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Art vs. housing: Oakland neighbors fight downtown tower that would block mural

February 11, 2016

Oakland community groups are calling for more concessions from the developer of a 126-unit residential tower approved last week that would block views of an $80,000 mural painted on adjacent buildings.

Opponents of the project, which would replace a parking lot at 250 14th St., said it doesn’t provide enough benefits to the community during last week’s Planning Commission hearing. They are calling for developer Bay Development to finance or fundraise for a replacement for the mural, which was previously subsidized by a $40,000 city grant. They also want the developer to dedicate parking in the new project for staff and visitors to the nearby Malonga Arts Center at 1428 Alice St. They also want at least 15 percent of the units to be affordable to tenants making less than $64,000, with rents of no more than $1,600. The tower is currently approved to only have market-rate units.

While the opponents have a long list of demands, the developer is stressing the economic benefits of the projects, which include building needed market-rate housing and providing a huge influx of taxes to the city. The parking lot on the site currently pays only $7,350 in annual taxes, while the new building would pay $1 million in property taxes, said Maria Poncell, principal of Bay Development, at the hearing.

Groups including the Oakland Chinatown Coalition, Community Rejuvenation Project and artists from the nearby arts center are planning to file an appeal on Thursday after the city’s Planning Commission approved the project last week. The groups have organized an online fundraising campaign that has raised $1,876 as of press time to pay for the appeal, and over 200 people have signed a petition against the project. If filed, an appeal would require the project to go to the City Council for a final vote…(more)

Dissent is in the air

February 6, 2016

By sfexaminer – excerpt

There’s a riot going on in San Francisco. OK, honestly, it’s more like a peaceful uprising. But “riot” sounded better and had the whole Sly and The Family Stone thing going for it. Regardless, direct political action is happening all over San Francisco as we speak, and I’ve somehow managed to find myself in the middle of it.

When I ran for mayor last year, Amy Farah Weiss, Francisco Herrera and I worked together to try and use ranked choice voting to unseat Mayor Ed Lee. While it was ultimately unsuccessful, the resulting movement — 1-2-3 to Replace Ed Lee (aka The People’s Campaign) — helped turn thousands of folks, who had previously just cheered from the sidelines, into the political activists who are in the streets as we speak. And it couldn’t have happened at a more perfect time: Super Bowl 50 landed in The City this week.

I honestly can’t imagine a more perfect storm to create the level of dissent occurring in San Francisco at the moment. Beyond Mayor Lee’s electoral embarrassment of only receiving 55 percent of the vote, and a dismal 43 percent approval rating, there’s also the rampant corruption in City Hall, the firing-squad murder of Mario Woods and an epidemic of greed-fueled evictions that are changing the cultural fabric of The City.

Then, as if Lee were dropping a lit match onto a field of dry brush covered in gasoline and dynamite, hizzoner came out and said the homeless “have to leave” to make way for the Super Bowl. It was at that moment San Francisco finally let out a collective, “Oh no he didn’t!”…

an you smell that, San Francisco? Dissent is in the air, and it is a beautiful thing. I’m ready to take back San Francisco. Are you?

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, Follow him at

Homeless woman lost job after Super Bowl tent sweeps

February 6, 2016

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you: It’s hell to lose a job.

But if that’s hell, a word may not exist for losing a job when you’re homeless.

Chanell Jones, 26, found this out the hard way after the San Francisco Police Department and Public Works started their sweeps of homeless encampments for Super Bowl City.

On Guard met Jones and her wife, Linda Fuchs, at the homeless protest Wednesday night near Super Bowl City. After hundreds marched, she told her tale.

Jones had it good. She was a line cook at two restaurants in Fisherman’s Wharf. A dream. She came to San Francisco partly to be with her wife, but was also excited to work in a city known for its culinary prowess…

So Jones’ work was always precarious. But you’ve got to make money to get off the streets. So in January, she took on a second job at another restaurant nearby.

That’s when the sweeps came… (more)

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each Tuesday. Email him at


SF housing density plan meets opposition

February 6, 2016

By J.K. Dineen :  sfchronicle – excerpt

With Mayor Ed Lee’s plan, property owners could add two stories to a building if 30 percent of the units are affordable housing.

