Public power moves forward at City Hall. What will the mayor do now?

Sup. Scott Wiener's public-power bill comes to the Land Use Committee today

Sup. Scott Wiener’s public-power bill comes to the Land Use Committee today

By Tim Redmond

NOVEMBER 24, 2014 – The first baby steps toward public power in San Francisco continue to move forward – but the mayor remains an obstacle.

Mayor Ed Lee refused to support CleanPowerSF, despite widespread support at the Board of Supervisors, and his Public Utilities Commission scuttled it last year. The mayor at the time said he didn’t think the program would create enough jobs; the allies of PG&E, which wants no competition ever, dummied up a campaign against the short-term energy contractor  the city was going to use.

Then the mayor tried to make the whole issue vanish.

But now all of the problems that Lee cited have vanished instead. And a recent report commissioned by the Local Agency Formation Commission shows that CleanPowerSF would create 8,100 construction jobs – and that it can be done without any outside contractor.  Continue reading

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Flipcharts, planners — and the ongoing attack on blue-collar jobs in Soma

Planner Steve Wertheim explains how a forum on Soma planning will work.

Planner Steve Wertheim explains how a forum on Soma planning will work.

By Zelda Bronstein

NOVEMBER 21, 2014 — On Tuesday, November 18, from 6-8 pm, the San Francisco Planning Department held an open house on the draft Central SoMa Plan at SPUR’s spiffy headquarters at 654 Mission.

The controversial plan envisions a massive upzoning (more height and density) and a corresponding amount of highrise, high-rent development in the area, as this map from TODCO, Tenants and Owners Development Corporation, makes clear.

48hillstodcomap

The proposed drastic changes have recently been highlighted by the controversy over Kilroy Realty Corporation’s proposal to build a highrise office tower at 575 Sixth Street, part of the site of the San Francisco Flower Mart.

The threat to the Flower Mart encapsulates the plan’s larger, most disputed feature: the displacement and likely destruction of at least 1,800 blue-collar jobs.

I started covering the plan in October 2013. Since then, this is the planners’ first effort at community engagement about their proposal. I’m always curious to see how public officials handle citizen participation. To what extent do they encourage in-depth discussion of the issues at hand? How much control do they seek to exercise over that discussion? The usual answer to the first question is, not much, and to the second, a whole lot. Continue reading

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Bay Area marches for Ayotzinapa, because it had to

Rain does little to dampen a protest march in support of missing Mexican students

Rain does little to dampen a protest march in support of missing Mexican students

 

By Caitlin Donohue

NOVEMBER 21, 2014 — If the people of Mexico needed proof that the rest of the world stood with them yesterday, they could look to Market Street in San Francisco. It was the international day of protest for the 43 Ayotzinapa Normal student activists who were disappeared in the Mexican state of Guerrero by rural law enforcement back in September – and also November 20, the anniversary of the start of the 1910 Mexican Revolution.

The San Francisco sky opened up over the hundreds of people marching through downtown,  a Mexico-worthy deluge of water, the likes of which the Bay Area rarely sees. The water hit marching protesters chanting, “Quien fue? La policia! Quien fue? El estado! (“Who was it? The police! Who was it? The state!”) But they barely seemed to flinch, reaching City Hall with enough numbers to take the grand building’s steps with protest signs and a puppet of President Enrique Nieto Peña, a likeness whose size paled only in comparison to the one that had been burned hours before in Mexico City’s central plaza.

After all, as one woman proclaimed at the open mic in Justin Herman Plaza that kicked the SF demonstration: “Can you imagine what would have happened in 1910 if a little rain had stopped them?” Continue reading

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Oh great. Now the housing crisis can’t be solved. And the tech folks are afraid to talk in public

Until the evictions stop, protests on the streets will continue

Until the evictions stop, protests on the streets will continue

By Tim Redmond

NOVEMBER 20, 2014 – You know the housing crisis in San Francisco has gone from insane to absurd when the City Planning Department gets in trouble for posting a video saying we need more housing – and the Atlantic suggests that maybe there’s no solution at all.

