $100,000 for Neighborhood Disaster Preparedness.

Projects must fall within at least one of these categories. PB General Projects: $300,000 total funds available. Neighborhood Services: Such as services for youth, seniors, non-English speakers, or public safety. Culture: Such as events, art, beautification, parks, and greening. Small Businesses: Such as merchant organizations and commercial district revitalization. Schools, Education: Such as improving schools, libraries, or after-school-programs. Other: Bold and innovative ideas are welcome.

PB Pedestrian Safety Vision Zero Projects: $250,000 in funds available. Projects supporting Vision Zero aiming to end all pedestrian deaths by 2024. Proposals that would improve the safety for all road users, including but not limited to: Traffic calming and engineering improvements for street safety, pedestrian or bicycle safety, and/or safety education programs.

Neighborhood Disaster Preparedness Projects: $100,000 in funds available for projects to be prepared and respond in case of a disaster, including neighborhood organizing and trainings, supplies and equipment. Another subcategory will be Activating Play Space. PB director and Legislative Aide to Supervisor Yee, Erica Maybaum, states the following about the PB project. “I am honored to have the opportunity to again staff Participatory Budgeting. I’m looking forward to supporting the proposals, especially in the new categories of Neighborhood Disaster Preparedness and Activating Play Space. I’m excited for neighbors to identify public spaces, sidewalks and walkways that would be enhanced with designs for interaction and play such as hopscotch, colors, and tree stumps for climbing. This will not only boost child friendly-experiences, but benefit all residents.”

This year, funding for the Participatory Budget Project will be available for several projects of $5,000 to $25,000, or a single general fund project that will receive a budget of $75,000. This project must be sponsored by a minimum of three neighborhoods in District 7. Projects submitted in the Pedestrian Safety category will have no maximum cost limit. All projects must be a one-time expenditure and must benefit the residents of District 7. Projects must also receive a minimum of 400 approval votes from District 7 residents to be considered eligible for funding.

After all proposals have been submitted by January 5, a Neighborhood Leadership Council will review each proposal on Saturday, January 12. The following 12 neighbors have been selected to decide which proposals will be voted on: David Yoo, Forest Hill; George Wooding, Midtown Terrace (MTHOA); Sofia Perel, Golden Gate Heights (SHARP); Jean Perata, Miraloma Park (MPIC); Paige Quaintance, Youth Council Forest Knolls (FKNO); Erika Ragland, Monterey Heights; Judy Goddess, Inner Sunset; Jason Chommanard, Sunnyside; Ivy Lee, Inner Sunset; Byron Sigal, West of Twin Peaks; Kathy Studwell, Lake Merced Heights; and Karl Agular, West Portal.

On March 18, District 7 voting will begin. The Neighborhood Leadership Council will evaluate applications for completeness and then rank them. The top 20 to 30 projects will then be put on the ballot for District 7 residents to vote on. Each proposal that is selected by the Neighborhood Leadership Council will also be reviewed by City agencies to make sure that they are feasible. Project winners will be notified in early Spring.

PB started in Porto Allegre, Brazil in 1989 as an anti-poverty measure that helped reduce child mortality by nearly 20%. Since then PB has spread to over 3,000 cities around the world, and has been used to decide budgets for states, counties, cities, housing authorities, schools, and other institutions. The New York Times calls PB “revolutionary civics in action” since it deepens democracy, builds stronger communities, and creates a more knowledgeable distribution of public resources.

Voters ostensibly elect politicians to improve their community, not just to make decisions. If elected officials share the responsibility of budgeting with residents, they can better address local needs and desires. PB helps government officials do their jobs better by putting them in closer touch with their constituents, utilizing local knowledge, and incorporating volunteer energy into the budget process.

This is the sixth year that District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee has constructed a Participatory Budget for D-7. Yee’s PB is by far the largest in San Francisco. A sampling of the 2017 and 2018 projects that won are shown below:

Vision Zero and Pedestrian Safety

• Safety Routes to School – Aptos Middle & Commodore Sloat

• Ocean Ave & Granada – Flashing Beacon

• Traffic Study of the Five-Way Vicente/Wawona/Madrone intersection

• Sunnyside Pedestrian Safety Improvements – Judson Avenue between Circular and Gennessee Avenues

• Mangels and Foerster Crosswalk Proposal

General Projects

• Restore the Historic Trail System of Laguna Honda

• Sunnyside Park Plaza Activation

• Triangle Park Renovation – Forest Hill Extension

• D7 Live Music and Dance Performance Series

• West Portal Commercial Corridor Beautification

• Lighting Avoca Alley between Bella Vista & Myra Way

• Lakeshore Elementary School Tree Planting and Beautification

• Inclusive Play for Sunnyside Elementary’s Shared School Yard

• West Portal Disaster Preparedness Program

• Miraloma Park’s Mobile Emergency Response Unit

• Aptos Park Beautification and Improvement

• Unity Plaza Community Litter Management

• Earthquake Preparedness in Golden Gate Heights and Inner Sunset

• Ocean Avenue Day – Promoting the Commercial Corridor

• Ingleside Community Mural and Mosaic Fund

“Anyone who lives, works, or plays in the district can propose a project,” Maybaum said. It’s intended to be a very inclusive process, and the hope is to increase civic engagement more broadly,” she added. Should you have any questions regarding Participatory Budgeting please email Erica Maybaum at Erica.Maybaum@Sfgov.org

The District 7 Participatory Budgeting Project aims to establish an inclusive way to identify projects within the district to improve the quality of our neighborhoods. These projects may range from bold, new, and lasting to simple, useful, and thoughtful. The essence of the Participatory Budget is to involve as many community members as possible, regardless of age, race, or socio-economic background.

Please remember to submit your project application on or before January 5.1

1. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1P6ZBQmPR95qXejxWDkl429UoTETqbWmxBKe9QuC9WjQ/closedform

George Wooding, Coalition For San Francisco Neighborhoods Feedback: wooding@westsideobserver.com

December 2018

A Pizza in Every Pot (hole)

Billionaires Are Running San Francisco

Pizza Graphic

San Francisco is starting to fail in its basic responsibilities - housing, transportation, health, and routine infrastructure maintenance. Will city billionaires and large businesses start taking over the inept or abandoned responsibilities of our government? What economic goods and services will the wealthy provide to San Francisco beyond their own needs?

Many of our present and future politicians are already being controlled by wealthy high-technology and large development companies through campaign contributions that overwhelm their political opposition.

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If William’s doesn’t want Breed to increase homelessness funding by supporting Proposition C, she won’t … This exhibits the danger of campaign funded influence.”

Mayor London Breed’s high-technology and pro-development supporters contributed approximately $3 million to her election campaign, and now they get to help control San Francisco’s $11 billion budget. As long as Breed does what she is told, she’s a great investment.

San Francisco continues to show that it is the city that knows less. Of its $11 billion budget, 49% goes to city employee salaries and benefits, and over 50% of the city’s general fund is tied-up in set-asides dedicated to specific projects. The city’s General Fund is being constricted.

As building cranes and skyscrapers blot out the sunlight and destroy San Francisco’s skyline, the roads below are falling apart. This resembles the Aesop’s Fable story of the astronomer so focused on looking up at the sky to predict the future that he fell head first into the mud at his feet.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported, “The Bay Area has the worst roads in the nation” according to a new report by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based transportation research group.

Seventy-one percent of the streets in San Francisco, Oakland, and nearby cities are dilapidated, and the average motorist pays $1,049 a year in repair costs from driving on the bumpy pavement, according to the TRIP report. The San Jose area has the second-worst roads, with 64 percent in poor condition.

As DPW’s earsplitting jackhammers perpetually pound into the roadway with five men standing around watching one man work, Domino’s Pizza, a socially responsible, $9 billion company has a corporate solution for San Francisco’s ailing infrastructure.

According to its press release: “Domino’s Pizza, the largest pizza company in the world based on global retail sales, is saving pizza, one pothole at a time. Cracks, bumps, potholes, and other road conditions can put good pizzas at risk after they leave the store. Now Domino’s is hoping to help smooth the ride home for their freshly-made pizzas.”

“Have you ever hit a pothole and instantly cringed? We know that feeling is heightened when you’re bringing home a carryout order from your local Domino’s store. We don’t want to lose any great-tasting pizza to a pothole, ruining a wonderful meal,” said Russell Weiner, president of Domino’s USA. “Domino’s cares too much about its customers and pizza to let that happen.”

The pizza chain’s expansion into infrastructure is part of a campaign called Paving for Pizza: Over the course of this year, Domino’s will dispense grants to 20 locations across the U.S. to help fill potholes and repair cracked roads. Along with Burbank, California; Athens, Georgia; and Bartonville, Texas, Milford, Delaware played the part as a pilot city for the project. San Franciscans should go online to nominate our city for road repair grants. Each grant is worth $5,000 annually.

Any potholes repaired by this project will be emblazoned with Domino’s logo and slogan.

Why doesn’t Dominos just fill the potholes with their pizza? I say, “a pizza in every pot(hole)”! The pizza might last longer than asphalt.

The so-called humor of this project is hiding a chilling indictment of government’s inability to no longer provide goods and services for citizens. Will billionaires and large businesses start taking over the responsibilities of San Francisco’s government?

Here are some examples of extremely wealthy people taking over government responsibility. The new San Francisco General Hospital acute care building was completed in 2016 with the help of a $75 million donation by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan.

The couple has also announced plans for their charity, The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, to partner with The College Board to help rural and low-income students.

The goal is to help millions of young Americans prepare for college through advanced placement courses and standardized test prep.

Facebook is also planning to build a new campus, which could eventually bring its staff to about 35,000 people — about the same as the population of Menlo Park.

Facebook has entered into negotiations with the San Mateo County Transit District to create a public/private partnership to improve the Dumbarton corridor, a critical connection point between the company’s bay front headquarters in Menlo Park and cities on the east edge of the bay, such as Fremont and Newark.

