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Turn the Flower Mart into tech offices? Say it’s not so

August 29, 2014

By Zelda Bronstein : 43hillsonline – excerpt

The Flower Mart, a beloved San Francisco institution, is in danger of falling victim to the City Hall-stoked tech real estate boom.

The wholesale market for flowers, a staple for local florists at Sixth and Brannan since 1956 that Martha Stewart once called the “best flower market in the country,” could soon be bought by a real-estate developer, meaning the tenants may face eviction since the property is far more valuable if it’s turned into office space.

Although the headline in the July 25 Chronicle—“Developer acquires S.F. Flower Mart”— suggested that the market is doomed, the Mart can still be saved, and with it a big piece of the city’s old, industrial, blue-collar base.

But that will take a prompt and vigorous show of public support and political muscle.

The beginning of a campaign to save the Flower Mart was on view this week, as Mart tenants, joined by florists, flower market enthusiasts and advocates of an inclusive San Francisco, gathered for a noontime “Save the Flower Mart” press conference and rally in Repetto’s Nursery at the site.

Organized by Mart tenant Patrick McCann of Greenworks, the rally featured an impressive array of speakers: tenants David Repetto of Repetto’s Nursery, “Mama” Lee of SoMa Flowers, and Lupe Rico of Lassen Ranch; former State Senator Quentin Kopp; former Mayor Art Agnos; former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin; District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim; Small Business Commissioner and florist Kathleen Dooley; and the grand old man of the city’s flower-selling industry, the proprietor of the “I. Magnin” flower stand, 92-year-old Albert Nalbandian.

ix years ago, then-Board of Supervisors President Peskin sank the Academy of Art’s attempt to buy the Flower Mart and turn it into sculpture studios.

Some of the Mart’s 100 tenants approached him and Agnos after the Los Angeles-based Kilroy Realty Corporation announced on July 11 that it had “executed a merger agreement to acquire all the outstanding shares” of the San Francisco Flower Growers Association, one of the three firms that own portions of the Mart site…

According to McCann, what’s at stake is not just the 60 locally owned businesses that lease from the SFFGA but also the thousands of living-wage jobs provided by the growers, shippers, and truck drivers who supply our region’s 46,000 florists. The Flower Mart is one of only five such markets in the U.S. In most other places, florists have to drive around from small wholesaler to small wholesaler…

Peskin also noted that the Kilroy project “does not fit the current zoning.”

No kidding. For starters, the SALI (Service/Arts/Light Industrial) District prohibits offices. In addition, the proposed Floor Area Ratio (FAR) exceeds the allowed maximum, and the proposed 160-foot-tall building exceeds the current 40-55 foot height limit.

But like the many other big developers salivating over SoMa’s industrial lands, Kilroy is looking beyond the current zoning to the relaxed standards of the forthcoming Central SoMa Plan. As is their wont, the city’s planners have evaluated Kilroy’s proposal with respect to both current standards and to proposed zoning—in this case, proposals that won’t come before the Planning Commission, much less the Board of Supervisors, before next year…

At the rally, Supervisor Kim announced that at the September 9th Board meeting, she would be proposing that interim controls that would prohibit conversions from Production, Distribution and Repair (PDR), i.e., light industry, to office or residential during the time the Central SoMa Plan is under deliberation and encourage the Planning Department “to work with the developer to ensure the vibrancy of the Flower Mart.”

That’s a step in the right direction… (more)

Can Chinese Millionaires Save San Francisco’s Poorest Neighborhood?

August 26, 2014

Downtown SF project may buy its way out of below-market-rate housing mandate

August 22, 2014

Jonah Owen Lamb : sfexaminer – excerpt

On a bright morning last November, Mayor Ed Lee stood in an empty downtown lot –a shiny shovel in hand — for the groundbreaking of 181 Fremont St. Before a crowd, Lee touted the project as part of San Francisco’s solution to its affordability problem, as 11 of the building’s 74 condos would be below market rate. Not only was the project a “great answer to the housing challenge,” with its mixed-income residences, it was also an example of “the way San Francisco works.”

But at the time, moves were being made to kill that very idea.

Developer Jay Paul Co. had come to The City that October and asked if there was any way the company could get around the requirements to build below-market-rate units.

Citywide, residential developers must make 12 percent of units below market rate or pay an in-lieu fee. But in the Transbay Redevelopment Plan, which affects 181 Fremont, such requirements are even more lofty. That plan envisions a high-density neighborhood of offices and about 4,500 residences around the future Transbay Transit Center, with 1,200, or 35 percent, made permanently below market rate.

The Jay Paul request prompted The City’s Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, which is in charge of the Transbay area’s development, to commission a market study, which calculated the market rate for those 11 units. That study was completed before the mayor spoke in November.

