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Prominent City Builder Likens Developers’ Plight to That of Nazi Victim

August 23, 2015

By Joe Eskenazi : modernluxury – excerpt

Oz Erickson finds a novel analogy in rejection of the Mission moratorium.

n an emotional and private plea to fellow builders hoping to defeat the Mission moratorium this November and pass a $310 million affordable housing bond, influential city developer Oz Erickson employed a novel analogy: the Third Reich.

“I am starting to feel a little like Pastor Niemoller in Nazi Germany,” Erickson wrote in an August 15 letter obtained exclusively by San Francisco. “You are all probably familiar with his famous words. ‘First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then, they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then, they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.’”

“Hyperbolic for me to bring up Niemoller,” Erickson acknowledges, “but if we let [Mission District developers] Maximus and Podell go down in flames even if they were in part responsible for the mess, we jeopardize development throughout the city. . . . The mood against construction is getting hysterical.”

Erickson goes on to suggest that developers submit $10,000 or $20,000 to fight Prop. I—which would halt development projects in the Mission that are not 100 percent affordable—to go along with $500,000 in contributions from Maximus and Podell. “After all it is their fat that is actually in the fire,” he writes. “We are simply marinating.”… (more)

Mayor is not looking very friendly to the citizens of SF those days and the media is not holding back on pointing that out. Can’t wait to see the cartoons on this one.

Read more…

1-2-3, Anyone But Lee

August 21, 2015


Tuesday, September 15, 7 PM – 953 De Haro, The Potrero Hill Neighborhood House. Potrero Hill Democratic Club. All Mayoral candidates are invited to discuss the issues voters care about.  phdemclub

1-2-3, Anyone But Lee by Denise Sullivan : downwithtyranny – excerpt

The last time we checked in on San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee (appointed to fill Gavin Newsom’s vacated seat and elected for a full term in 2011) was set to run unopposed in the November election. But as candidate, community organizer, and singer Amy Farah Weiss (also known as “YIMBY” for Yes In My Backyard) has been quick to point out, there are in fact now five official alternatives to Lee on the ballot, though local media refuses to acknowledge their respective campaigns. In response to the black-out, Weiss and her fellow candidates, educator and organizer Francisco Herrera and columnist and comedian Broke-Ass Stuart Schuffman have come together as a coalition. The trio could conceivably pose a triple threat if voters take seriously their directive to rank them 1-2-3 in a bid to oust Lee. Weiss has even adapted the old Bobbettes number, “Mr Lee”  as a campaign song, a clever attempt to give voters a catchy way to remember the strategy (candidates four and five are Reed Martin and Kent Graham of whom I could find out little)… (more)

Cakewalk1 from zRants on Vimeo.

Maybe this is the problem. Corruption is Legal in America:

Bernie embodies San Franciso values

August 21, 2015

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

We love us some Bernie Sanders in San Francisco. He represents and sticks up for so many S.F. values like universal health care, LGBTQ rights, ecology, living wages and racial justice.

It’s like he’s one of us, like he gets us, like he’s speaking for the Bay Area when he says, “If you can’t afford to take care of your veterans, then don’t go to war,” and, “Nobody who works 40 hours a week should be living in poverty.”

People are rightfully losing their minds over Sanders because, finally, there is a presidential candidate saying things on a national level that have been the core of our ideological beliefs, on a local level, for decades.

So why is it, then, that we cheer Bernie on for trying to get money out of politics, while we let corporate interests buy up our city? How can we look ourselves in the mirror and say, “I’m voting for Bernie!” and then shrug our shoulders at the things happening in San Francisco and say, “That’s just the way things go here.”

I imagine that a large number of people in the Democratic County Central Committee would say they support Bernie, yet just last week they passed a slate that endorses the candidates and ballot measures that fall in step with Mayor Ed Lee and his moneyed backers. The DCCC endorsed Supervisor Julie Christensen, who was handpicked by Lee and has received campaign donations from Ron Conway. They voted “no” on Measure F, which would restrict Airbnb rentals, when it’s well known that Airbnb heavily supports Lee and his cronies.

