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A vote of disdain for Mayor Ed Lee: How the accidental mayor turned San Francisco into a playground for tax-skirting techies

December 7, 2015

By Susan Dyer Reynolds : marinatimes – excerpt

When an article called “The Power Broker” ran in the July/August 2012 issue of Washington Monthly, it was no surprise that the title referred to former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown. An in-depth look at the inauguration of Ed Lee after he was elected to his first full mayoral term, author Elizabeth Lesly Stevens pulled no punches in pointing out Lee’s carefully crafted ascent over a two-year period. The groundwork laid by Brown, with help from longtime political pal and Chinatown rabble-rouser Rose Pak, paid off, leading to Lee’s appointment as interim mayor in 2011 when Gavin Newsom left office early to become lieutenant governor, and, subsequently, to an elected four-year term…

Four years later, Brown grabbed that quarter century brass ring when Lee won a second mayoral term. Why a formidable opponent didn’t run against him is a mystery to most. I imagine Brown calling would-be candidates to an undisclosed SoMa tech office at midnight and, over a friendly game of Foosball, strongly suggesting they not run, with silver-haired henchman Conway standing behind him flashing wads of cash…

It’s a fact that big money influences people’s decision making — just look at Proposition F, the so-called Airbnb measure that would have strengthened regulations on short-term rentals…

As for Lee, he garnered just over 56 percent of the vote despite influential friends, buckets of money, and a field of unqualified challengers. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, 8,000 voters left the mayor category entirely blank on their ballots, and more people voted for challenger Vicki Hennessy for sheriff than voted for Lee for mayor. Several Marina Times readers reached out to say they either left the mayor box blank or wrote themselves in as a protest…

District 3 voters put the progressive Peskin, a power broker in his own right, back in the Board of Supervisors seat he held from 2000 to 2009 and served as president from 2005 until he was term-limited out of office… Peskin ran a clean, low-key campaign and ousted Christensen, ending Lee’s control of the board (and four years of sleepwalking through City Hall)…

District 3 voters put the progressive Peskin, a power broker in his own right, back in the Board of Supervisors seat he held from 2000 to 2009 and served as president from 2005 until he was term-limited out of office. Lee fought hard against Peskin’s return, warning attendees at a gathering of prominent business, tech and labor leaders that “he was watching” (in other words, if you support Peskin, don’t expect any favors from the mayor). Lee’s allies poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaign of incumbent Julie Christensen, Lee’s handpicked appointee, some of it going toward last-minute personal attack ads against Peskin that came across as snarky and desperate. Peskin ran a clean, low-key campaign and ousted Christensen, ending Lee’s control of the board (and four years of sleepwalking through City Hall)… (more)

It started with a Twitter

San Francisco’s contempt for Lee’s leadership began in his first term with the infamous “Twitter tax break,” an exemption from the city’s 1.5 percent payroll tax initiated by Lee in 2012 to attract technology start-ups to the crime- and drug-infested mid-Market area with the promise they would help clean it up…

You can’t walk down the street without hearing conversations blaming Lee for rising rents, increased evictions, the techie takeover, and the “hoteling” of buildings for short-term rentals. Not surprisingly, Lee opposed Prop. F and has remained conspicuously silent on the number of landlords kicking tenants out to list their apartments on the more lucrative Airbnb. A May 2015 report by San Francisco’s independent Budget and Legislative Analyst Office estimated that between 5,249 and 6,113 Airbnb listings exist in San Francisco, taking between 925 and 1,960 long-term rental units off the market. That amounts to nearly 25 percent of available units citywide (in popular neighborhoods like the Mission, Airbnb listings consist of nearly 30 percent of the rental market). Ellis Act evictions, where landlords can evict tenants if they take the building off the rental market, are up sharply under Lee as well. Data from the San Francisco Rent Board shows 2,120 notices of evictions were filed during the year ending Feb. 28, 2015 — a 54.7 percent increase from five years ago…

In a karmic twist, the monster Lee unleashed is now affecting the tech companies themselves… (more)

 

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