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After more than a century, PG&E is finally on the ropes in San Francisco

August 3, 2021

By Tim Redmond : 48hills – excerpt

The city’s moving to establish a public-power system—but we should also talk about accountability for the politicians and media that enabled an illegal monopoly for so long.

It’s astonishing how badly PG&E has bungled its political position in San Francisco.

Twenty years ago, even ten years ago, it was hard to find anyone in the Mayor’s Office or on the SF Public Utilities Commission who wanted to talk seriously about creating a public-power system.

Today, the mayor, the city attorney, and a senior official from the SFPUC are pushing to buy PG&E’s local distribution system. They are asking the state PUC to establish a price for the lines and poles and meters, so that the city can make a reasonable bid.

But the latest Chronicle story on the situation leaves out all of the key history of the city’s more than 100-year failure to live up to the requirements of federal law–and the tools San Francisco can use to make local public power a reality…(more)

Hopefully SF City officials will learn how to manage a pubic utility system, with proper oversight, unlike the SFMTA and most other city agencies and departments. And hopefully they will start by renewing an allegiance to the rooftop solar systems that are operating now and may be easily expanded to provide the extra 30% that the city needs to become closer to running on 100% renewable energy. That will take some doing starting with protecting the net metering system that is being threatened by the big utility companies now. The CPUC will be weighing the political will of the voters as they examine the validity of the requests to alter the rates. See details here:

The Financial Red Flags for 2550 Irving Street

July 31, 2021

msnasf – excerpt

2550 Irving
Petition opposing the Massive bulk of a seven story building 
towering over the home in the mid-sunset neighborhood. neighbors
approve 4 stories. City wants 7. The site sits on a former dry cleaners.
“found elevated levels of PCE in the soil, the groundwater, and soil vapor.”[1]

The Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC) keeps saying 2550 Irving Street won’t “pencil out” for less than 7 stories. Why?

The architect just confirmed our suspicions in a meeting: the acquisition cost for this parcel is so high, they have to maximize the number of units to keep it just under $1M/unit. But even with the maximum units, the costs are ridiculous.

This month the Board of Supervisors will vote on the short-term $14M predevelopment loan – which gives TNDC the funding they need to buy 2550 Irving Street from the San Francisco Police Credit Union for $9.4M! That’s DOUBLE the assessed value, with NO market study to support the price, and nearly DOUBLE the average acquisition cost for Affordable Housing in San Francisco.

If you’re thinking, “Well, that’s a lot but it must have been the best proposal” – we’ll never know because it was the ONLY proposal. TNDC was the ONLY developer who submitted responses to the NOFA, and 2550 Irving Street is the only parcel they suggested for District 4.

It’s not just the acquisition cost. The total project cost is $94M for 98 units – that’s $959K/unit – 60% over the average for new SF Affordable Housing.

Then, the developer TNDC has to secure long-term financing – 27% of which comes from replacing the short term $14M loan with a long-term $25.6M loan from SF’s Mayor’s Office on Housing and Community Development (MOHCD). They’ll also seek $38.1M (40% of budget) from federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). The problem is NO smart investors will be interested in an overpriced, contaminated site needing remediation and ongoing monitoring. So when TNDC can’t get financing, the only winner is the SF Police Credit Union, laughing all the way to the bank.

This project is overpriced not just for land and construction, but almost $1M will be required to remediate the site’s known contamination per California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) – which only protects the new tenants on that parcel, and does nothing about the other plume that will keep flowing from the lot on the south side of the block UNDERNEATH 2550 Irving Street to continue harming current neighbors.

Plus, add the City’s unbudgeted infrastructure costs for upgrading water, sewage and MUNI.

Is there an alternative? Yes, it’s possible to house more families and faster!

As proposed, 98 families will have to wait 5 years for Affordable Housing. If we reduce the height and density of the development at 2550 Irving Street to 4 stories (instead of 7 stories as proposed by TNDC), prioritize those units for those who most need on-site services, and reallocate the remainder of the budget to rehabbing blighted Single Family Homes (SFHs) in the Sunset District into fourplexes with 3 flats and an ADU, then we can house MORE FAMILIES IN HALF THE TIME, before we even break ground at 2550 Irving. That not only reduces blight, it creates density with dignity.

If TNDC can’t get 2550 Irving to pencil out because of the acquisition cost, then don’t buy 2550 Irving. Reallocate the full $94M to rehabbing 12 SFHs/year into fourplexes to house 48 families in year 1; 96 families by year 2; and by year 4, before anyone will have moved into 2550 Irving, you’ll have housed 192 families. That’s TWICE as many families in less time.

Just because MOHCD is not currently set up to develop Affordable Housing this way, doesn’t mean they can’t. With the cost savings and increased benefits for Affordable Housing, it is well worth the time and effort.