The project would include renovating a defunct rail bridge over the bay built in 1910 that parallels the existing, congested bridge for cars and trucks. The project will cost approximately $1 billion.

Mark R. Laret, CEO of UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, and UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann have announced a $100 million gift from San Francisco residents Marc and Lynne Benioff to help build a new home for UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital at Mission Bay. The private gift is the largest donation ever made by the Benioff’s and is the largest gift ever made to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff announced that he and his company would donate millions of dollars to the campaign for Proposition C, the ballot measure to raise taxes from SF businesses — including Salesforce — and put the money toward helping the homeless. Proposition C is a gross receipts tax on San Francisco companies earning more than $50 million in annual gross receipts. The tax will generate an estimated $300 million annually to help San Francisco’s homeless.

Benioff is fascinating. He represents the new leadership of wealthy individuals willing to take over government functions. As many of San Francisco’s politicians are already controlled by wealthy individuals, Benioff is simply pushing politicians out of the way by asking other local billionaires to work with him.

The Bay Guardian reported that, “Jack Dorsey, CEO of both Twitter and Square, has voiced support for San Francisco Mayor Breed, who opposes the measure to help the homeless. Benioff got into a Twitter spat with Dorsey last week, demanding to know how Dorsey is helping the homeless if he doesn’t support the tax increase. Dorsey argued that while he supports efforts to help the homeless, he doesn’t believe Proposition C is the “best way to do it.”

Twitter continues to receive huge tax breaks from San Francisco.

Speaking to the Bay Guardian, Benioff again criticized Dorsey.

“He just doesn’t want to give, that’s all. And he hasn’t given anything of consequence in the city,” said Benioff, adding that he wasn’t surprised by Dorsey’s position. “We have 70 billionaires in San Francisco [Bay Area region]. Not all of them are giving money away. A lot of them are just hoarding it. They’re keeping it. That’s just who they are and how they look at their money.”

Of course, Breed didn’t endorse Proposition C. Her press release stated, “We all recognize the crisis on our streets; we see it every day. So I understand why Proposition C sounds appealing, and I know those who support it are well-intentioned. But as mayor, I must weigh more than popularity and good intentions. I must consider the long-term impacts on our city, and thus, upon lengthy analysis and consideration, I cannot support Proposition C.”

Really? Breed cannot support Proposition C because Evan Williams donated at least $150,000 to her mayoral campaign. The Twitter co-founder (and former CEO) has given his cash to a pair of super PACs supporting Breed. Williams, now the CEO of the publishing platform Medium, has an estimated net worth of $2 billion.

The “It’s Our Time, SF Women Supporting London Breed for Mayor” independent expenditure committee received one of its biggest donations from Williams who gave the group $50,000.

The “Edwin M. Lee Democratic Club” independent expenditure committee is appropriately named, as the group representing our tech-loving former mayor attracted tens of thousands from wealthy tech donors to support Breed. Williams donated $50,000 to this group, too.

Donations to the “San Francisco Firefighters Local 798” independent expenditure committee included $50,000 from Evan Williams, CEO and founder of the tech-blogging tool.

If William’s doesn’t want Breed to increase homelessness funding by supporting Proposition C, she won’t. Facing re-election in 12 months, Breed wants to do another report on homelessness in San Francisco. This exhibits the danger of campaign funded influence. San Francisco has to represent its citizenry, not the people who make large contributions to politicians.

It might be that companies and individuals are reaching such a level of size and wealth that it no longer makes sense for them to wait for government to fix their problems. While its good of them to do this, inequality itself is an ominous trend for society. When city government becomes more efficient, private parties will be able to do less. My compliments to Marc Benioff’s push for social responsibility.

George Wooding, President, Coalition For San Francisco Neighborhoods. Feedback: wooding@westsideobserver.com

November 2018

Vote Yes on Prop 10, Repeal Costa-Hawkins

George Wooding

Vote "yes" to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (state ballot measure Proposition 10). This state law repeal will impact the entire state. Current existing rent control laws will still apply, but they may be changed by local city governments rather than the state legislature.

Costa-Hawkins is a 1995 state bill enacted by the legislature that set restrictions on rent control for cities and counties throughout California. As such, the bill treats each city as if they were identical and not unique.

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Opponents of Prop. 10 — primarily developers, large real estate companies and the politicians that they control — are scared to death that Costa-Hawkins will be repealed by a "Yes" vote. They believe that they will no longer be able to harvest large development fees from building market-rate housing with high rents and will be forced to produce less profitable affordable housing.

The Costa-Hawkins bill does not actually set statewide limits on annual rent hikes, and provides eviction protections to tenants. The rates of rent increases are set separately by the 15 California cities that have local rent control laws. The bill has received only minor updates since it went into effect 23 years ago.

While some jurisdictions allow rent increases of 3% to 8% annually, San Francisco's rent ordinance allowed a 2.2% rent increase between March 1, 2017 and February 28, 2018 and sets rent increases between March 1, 2018 and February 28, 2019 at 1.6%. San Francisco's rent control is based on 60% of the increase in the Consumer Price Index posted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The CPI for All Urban Consumers in the Bay Area was 2.7% posted in November 2017.

Opponents of Prop. 10 — primarily developers, large real estate companies and the politicians that they control — are scared to death that Costa-Hawkins will be repealed by a "Yes" vote. They believe that they will no longer be able to harvest large development fees from building market-rate housing with high rents and will be forced to produce less profitable affordable housing.

San Francisco does not have a market-rate housing shortage, we have an affordable housing shortage. Between 2007 and 2014, developers produced only 18% of San Francisco's medium-income affordable housing stock quota, 45% of the low-income quota, and 109% of the city's market-rate quota set by the Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) goals. The production goal deficit in San Francisco included 5,547 medium-income units not built, and 6,696 low-income units not built.

Developers are currently trying to scare the hell out of voters by airing a 30-second television commercial. The advertisement text states the following:"Deeply flawed, badly written. That's Proposition 10. It does the opposite of what it promises. Prop 10 will drive up rents, take rental housing off the market, and make it harder to find a place to live. And Prop 10 has no protection for renters, seniors, veterans, or the disabled, and no provisions to treat homelessness or build affordable housing. That's why veterans, seniors, and affordable housing experts say No on 10. It makes a bad problem worse."

This is called the "Chicken Little—The Sky Is Falling" argument. By naming all of the things that might possibly go wrong without any reliable data or reports to substantiate their suppositions or arguments, opponents of the repeal of Costa- Hawkins are simply stating their worst fears---not facts.

None of this ad copy is true. Proposition 10 promises nothing more than the repeal of Costa-Hawkins. You might as well say, that "it might rain tomorrow" and you would be as accurate as this tripe. The repeal of-Costa Hawkins will simply allow San Francisco politicians, tenants, and landlords to maintain a dynamic tension locally without state interference.

The advertisement was paid in part by: "Essex Property Trust, a publicly-traded real estate investment trust that invests in apartments, primarily on the West Coast of the United States. As of December 31, 2017, the company owned interests in 247 apartment complexes, aggregating 60,239 apartment units, and 1 office building comprising 106,564 square feet."

"Equity Residential, a publicly-traded real estate investment trust that invests in apartments. As of December 31, 2017, the company owned or had investments in 305 properties consisting of 78,611 apartment units in Boston, New York City, Washington DC, Seattle, San Francisco, and Southern California."

"AvalonBay Communities, Inc., a publicly-traded real estate investment trust that invests in apartments. As of January 31, 2018, the company owned 77,614 apartment units, all of which were in New England, the New York City metropolitan area, the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, Seattle, and California."

Pigs at the trough. These national real estate companies care only about their own bottom line profits. If they really cared about renters, seniors, veterans, disabled or the homeless, they should donate their ad budget to these causes.

The real value of Costa-Hawkins repeal is that it will restore authority to California's cities and counties to develop and implement local policies that ensure renters are able to find and afford decent housing in their jurisdictions while still protecting landlords' ability to charge fair rents and earn a reasonable rate of return.

Prop. 10 doesn't automatically enact or strengthen rent control. It simply says it's time to look at the 23-year-old state law and return responsibility for new ordinances back to local control.

According to Susan Kirsh, the Chair of Livable California, "It's become popular to refer to an affordable housing crisis. Yet the 'build, build, build' remedy rarely provides housing for low-income workers. Buying a new car isn't as 'affordable' as buying a used one. Building new housing, even tiny units, isn't affordable to anybody on minimum wage. According to the State Legislative Analyst's office, trickle-down affordability will take 25 to 30 years."

Kirsh further says, "The crisis we face is the systematic effort to dismantle local control and replace it with unelected, regional bureaucracies. The crisis is the rush to pass more draconian legislation, like the dozen or so housing bills passed in 2018, piled on top of the 14 housing bills passed in 2017, which Berkeley researchers warn have unpredictable outcomes. The crisis is believing the mantra 'we have to do something' justifies legislation that benefits a few, while jeopardizing the majority."

The crisis is legislation that increases the financial burden on cities without calling it what it is — an unfunded mandate.

Does anyone remember State Senator Scott Wiener's ridiculous and failed SB-827? Well … he will be reintroducing a version of this bill next January.

San Francisco's rent control protects all tenants who live in buildings that were built in or before 1979.

The current Costa-Hawkins Act protects a landlord's right to raise the rent to market rate on a unit once a tenant moves out. It prevents cities from establishing rent control, or capping rent, on units constructed after February 1995. It exempts single-family homes and condominiums from rent control restrictions.

Under the current Costa-Hawkins Act a landlord may charge thousands more for a unit to 1) recoup the low rental price that was being paid by a previous tenant, and 2) make money on a unit that may be off of the market for years. These resulting high rental prices can lead to high rent, housing shortages, excess density, and homelessness.

Please vote yes on Costa Hawkins repeal!

