Tom’s Town: The 12 days of San Franciscmas

By Tom Temprano

DECEMBER 19, 2014 — The holidays are here, and despite this feeling like a tough year for many of us on San Francisco’s left, I can’t help but think that we got some incredible gifts thrown in with our lumps of coal.

48hillstomstownBecause every store I’ve walked into since Thanksgiving – or more accurately Halloween – has been playing Christmas songs (will I ever get Feliz Navidad out of my head again?) I’m going to write this week’s column in the spirit of a holiday classic.

 

On the first month of San Franciscmas, my city gave to me

Less barfly misogyny

 In January it was announced that prolific misogynist H. Brown was leaving the city for good. PS Does anyone know if this actually happened? Continue reading

x | 3 Comments

The elusive Barbara Beno: The story of the person who is behind the move to shut down City College

48hillsbenoill

Illustration by Zoheb Bhutia

By Mary Strope, Michaela Payne and Arami Reyes

DECEMBER 18, 2014 — “No narrative would be complete without a worthy villain, and we have one here. Her name is Dr. Barbara Beno.”

That’s what Adam Westman wrote about the person in charge of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges back in 2009 on the California Teacher’s Association website. At the time, he was president of the Rio Hondo College Faculty Association and his college was going through an accreditation crisis of its own.

Over the past five years, Beno’s leadership has become the subject of increasingly harsh criticism. Her detractors have accused her accreditation agency of:

  • Disproportionate sanctioning of colleges
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Failure to follow federal guidelines
  • Lack of transparency and accountability
  • Unwillingness to cooperate with elected officials and the media
  • Connections with powerful advocacy organizations

Beno is no stranger to controversy. She has been roundly criticized by students, faculty, and administrators, as well as state and federal representatives since 2001, when she took over as president of the ACCJC.

Now, on the hot seat in a lawsuit that is causing her actions to be even more closely scrutinized, calls for her resignation have begun to surface. Continue reading

x | 26 Comments

Mayor says he’s “open” to a tax on vacant housing

Mayor Ed Lee talks to reporters after Question Time

Mayor Ed Lee talks to reporters after Question Time

By Tim Redmond

DECEMBER 17, 2014 – Mayor Ed Lee said yesterday that he was “open” to the concept of a tax on vacant residential property, something Sup. Eric Mar is proposing.

During Question Time, Lee said that “we are not well served if we are building homes that are left vacant.” While he was vague about the concept of a tax, he said that “in principle, I believe in minimizing absenteeism in new construction.”

His remarks came in response to a story in 48hills showing that a substantial percentage of the new luxury condos built in the city are owned by people who don’t live there.

“If people are buying housing and not living there, we have a problem,” the mayor said. Continue reading

x | 45 Comments

Kilroy exec named in Flower Mart ethics complaint

Flower Mart vendors are trying to save the space from real-estate development

Flower Mart vendors are trying to save the space from real-estate development

CORRECTION: An early version of this story incorrectly stated that the Flower Mart is in the Soma Redevelopment Area.

By Zelda Bronstein

DECEMBER 16, 2014 — An Oakland florist has filed an ethics complaint against Mike Grisso, the Kilroy Realty Corporation executive who’s playing a major role in the company’s controversial takeover and proposed demolition of the San Francisco Flower Mart to make way for a high-rise office project.

Melanie Ann Tom, the owner of Hawthorn Flower Studio, filed her complaint with the San Francisco Ethics Commission Dec. 9. It accuses Grisso, a former employee of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, of having violated state and local laws governing lobbying and financial conflicts of interest by city employees.

Mike Grisso of Kilroy is named in an ethics complaint

Mike Grisso of Kilroy is named in an ethics complaint

Grisso, Tom charges, “negotiated a job with Kilroy Realty while still working for the government, has lobbied his former colleagues on behalf of his new employer, and has not registered as a lobbyist.” Her complaint asks the commission to stop these alleged violations, “to require [Grisso] to file monthly lobbyist reports for July through November 2014, and to impose the appropriate fine or other penalty.”