They also voted “no” on Measure I, the Mission Moratorium, when it is also well known that the mayor has close ties with the developers, who stand to make insane profits if the moratorium is shot down.

I mean, are you kidding me? Get your shit together, San Francisco!

How can you support a presidential candidate whose main goal is to get money out of politics when we don’t hold our own mayor accountable for the same betrayals?…

P.S. Big shout out to Amy Farrah Weiss for giving me good food for thought on this… (more)

A gravely ill Rose Pak on life, death, and her greatest regret (the mayor)

August 20, 2015

BY Joe Eskenazi : modernluxury – excerpt

Battling a serious illness, Pak reflects on a career of struggles—and the clashes yet to come.

Pak, 67, a tireless force in city politics for the better part of four decades, is seriously ill. Beset by kidney failure, she finds herself incapacitated for long stretches; during her increasingly sporadic public appearances, she looks gaunt and unwell. Medical officials have given her timelines; do-not-resuscitate documents have been signed. Pak, with a morbid grin, says that she has refused the option of life support if a pending operation goes awry (which, happily, it does not). “When you’re gone, you’re gone,” she says. “I don’t want to be hooked up to the damn machine.”…

Even in this diminished state, with doctor’s appointments filling her hours and IVs filling her veins, Pak is, very much, still hooked up to this city’s damn machine. She is pulling strings and exerting influence and will continue to do so until those DNR orders come into play. She still calls up the head of San Francisco Public Works on a moment’s notice to complain about an overflowing sewer stinking up a Chinatown corner. She still dials the local police captain’s cell when aggressive panhandlers menace elderly passersby. She still summons the city’s most powerful movers and shakers to her table at New Asia Restaurant, where she continues to deploy the word “motherfucker” like a comma. Pak is as outspoken as ever. But now you have to lean in real close to hear…

Power ebbs and power flows, but Rose Pak always has power in the bank. That’s because, throughout her tenure as a fixer, activist, and kingmaker, she has always reinvested her dividends. Other Chinese-American self-proclaimed plenipotentiaries have risen up (your Julie Lees, Benny Yees, Pius Lees, Florence Fangs…). But, by and large, those strivers indulged themselves by skimming off their success: They demanded a commission appointment, say, or a position for their idiot son.

Pak—who was born in China, grew up in Macau and Hong Kong as a refugee, and worked as a Chronicle reporter in the 1970s before throwing herself into full-time advocacy—craved none of this. Influence begets influence, and Pak’s goal has always been to seed more and more of her people throughout government. So, while her rivals have found themselves on the losing end of commission votes or marginalized by ascendant new regimes—or in jail—she has an entire Rolodex of department heads at her beck and call.

Pak leads me through a labyrinth of sterile corridors at Chinese Hospital to a downstairs break room ostensibly reserved for staff. We enter; a pair of hard plastic cups of steaming hot coffee are placed in front of us. Pak exchanges friendly greetings with every last employee, from those in surgical scrubs to those pushing a broom. “She’s a goddess there,” says former mayor Art Agnos of Pak’s standing at Chinese Hospital. “And she earned it.”…  (more)

Read more…


August 20, 2015

By Carolyn Tyler : abc7news – excerpt

San Francisco’s sky high rents are not only pushing out some renters, but businesses as well.

Two companies have announced they’re leaving the San Francisco for Oakland.

The CEO of Brown & Toland can almost touch AT&T Park from his window, but the medical group is trading in a view for a less costly headquarters. By next April, its 280 employees from San Francisco and Emeryville will be settled into a new space at the Clorox building in downtown Oakland and the company will be saving nearly $2.5 million a year.

“Every bit we can save on the administrative cost structure allows us to support ours doctors and our patients for health care services,” said Richard Fish of Brown & Toland.

Other factors came into play including the ease of public transportation..

That was also a consideration for California’s stem cell agency, the Calif. Institute for Regenerative Medicine, as it searched for a new home. Money was a major factor. The agency, which provides funding for research, had a 10-year, no rent, free parking sweetheart deal with San Francisco in a building near the ballpark. That’s coming to an end.