George Wooding, President, Coalition For San Francisco Neighborhoods. Feedback: wooding@westsideobserver.com

October 2018

SFMTA Tragedy: Death in the Twin Peaks Tunnel

Please take a moment of silence for construction worker Patrick Ricketts. Ricketts, 51, died August 10 after a temporary steel beam struck him at approximately 4:30 p.m. near the West Portal end of the Twin Peaks Tunnel, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). He leaves behind a wife and two step-children.

“I want to share my deepest condolences to Patrick Ricketts’ family, friends, and colleagues,” District-7 Supervisor Norman Yee said in a statement.

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...why does it continue to use this company to finish the project? Perhaps the SFMTA itself is complicit with abnormally tight project deadlines, low bids, and project oversight.”

The Twin Peaks Tunnel construction began June 25 and will continue during a continuous closure of the tunnel for two months (August 25). During the closure, the Forest Hill and West Portal stations will be closed, the K Ingleside will travel on a shortened route, and bus service will run for the L Taraval and M Ocean View lines.

The West Portal tunnel’s infrastructure, including the tracks, walls, and communication and drainage systems, must be maintained to keep up with the demands of the Muni system.

Shimmick Construction, the contractor involved in the deadly accident, has had a long history of safety issues that were not disclosed to the city, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

construction photo
Photos courtesy of SFMTA

The Examiner also reported that Shimmick Construction had been linked to almost 50 workplace safety violations over the last ten years. However, the Examiner reports that back in November 2017, Shimmick Construction and its current construction partner, Con-Quest Contractors, both answered “No” on a SFMTA questionnaire asking whether either contractor had been cited for any serious or willful violations in the last decade.

In 2011, Shimmick Construction and Obayashi Corporation were fined for serious, willful, and general violations after a worker punctured a natural gas line with a backhoe, not once, but twice in Yorba Linda, CA.

According to the Examiner, federal records show that Shimmick Construction has violated Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. Six of those violations stemmed from an incident in Moorpark, CA when a forklift ejected and fatally crushed a laborer in November 2016.

The SFMTA exhibited no effective oversight, and must not have checked with Cal-OSHA, when selecting construction contractors for the Twin Peaks Tunnel and Replacement Project.

“Over-budget and much-slower-than-promised,” appears to be the SFMTA’s construction motto.

SFMTA's Director of Transportation, Ed Reiskin
SFMTA's Director of Transportation, Ed Reiskin

Yee states, “I look forward to working with SFMTA and other city agencies to evaluate how we vet and select our contractors for city projects. I urge the SFMTA and all other city agencies to closely monitor this and all of our city-funded projects to ensure safety and compliance on all of our sites.” Yee plans to hold a hearing in September to evaluate how the City vets and selects contractors for city construction projects.

Construction contractors on the $1.6 billion Central Subway project laid down 3.2 miles of the wrong kind of steel track. Con-Quest Contractors is also a project subcontractor on the Central Subway project. The SFMTA has oversold the Central Subway’s ability to attract more customers or generate positive income.

The Central Subway is reportedly over two years behind schedule (and counting) and significantly over budget.  There are hundreds of unresolved problems and contract disputes of long duration outstanding between the SFMTA and the Central Subway Station contractor.  In its Project Management Oversight Reports, the Federal Transportation Administration has been warning for years of Central Subway staff deficiencies and increasing project delays. It’s almost inevitable that lawsuits will be filed. 

So many questions. Now that the SFMTA knows that they were lied to by Shimmick Construction, why does it continue to use this company to finish the project? Perhaps the SFMTA itself is complicit with abnormally tight project deadlines, low bids, and project oversight.

City police and Cal-OSHA officials closed the tunnel for less than one day to inspect the accident scene. Perhaps the SFMTA should re-inspect the almost-completed Twin Peaks Tunnel project to confirm that it, Shimmick Construction, and Con-Quest Contractors have done a good job.

“We feel confident that the contractor, under the SFMTA’s oversight, has done everything possible to ensure construction can proceed safely,” SFMTA’s Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin said in a statement at the time.

While Shimmick Construction will ultimately be fined and blamed for Patrick Rickett’s death, a couple of department heads at the SFMTA should be wondering how culpable they are.

Indeed, on August 20, the Examiner published an article by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez that suggests Reiskin’s job may be at risk, after Mayor Breed sent him and the MTA’s Board of Directors a letter on the same date indicating she isn’t happy with Muni’s leadership. Breed isn’t allowed to hire or fire the head of the SFMTA because it is an “enterprise” agency. But she does appoint, and can remove, MTA’s Board, which is responsible for hiring and firing SFMTA’s director. Political observers indicated Breed’s letter may be laying the groundwork to remove Reiskin if SFMTA doesn’t immediately improve.

Mayor London Breed’s actions over Patrick Rickett’s death will be very telling. If she is smart, SFMTA heads are going to roll. This is her time to be either a strong leader or a meek follower of her wealthy contributors. Remember, the next mayoral election is only 14 months away on November 5, 2019.

The Bay Area Transportation Working Group (BATWIG) states, “The traffic congestion in San Francisco is growing steadily worse and the SFMTA has failed to take steps to mitigate the problem. Uber, Lyft, and the Hi-Tech buses operate unregulated on San Francisco streets, causing numerous conflicts, exacerbating congestion, increasing pollution, and impeding the free flow of travel through the city for both citizens and enterprise.”

Further, “It appears that accountability within the SFMTA and MUNI management is virtually non-existent. Inadequate coordination between management and the different MUNI divisions responsible for driver hiring, training, and retention, has resulted in failure to anticipate and mitigate the stress placed on the system by the Twin Peaks Tunnel retrofit. The continuing lack of available operators, missed runs (‘not outs’), the shortage of transit vehicles, coupled with other factors, have contributed to reductions in services of up to 20% on some routes. We would like not to describe MUNI management as ‘asleep at the wheel,’ but the evidence shows that is the case.”

The San Francisco Federal Credit Union has filed a lawsuit against the SFMTA claiming that the transportation agency reneged on promises to keep taxi medallions in business even as ride-sharing companies boomed. By not supporting San Francisco’s cab drivers and making false promises, the SFMTA has quietly caused the near collapse of the cab industry.

SFMTA’s attempt to reconfigure streets has resulted both in expensive mistakes and havoc on the affected thoroughfares, not to mention the outrage of neighborhood merchants and residents who neither asked for nor wanted such changes. Altering streets that have functioned effectively for a half a century or more often does more harm than good. The transit riding public deserves practical improvements that deliver the greatest good to the greatest number of transit riders. MUNI management has lost sight of this fundamental mandate.

Even with a surging population, MUNI ridership has declined by more than 8% over the past five years, and traffic congestion has increased exponentially, impeding the free flow of MUNI, general travel, and commerce through the city, and increasing pollution. The average MUNI bus speed is less than eight miles per hour.

Mike Murphy, the frontrunner for the District-4 supervisorial race states, “I will work to fix our broken transportation system: put back our stolen train stops and buses; protect public roads and sidewalks from overuse/abuse by ride-shares, luxury buses, electric bikes and scooters, and wasteful city projects.” This is the backlash that the SFMTA and MUNI have created.

The SFMTA has let the city down. San Francisco’s Planning Department and State representatives envision building housing around transit hubs. Unless the SFMTA can get its act together, San Franciscans will be living in expensive, tiny boxes surrounded by gridlock. Right now, the city’s transportation future looks bleak.

The Westside Observer family sends our condolences to Patrick Ricketts’ family. May he rest in peace.

George Wooding, President, Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods. Feedback: wooding@westsideobserver.com

Sept 2018

Willie Brown Re-Elected Mayor

Congratulations are in order for new Mayor London Breed and her many billionaire financial contributors. Some folks are congratulating Willie Brown on his re-election.

The Golden Rule in San Francisco: As the king of patronage politics, Brown has the political connections and the gold. So, he rules.

The formula of large businesses, unions, and developers just keeps controlling San Francisco and often subverts the will of voters. It doesn’t matter who gets elected, as long as they do the bidding of Willie and his wealthy contributors.

Let’s start the mayoral thread with Willie Brown. Brown is considered a consummate politician. He’s great at self-promotion, nepotism, and convincing major donors to contribute to his projects, candidates, and political campaigns.

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Controlling San Francisco was way too intoxicating to just simply walk away from it. Brown started recruiting future mayoral candidates he and his political machine could elect and control. The “Brown machine” is run by, and comprised of, just one person: Willie Brown.”

 

As far as Brown is concerned, the end always justifies the means.

According to Wikipedia, “Brown served as San Francisco mayor from January 8, 1996 until January 8, 2004. His tenure was marked by a significant increase in real estate development, public works, city beautification and other large-scale city projects. He presided over the “dot-com” era at a time when San Francisco’s economy was rapidly expanding.”

The blending of developer-, high-tech-, and union-contributions meant almost anything could happen — and did for the right contribution and/or gift to Brown’s political machine: Junkets, banquets, and political mailers included. Brown was a genius at turning wealthy special interests into a political machine loyal to him.

Controlling San Francisco was way too intoxicating to just simply walk away from it. Brown started recruiting future mayoral candidates he and his political machine could elect and control. The “Brown machine” is run by, and comprised of, just one person: Willie Brown.

In 1996, Brown appointed a tall, marginally-handsome, 29-year-old named Gavin Newsom to serve on the city’s Parking and Traffic Commission. Newsom was later elected president of the Commission. It didn’t hurt that Newsom’s business partner was Gordon Getty.

Newsom’s first political experience came when he volunteered for Willie Brown’s successful campaign for mayor in 1995. Newsom hosted a private fundraiser at his PlumpJack Café.

In 1997, Brown appointed Newsom to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors seat vacated by Kevin Shelley, after Shelley was elected to the California State Assembly. At the time, Newsom became the youngest member of San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and like Shelley before him, the Board’s only heterosexual Caucasian male.