To be clear: most neighbors support Affordable Housing in the Sunset. But not 7 stories and not for the money, when we could build more faster. We’re also concerned that the Board of Supervisors would be green-lighting a purchase that in all likelihood won’t get the needed long-term financing.

That’s why we’re opposed as proposed, and we’re asking Supervisor Mar to lead the Board of Supervisors in saying no to this ill-conceived budget…(more)

What does a Just Recovery look like in San Francisco?

July 28, 2021

By Tim Redmond : 48hills – excerpt

Join us to discuss a community-based agenda for economic, racial, and climate justice in the San Francisco of the future.

COVID has changed San Francisco in a way that will be compared to other huge historic crises, like the gold rush, natural earthquakes, World War II and the economic seismic shifts of the tech booms.

The response to these tectonic economic changes has typically come from the powerful forces that have controlled the city for generations – real-estate, finance, now tech, and the politicians who have taken their money and done their bidding.

And most of us on the left have spent much of our time fighting back – responding to someone else’s agenda.

This time around, we would like to see a progressive, community-based agenda – something we can support, not oppose…

The first forum – on Economic Justice – is happening Thursday/29 at 6pm. Anyone who wants to join the discussion is welcome; just email tim and I will send you a Zoom link.

Our panelists so far include Anand Singh, president of UNITE HERE Local 2; Claire Lau from SF Rising and the Chinese Progressive Association; Preston Kilgore, aide to Sup. Dean Preston; Calvin Welch, longtime affordable housing activist, and Paul Boden, Western Regional Advocacy Project…(more)

The California Dream Is Dying

July 21, 2021

By Conor Friedersdorf : theatlantic – excerpt

The once-dynamic state is closing the door on economic opportunity…

Behold California, colossus of the West Coast: the most populous American state; the world’s fifth-largest economy; and arguably the most culturally influential, exporting Google searches and Instagram feeds and iPhones and Teslas and Netflix Originals and kimchi quesadillas. This place inspires awe. If I close my eyes I can see silhouettes of Joshua trees against a desert sunrise; seals playing in La Jolla’s craggy coves of sun-spangled, emerald seawater; fog rolling over the rugged Sonoma County coast at sunset into primeval groves of redwoods that John Steinbeck called “ambassadors from another time.”…

California must now turn away from the wishful thinking of preservationists and toward the future it could enjoy. Success will not mean perfection, nor an end to hardship or challenges. But it will have been achieved if a chronicler at California’s bicentennial can approvingly quote the summation of the Golden State that McWilliams offered to mark its centennial:…

The rising generation’s charge, whether on behalf of the country, the blue-state model, or the tens of millions who’ll make their home in the state, is to make California exceptional again…(more)

Like some politicians wanted to make America great again? Lovely drama for a Hollywood movie plot, but the reality is quite different. Mother nature is pulling the plug. The author either fails to recognize the signs, or he is ambivalent to the limitations that are being imposed on many residents who are living in the nightmare of fires, power and water shortages. Maybe he missed the stories about the demise of the wine industry and food crops. Or maybe he fails to understand the concept of limitations imposed by physical reality. He may think we can just hit a restart button to refuel the soil with depleted naturists and refill the empty wells with clean fresh water. The reality is quite different. The state has limitations we are fast approaching those.

Scorched, parched and now uninsurable: Climate change hits Wine Country

July 21, 2021

By Christopher Flavelle, NYTimes News Service: sfexaminer – excerpt

ST. HELENA — Last September, a wildfire tore through one of Dario Sattui’s Napa Valley wineries, destroying millions of dollars in property and equipment, along with 9,000 cases of wine.

November brought a second disaster: Sattui realized the precious crop of cabernet grapes that survived the fire had been ruined by the smoke. There would be no 2020 vintage.

A freakishly dry winter led to a third calamity: By spring, the reservoir at another of Sattui’s vineyards was all but empty, meaning little water to irrigate the new crop.

Finally, in March, came a fourth blow: Sattui’s insurers said they would no longer cover the winery that had burned down. Neither would any other company. In the patois of insurance, the winery will go bare into this year’s burning season, which experts predict to be especially fierce.

We got hit every which way we could,” Sattui said. “We can’t keep going like this.”…(more)

Someone must take up the role of adult and consider the ramifications of continuing along the path California is on with the non-stop growth and no limitations. Mother nature is demanding we stop and pay attention now.

San Francisco plans for a municipal finance corporation and public bank: Supervisors approve, Mayor signs off

July 17, 2021

By Public Banking Institute : via email

In a major victory for public banking advocates, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on June 15th to establish the San Francisco Reinvestment Working Group tasked with developing business and governance plans for both a non-depository Municipal Finance Corporation and for a public bank. The ordinance was signed by Mayor London Breed, following 30 hours of city budget negotiations.

