Reform the DCCC!

Friends –

My proposal to reform the San Francisco Democratic Party is coming back to the DCCC at our meeting tomorrow, April 13.  I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the survival of the party hangs in the balance. There are 21 current and former elected officials running for the DCCC in this election (for 24 seats), and these folks have little time to do important work such as registering new voters, chartering Democratic clubs, and running the endorsements process.  If we don’t expand the party to include more grassroots members, there will be no one serving on the DCCC to do this important party-building work. Besides, there are 60 candidates running for these seats – let’s widen the tent and let more of them serve!

I have refined my proposal to make sure it accommodates many of the members’ concerns. The current draft will: (1) make the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors ex officio members; (2) grandfather in Supervisors Mar, Campos, Cohen and Wiener, who are currently members of the DCCC, allowing them to serve full four-year terms instead of becoming ex officios; (3) creating seven new seats on the DCCC (4 in AD 17, 3 in AD 19); (4) making the changes effective after the June election takes place; and (5) filling all vacancies with the next highest vote getters in the June election.

For my fellow political nerds out there, here’s the text of the proposed bylaws change:

Resolution of the San Francisco Democratic Party

Amending the Party’s Bylaws and its Policies & Procedure Manual to Add the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor as Ex Officio Members

WHEREAS, the Bylaws of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee (SFDCCC) and its Policies & Procedures Manual allow for registered Democrats who hold state and federal offices who reside in San Francisco to serve as ex officio members of the SFDCCC. These members currently include State Senator Leno, State Assembly members Ting and Chiu, US Senator Feinstein, Congresswomen Pelosi and Speier, and Board of Equalization Member Ma. These members have the same voting rights as a member who is independently elected to the SFDCCC.

WHEREAS, the races for seats on the SFDCCCC have become as competitive as those for any other elective office in San Francisco, in part because current and former elected officials run for – and hold – these seats. This means that the number of DCCC seats available for party activists who have never held another office, and who have the time and energy to dedicate to the party’s activities, is shrinking. It is in the party’s interest to increase the number of seats available for grassroots party activists.

WHEREAS, the members of the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor, as leaders within the local Democratic Party, should each have a voice in the party’s decisions. Granting them each an ex officio membership in the SFDCCC will give them that voice, and will free up several seats for party activists who do not currently hold another elective office. The SFDCCC Bylaws provide that no ex officio member may also hold an elected seat on the SFDCCC.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the San Francisco Democratic Party hereby amends Article II, Section 1(a)(2) of its Bylaws and Article XI, Section 1 of its Policies & Procedures Manual to: (1) add the Mayor of San Francisco and the Members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors as ex officio members of the SFDCCC if they are registered Democrats, and (2) add seven seats to the SFDCCC, as more specifically provided in Attachment A and Attachment B hereto; and hereby corrects Article II, Section 1(a)(2) of its Bylaws to add US Senator and state Constitutional officers to the list of ex officio members of the SFDCCC as more specifically provided in Attachment A hereto.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Resolution will become effective upon the date that the results of the June 2016 election are certified.

Sponsor:  Alix Rosenthal

Attachment A

Proposed Bylaws Amendment

New language appears in bold underline. Deleted language appears in bold strikethrough.

Article II: MEMBERSHIP

Section 1: MEMBERSHIP

  1. SFDCCC MEMBERSHIP
  1. Ex Officio members shall consist of the following:
    A. Any Democrat who is elected or otherwise designated to serve, or who is serving in the following elected offices representing the City and County of San Francisco in whole or in part: (1) Assemblyperson (2) State Senator (3)  Congressperson (4) United States Senator  (5) Mayor (6)  Members of the Board of Supervisors  (7)  State Constitutional Officers

ARTICLE II: MEMBERSHIP

Section 1:  MEMBERSHIP

A. SFDCCC MEMBERSHIP

  1. Elected Members from Assembly Districts representing the City and County of San Francisco in whole or in part. The number of Elected Members and specific Assembly Districts are determined by provisions of the California Elections Code, California State District lines, and Federal Census data as follows: 17 members elected in the 17th Assembly District, and 13 members elected in the 19th Assembly District. This Section 1(a)(1) takes effect after the June 2016 election is certified.

Attachment B

Proposed Amendment to Policies & Procedures Manual

New language appears in bold underline. Deleted language appears in bold strikethrough.