At the young age of 30 with just one year of Parking and Traffic Commission experience, it would be easy to speculate Newsom swore eternal allegiance to Brown’s political machine.

The November 5, 2005 Los Angeles Times wrote, “Newsom had been polling well ahead of his competitors in the nine-way race to replace flamboyant Mayor Willie Brown. Brown’s chosen successor, Newsom campaigned longer and spent far more than his opponents.” Much of the money Newsom spent in 2003 to be elected mayor came from Brown’s contributors.

At Newsom’s swearing-in ceremony January 8, 2004, Brown called Newsom, “Part of the future generation of leaders of this great city.”

The financial help and patronage Brown provided in 2003 crushed Newsom’s political competitors. Acting through Newsom, Brown still controlled San Francisco politics.

During Newsom’s 2007 mayoral re-election campaign, Brown’s political machine was busy working behind the scenes again. Newsom/Brown easily won re-election, despite Newsom’s affair with one of his City Hall aides who was married to Newsom’s best friend and then-campaign manager. Unforgivable sexual harassment in the workplace.

Newsom also admitted having a drinking problem. On April 24, 2018 Newsom told the San Francisco Chronicle, “He didn’t drink for two years. Then he started drinking moderately again. ‘It was a reset’ he said of his abstinence. And I’m glad I did it. It was a great thing to do. And it was easy to do.”

The Newsom–Brown political machine won the 2007 mayoral race with 72 % of the vote. Brown still controlled San Francisco politics.

Newsom was elected Lieutenant Governor in 2010. Brown had to find another surrogate mayor to do his bidding. Ed Lee — a loyal employee to both Brown and Newsom — reluctantly accepted appointment as interim mayor by the Board of Supervisors in January 2011.

Beyond his kind nature, Lee was a perfect fit to continue the Brown machine. Wikipedia documents that:

“In 1991, he was hired as executive director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, serving in that capacity under mayors Art Agnos, Frank Jordan, and Willie Brown. Brown appointed Lee director of city purchasing, where, among other responsibilities, he ran the city’s first Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprise program.

In 2000, he was appointed director of public works for the city, and in 2005 was appointed by Mayor Newsom to a five-year term as city administrator, to which he was reappointed in 2010. As city administrator, Lee oversaw the reduction of city government and implemented the city’s first ever ten-year capital plan.”

Lee was the perfect front man to keep the Brown’s political machine running. He understood what he had to do and how to take orders from Brown and Brown’s high-tech, union, developer, and construction peers. The problem was how to get Lee appointed as interim Mayor for a one-year period and then run for another four-year elected term, because Lee had promised he wouldn’t run for mayor if appointed interim mayor. Lee became interim mayor on January 11, 2011.

A campaign office for Lee quickly opened in the Mission District — minus a running mayoral candidate. Lee claimed to know nothing about it. Slick promotional material organically started a “Run Ed Run,” campaign, featuring an unauthorized biography titled “The Ed Lee Story: An Unexpected Mayor,” penned and produced by Left Coast Communications political consultant Enrique Pearce, who was sentenced to six months in county jail after pleading guilty to an unrelated matter. He also received five years’ probation, lost his license to practice law when the State Bar of California disbarred him March 31, 2018.

An August 20, 2011 SFGate article stated:

“San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said Friday there is insufficient evidence to proceed with a criminal investigation into the activities of the political committee behind the “Run, Ed, Run” campaign to persuade appointed Mayor Ed Lee to run for a full term.”

The move came after Gascón had referred the case to then-State Attorney General Kamala Harris — Gascón’s predecessor in San Francisco’s District Attorney’s office — for a possible conflict of interest, something for which Gascón’s rivals in the District Attorney’s election had called. It is commonly rumored that Willie Brown and Harris were in a romantic relationship for years.

Assistant District Attorney Victor Hwang was a co-chairman of Progress for All, the political action committee behind the “Run, Ed, Run” campaign. The Chronicle also reported that when Gascón was named District Attorney in January 2011 then-Police Chief Gascón took the job only after making calls to former Mayor Willie Brown and Chinese Chamber of Commerce consultant Rose Pak to gauge his chances for election in November.

Pak had been a major fundraiser for the “Run, Ed, Run” campaign. High-tech companies and developers also poured money into the Progress For All PAC.

On August 7, 2011, Lee reneged on his promise to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors when he formally announced his decision to seek election as mayor. Lee’s only fault was that he was loyal and malleable to Brown and the industries that surrounded him.

Through Mayor Lee, the Brown political machine continued to control City Hall until Lee’s unexpected death on December 12, 2017. Lee presided over unprecedented building development, tax cuts for high-tech companies, and developer incentives. Instead of a “chicken in every pot,” San Francisco had a crane on every corner. The Millennium Tower — San Francisco’s Leaning Tower of Pisa — will be Lee’s legacy.

After Lee’s untimely death, Board of Supervisors president and District 5 supervisor, London Breed, became the next mayoral candidate to swear fealty to Brown’s political machine. The same old money poured into her mayoral campaign from all of the usual suspects. She far outspent her competition, with billionaire Ron Conway’s help. It was hard not to see her smiling face in your mailbox every day.

San Franciscans have elected someone they barely know to become mayor. Can you name five legislative things Breed has accomplished?

According to Wikipedia, “Breed worked as an intern in the Office of Housing and Neighborhood Services for Mayor Willie Brown. In 2002, Breed became the executive director of the African American Art and Culture Complex, where she raised over $2.5 million to renovate the complex’s 34,000 square-foot space, including an art gallery, theater space, and a recording studio. Breed was named to San Francisco’s Redevelopment Agency Commission in 2004. In 2010, Mayor Newsom [i.e., Willie Brown] appointed her to the San Francisco Fire Commission.”

In November 2012, Breed was elected as District 5 Supervisor after she defeated incumbent Christina Olague, who had been appointed to the seat that year by Mayor Lee.

Who knows what kind of mayor London Breed will be, but she will favor high-tech, development, unions, and construction for Willie.

Brown’s tenure and extended influence at City Hall have turned San Francisco into a goldmine for the pro-business elites who run the city. He cleared a path for high-tech’s insatiable growth and wealth.

As the rich get richer, the poor become poorer. Thousands of homeless people roam the City’s increasingly congested and dirty streets. Tourists won’t revisit. City architecture has become an eyesore. San Francisco’s most vulnerable have become marginalized, and the middle-class are becoming extinct. In 2014, Lee infamously said “I think everybody assumed the middle class [were] moving out” of San Francisco.

All these city problems will swirl around Breed, but she will be “electable” as mayor just so long as she can keep Willie Brown and his pro-business elites happy.

It’s not known if Breed attended or graduated from the Willie L. Brown, Jr. Institute. Willie exerted significant influence in every San Francisco mayoral election over the past 50 years since George Moscone’s election in 1975.

Ed Lee was Willie’s and Ron Conway’s puppet mayor.

When Breed becomes mayor, her $117,367 salary ending June 30, 2017 as a City supervisor will climb to the $302,075 Mayor Lee was paid in the same period, assuming female mayors are paid what their predecessor had last been paid, and ignoring any pay raise the mayor may have been awarded through June 30, 2018. She’ll see a 157.4 percent increase in salary, and will earn over $3 million in salary if she’s mayor for a decade and then goes on to collect a City pension. Who would pass that up and not help Brown still control San Francisco politics?

Brown’s just gained a ten-year lease on life.

George Wooding, President, Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods. Feedback: wooding@westsideobserver.com

July 2018

CEQA: Death By a Thousand Cuts

State Senator Scott Wiener, impervious to his recent defeat of SB 827 in the statehouse, continues on his unswerving purpose to undo the neighborhood and citizen oversight protections afforded by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

In a nutshell, a death-by-a-thousand-cuts strategy explains State Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 827 legislation to densify (via infill development) San Francisco’s residential areas. Weiner’s legislation lost, but he will be introducing new infill legislation based on proximity to transportation again next year.

CEQA — the California Environmental Quality Act — is a statute that requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible.

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Neighborhoods must be ever vigilant that our CEQA rights are not eroded away. And we need to be eternally vigilant on statewide legislation being proposed in Sacramento.”

CEQA is the best friend of citizens because it allows people to comment on the adverse impacts of proposed projects, helps mitigate projects, and can provide better alternatives to poorly-planned projects to be developed. Without CEQA, developers, politicians, and planners would be able to complete projects without citizen oversight or transparency.

CEQA is California’s broadest environmental law. It applies to all discretionary projects proposed to be conducted or approved by any California or local public agency, including private projects requiring discretionary government approval.

Basically, CEQA is a system of checks and balances for land use development and management decisions in California. It was enacted in 1970 by Governor Ronald Reagan to minimize the adverse effects of development on its surroundings. CEQA has existed for almost half a century.

It is ironic and completely sad that Senator Wiener — ostensibly a Democrat (unless he is a DINO, a Democrat in Name Only) is seeking to permanently gut Republican Ronald Reagan’s thoughtful CEQA legislation.

Any significant environmental effects found are documented in an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to inform agencies and the public of potential project’s adverse environmental effects. CEQA review can delay a project by several months to several years and can cost developers millions of dollars.

Like all things designed to be fair, CEQA has unforeseen good and bad consequences.

Originally designed to measure environmental impact, the August 2015 Holland and Knight report, “Litigation Abuse Under CEQA,” states: “CEQA litigation is overwhelmingly used in cities, targeting core urban services such as parks, schools, libraries, and even senior housing.”

Further the report notes: “Sixty-four percent of those filing CEQA lawsuits are individuals or local ‘associations,’ the vast majority of which have no prior track record of environmental advocacy — and CEQA litigation abuse is primarily the domain of special interests such as citizens groups (33%), competitors, and labor unions seeking non-environmental outcomes.”