“It’s a sellers’ market,” Kevin McCormack of the state’s Institute for Regenerative Health. “This place is so hot right now that landlords can get what they want.”

He says what they want is at least $1.5 million a year, so the stem cell agency also chose Oakland after searching the Bay Area. Besides economics and public transportation, Oakland officials and the companies agree the vibrancy of that city’s restaurant and art scene. Oakland’s director of Economic and workforce development says there’s a thriving renaissance.

“There are companies that are poised to come to Oakland and I think once one big one comes, one big one comes, the rest will follow,” said Mark Sawicki of Oakland Economic and Workforce Development.

San Francisco’s loss is Oakland’s gain… (more)

Is it time for the Mayor to go back to praying for jobs, jobs, jobs again? Or maybe just do what many are calling for and put the brakes on the whole development scheme until someone can figurer out how to rebalance what was once a balanced development plan. The citizens deserve better than going from one extreme to the next at the whim of city officials and corporate overlords.

These are scientists after all. They may also be concerned about the actual increase in bad air, due to slower moving traffic, (the longer it takes you to get there and park, the more time you are driving the more you are polluting), and the rise in sea levels that are coming faster than predicted.

Why bet on a sinking city? Do what many of us are going and vote for a change, starting with:

Anybody but Ed Lee

S.F.’s development boom chases out hep-C vaccine researchers
State’s stem cell agency leaves S.F. for Oakland as rent skyrockets

When Affordability Expires: The Battle Over Covenant Housing Contracts

August 20, 2015

By  : sfweekly – excerpt

Maria and Michael Moustakis have lived in their South Beach home for 15 years. At $2,000 a month, their two-bedroom apartment is a bargain by San Francisco standards. But soon, the building’s owners could raise the rent drastically, leaving the Moustakises — and at least 100 other tenants — at risk of getting priced out.

“If they raise the rent, it will be $5,000,” Maria says, alluding to the price her neighbor pays for an identical market-rate apartment down the hall. “We can’t pay that.”

The Moustakises are in their 50s, and like many tenants in South Beach Marina Apartments at 2 Townsend Street, they barely earn enough to stay afloat in San Francisco’s cutthroat housing market…

The Florida State Board of Administration, which manages the investments of that state’s Retirement System Pension Plan (assets totaling $183 billion), owns the South Beach building and is debating whether to raise rents in order to increase revenue.

In other words, a board in Tallahassee will decide whether the well-being of San Francisco tenants trumps the potential profits awaiting Florida pensioners.

The Florida board has to notify San Francisco tenants one year in advance of raising rents, a decision that could be made tomorrow, next month, or never. Dennis MacKee, the board’s director of communications, says the board is considering “its options while meeting its requirements as a fiduciary to the beneficiaries of the retirement system.”…

It wasn’t always such a tony neighborhood, however. South Beach Marina Apartments was built partially with money from the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (which Governor Jerry Brown dissolved in 2012). The agency regularly issued loans to encourage new housing construction in otherwise underdeveloped areas, such as South Beach.

In exchange for this money, the developer of South Beach Marina Apartments signed a 25-year legal contract, called a “covenant,” designating at least a fifth of the building’s apartments as affordable housing until January 2015. After that, prices could rise to any amount…

Two weeks ago, the club posted a petition to urging the Florida board not to raise rents. “Housing is a right,” the petition reads, “and if you want to be in the business of owning and operating apartments in San Francisco, you have to be a part of the solution.”

As of August 17, more than 200 people had signed the petition, including the Moustakises, who say they were never told about their building’s covenant.

And the Moustakises probably aren’t alone. The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency established similar covenants throughout the city, some of which will soon expire, allowing building owners to jack up rents to market rate if they choose.

Sophie Hayward, Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs at the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD), ticks off some of the properties whose covenants are due to expire: 737 Post Street (expires March 2016), Bayside Village near South Beach Marina Apartments (expires December 2016), the Fillmore Center in Japantown (expires December 2017), and Rincon Center near the Ferry Building (expires January 2021). In all these cases, rents wouldn’t increase until one year after building owners notified tenants.