ARTICLE XI. MEMBERSHIP CATEGORY AND MEMBER LIST POLICY

1.0   The SFDCCC has three types of members. These are elected members, ex officio members and associate members.

a) The elected members are those members elected by the registered Democrats in the member’s Assembly District (AD). They are voting members of the SFDCCC.

b) Ex officio members are elected public office holders from the Democratic Party who are the current members of the California Assembly and State Senate representing San Francisco, U.S. Congressional Representatives from San Francisco, andS. Senators who reside in San Francisco, Mayor of San Francisco, state Constitutional Officers and members of the Board of Supervisors. Ex officio members may each send a designated representative in place of attending the SFDCCC meeting personally. Ex officio members exercise the right to vote, or, in their place, their representatives have that right.

c) Associate members are the chairs or presidents of each of the chartered San Francisco Democratic clubs. Each club has one associate member. The associate member may participate in discussion but does not vote.

1.1 The Mayor and the members of the Board of Supervisors will become ex officio members after the results of the June 2016 election are certified. If this change in membership status creates vacancies on the SFDCCC, the Chair will appoint to those seats the top vote getters in their respective races, in the order of the June 2016 election results. For example, if members of the Board of Supervisors are elected to 4 out of the 14 seats in AD-17 in the June 2016 election, the Chair must appoint to those seats the candidates who came in 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th place in that Assembly District in the June 2016 election. If members of the Board of Supervisors are elected to 2 out of the 10 seats in AD-19 in the June 2016 election, the Chair must appoint to those seats the candidates who came in 11th and 12th place in that Assembly District in the June 2016 election.

1.2 After the June election results are certified, and Bylaws Article II, Section 1(a)(1) becomes effective to create 7 new seats on the SFDCCC, those seats will be filled with the next highest vote getters in their respective races, after the vacancies in Section §1.1 herein are filled.

 

1.2  If at the June 2016 election, members are elected to the SFDCCC who currently serve on the Board of Supervisors and who will be ineligible to run for re-election to the Board of Supervisors in 2016 or 2018 those members will not automatically become ex officiomembers, but may choose to remain as independently elected members in order to serve a 4-year term on the SFDCCC. If any such member chooses to remain as an independently-elected member, and their membership status does not change, no vacancy will be created.

 

 

 

DCCC Proposal in the SF Chronicle

SF Chronicle Columnist Chuck Nevius gave a bit of ink to my proposal to reform the DCCC. neviusHe writes:

Give me a D, give me a triple C: There was a time when San Francisco’s Democratic County Central Committee was a good place for newcomers to politics to dip a toe into the political process and build some credibility.

Not this year. Some of the biggest names in local politics are in the race for the June 8 election. That includes every sitting Board of Supervisors member except Katy Tang and John Avalos.

“What we’ve learned,” says DCCC Treasurer Tom Hsieh, “is that if you have a name you tend to win. If the ballot went forward today, we could have nine of 11 supervisors on the DCCC.”

That’s not to mention three school board members, two community college board members, one former state Assembly member and two former supervisors. And don’t forget California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton. For a 24-person committee, that’s a lot of big names.

Naturally, there’s been a lot of complaining that the fix is in and that newly elected Supervisor Aaron Peskin is trying to pull a fast one by stocking the DCCC with progressives. And there’s also concern from members like Alix Rosenthal that “without grassroots activists there will be nobody to do the actual work. These people will show up at meetings and that’s it.”

It sounds like another of those circular debates that ends up with two sides yelling, “I’m not, you are!” for days. But in a surprisingly thoughtful moment, Rosenthal has come up with a good compromise.

She proposed that the elected supervisors automatically get a place, called an “ex officio” seat, just like state senators, Assembly members and U.S. senators and representatives. Rosenthal’s measure would then add 12 seats, 11 for the supervisors and one for the mayor, so there would be a chance for less-experienced politicians.

The measure was proposed last week and despite needing a two-thirds majority, it fell just one vote short. Rosenthal says she’s bringing it back.

“Who knew a volunteer position could be so exciting?” Hsieh said.

The entire column may be found here.

Endorsed by Senator Mark Leno!

Mark_Leno_at_2010_NCCBF_Grand_Parade_2010-04-18_4I am thrilled to announce that my campaign has been endorsed by California State Senator Mark Leno! I have a deep respect for Senator Leno – he and I share a passion for preserving nightlife culture, protecting the environment, and promoting marriage equality.