San Francisco’s CCHO (pronounced choo-choo) — the Council of Community Housing Organizations, led by Peter Cohen and Fernando Marti, has strongly supported CEQA. CCHO has lead the affordable housing movement in San Francisco since 1978. While CCHO may not have taken a position on SB 827, CCHO joined the Community CEQA Improvement Team, which is “an alliance of over 42 organizations working to reverse recent attempts both statewide and locally to weaken public access to protections of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and working to ensure that any changes to local CEQA procedures will strengthen (not weaken) this vital law.”

Of note, both the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods (CSFN) and the West of Twin Peaks Central Council are alliance members. Cohen and Marti are active organizers with the Community CEQA Improvement Team.

The pendulum swings both ways. In response to CEQA lawsuits, politicians like Wiener have tried to weaken CEQA or exempt CEQA from future projects. This will allow developers, municipalities, and the State of California to make more money on projects. CEQA projects will also be expedited to reduce citizen input.

SB 827 exempted CEQA oversight while increasing building heights in residential neighborhoods, no new parking, no new transportation, and no new infrastructure.

SB 375, the anti-sprawl bill signed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (September 30, 2008), contains potentially revolutionary changes in California’s arcane processes of regional planning for transportation and housing — largely by mandating the creation of “sustainable” regional growth plans.

In terms of planning practice, the most powerful provisions of SB 375 had to do with CEQA Exemptions and Streamlining. Under the legislation, certain types of development projects are exempt from CEQA — or qualify for streamlined review. And these projects qualify for streamlined review even if they conflict with local plans.

Citizens didn’t know what hit them in 2008. Projects will be approved before we even had a chance to review them.

Assemblyman David Chui’s recently-passed AB 2923 sets a precedent for other entities to request the same authority to zone their own properties however they wish. The American Planning Association of California believes the approach in AB 2923 will set a troubling precedent for further diminishment of local land use planning in future legislation. AB 2923 continues in the tradition of streamlining the permitting process.

AB 2923 gives municipalities in the BART district served by BART stations two years to change their zoning codes to comply with the Transit Oriented Development (TOD) guidelines, and if they don’t BART can unilaterally change the zoning on BART-owned land.

By avoiding CEQA, BART plans to build 20,000 housing units near BART stations by 2040.

The EIR of an “Area Plan” — such as the Bay Area Plan — can be the most deceptive CEQA analysis. Ostensibly, an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) will be developed on behalf of an entire area plan. Almost all Area Plan projects file a notice of exemption.

A Notice of Exemption filed indicating that a Priority Development Area (PDAs) project is exempt from CEQA under Public Resources Code Section 21155.4 is a project that: a) Is within a Transit Priority Area; b) Implements and is consistent with a specific plan for which an EIR has been certified; and c) “Is consistent with the general use designation, density, building intensity, and applicable policies specified for the project area in a sustainable communities strategy.”

Projects that are within a PDA often do not meet all of the exemption criteria, but are deemed eligible for limited environmental review, such as an infill EIR as described in Section 15183.3 of the State CEQA Guidelines.

Once an Area Plan is approved it is almost impossible to have the project reviewed again.

Environmental expert Eric Brooks states, “It has become standard practice in drafting legislation for large municipal or regional area plans (such as the Bay Area Plan, the South of Market Area Plan, etc.) to establish in the text that once an environmental review has been done for the entire area plan, that any new projects which are built inside that plan area are exempt from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and local zoning laws as long as they follow the vague standards in area plan.”

Brooks further states, “This now almost-automatic process of placing such CEQA and other review exemptions in Area Plans is nothing more nor less than an unacceptable and completely undemocratic waiver of our local environmental and neighborhood protections.”

Brooks concluded, noting “When legislation is written on the state level that establishes a new plan for the entire state (such as a law mandating CEQA ‘streamlining’ for so-called ‘transit density,’ ‘green building’ standards, etc., in such legislation the state is nearly always effectively made a statewide ‘area plan’ with the same unacceptable CEQA exemptions baked into the text. By successively passing more and more such legislation for area plans and statewide building standards, California and its local communities are essentially gutting all CEQA and neighborhood protections through a death-of-a-thousand-cuts strategy.”

CEQA review are communities’ best option to protect and preserve our neighborhoods. Neighborhoods must be ever vigilant that our CEQA rights are not eroded away. And we need to be eternally vigilant on statewide legislation being proposed in Sacramento, particularly legislation being developed by Assemblyman Chiu, and his henchman, State Senator Wiener!

George Wooding, President, Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods. Feedback: wooding@westsideobserver.com

June 2018

Wiener's Still At It

Unwanted: Dead (SB 827) or Alive (SB 828)

Opponants to Scott Wiener's housing bill gathered on City Hall steps

State Senator Scott Wiener's poorly thought out bill SB 827 on housing density based on proximity to transit corridors died in committee on April 17. If passed, neighborhoods would have been decimated with 55-foot to 85-foot high buildings everywhere in the City.

Wiener isn't through with his attempts to allow the State to take over planning of every California city's housing production. Wiener will reintroduce a modified version of his failed SB 827 housing legislation early next year.

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At least London Breed is somewhat more honest. She is telling voters during the mayor's race that she supports her "good friend Scott Wiener's SB 827 legislation 100%." Every other mayoral candidate — Jane Kim, Mark Leno, Angela Alioto, and Richie Greenberg — are against Wiener's legislation.”

Essentially, Wiener is trying to find a way to build housing in California where housing already exists. Who wins? Who loses?

George Wooding and Kathy Howard
Kathy Howard joins George

SB 827 died in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee in Sacramento on Tuesday April 17, where it stalled on a 6-to-4 vote, leaving it in limbo. Some senators who voted against the bill said that they may change their vote in the future. Wiener voted for his own bill and so did his principal co-author, State Senator Nancy Skinner.

San Francisco voters — property owners and tenants — must be ever vigilant that this legislation doesn't come back to haunt us.

The citizens of San Francisco should be rejoicing that SB 827 did not pass, because 96% of us would have been impacted. It is strange to watch our so-called representative turn on us and then try to harm our property rights.

Perhaps the threat of recall might remind Wiener that he serves San Francisco voters. Unfortunately, he just serves the developers and housing advocates who are his contributors.

At least London Breed is somewhat more honest. She is telling voters during the mayor's race that she supports her "good friend Scott Wiener's SB 827 legislation 100%." Every other mayoral candidate — Jane Kim, Mark Leno, Angela Alioto, and Richie Greenberg — are against Wiener's legislation.

Homeowners and tenants should do themselves a favor and vote for anyone besides London Breed. Breed is essentially Wiener's, developer's, and Ron Conway's "water boy."

Although the San Francisco Examiner reported that an independent expenditure committee ("It's Our Time, S.F. Women Supporting London Breed for Mayor 2018") claims it will not accept contributions from Ron Conway, it turns out Breed's own campaign — London Breed for Mayor 2018 — has accepted donations from Conway's family members and employees at his venture capital firm, SV Capital.

Breed's 35-page request to the Ethics Commission for "Public Funds By Candidates For Mayor" dated March 21, 2018 itemizes 672 separate

campaign contributions totaling $168,201. Of those 672 donations, three of Conway's children or relatives each donated the $500 maximum and at least two other employees of SV Capital did too. Those five contributions totaled $2,500. The filing shows 257 (38%) of the 672 contributors each donated the maximum $500, for a total of $131,000, 78% of the $168,201 total. The remaining 415 donors (62%) contributed just $37,200 (22%) towards the total money raised.

You can bet that Conway will donate heavily to other independent expenditure committees set up purposely to defeat other candidates. As Larry Bush has noted in the San Franciscso Examiner, Conway has already donated more than $1 million to independent committees to defeat people who were in his way. That's a record unmatched in recent San Francisco political history.

It's important to keep an eye on Wiener's other major bill — SB 828 — which would essentially require cities to double the amount of housing they zone for in order to account for the existing shortage of some two million housing units across the state. The Marin Post web site reported on March 2 that SB 828 "would raise local jurisdictions' housing quotas by requiring them to plan for 200% more housing units than their assigned housing allocations." SB 827 stipulates that "at least" 100% — effectively all of the base-line assigned housing allocation, if not more — will be required to be multi-family housing projects.

Neighborhood planning advocate Ozzie Rohm said, "SB 828 is the special interest's quiet revolution to make all home construction in San Francisco and California 'by-right'."

Ms. Rohm continued, "A 'use by right' is a use permitted in a zoning district and is therefore not subject to special review and approval by a local government. ... One still needs to obtain a zoning permit, but that permit is usually issued relatively quickly, without going before a planning commission or other board.

Rohm added, "Housing 'by-right construction' is the right to build what you want and where you want it. It deregulates the housing approval process and takes away the public's right to weigh in on development projects. This means: NO CEQA, NO Environmental Impact Review, NO Residential Design Guidelines, NO Neighborhood Specific Design Guidelines, NO Neighborhood Notification, NO Discretionary Review, NO Conditional Use Authorization and, NO Board of Appeals."

All California cities have quotas for new home construction called Regional Housing Needs Allocation, or RHNA for short. San Francisco currently meets and exceeds its RHNA quota for market-rate but not for below-market-rate housing. In fact, almost no city in California meets its quota for building below-market-rate, or affordable, housing.

This is ridiculous. A Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) analysis issued by the San Francisco Planning Department reported that between 2007 and 2014, San Francisco built 108.7% of the City's goals for above-moderate housing (more than the RHNA goal), 47.7% of the City's goal for low- and very-low income households, but only a paltry 19% of the goal for moderate-income households (households earning 80% to 120% of AMI – Area Median Income). If anything, SB 828 should demand development of more moderate-income housing, not more above-moderate-income housing. Meeting 108.7% of the above-moderate housing goal is clear confirmation of Wiener's trickle-down theory of affordable housing development and his generosity to developers.

SB 828 would require municipalities make up for the homes required in their assigned housing allocation but never built under the law in the previous eight years, so SB 828 would be applied retroactively.

