Politics on Tuesday: The guv and criminal justice

Guv, what's up with the weird decisions on criminal justice bills?

Guv, what’s up with the weird decisions on criminal justice bills?

By Tim Redmond

SEPTEMBER 30, 2014 — Governor Brown has a strange thing with criminal justice. They guy was a Jesuit (you know, forgiveness and redemption and all that) but he’s been fighting to keep the feds from making him release even prisoners who don’t belong behind bars. He’s not personally a fan of the death penalty but he’s trying to find better ways to kill people.

He signed a bill by Senator Mark Leno, SB 1058, that would allow a judge to overturn a conviction if key evidence at the trial turned out later to be scientifically inaccurate. That means if some expert witness depended on a type of forensic test that has since be disproven (or has been replaced by more accurate testing), and an innocent person has been behind bars, a judge can consider that in ordering a new trial.

And yet, just days later, he vetoed a bill by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano that would allow a judge to tell a jury that the prosecution had improperly withheld evidence in the case. Continue reading

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At risk: 238 rent-controlled housing units

The Turk Street facade of a new "market-rate" SRO shows a roof garden and balconies

The Turk Street facade of a new “market-rate” SRO shows a roof garden and balconies

By Tim Redmond

There’s a strange proposal making its way through the San Francisco planning process that would lead to the loss of 238 low-cost residential hotel units – and their replacement with a brand-new SRO building that some fear with not be affordable to low-income people.

The deal is really complicated, involving five hotels and seven properties, but it amounts to this:

A company called Boopie LLC, which is controlled by a Los Angeles real-estate development partnership, wants to get rid of 238 rent-controlled units and replace them with units that won’t be under rent control.

Existing tenants who are displaced will be offered lifetime leases – but in the long-term, there will be an undeniable loss of permanently affordable housing.

And along the way, Boopie will be able to test the waters to see if market-rate SRO units in the Tenderloin might appeal to, say, young tech workers who eat their meals at work, use company shuttles or bikes for transportation, and just need a place to sleep. Continue reading

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Investigation: New condos aren’t owned by San Francisco residents

Owners of the pricey condos at the St. Regis live all over the region -- and 60 percent of them don't seem to live at the St. Regis

Owners of the pricey condos at the St. Regis live all over the region — and 60 percent of them don’t seem to live at the St. Regis

By Darwin Bond Graham and Tim Redmond

SEPTEMBER 29, 2014 — When condos in a triplet of luxury towers near the Embarcadero called The Brannan began selling in 2000, wealthy buyers snapped them up. Nine years later, developers of the 58-story Millenium Tower at 301 Mission Street began selling its 419 ultra-luxury condos, among the most expensive residences west of the Mississippi River. Last year, Millennium Tower sold out.

The burst of the dot-com bubble in 2000, and the Financial Crisis and Great Recession that hit in 2008, hardly dented sales of these and other of haute San Francisco addresses built over the last 15 years.

According to supply and demand theory, projects like The Brannan and Millennium Tower add to the total stock of housing, and should help to ease prices across the overall housing market by satiating the demand of high-income San Franciscans for space in the city.

But rather than satisfy some demand for housing at the top of the market and alleviating the city’s affordability crisis, San Francisco’s luxury condos instead are being purchased by wealthy buyers who have a virtually bottomless appetite for super-exclusive real estate. Many of these buyers don’t live in San Francisco; their city condos are second, or third homes, a 48 hills analysis of property records shows. Continue reading

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Tom’s Town: Campos, Ello — and some great carnitas

By Tom Temprano

SEPTEMBER 26, 2014 – David Campos is, to borrow a favorite basketball phrase of mine, ON FIRE this September. I’m not just saying this because he has whittled a double-digit deficit in the polls to a dead heat with less than six weeks to go before his November 4 showdown with David Chiu or because he brokered a historic meeting between Facebook and aggrieved members of San Francisco’s drag and transgender community over the company’s discriminatory real name policy. Either of these feats would make him eligible for a politician of the month trophy, but given all the other stuff he’s done these are simply icing on the cake.