Recently he has announced legislation that would protect bees in California from harmful pesticides. Check it out.

His endorsement means a lot to me. Thank you, Senator!

I’m Running!

For the last 6 years, I have had the distinct pleasure of serving on San Francisco’s Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC), the leadership of the San Francisco Democratic Party, and I am excited to announce that I’m running for another term.

Alix & Elliott

My nephew Elliott helped me file my paperwork.

I am one of the party’s hardest working activists. I balanced the party’s books as the DCCC’s Treasurer and have been running the party’s endorsement process for the last four years as its Second Vice Chair.
In 2012, I organized female candidates and helped get them elected, resulting in gender parity on the DCCC. I have taken a stand against bullying tactics in City Hall and have called the media’s attention to the absence of mothers in elective office. I wrote resolutions calling for progressive reforms such as overturning Citizens United and eliminating the personal belief exemption for vaccinations.
Bringing the party together to forge creative solutions to its most vexing problems is my passion and what I am best at on the DCCC. However, this is going to be my toughest race yet since I am running in a crowded field against well-funded candidates. This is why I need your help.
Thanks for your support, and I’m looking forward to keeping you updated from the campaign trail.

Shaking Up the Party

I have just proposed a radical change to the San Francisco Democratic Party.

It used to be that running for the SF Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC) was a great way to learn how to run for office. You’d raise ten thousand dollars, get a few endorsements, get your friends to register Democrat and vote for you, and you could win.

Burton

California Democratic Party Chair John Burton and I file our paperwork together.

In the last decade, however, we’ve seen a dismaying trend: with every election, an increasing number of elected officials in San Francisco are running for – and winning – seats on the DCCC. In this election, out of 24 seats, 9 members of the Board of Supervisors (and counting) have filed to run, along with 3 School Board members, 2 Community College Board members, one former State Assembly Member and 2 former Supervisors. Today, Chair of the California Democratic Party John Burton filed. That’s a lot of political juice in one race.

But why do so many heavy hitters want a spot on the party’s board? Because the Democratic Party is the most important endorsement in town, and each of these officials want a say in it. Most of them want to make sure that they secure the party’s endorsement for their own races, or for those of their allies. And – just as important – running for DCCC allows candidates for city offices to get around campaign contribution limits, because they can raise an unlimited amount of money in their DCCC races, and from unrestricted sources.

Each of the current or former elected officials running in June will likely win, because of their existing name recognition and fundraising base. This means there’s less room on the DCCC for party activists who have never held another elective office (like me!). At least forty of us are running in the June election. We have an abundance of Democrats who want to serve the party.

While everyone in local politics admits that this is a problem, very few want to tell our elected officials that they can’t or shouldn’t run for the DCCC. As party leaders, I personally think they should have a say in the Democratic Party’s decisions. And yet we should also make room for the dozens of grassroots activists who want to serve on the DCCC.

To that end, I’ve proposed a bylaws amendment that will radically change the party makeup (text below). It would make the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors each ex officio members of the DCCC, with full voting rights, without needing to run for their seats. This will free up 9 seats for grassroots activists to serve the party. It’s already caused a stir on social media and in the press.

If you want to participate in the conversation, come to our meeting on Wednesday March 16 at 7pm, Milton Marks Auditorium in the State Building, 455 Golden Gate Avenue. I guarantee it’ll be a fascinating debate. For political junkies like me, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Resolution of the San Francisco Democratic Party

Amending the Party’s Bylaws and its Policies & Procedure Manual to Add the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor as Ex Officio Members

WHEREAS, the Bylaws of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee (SFDCCC) and its Policies & Procedures Manual allow for registered Democrats who hold state and federal offices who reside in San Francisco to serve as ex officio members of the SFDCCC. These members currently include State Senator Leno, State Assembly members Ting and Chiu, US Senator Feinstein, Congresswomen Pelosi and Speier, and Board of Equalization Member Ma. These members have the same voting rights as a member who is independently elected to the SFDCCC.

WHEREAS, the races for seats on the SFDCCCC have become as competitive as those for any other elective office in San Francisco, in part because current and former elected officials run for – and hold – these seats. This means that the number of DCCC seats available for party activists who have never held another office, and who have the time and energy to dedicate to the party’s activities, is shrinking.