Worse, SB 828 specifically demands development of more "above moderate income" housing, which will reduce the amount of affordable, and low-income, housing produced. Another handout to Wiener's developer friends.

Wiener's SB 828 would impose yet another state-mandated local program, this time taking zoning and rezoning out of local control. SB 828 is fundamentally about increasing housing density, just as SB 827 was. It's another significant threat to local control, our democracy, and public engagement.

As other observers have noted, housing densification and population growth increases the risk of adverse impacts on the environment, public safety, traffic congestion, infrastructure, utilities (e.g., water supply), public services (including schools), privacy, neighborhood character, and quality of life. Neither SB 827 nor SB 828 provide funding for dealing with, or mitigating, these impacts.

Ms. Rohm also noted, "Given the fact that no city or government has any control over the number of permit applications filed by developers in any given period, there is no way to ensure such quotas are met. The city of San Francisco cannot force developers to submit permit applications. Why should we be responsible for something over which we have no control?"

Unlike SB 827, SB 828 is still alive. It may be just unintelligible and obscure enough to pass — and that will change the world of housing even more, at least for local government planners around the state.

George S. Wooding, President, Coalition For San Francisco Neighborhoods. Feedback: wooding@westsideobserver.com.

May 2018

Politicians Opposing SB 827

Defeat—Don't Amend—Senate Bill 827

George
George Wooding.

SB 827 is the most harmful California zoning legislation ever developed, which will be a disaster for San Francisco's residential neighborhoods. The legislation was authored by State Senator Scott Wiener, with the help of Brian Hanlon, co-founder of California YIMBY, and is completely supported by mayoral candidate London Breed.

But SB 827, as currently written, is opposed by a number of San Francisco politicians, including mayoral candidates Mark Leno, Jane Kim, and Angela Alioto, District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee, and former Mayor Art Agnos, and is opposed by many neighborhood groups across the City and the state.

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The 2017 Jobs-Housing Capacity and Growth report shows that San Francisco has 143,000 units of housing already in the pipeline: 5,875 units Under Construction; 30,000 Approved Units; 7,200 Proposed Applications Units; 16,450 Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs); 51,000 Soft Site Units, including Density Bonus Programs; and 15,575 proposed Rezoning Units. Additionally, there are an estimated 20,000 vacant units in the city. Who needs SB 827 with 163,000 units in play?”

In addition, the membership of both the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods and the West of Twin Peaks Central Council voted to oppose SB 827.

The reason for their opposition is that SB 827 involves the State's attempt to reign in San Francisco's sovereign charter and designation as a Charter City. Should Wiener succeed in undermining the City's designation as a Charter City, what other Charter City provisions will he next attempt to nullify?

Does San Francisco need SB 827? The 2017 Jobs-Housing Capacity and Growth report shows that San Francisco has 143,000 units of housing already in the pipeline: 5,875 units Under Construction; 30,000 Approved Units; 7,200 Proposed Applications Units; 16,450 Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs); 51,000 Soft Site Units, including Density Bonus Programs; and 15,575 proposed Rezoning Units. Additionally, there are an estimated 20,000 vacant units in the city. Who needs SB 827 with 163,000 units in play?

SB 827 would mandate that every inch of land within a half-mile of a light rail stop or a bus stop having buses that come at least once every 15 minutes during rush hour allow constructing buildings as high as 55- to 85-feet with no parking requirements and no density limitations. Plus, no additional city infrastructure will be required or added. This regulation impacts 96% of San Francisco real estate.

Breed is Wiener's only candidate-for-mayor supporting SB 827. Her record on building affordable housing in District 5 speaks for itself, which has been dismal.

Even mayoral candidate Mark Leno, who is endorsed by Scott Wiener and initially supported SB 827, has backed away from supporting SB 827. At a March 15 Bernal Heights mayoral debate Leno stated: "As I have said in other forums … I am opposed to the bill as introduced. It's now amended and I still have problems with the bill. Can a one-size-fits-all [approach] work? What does San Francisco's land use policy and planning and State law — [since San Francisco is] surrounded by water on three sides, have to do with the rest of the state? San Francisco is already building more housing per capita than any other county in the state. SB 827 is very problematic."

Mayoral candidate Angela Alioto also used to be for SB 827 and is now against it. She stated in Curbed San Francisco on March 6, 2018:

"I want everybody to be able to live in this city. It's a very special city, so where we put our housing that we desperately need is extremely important. You can't take the soul of the city away from the city by just building all over the place.

"When Scott Wiener is talking about a transit hub [with his proposed SB 827 bill] he has to be talking about a large transit hub, not a bus way [stop]. There are certain areas where you can't go up to ten stories. Geary has been really picked on in this campaign, but having said that you can't go into single residence corridors and build ten stories."

When mayoral candidate London Breed was asked: "Do you support Scott Wiener's SB 827?," she responded:

"Yes. I do want to ensure SB 827 has/maintains strong protections for low-income communities, rent control, as well as demolition and inclusionary issues. My friend and former colleague Scott Wiener is an unrivaled leader on housing issues and always works hard to accommodate concerns and revisions in his legislation. I am optimistic he and the legislature will get this right. Transit-oriented housing isn't just good for housing; it's critical for the environment."

Mayoral candidate Jane Kim is a definite "No" on SB 827. Kim has been against the bill from its inception. She states:

"State politicians have been rushing forward a 'transit oriented' housing proposal that will allow virtually unlimited construction of luxury condos throughout San Francisco.

"SB 827 is a failure. We can build more housing without destroying our neighborhoods.

"We can entitle thousands of units faster and more affordably by streamlining the process for accessory dwelling units in single family homes and approving more three- to ten-unit residential buildings throughout the City. We can secure construction loans for homeowners and small builders to get these units built. And these units will be more affordable to everyday San Franciscans by virtue of the lower cost of their construction.

"We can also establish a citywide infrastructure bank to fund necessary public infrastructure for our growing neighborhoods so the 30,000 units of housing approved by the City, but stalled by delayed infrastructure can be built as soon as possible.

"I oppose this brazen giveaway to developers — it rewards cities that refuse to build public transit and pollute the environment and allows unchecked luxury development throughout San Francisco. And who benefits from building luxury condos? Luxury condo developers. They will make billions of dollars. The reality is many of these luxury units [will] remain empty as investment properties. Vacant luxury condos don't build community, house our residents, or make our neighborhoods safer.

Let's build more housing — but let's do it the right way."

True to form, Wiener has repeatedly made rude comments about Kim. Perhaps it is time he grows up.

District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee — not a June 2018 candidate for mayor — has perhaps the best insight into Wiener's SB 827 and its companion bill, SB 828.

"I believe that by being a co-sponsor of Supervisor Peskin's resolution [to kill SB 827 and accept no new amendments] along with the rest of our co-sponsors, [we] are sending a strong an unambiguous signal that we are against cookie-cutter responses to our housing crisis and that we believe in retaining local control over local land-use decisions.

"I am in favor of building new housing on the West Side, but there has to be community input and we have to be able to ensure that we also meet our City's housing balance goals by creating more affordable units than we are currently generating. These bills would almost certainly spur more luxury housing production and exacerbate the affordability crisis that we find ourselves in, while doing nothing to improve our transit and parking.

"Getting ourselves out of our affordable housing crisis will require complex solutions. We should maximize affordable housing production on publicly-owned land and encourage development along transit corridors while working to prevent displacement. We also need to generate more revenue streams for affordable housing development so that we are not reliant on the market to provide for our affordable housing needs. Of course, we should not stifle local decision making. Our communities have to play a central role in developing responses that preserve our cultural and economic diversity and character, while striving to accommodate the population growth that we know is happening."

On March 25 the Chronicle reported Scott Wiener stated: "The bill has definitely struck a nerve," Wiener said. "I knew it would be a controversial and hard bill, but I didn't anticipate this level of focus."

The Chronicle's article noted Wiener's housing bill would give the state veto power over cities' housing plans. Wiener seeks to veto local decision-making over our sovereign land use decisions.

Clearly SB 827 is starting to crumble, since San Francisco voters have started to realize how Wiener's legislation will damage their residential neighborhoods.

Owners of residential housing and tenant activists view SB 827 as a blunt overreach of state power that would destroy the character of local communities while displacing long-established residents so developers can build more luxury condo towers for rich people.

An eight to ten-story house could be built right beside your residential home. There are no floor area ratio (FAR) restrictions, so 20 or more units under 300 square feet could be built. Developers wouldn't be required to add any infrastructure. No cars will be allowed. Neighborhood Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) will become meaningless.

SB 827 will undoubtedly lead to the massive demolition of the limited affordable housing stock. Rent-controlled housing will be purchased by investors who will replace it by five to eight-story market-rate housing. Wiener wants to add an amendment protecting lower-income housing, but when you are pushed out of your unit, you're effectively gone. San Francisco's lower-income neighborhoods, including communities of color, will be obliterated by SB 827.

The Planning Department states that the least expensive housing is "housing that is already built. This housing will slowly disappear." The Board of Supervisors proposed Resolution recommending amendments — but not outright rejection of SB 827 — notes that the Planning Department's analysis of SB 827 dated February 5, 2018 "identified concerns about the State's attempt to undermine San Francisco's sovereign local Planning Code and Design standards, which are the backbone of the City's commitment to creating livable, walkable and complete neighborhoods."

The concerns of the residential neighborhoods on the merits of SB 827 are numerous, which we have repeatedly expressed i. But our ultimate concern is to retain San Francisco's control over land use regulation, which SB 827 would essentially end. Hence, the goal is to defeat the bill, not amend it, and that is the message which we need the Supervisors and the Mayor to understand and support.