Tom names Ken Rich and Todd Rufo, staffers of Mayor Lee’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, as witnesses who can supply “proof that Grisso has lobbied city employees on behalf of Kilroy during one year since leaving office.”

The 38 pages of documentation accompanying the two-and-a-half page complaint proper include numerous emails between Rufo, Rich, and their OEWD colleague Myisha Hervey and Grisso and his Kilroy colleagues Mike Sanford and Dina Kolesnikov. Continue reading

x | 6 Comments

Protesters disrupt landlord from getting on Google bus

Evan Wolkenstein, far left, and Claudia Tirado, second from right, are fighting their eviction from 812 Guerrero St. Dec. 16, 2014. Photo by Sara Bloomberg

Evan Wolkenstein, far left, and Claudia Tirado, second from right, are fighting their eviction from 812 Guerrero St. Dec. 16, 2014. Photo by Sara Bloomberg

By Sara Bloomberg

DECEMBER 16, 2014 — Sometimes he drives to work, but this morning Jack Halprin decided to take a private shuttle to his office at Google.

Housing advocates were awaiting him.

Shortly before 7 am, around a dozen protesters blocked a tech shuttle from leaving its stop at 18th and Dolores streets when someone in the group started yelling, “He’s walking down Guerrero!”

Maybe Halprin thought he could sneak by the loud group—and their signs denouncing him—unnoticed. But no such luck.

Halprin, a lawyer for Google, is using the Ellis Act to evict the remaining tenants at 812 Guerrero St., a seven unit building tucked between the bustling Valencia commercial corridor and Dolores Park. Continue reading

x | 48 Comments

Sup. Mar takes on Zombie Neighborhoods and Housing Hoarding

Sup. Eric Mar is looking for ways to limit housing from being sucked up by corporate pieds a terre

Sup. Eric Mar is looking for ways to limit housing from being sucked up by corporate pieds a terre

By Tim Redmond

DECEMBER 16, 2014 — A measure by Sup. Eric Mar to tax unoccupied or largely unoccupied housing units could be one of the most significant pieces of tenant legislation coming before the board in 2015, and it’s received almost no news media attention.

The bill seeks to address a growing problem in the city: Speculators, corporations, and people who want a pied a terre in San Francisco are snapping up valuable residential housing stock – and not using it for housing.

We’ve reported on this. SPUR has done a study. There’s a pretty clear problem, and it could be responsible for keeping thousands of units off the market – and making a mockery of the mayor’s attempts to supply new housing for the workforce by building 30,000 new units. Continue reading

x | 106 Comments

About inconvenience and protests

Restaurant workers at SF are inconvenienced every day by low wages

Restaurant workers at SF are inconvenienced every day by low wages

By Tim Redmond

DECEMBER 15, 2014 – When workers at San Francisco International Airport restaurants went on strike last week, Mayor Ed Lee’s response was first to try to convince labor leaders to call it off. After two-thirds of the restaurants opened anyway, Lee decided he could back down; “I was ready,” he told the Chronicle, “to send food trucks if I had to.”

The mayor, of course, was worried that the travelers, already facing delays because of a rainstorm, wouldn’t be able to get anything to eat. I don’t think any of them would starve to death or suffer malnutrition in the course of a few hours – but they would be inconvenienced.

Commuters trying to get on BART or move along some East Bay freeways during the #blacklivesmatter protests were inconvenienced, too. Some critics have complained that the protesters alienated potential supporters with tactics that slow down travel and force people out of their daily routines.

I’m not a fan of looting, smashing windows, and punching people to make a political point. When I used to go to very, very long meetings in the days of the anti-nuclear movement, we argued forever (and we weren’t even drinking, it wasn’t allowed) over whether property destruction counted as “violence,” which we were all against. My position: It is or it isn’t, but it rarely helps the cause.

But interfering with the commute? Making people stop and say: Whoa, what’s going on here? I’m not sure that’s such an awful thing.
Continue reading

x | 21 Comments