MOHCD is keeping an eye on the properties. “It’s our very clear goal to find strategies so that no tenants are displaced as a result of expiring covenants,” says Kate Hartley, the office’s deputy director… (more)

Check out the comments on this article, starting with this one, “There are many other cities that are far more affordable.”

Oddly enough, there may be some lower rents in Florida. It is an irony that a state with the lowest rents in the country gets to decide whether or not to increase rents in the highest rental area of the country.

Maybe consider signing that petition and let your Florida friends know what their state board is doing with their pension funds in San Francisco.

A leading voice on urban planning in CA debunks housing trickle-down

August 18, 2015

By Peter Cohen : 48hills – excerpt

The progressives are not the only ones saying that building more market-rate housing won’t solve the city’s problem 

AUGUST 19, 2015 — A few weeks ago, Gabriel Metcalf, the president of SPUR published a provocative article in a national on-line magazine casting blame for San Francisco’s housing affordability crisis on its progressive political activism.

The answer from Metcalf, of course, is: Build, build, build more market rate housing, because the problem is not enough supply, supply, supply of market-rate housing. It’s the same repetitive 1980s-style trickle-down economic theory mantra from SPUR and the pro-development boosters we’ve heard for the past two years.

At one level, it’s a curious time to point fingers when the mayor wants everyone to hold hands for this November’s affordable housing bond, and Gabriel Metcalf is actually on the bond’s campaign committee.

But what is really interesting is that Metcalf’s piece provoked several responses from outside the local progressive community.

First came an article and then an op ed by Mark Hogan, a local architect and principal at OpenScope Studio. Hogan is hardly a radical lefty.

Hogan asks, “Who is to blame? I have a hard time blaming progressives.”  He goes on to explain:

“Looking back, nobody in the early ’90s would have predicted the level of immigration and income inequality we have now. Metcalf points out that we should have been building 5,000 units of housing yearly since then, but this is unlikely considering the realities of development in a cyclical regional economy and it would have seemed high prior to the first dot-com boom. Far more units have been permitted since then, but only a fraction of them have been built and this has more to do with economics than obstructionism.”…

Then came an article from Robert Cruickshank, political commentator and writer for California Progress Report and for Calitics.

Cruickshank writes:

“Too often, the SF housing crisis is used to attack progressives from the right, in the service of free market solutions – even though, as the historical evidence makes clear, this crisis was not their fault. Progressives have spent the last two decades fighting to make SF more progressive. Had they been listened to, perhaps SF might still be affordable today.”

He concludes by saying:

“Ultimately SF is at the leading edge of a problem that is now facing all US cities. Urban America has become expensive. As we live in an era of increasing inequality, and in a time where macroeconomic policies favor investments that benefit the rich over those that benefit the poor or the middle, no market solution alone can solve the problem.”

Thank you Robert Cruickshank. That again debunks the Metcalf argument…

Fulton can fairly be described as a traditional politically centrist planner, not a radical or even a “progressive” as we think of thought-shapers in a San Francisco context. But this article is very insightful. Fulton clearly debunks the simplistic argument that increasing market rate housing supply will stabilize housing prices or even make housing prices overall more affordable.

The most salient excerpts:

“The problem is that under some market conditions, more supply doesn’t lead to market equilibrium because it actually creates its own demand… Santa Barbara has housing prices that are not supported by the underlying dynamics of the local economy, for one very simple reason: The uber-rich from around the world drive up home prices by paying premium prices, often for houses they don’t actually occupy very often. This throws the supply-demand equation out of whack; if you build more houses, the result might just be more uber-rich folks from out of town showing up to buy them, and that doesn’t help ordinary folks”.

“That’s happening because the interplay between supply and demand is more nuanced than traditional economics would suggest, and because the interplay between the market and politics isn’t always rational.”

“The folks taking the cool jobs may not be uber-rich, but they have tons more money than everybody else, and so they drive prices out of sight. Build more market-rate housing, and you’ll just accelerate the cycle – more smart kids will show up wanting to work for tech start-ups, and that means you’ll have more tech start-ups, and pretty soon demand will rise faster than supply – in large part because you increased the supply.”… (more)

Peter Cohen is a “progressive” neighborhood activist and co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations


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