The bill neuters San Francisco, a charter city, from managing one of its most important functions: Local land use regulation. Normally, state legislation cannot trump the power of charter cities, such as San Francisco, to exclusively regulate municipal affairs such as land use. The only exception to that principle is if there is a "matter of compelling state interest" that is not being addressed statewide. In rare cases, state legislation on such matters can overcome local control.

Wiener's broad-brushstroke bill will apply to all 131 Charter/Home Rule cities (27.2%) of the 482 total California municipalities.

SB 827 does not meet the requirements of that rare exception, and the Board and the Mayor should all want to preserve that control right to San Francisco, including the right to judicially challenge it. Opposing the bill on that basis should not be a partisan issue because all of City Supervisors and the Mayor should be collectively fighting to keep land use controls within San Francisco's control. They can fight about the manner of such regulation, but not about its existence.

Abdicating this power to the state through SB 827 means elected officials deciding such issues for San Francisco are not playing with a full deck. Rather, our land use decisions will be decided by those in the state, including Senator Wiener, who have little or no skin in the game, affecting most of the state. Is this what our elected officials should be allowing to happen?

SB 827 must be rejected not only because of the harm it will directly cause, but also because of its cynical destruction of democratic processes and environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), preventing local communities from creating a more sustainable path towards development.

According to Zev Yarloslavsky, Director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Wiener's bill would "radically change Southern California by eviscerating decades of planning."

Yarloslavsky further notes: "SB 827 is not a housing bill; it's a real-estate bill. It is intended to monetize real estate. This bill is not about YIMBYs (Yes In My Back Yard) vs. NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard); it's about WIMBYS — Wall Street in My Backyard. With one stroke of the pen, the State Legislature could totally transform the economics of real-estate development in Los Angeles — while totally eviscerating decades of planning."

San Francisco's YIMBY advocates are a small, self-entitled lobbying group whose leaders are paid through contributions from developers and high-technology companies to be lobbyists.

The YIMBY membership has no sense of history and don't realize how hard previous generations of San Franciscans had to work to either own a house or find a good apartment. YIMBYs believe their housing problems are unique to just them, and complain about how unfairly they are treated. I feel sorry for these genuinely nice people with little money. YIMBY leaders are just opportunists, hoping to make more money in a new Gold Rush from housing development profits.

Stephen Frank's brilliant article in the March 23, 2018 California Political Review, "SB 827: Racist Declaration of War" states: "YIMBY groups are the very definition of 'astroturf'—fake grassroots organizations backed by corporate industry."

Frank further wrote:

"The bill is backed by a group that calls itself the YIMBY's, which stands for 'Yes in my backyard.' Like the colonizers whose agenda they seek to replicate, it takes a certain entitlement/supremacist mindset to call a community they didn't grow up in, don't live in, or are new to, as 'their' [backyards]. It's not their backyard — it's ours. And we're not about to give it up."

Should SB 827 pass, and you live in a residential neighborhood, prepare yourself to have one of these housing monstrosities built near your home. If you're a renter, be prepared to be pushed out of the City.

On March 12, the Board of Supervisor's Land Use and Transportation Committee passed a Resolution recommending that the full Board of Supervisors adopt on April 3 mere amendments to SB 827, not recommending that SB 827 be killed, completely. Contact the Board of Supervisors urging them to recommend completely killing SB 827, not merely noodling with amendments to Wiener's misguided legislation.

Tell your Supervisors: Kill SB 827, don't amend it.

George Wooding President, Coalition For San Francisco Neighborhoods.Feedback: wooding@westsideobserver.com

April 2018

Another Modest Proposal

high-rise apartments

YIMBYs Attack
— Drop Dead! (Please)

George Wooding

Elderly Homeowners Must Die to Give Millennials Homes

Jonathan Swift's a Modest Proposal has been turned inside out!

By introducing SB 827, State Senator Scott Wiener is trying to destroy all of the residential housing in San Francisco.

Lift up a rock and here's what you'll find: The bill was drafted by California Yimby Executive Director Brian Hanlon. Groups such as YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard), Housing and Action (HAC) a development lobbyist group, BARF (Bay Area Renter's Foundation), and SPUR (San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association), often collaborate with each other.

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What had started out as a community meeting slowly became a referendum on the land value of homes and apartments that younger generations would like to take away from older generations — right now!”

SPUR played a large role.

Gabriel Metcalf, SPURs Executive Director, founded HAC, and has donated at least $36,000 to YIMBY from a special interest group he founded called San Franciscans Against Wasteful Spending (SFAWS). The first contribution to SFAWS was $250,000 from the SEIU United Health Care Workers, West PAC in Los Angeles.

All of these groups, and Wiener, are supported by donations from pro-development unions, contractors, developers, and high-technology companies.

As Metcalf stated in the The Atlantic in July 2017: "I think there are more people understanding housing as a social-justice issue. While they might not like their communities changing with higher-density buildings, more people understand that they are necessary to live up to our values as progressives." Metcalf is speaking for no one but his contributors.

The number of San Francisco homes that will be destroyed will be significant and the people living in those homes will be displaced because they cannot afford to live in the city. To SPUR, YIMBY, BARF, and HAC this seems to be morally acceptable. As long as high-tech workers have a place to live and the special interest groups get paid, everything will be OK.

Housing development has turned into a cottage industry. Beyond the contributions they receive and the money they make, they are allowed to feel "important" and good about themselves.

Stated simply, SB 827 ties the width of your street to the amount of public transportation near your home. The height and size of your home now will depend on your home's proximity to transit corridors and/or major transit stops.

According to the San Francisco Planning Department, "SB 827 would affect most of San Francisco and would significantly upzone most of the city. Almost 96% of the city's parcels are within a half mile of a major transit stop or a quarter mile of a transit corridor meeting the definition in the bill."

Further, Planning notes "San Francisco's transit network is expansive and most bus lines run service every 15 minutes, or more frequently, during peak commute hours. Over 90% of the city's parcels currently have a height limit of 45 feet or less. Given that most major streets in the city have widths greater than 45 feet, the majority of the streets in the City would have their height limits doubled from 40 feet or 45 feet to 85 feet. Homes near major transit stops will be allowed to build 75-foot to 105-foot high homes throughout the city. Even where height limits are not raised significantly, the elimination of density controls could result in significantly more units per parcel, as many of these areas are zoned RH-1 or RH-1D."

For the sake of creating density, SB 827 will destroy the fabric of San Francisco's neighborhoods. This is eerily reminiscent to what San Francisco did when the Fillmore District was destroyed, and is tantamount to breaking what you are trying to fix.

Wiener's SB 827 bill would usurp cities' building rules by requiring them to allow denser housing developments within a half-mile of transit hubs such as BART, Caltrain, and Muni stations, and within a quarter-mile of bus lines.

Your neighbor or a speculator would be allowed to build a 105-foot-high house with no parking next to your home. Each residential apartment could be as small as 300 square feet. There is no stipulation on whether the homes will be affordable.

SB 827 would also prohibit the enforcement of "Any design standard that restricts the applicant's ability to construct the maximum number of units consistent with any applicable building code," would also suspend local parking minimums (and maximums), and density restrictions. Prepare for poorly-designed, cheap buildings to litter San Francisco's landscape.

SB 827 would prohibit cities from restricting heights to lower than 45 feet (six stories) or 85 feet (eight stories) — depending on the width of the street — on parcels within a half-mile of a "major transit stop" or a quarter-mile of "a high-quality transit corridor."

SB 827 as proposed completely eliminates all design standards related to building envelope, other than height for buildings within the prescribed height limits. It precludes the applicability of any design guideline and Planning Code provisions that in any way reduces the size and shape of the building envelope from a maximal box within the height limit, allowing only application of California Building Code standards. This would preclude the ability to maintain any standards regarding rear yard, lot coverage, exposure, open space, setbacks, and bulk controls of any kind, to name a few. The California Building Code addresses light and air as primarily life and safety issues.

The San Francisco Planning Department hates the bill.

At a February 3 community meeting sponsored by State Senator Scott Wiener at the Taraval Police Station, an anonymous, 20-something-year-old millennial attendee thanked Wiener profusely for "working so hard for those of us who are actually going to be alive in the next decade or two."

In other words, the millennial implied it was taking too long for older homeowners to die so millennials could either take over the property, or tear it down and rebuild.

The anonymous millennial was seated in the front row directly in front of his beloved Wiener. Many of the younger attendees loved the millennial's comments and ageist remarks, clearly heard throughout the room.

Here's what the millennial stated:

"I wanted to thank you for the work that you are doing for those of us who are not fortunate enough to already have a house, to already be renting a place who can eventually be buying a place, or if they choose, to continue renting.

I think that the incumbency advantage is not fair. Just because you have a place doesn't mean that you can tell everyone else: 'Why don't you live in Tracy, why don't you live in Sierra Nevada? We got no room for you.'

We can't continue to have a vibrant economy if we can't have people here (SF) taking care of the elderly — who seem to be opposed to this bill — or people who clean up our streets, or build our buildings. And I think that there is no future for the City if we don't increase density, if we don't increase jobs near quality transportation centers, if we don't do anything for the next few generations.

So, thank you for working so hard for those of us who are actually going to be alive in the next decade or two."

He was totally vacuous. No manners. This person only cares about himself and his own needs. When they were passing out participation awards at school, he was first in line. His mother convinced his teacher to change his "B" grade to an "A." His whole life he has been told how special he was. Immediate gratification isn't fast enough.

The current owners of homes worked hard, created jobs, and fought for our country. Many waited, sacrificed, and saved for years. Wiener and company don't seem to have a clue.

The millennial turned inside out — without Wiener's objection — a Modest Proposal, the satirical essay published anonymously 289 years ago by Jonathan Swift in 1729. Swift suggested a solution to Ireland's famine might be that poor Irish people could ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food to rich gentlemen and ladies. Swift's "modest solution" irony asserted "a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled."

The millennial, who probably never heard of, let alone read, Swift's classic essay, turned it inside out, implying that by killing off elderly homeowners, millennials would magically acquire housing.