Authored by Supervisor Dean Preston, the ordinance creates a nine-member working group that includes four community leaders, three financial institution experts, and one representative each from the city’s Controller and Treasurer’s offices. It gives the working group one year to deliver the plans. Budget negotiations with the mayor allocated $375,000 for the effort.

The Supervisors’ Budget and Legislative Analyst report contained strong recommendations for moving forward, concluding:

“Both models [are] feasible and could operate profitability. We recommend that the City establish a non-depository MFC, at least initially, for lower operating costs, bigger impact, and no requirement for FDIC approval.”

KPIX San Francisco quoted Supervisor Preston:

“The pandemic has laid bare the deep disparities that exist along social, economic, and racial lines. As we chart a path to economic recovery, we need to look beyond corporate banks that prey on our most vulnerable communities.”

[watch the meeting]
[read the BLA report]

Read more about California’s broad progress including updates on LA as well as the Central Coast effort in Scott Scoriano’s article in Capitol Weekly.

Public banking movement gaining traction in California


The Effects of SB9 and SB10

July 16, 2021
By United Neighbors

Renters and homeowners are uniting to fight the Developer Opportunity Bills like SB9 and SB10.

Fossil Fuels Are Wildly More Expensive Than Previously Thought, Study Says

July 14, 2021

By Nafeez Ahmed : vice – excerpt

Overinflated fossil fuel investments might be a ‘worthless’ bubble waiting to trigger the next crash, while renewables seem more appealing than ever.

A new study finds that conventional electric power plants powered by fossil fuels and hydro are massively overvalued by the world’s leading analyst organizations. The report says they are overvalued to such a degree that the trillions of dollars of investment in these industries could amount to a “bubble” similar to the subprime mortgage housing bubble whose collapse triggered the 2008 financial crash…(more)

This new bill could help California’s small businesses become their own landlords

July 7, 2021

By Sarah Klearman : bizjournals – excerpt

Since the creation of Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts in 2014, California’s definition of “infrastructure” has broadened to include things like climate change solutions, child care and affordable housing. A bill signed this week by Gov. Gavin Newsom will further broaden it to include financing for small business owners seeking to renovate or purchase their brick-and-mortar locations.

The benefits for small businesses are significant, supporters of the bill, AB 464 have said: Small businesses that own their own buildings no longer have to worry about rent increases or that their premises will be sold out from under them.

The loans would likely be low and possibly deferred interest, according to John Elberling, president of Todco, a local housing nonprofit sponsored the bill through its state advocacy arm. There are no set terms under which jurisdictions must offer the financing, Elberling told me.

“We foresee that each locality would do a program customized for the circumstances of that particular city and town,” he said. Per the bill’s terms, businesses must have an average annual revenue of $15 million or less and have fewer than 100 employees to be eligible for a loan.

Small-scale commercial landlords would also qualify for loans to improve their properties if they meet those parameters, according to Elberling.

The U.S. Small Business Administration currently offers similar financing to businesses with a gross annual income of less than $5 million annually…

EIFDs, established by Senate Bill 628 in 2014, took a page from local redevelopment agencies, which were abolished by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012. The concept has remained largely the same: EIFDs allow the diversion of property tax, either generally or generated by a specific development, away from cities and counties and toward targeted infrastructure improvements.

However, EIFDs, unlike redevelopment agencies, do not pull from tax funding for school districts, according to Hugh Bower, chief of staff for Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, who introduced the bill. …(more)

Save California Solar – Live on Zoom

July 6, 2021

This building has solar thermal and PV systems. photo by zrants

Please invite people concerned about solar to the meeting.
The meeting will be recorded. No reservation needed.

First Wednesday, July 7, 5:30 PM
Land Use and Transportation Committee
Save California Solar – Live on Zoom

Our speakers:

Dave Rosenfeld, Solar Rights Alliance I think you all know Dave
Richard Skaff, Designing Accessible Communities, on battery backups for health challenged people
Bronte Payne, Go Solar Campaign Director, EWG Environmental California,
And possibly Grant Smith from Environmental Working Group, a national organization

Zoom links and updates: no reservation needed

The purpose of the Town Halls is to inform people about the Solar System programs and elicit support for actions that we are taking to ensure the program expands and remains a valid power alternative for as many people as possible.

It is important to ask the questions and share our concerns to gather support for our efforts. Unanswered questions can be answered later.

I have a web site that tracks various programs, actions and media:
Most of your groups are probably listed on this page:
Most of Californai’s legislation so far is covered here: Solar Shade Protection Act (1987) and the The Solar Rights Act and The Solar Shade Control Act (2016) and AB 2188: Implementation of the California Solar Rights Act at the Local Level.


Mari Eliza, CSFN Chair Land Use and Transportation Committee

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