By December, Director Tiffany Bohee of the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure sat down with the developer to negotiate a deal. Jay Paul, which did not return calls for comment, agreed to pay The City $1.26 million for each of the 11 below-market-rate units, $13.85 million in all… (more)


District 10 candidate Tony Kelly issues anti-violence plan

August 16, 2014

By sfexaminer – excerpt

District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen is not alone when it comes to trying to ease the violence in San Francisco’s southeastern neighborhoods.

The man who came in second place against Cohen in 2010 — and is running against her again this year — discussed his own ideas about safety Wednesday.

“We have a City Hall supervisor, we don’t have a district supervisor, we don’t have a neighborhood supervisor,” Tony Kelly said at a lightly attended news conference outside the Bayview Police Station. “We need change and we need leadership in District 10.”

Kelly, a Potrero Hill activist and resident, is one of five candidates running for District 10 in November, and he recently criticized the merits of Cohen’s proposed antiviolence task force.

District 10 — which includes Bayview-Hunters Point, Visitacion Valley and Potrero Hill — has had 12 of The City’s 24 homicides this year, along with numerous shootings.

Kelly said he is “making a personal commitment to public safety.” … (more)

Don’t leave out the muggings, robberies and thefts. On a single block we have had three muggings over the last few weeks. Two were women at night attacked by two men. Last week a bar on Potrero in front of a bus stop was held up by three masked gunmen. San Francisco is not a safe place to bus, walk or bike at night. A gate or garage with a buzzer is the only way to feel safe with a car. I worry about my friends who don’t drive or have to park on the street.

Tony Kelly attended a lot of meetings and hearings on behalf of the citizens of San Francisco over the last four years. He initially stopped the expansion of parking meters in the Eastern Neighborhoods by filing an appeal, and spoke out against SFMTA planning priorities. Citizens showed support for a change in policies signing the Stop the SFMTA petition and by early 2014 all the Supervisors, including Malia Cohen, had signed on to our request to stop parking meters in the neighborhoods and a halt to enforcing Sunday parking meters.

Now we need to go at the traffic jams the way we went at the parking meters. Who do you blame for the traffic nightmare? Yourself or the SFMTA? If you blame the SFMTA vote No on A and B (to stop the flow of money to non-Muni projects) and Yes on L to send a strong message to city authorities that you don’t trust the SFMTA to handle traffic and parking problems.

AHF Sues San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener and City’s Board of Supervisors over Civil Rights Violations

August 5, 2014

digitaljournal – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO–(Business Wire)–AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), which has provided needed healthcare, specialty pharmacy, and prevention and testing services to underserved safety-net patients in San Francisco for approximately 12 years—including operating a specialty pharmacy serving HIV/AIDS patients in the Castro as well as a free AIDS treatment clinic since September 2009—has filed a federal lawsuit against the City and County of San Francisco, its Board of Supervisors, and Supervisor Scott Wiener. The legal action, filed Friday, August 1st in United States District Court, Northern District of California (3:14-cv-03499), seeks Injunctive Relief and Damages for Violations of Civil Rights related to official actions Wiener and the Board took against AHF which AHF asserts will impede its ability to relocate its pharmacy and healthcare center within the Castro neighborhood, and in the process, violates AHF’s equal protection, due process and free speech rights…

n its lawsuit, AIDS Healthcare Foundation alleges that by unlawfully discriminating against AHF, Defendants Wiener and the Board of Supervisors have:

  • Deprived AHF of the equal protection of the law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution,
  • Deprived AHF of due process, as the spot-zoning laws enacted have no legitimate public purpose and enactment of the laws are not reasonably related to furthering a legitimate public purpose, and
  • Enacted the spot-zoning laws in retaliation against AHF for its engagement in protected First Amendment activities.

AHF is seeking a declaration of the laws’ invalidity and inapplicability to AHF and its pharmacy project as well as declaratory and injunctive relief, damages and attorney’s fees.

About AIDS Healthcare Foundation

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 320,000 individuals in 33 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website:, find us on Facebook: and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare(more)

A bit of history is in order here. The citizens of San Francisco voted under Prop M to restrict tall buildings over a certain height. That sparked a revolt by developers who claim they cannot afford to build anything within the constraints of those limits. State and local politicians came to their rescue by creating special district with exceptional powers to ignore any zoning ordinance. Once a projects is designated a special district, the developers can ignore the rules. If special district status is a stretch, any project can apply for exemptions or conditional use permits. It is all in the zoning laws that are under the purview of the Supervisors. This suit stems from that authority, as the Supervisors have the final say in all these matters.

Displacement and gentrification of San Francisco neighborhoods is a major problem in SF that has sparked a huge controversy as the city is being inundated by developers in hot pursuit of new ground. The problem is the ground is already occupied by residents and merchants, who must leave to allow for more construction of dense housing for all the hungry young males intent on securing a high paying tech job in Silicon Valley, who are willing to pay more than the natives living under rent control. How best to accomplish this? Condemn properties that don’t meet Plan Bay Area dense housing requirements.