What had started out as a community meeting slowly became a referendum on the land value of homes and apartments that younger generations would like to take away from older generations — right now!

Remember, when you're a 28-year-old, a 45-year-old person is "old."

Wiener's economic logic is fundamentally flawed. He's using a supply-side economic model (i.e., the more housing you build, the less expensive the housing will become). But that depends upon a number of factors, not the least of which is whether housing can equal or exceed demand, which hasn't happened for some time. The best one can say is that the housing cost increase may not be as great. Wiener's allies forget Planning Commissioner Dennis Richards has stated, "there are already over 143,000 housing units in the San Francisco housing pipeline."

Is Wiener's SB 827 even needed? Should California be able to completely control San Francisco's planning and building procedures?

San Francisco historian Jamal Frederick offers the best perspective: "The Fillmore should serve as a cautionary tale to San Francisco. Change is inevitable, but when change replaces people, it also erases culture. Being critical about gentrification isn't about casting blame. It's about wanting to build something together, and feeling like we all must be included. The old and new residents need to engage, discuss, share ideas, learn from each other, create new culture, and create new San Franciscans who will continue to uphold this city's beautiful tradition. To preserve this city, you must include the people. All the people."

San Franciscans don't need an inverted Modest Proposal.

George S. Wooding, President, Coalition For San Francisco Neighborhoods. Feedback: wooding@westsideobserver.com

March 2018

250 Laguna Honda Housing Project Makes No SenseLaguna Honda Housing

The people who live on the West side of San Francisco support assisted lower income senior housing. We are humane, charitable, and understanding of the needs of others.

The October 4,2016 Preliminary Project Assessment (PPA) report for the 250 Laguna Honda assisted senior living project is described as follows: “The proposal was to demolish the existing 12,330-square-foot (sf) church and child care facility and 49 space surface parking lot and construct a five-story, 49-foot-tall senior housing apartment building incorporating a church and community center.”

“The proposed new building 150 senior housing dwelling units, 62 parking spaces (57 standard, two compact and three accessible spaces), and 3,148 sf of church and community center space. In addition, the proposed building would include common usable open space in a first floor garden and second floor podium garden. Trash and mechanical areas are proposed in the parking garage on the first floor. Lobby area and management offices are proposed at the second floor. Repurposed stained glass from the existing church is proposed at the lobby. Soil would be excavated to approximately 16 feet below grade.”

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The minute that the City announced a 150 unit low-income housing unit was going to be built at 250 Laguna Honda Boulevard, the local media framed the development as a battle between the “rich” Forest Hill residents and the “poor.” The Forest Hill neighborhood was immediately portrayed in the local media as evil wealthy people oppressing the elderly poor.”

The proposed senior center is being built by Christian Church Homes (CCH), a non-profit and Northern California Presbyterian Homes and Services (NCPHS), a non-profit. The project is primarily funded by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD), a city financing source for housing. MOHCD has become San Francisco’s 800 pound housing finance gorilla. They are in a hurry: “financing the development, rehabilitation and purchase of affordable housing in San Francisco, coordinate the City’s housing policies and strengthen the social, physical and economic infrastructure of San Francisco’s low-income neighborhoods and communities in need.”

It is easy to spend taxpayers’ money. With a green light from the Mayor’s office and almost no public oversight of funds loaned, leased or spent, the MOHCD can make funding mistakes. So far, no predevelopment funds have been spent.

City Planning hated the proposed 250 Laguna Honda design…and so did many of the surrounding neighborhoods. Kava Massih Architects were forced to redesign the project. In quick order, the $73.5 million project will be reduced from 150 units to 100 units according to Eugene Flannery, Environmental Compliance Officer for the (MOHCD).

The minute that the City announced a 150 unit low-income housing unit was going to be built at 250 Laguna Honda Boulevard, the local media framed the development as a battle between the “rich” Forest Hill residents and the “poor.” The Forest Hill neighborhood was immediately portrayed in the local media as evil wealthy people oppressing the elderly poor.

On November 16th, The San Francisco Chronicle published a story on the project titled, “In a wealthy SF Neighborhood, residents fight low-income housing.” The Chronicle was so busy framing the project that basic facts became irrelevant.

In reality, the proposal had been misrepresented to Supervisor Yee.The Supervisor was originally approached by the leadership of the Forest Hill Church who asked for his support in building a 50 unit senior housing project.

To receive funding under Proposition A Bond requirements,a minimum of 50 new, affordable senior housing units had to be submitted for any senior housing developer/applicant to be eligible to submit an application for funding. However, this did not mean that 50 units were the minimum number of units that made this project profitable. This is just a threshold requirement for funding eligibility.

The MOHCD may not even use Proposition A Bond funding for the 250 Laguna Honda project

Imagine the Forest Hill Neighborhood’s and the Supervisor’s consternation when it was announced that the 250 Laguna Honda Boulevard project had been increased to 150 units. The childcare center would be destroyed and the church would be destroyed.

The proposed building would feature a 16 foot deep parking garage that would hold 62 cars. Additionally, the space is currently zoned as a residential housing, single-family detached (RH-1D) lot that has a height limit of forty feet. The project developer wants a height exemption of 49 feet. This exemption does not count the additional height of items such as air conditioning units placed on the roof.

Supervisor Yee’s office is currently facilitating a discussion between the church, developers, and community in the hope that consensus can be reached on an acceptable project.

Mitigations and project design issues are at the heart of the community discussion of this complex project. There is no single mitigation that would make the project acceptable to the community or the Supervisor. At this point, Supervisor Yee is acting as a facilitator to ensure that all of the communities issues are properly addressed and that the design and any mitigations are adequate. 

Currently, the child care facility will remain and be increased to 70 children. The church may be relocated to a “better” location on the existing property.

Planning also supports saving the Forest Hill Christian Church, “an exceptional, rare, and intact example of Expressionist architecture in San Francisco and a local monument of mid-century modernism west of Twin Peaks.”

As such, Planning’s preliminary review suggests relocating the church building on-site, with enough space left around the church “to allow it to be seen and appreciated.”Maybe the church should just stay in place.

The largest problem by far with the project is the site geology.The adjacent hill/cliff is unstable.The hillside has been weakened by vertical and lateral “creep” of the underlying sand dune, and many of the houses located above the site are in jeopardy.General construction, excessive water saturation, or a seismic event could cause a collapse of the hill.

According to the Chronicle, the developers’ engineering report recommends the developer use “deep soil mixing,” where existing soil is mixed with cement grout. In addition, Langan Engineering recommended the installation of a buttress at the bottom of the slope, which, along with the stronger soil, would “resist lateral soil movement.”

Both the failed 5th Avenue/Kirkham Heights development and the Claremont development show similar site conditions as the 250 Laguna Heights site.Private developers could not make a profit and did not build. The MOHCD is not concerned with making a profit and is prepared to spend as much money as it takes to subsidize the 250 Laguna Heights project.The project is currently on hold waiting for an Environmental Impact Review (EIR).

In response to questions raised by the Citizens General Obligation Bond Oversite Committee CGOBOC members, Kate Hartley as Director of MOHCD) informed CGOBOC members that typically MOHCD does not expect loan repayment from projects relying on “residual receipts.”Residual receipts are those revenues the project receives in excess of operating costs, such that if projects claim high operating costs on no residual revenue left over, MOHCD has no expectation of loan repayment.

Before seeing an EIR or evaluating new project cost estimates, Kate Hartley said that the project is “definitely still on.”It is amazing how irresponsible people can be with the taxpayers’ money. The new project has not been designed and no one knows how much this project will cost.

The smaller 100 unit building will be much more expensive to build than the first planned 150 unit building. Excess project costs litigation is a serious consideration.

In 2003, the Board of Supervisors passed the Precautionary Principle Ordinance.A central element of the precautionary approach is the careful assessment of available alternatives using the best available science. An alternatives assessment examines a broad range of options in order to present the public with different effects of different options considering short-term versus long-term effects or costs, and evaluating and comparing the adverse or potentially adverse effects of each option, noting options with fewer potential hazards. This process allows fundamental questions to be asked: “Is this potentially hazardous activity necessary?” “What less hazardous options are available?” and “How little damage is possible?”

It’s time to look for a new site location.

As proposed by Christian Church Homes, and much to the chagrin of neighbors, the Forest Hill Christian Church and adjacent school at 250 Laguna Honda Boulevard will be leveled and a five-story building will rise across the 1.6-acre site, with 149 units of senior housing, a 62-car garage and a new church/community center within its walls.

While the Planning Department’s preliminary review of the plans, which was just completed, “supports using this large site that is within 900 feet of underground and bus stops for senior housing,” it also supports saving the Forest Hill Christian Church, “an exceptional, rare, and intact example of Expressionist architecture in San Francisco and a local monument of mid-century modernism west of Twin Peaks.”

As such, Planning’s preliminary review suggests relocating the church building on-site, with enough space left around the church “to allow it to be seen and appreciated.”

In addition, the Department is recommending the proposed development be redesigned so that it doesn’t form a “street wall” near the road and incorporates the wooded setting into its design, “perhaps incorporating a massing strategy more akin to pavilions rather than a slab along the street frontage, more like a campus.”

Also noted, the site is currently only zoned for development up to 40 feet in height versus 49 feet as proposed, which would require a legislative amendment to change. And a Senior Housing Special Use District (SUD) would have to be approved as the site is currently only zoned for a single-family home.

In other words, it’s back to the drawing board for Kava Massih Architects and Christian Church Homes.

Virtually everyone agrees that San Francisco, and the region, needs more affordable housing – defined as tenants paying no more than 30 percent of their income, and divided into brackets based on a percentage of area median income. But the obstacles to making this happen are considerable.

George S. Wooding, President, Coalition For San Francisco Neighborhoods. Feedback: wooding@westsideobserver.com

February 2018

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