48hillstomstownFor the sake of space (this whole column could easily be taken up if I don’t keep it concise) I will bullet point some of his accomplishments since September began:

And there’s still a week left until the end of the month. Continue reading

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Get ready for the attack on Prop. M. Because it’s coming

Is there such a thing as too much office space? well, yes

Is there such a thing as too much office space? well, yes


By Tim Redmond

SEPTEMBER 25, 2014 – In San Francisco, important political signals often lurk in the shadows. Powerful interests don’t come out and announce what they’re planning; you have to watch for the flickers of stories, the hidden indications of what the real agendas are.

And we’re starting to see lots of signs that there’s a move afoot to repeal or undermine Proposition M, the most important land-use legislation in modern San Francisco history, the 1986 ballot measure that put a cap on downtown office development and saved us from the boom-and-bust cycle that devastated other cities in the 1990s.

Prop. M was a reaction to decades of overdevelopment: Since the 1970s, a succession of mayors and supervisors had approved more than 30 million square feet of new office space, attracting tens of thousands of new workers and overwhelming the city’s transportation, housing, and budget infrastructure.

The measure put a modest (850,000 square feet a year) cap on new office construction, and put into the city’s planning codes a set of priority policies that promoted the protection of affordable housing and neighborhood character.

Since then, generations of planning commissions have ignored the Prop. M priority policies, but the annual limit is pretty inviolable. And it’s been a great thing for the local economy. Continue reading

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Developers threaten future of Transbay district

Wow, maybe it will never get built. Greed is amazing.

Wow, maybe it will never get built. Greed is amazing.

By Tim Redmond

SEPTEMBER 24, 2014 – After all the fuss and fury, and a scathing editorial in the Chronicle that some supervisors said was inaccurate, the vote on the Transbay Terminal deal today was moot: The key developer, as we had reported, backed away and is threatening to sue.

That opens another fascinating chapter in this story: The developers have been given exceptional benefits, including increased height limits, in exchange for their support for a special tax district that will pay for the new Transbay Terminal.

And if they sue, that entire offer – including all the zoning changes and building permits – can be cancelled, putting construction of the tallest building West of the Mississippi, the gleaming new Salesforce headquarters, in jeopardy.

And since the supervisors passed the original legislation – including the taxes that Boston Properties, the owner of the Salesforce site, doesn’t like – unanimously, there’s no indication that the city is backing down.

So now that big developer faces a choice: Accept the taxes that come with the building approvals – or risk going back to the starting blocks and losing everything. Continue reading

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Politics on Tuesday: The Transbay deal gets slammed by the Chron — and may be dead anyway

This picture of Willie Brown appears on his Chronicle column -- while the paper is slamming him in an editorial.

This picture of Willie Brown appears on his Chronicle column — while the paper is slamming him in an editorial.

By Tim Redmond

SEPTEMBER 23, 2014 – The staid and pro-development ol’ Chron has gotten all feisty and populist on its editorial page, with a strong piece Monday morning denouncing the deal that Sup. Jane Kim and others worked out with the Transbay Terminal developers.  The editorial even ran with a picture of Willie Brown, who represented the developers and is a Sunday Chronicle columnist.

Which means the Chronicle has come down harder on this deal that I did. The main argument in the daily paper is that the Net Present Value to the city declines by stretching tax payments out over 37 years instead of 30.

The point of the higher taxes, of course, is to fund the bonds the city needs to issue to build the terminal. And the way it was presented to me, the city gets the same bonding authority, at the same price, as it did with the original deal.

But I could be missing something. And the Chron could be moving toward taking a tax-the-developers stand for the first time since I arrived in San Francisco more than 30 years ago. I can’t possibly complain about that.

The real news, though, is that the deal appears to be off anyway. I got a message from Sup. Jane Kim last night saying that Boston Properties, the owner of the site where the giant Salesforce building will be constructed, has declined to accept the deal that everyone thought was settled last week. Continue reading

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