The real insult is coming from some environmental groups who signed with developers in a rush to build new dense housing and erase cars from the landscape. Scientists, environmentalists, economists, politicians, and the public are split in their opinions on the efficacy of the claims, that building dense housing will deduce greeenhouse gasses. Many claim California communities have already met some of the criteria with the introduction of cleaner, more efficient vehicles. Cities and counties all over the country are opting out of the public transit funds being dangled as an incentive to build dense housing. The fight has resulted in a spate of legal battles and a number of ballot initiatives designed to put the votes in the drivers’ seat as many demand a change in direction and a seat at the table. In San Francisco voters will decide on three ballot initiatives  that could change the course of how the city implements Transit First policies.  Prop L will determine the how many voters support SFMTA current transit priorities that many blame for the parking and traffic problems plaguing the city. Props A and B, will to determine whether the public is willing to finance more SFMTA projects.

This will be an interesting case to watch to see where the supervisors, particularly the ones vying for state office, line up on the issue. Will San Francisco city authorities mount a vigorous legal battle against the Aids Healthcare Foundation?
Comments at the source are most helpful.

Aids nonprofit files federal suit after city halts relocation An AIDS prevention nonprofit has sued The City in federal court for allegedly violating its civil rights, after it was barred from relocating one of its pharmacies because of San Francisco’s chain store regulations.



Big Players Promote Water Privatization

August 2, 2014

By Ellen Dannin : Truthout – excerpt

Americans used to take water for granted, but the water shutoff in Detroit has taught us all-important lessons. We now know that the private sector is willing to be ruthless in denying access to the most basic needs of living beings, and we also know that even those who have the least resources can also have power – if they are organized.

Knowing these facts can prepare us all for the current fight over the privatization of water. Here are the basic facts as to the players and the events that are leading us to this water war.

On May 21, as the Senate prepared to vote on the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA), Senator Boxer spoke on the critical roles the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) section would play. Said Boxer,…

Water is necessary to the lives of all beings on this planet. The water privatization industry knows this and wants to take advantage of our dependence on water and on the economic weakness of our country’s finances.

The Campaign to Amend WIFIA – An Introduction to the Players

A must-read source in the finance sector is The Bond Buyer. It has been published five days a week since 1891 for an audience that includes municipal finance professionals, bond issuers, government officials and investors.

Bonds may seem similar to stocks because they are both reported in a newspaper’s business section and both have something to do with finance. However, they play very different roles. Here is Wikipedia’s description of how they operate:

Bonds and stocks are both securities, but the major difference between the two is that (capital) stockholders have an equity stake in the company (i.e. they are investors), whereas bondholders have a creditor stake in the company (i.e. they are lenders). Being a creditor, bondholders have absolute priority and will be repaid before stockholders (who are owners) in the event of bankruptcy. Another difference is that bonds usually have a defined term, or maturity, after which the bond is redeemed, whereas stocks are typically outstanding indefinitely…

“…experience has shown that the hidden costs of tax breaks can hit local governments hard. For example, the United States Conference of Mayors 2013 report on water reveals what may be an economically perilous trend. Since 2001, the amount of long-term debt being held by local governments has steadily increased. A large part of that debt comes from tax-exempt bond financing for public water infrastructure. Between 2003 and 2012, the $1.65 trillion in tax-exempt bonds that were issued for public purposes has led to debt of $258 billion….” (more)

Leaves your comments on the source and let your Federal Representatives know how your feel about the privatization of public water.

Landlords Sue SF Over Plan To Increase Relocation Payments For Displaced Tenants

July 27, 2014

Daniel and Maria Levi : sfappeal - excerpt

Property owners, landlord groups and their attorney announced a lawsuit this morning against a new San Francisco law that bumps up relocation assistance payments owed to tenants evicted under the state’s Ellis Act.

California’s 1985 Ellis Act allows landlords to remove rental units from the market and evict the tenants who occupied them. It also allows cities to take measures to mitigate the impact on tenants.

This spring, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a revised ordinance authored by Supervisor David Campos to increase the payments landlords must provide to tenants evicted under the state law.

The new measure, which went into effect June 1, requires landlords to pay an amount equal to the difference between the tenant’s current rent and the cost of comparable housing in the city for two years.

Campos created the legislation to address issues with property owners using the Ellis Act to evict rent-controlled tenants from their homes to repurpose the building as condominiums or sell the building for a profit.

The lawsuit filed today in federal court claims that the new law “flagrantly violates” constitutional property rights, said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney J. David Breemer, who is representing the plaintiffs.

Breemer and the lawsuit’s plaintiffs spoke at a news conference outside the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco this morning after filing the suit…. (more)


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