San Francisco’s proposed affordable housing density bonus program is the castor oil of city development politics: It’s supposed to be good for you, but almost nobody seems to like the way it goes down.

Not the longtime residents of the settled western side of town, who fear it will harm neighborhood character with downtown-scale buildings, worsen parking and blot out the sun.

Not political progressives, who see the proposal as a redevelopment-style clearing of longtime tenants — even though the city promises the program will not result in the removal of even a single rent-controlled unit.

And, not even some of the market-rate developers for whom critics contend the proposal would be a “windfall.”

The program, proposed by Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Katy Tang, would allow developers to build taller, denser buildings in exchange for including more affordable housing. In general, the voluntary program would add 25 feet of height to existing zoning — two stories plus an extra 5 feet for ground-floor retail spaces — while requiring that 30 percent of the building be below-market-rate housing.

t also relaxes rules around setbacks, meaning developers can squeeze more square footage onto lots. Developers of 100 percent affordable projects would get to add three stories.

The City Planning Department, which held a hearing last week but has delayed a decision on the measure until April, has identified 240 “soft sites” where it feels the bonus might work. If all 240 were developed — planners think that would take 20 years — 16,000 units could be added to the city’s housing stock, about 5,000 of which would be below market.

The growing movement against the density program is baffling to city planners trying to reach Lee’s goal of 30,000 new or rehabbed housing units by 2020. Making infill projects slightly denser seems like an obvious way to chip away at the city’s housing crisis…

Alliance formed

Politically, the battle against density has forged an alliance between the city’s leftist factions and west side homeowners, who tend to be moderate. Left-of-center groups like the Council of Community Housing Organizations and the South of Market Community Action Network have been making the rounds to neighborhood association meetings offering critiques of the proposal…

Supervisor London Breed, who introduced the amendment that bars rent-control units from being removed under the program, said she is on the fence about density bonus.

“We talk about building more affordable housing — but who is the affordable housing for?” she said. “We need to make sure we are doing a mix. When you look around the city, you don’t see African Americans. You don’t see a lot of children. … People are just tired of being asked to support a bunch of new residential buildings that they will never have access to or be able to afford.”… (more)

This is a pretty good picture of what we are seeing as we look at the Affordable Housing Bonus Plan. It is a moving target, constantly changing that pleases very few.

What is missing from this article, and is most disturbing, is the way the plan is supposed to be administered. The Planning Department wants to remove the public, the Planning Commissioners, and the elected District Supervisors from the approval process for these AHBP projects.

Whether or not you like the changing details of the density plan, most people are not prepared to hand more power over to the Planning Department staff. A little time at a Planning Commission meeting will convince anyone this is a bad idea.

As disturbing as this is, the most disturbing actions are happening at the state level almost without notice. While we are fussing over the city level administration of a housing element amendment, our state legislation is busy stripping us of even more power. Check out the fast-paced AB 1500 that is rapidly moving through the Senate. AB 1500 would force “supportive housing and transitional housing” on everyone everywhere, without limit, or so it seems. The link to the legislation is here:


The NFL Paranoia Experience

February 5, 2016

By John Elberling : 48hills – excerpt

As the city goes overboard to protect the NFL brand, fear is winning, right here on Howard St.

The “NFL Experience By Huyndai” has put our Yerba Buena Neighborhood in a virtual SFPD military-style lockdown since last weekend. It will continue to Game Day this coming Sunday.

This is the football fan show that the NFL sets up for each year’s Superbowl at a host city’s convention center. It’s $35 for adults and $25 for kids. We are used to comparable-scale events at Moscone Center, like the annual Auto Show over the Thanksgiving weekend, and the Oracle World and Dream Force mega-conventions that each close Howard Street for a week every Fall. And we go through several low-key security lockdowns of Howard Street every year when Obama comes to town for a fundraiser and stays at the Intercontinental Hotel.