Then a reporter from TechChrunch holds a meeting to try to get tech people and housing activists to talk – but decides it has to be private so that it won’t blow up.

And sometimes I just want to pound my head against the wall and say: What is the matter with everyone? Are so many people so blinded by free-market ideology and a lack of historical understanding that they think this is (a) the result of Nimbys and rent control and (b) can’t be solved?

Does anyone really think the activists will give up shouting and protesting and meet for a polite chat while thousands are being thrown out on the streets — and the tech world is doing nothing to help?

I will take a deep breath and try to sort this out. Continue reading

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Ugly condos for the very rich that block public views approved a few yards from Coit Tower

A little bit of Daly City on Telegraph Hill

A little bit of Daly City on Telegraph Hill

By Tim Redmond

NOVEMBER 19, 2014 – The press gallery and the chambers of the Board of Supervisors were packed all afternoon yesterday as we waited for the vote on the next board president. But before that happened, the board heard an appeal of a proposed three-unit luxury condo project at 115 Telegraph Hill Boulevard.

The site is the former home of the legendary labor leader Bill Bailey, whose historic cottage was moved years ago. The developer wants to build units of roughly 4,000 square feet with a 3,700-square-foot garage; the neighbors say the construction is too big, will require too much excavation on an unstable hillside – and will wind up blocking a popular view corridor from the top of the hill.

The project will also have an impact on nearby Garfield Elementary School, about 100 feet away down a very steep slope; construction equipment will be staged nearby, and School Board member Sandra Fewer spoke in opposition, “We were not aware of this staging location, we were not consulted,” she said.

But among the most interesting elements of the case was a presentation by Susan Brandt Hawley, an environmental lawyer hired by the Telegraph Hill Dwellers. The city, she said, is out of compliance with state law in the way it considers environmental review. Continue reading

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How did Katy Tang end up as Board of Supervisors president?

Norman Yee might have been a caretaker president, but instead the job went to Katy Tang

Norman Yee might have been a caretaker president, but instead the job went to Katy Tang

By Tim Redmond

NOVEMBER 18, 2014 – Sup. John Avalos came over to the rail by the press box around 6pm today and told me that he wanted to declare “Frank Underwood Day” in San Francisco.  The backroom deals and the nastiness over the replacement of Sup. David Chiu as board president were, he said, something out of House of Cards.

The main goal of all the intrigue, which ended with Katy Tang, probably the most conservative member of the board and one of the least-well known, taking over the powerful post, was to make sure Sup. David Campos didn’t get to vote, the progressives had no shot – and none of the people who are angling for higher office got a resume boost.

Not a good way to make public policy or elect a person who can now appoint not only committees but members of the Planning Commission and the Police Commission. Continue reading

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Will a high-end shopping mall benefit Bayview Hunters Point?

Shopping mall developer Randy Brant and Lennar Urban president Kofi Bonner talk up Gucci at Candlestick

Shopping mall developer Randy Brant and Lennar Urban president Kofi Bonner talk up Gucci at Candlestick

By Tim Redmond

NOVEMBER 18, 2014 — The next stage of the redevelopment of  Hunters Point Bayview was on display  today in a sunny, almost wind-free Candlestick parking lot – and Kofi Bonner, the head of developer Lennar Urban, put it this way:

“I see shopping in everyone’s future.”

Bonner and Randy Brant, executive vice president of the mall developer Macerich, were there to announce that the old stadium would be replaced with a high-end shopping mall featuring the likes of Gucci and Armani.

The mall, with 130 stores, would be the centerpiece of Lennar’s ambitious plans to build 6,000 housing units at Candlestick Point, with 32 percent of them available at below-market rate.

Rev. Aurelious Walker, pastor of the True Hope Church of God, said the image of the neighborhood as a “poor, crime-ridden community” would be “totally obliterated” by the development.

Or, as Bonner put it, “we will create an environment very similar to what other San Franciscans enjoy.” Continue reading

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