But this NFL Experience is nothing like those events (which, except for the president, reimburse the full costs of all the extra city police and traffic control officers they need, which the NFL is not doing). Instead it is totally over-the-top:

  • Three SFPD officers with automatic weapons slung across their shoulders are posted at the Third and Fourth Streets Howard Street intersections all day.
  • At least two-dozen more SFPD patrolmen are posted around the area all day.
  • SFPD motorcycles and police cars are parked as barriers at the Third and Fourth Street Howard Street entrances to the Expo.
  • SFPD observation posts are located on the roofs of adjacent buildings.
  • The SFPD Bomb Squad truck was parked on Folsom Street behind Moscone Center. So was the Communication Van. Bomb-sniffing dogs checked trucks going down the Moscone truck ramp.
  • A PG&E Incident Command Post trailer is parked on an alley off Folsom Street along with several PG&E emergency service trucks.
  • Dozens of private security people in yellow jackets make sure nobody can get into any off-limits zone without “credentials”.
  • FBI agents are reportedly in the area at least some of the time.
  • And unlike every other big Moscone Center event, the Howard Street sidewalks are totally closed to the public, forcing the hundreds of seniors living in four senior residences on the adjacent block between Fourth and Fifth Streets to detour around Mission Street to get to the Muni stops on Third Street going to Chinatown. And this during the weekend before Chinese New Year’s on Monday – the busiest shopping weekend of the year (like the days before Christmas for most of us)!

It certainly feels like Occupied San Francisco around here, but not the progressive kind.

This isn’t a one-off, folks. This is the future of America. Fear-driven militarization of civilian law enforcement everywhere (including always-shoot-to-kill training, as if every inner-city neighborhood is Baghdad), all in the name of “security” to protect us from “whatever might happen.” But actually to protect the elite and suppress the unwanted – whoever they may be.

FDR knew “We have nothing to fear – but fear itself!” But in America today, 15 years after our nation’s craven response to 9/11, fear is winning. Even right now in San Francisco, on Howard Street… (more)



Super Bowl Highlights Growing Economic Divide in San Francisco

February 4, 2016

By Jane Kim : huffingtonpost – excerpt

Usually big sporting events like the upcoming Super Bowl in the City of Santa Clara are welcome distractions from our daily troubles.

But not this Super Bowl, at least not here in San Francisco. Rather than distracting us from our daily concerns, the local burden of hosting the Super Bowl is refocusing attention on our city’s greatest challenge — the fast growing gap between rich and poor.

On one side we have the NFL and their corporate sponsors insisting San Francisco taxpayers pay at least $5 million to subsidize their private events in the city, even though the Super Bowl will be played nearly 50 miles away, and even though the actual host city, Santa Clara, will be fully compensated for its out-of-pocket costs.

The league and their sponsors literally scoff at requests from local officials (like me) to compensate the taxpayers. Super Bowl officials and their supporters say that such a small amount of money should hardly be an issue at all.

On the other side we have average San Franciscans, who are being forced to pick up the tab for some of the world’s wealthiest corporations. While $5 million might seem like a pittance to the wealthiest, it is the difference between eviction and a secure home for many working families. It is shelter for the homeless. It is better bus service and streetcar service. It is “real money” to most of us although it might just seem like pocket change to the corporate sponsors of the NFL.

The hard fact that the city needs to be mindful of how we spend taxpayer dollars was highlighted again this week — with one local elected official actually calling for the removal of tent encampments now sheltering homeless individuals and families during this particularly severe winter. There was no commitment to spend what it will take to actually house these individuals and families… (more)

Reigning in excessive powers is the only solution to this problem.

Thanks to some of our city officials we now have the evidence of how the city authorities are operating and the facts re: the agreements and lack thereof, that are being used to avoid public scrutiny.

The economic divide will continue to grow unless the San Francisco voters find some candidates to who will change the rules and put a stop to these practices.


HUD eyes evicting thousands of people from low-income housing

February 4, 2016
By Tim Devaney : thehill – excerpt

The Obama administration is considering evicting tens of thousands of public housing residents who earn too much money to qualify for government assistance.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced Tuesday an effort to root out these “over-income” tenants who are living in government-assisted homes that could be used to help even poorer families.

“Some of those families significantly exceeded the income limits,” HUD wrote in the Federal Register, warning that “scarce public resources must be provided to those most in need of affordable housing.”

Currently, federal law does not prohibit over-income families from continuing to live in government-assisted homes, as long as they met the income requirements when they moved in.

HUD released an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking Tuesday seeking public comment on what to do with over-income tenants… (more)

There is clearly a need to look at regional differences when it comes to affordability. There is also a problem with government programs that punish success and initiative. Evicting someone may turn them into a homeless person. Is that a smart government policy?


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