WHEREAS, the members of the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor, as leaders within the local Democratic Party, should each have a voice in the party’s decisions. Giving them each an ex officio membership in the SFDCCC will give them that voice, and will free up several seats for party activists who do not currently hold another elective office. The SFDCCC Bylaws provide that no ex officio member may also hold an elected seat on the SFDCCC.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the San Francisco Democratic Party hereby amends Article II, Section 1(a)(2) of its Bylaws and Article XI, Section 1 of its Policies & Procedures Manual to add the Mayor of San Francisco and the Members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors as ex officio members of the SFDCCC if they are registered Democrats, as more specifically provided in Attachment A and Attachment B hereto; and hereby corrects Article II, Section 1(a)(2) of its Bylaws to add US Senator to the list of ex officio members of the SFDCCC as more specifically provided in Attachment A hereto.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Resolution will become effective upon the date that the results of the June 2016 election are certified.

Sponsor:  Alix Rosenthal

 

Attachment A

Proposed Bylaws Amendment

New language appears in bold underline. Deleted language appears in bold strikethrough.

Article II: MEMBERSHIP

Section 1: MEMBERSHIP

a. SFDCCC MEMBERSHIP

  1. Ex Officio members shall consist of the following:
    A. Any Democrat who is elected or otherwise designated to serve, or who is serving in the following elected offices representing the City and County of San Francisco in whole or in part:
    i. Assemblyperson
    ii. State Senator
    iii. Congressperson
    iv. United States Senator
    v. Mayor
    vi. Members of the Board of Supervisors

 

 

Attachment B

Proposed Amendment to Policies & Procedures Manual

New language appears in bold underline. Deleted language appears in bold strikethrough.

ARTICLE XI. MEMBERSHIP CATEGORY AND MEMBER LIST POLICY

1.0 The SFDCCC has three types of members. These are elected members, ex officio members and associate members.

a) The elected members are those members elected by the registered Democrats in the member’s Assembly District (AD). They are voting members of the SFDCCC.

b) Ex officio members are elected public office holders from the Democratic Party who are the current members of the California Assembly and State Senate representing San Francisco, U.S. Congressional Representatives from San Francisco, andS. Senators who reside in San Francisco, Mayor of San Francisco, and members of the Board of Supervisors. Ex officio members may each send a designated representative in place of attending the SFDCCC meeting personally. Ex officio members exercise the right to vote, or, in their place, their representatives have that right.

c) Associate members are the chairs or presidents of each of the chartered San Francisco Democratic clubs. Each club has one associate member. The associate member may participate in discussion but does not vote.

1.1 The Mayor and the members of the Board of Supervisors will become ex officio members after the results of the June 2016 election are certified. If this change in membership status creates vacancies on the SFDCCC, the Chair will appoint to those seats the top vote getters in their respective races, in the order of the June 2016 election results. For example, if members of the Board of Supervisors are elected to 4 out of the 14 seats in AD-17 in the June 2016 election, the Chair must appoint to those seats the candidates who came in 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th place in that Assembly District in the June 2016 election. If members of the Board of Supervisors are elected to 2 out of the 10 seats in AD-19 in the June 2016 election, the Chair must appoint to those seats the candidates who came in 11th and 12th place in that Assembly District in the June 2016 election.

 

 

 

Big Ol’ Voter Guide – November 2015

There’s a theme to this year’s election: this CITY’S INSANE HOUSING MARKET! Yes, I’m shouting, it’s that serious. Friends of mine and yours are losing their homes. Others are stuck in rent-controlled apartments they can’t afford to leave. And just TRY moving here from somewhere else, if you don’t work for some hot new tech company that pays you well. And then…there’s this guy.

Yikes!

Yikes! Really?

There’s lots of finger pointing… at greedy landlords, Airbnb, Mayor Ed Lee, the Board of Supervisors, too much rent control, not enough rent control, tech companies, the Ellis Act, Google buses, the $725 cocktail. This November’s ballot attempts to place the blame on some of the folks on this list.

Three out of 11 measures (A, D, and K) hope to enable building more housing, most of which is affordable, two (I and J) are aimed at slowing the rate of gentrification, and one (Prop F) hopes to further restrict short term rentals in the city. Some are good, some are very very bad. I put a lot of thought into these endorsements, and if you know me, you may be surprised by a few.

Without further ado, I submit to you my Big Ol’ Voter Guide. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a progressive attorney with a background in municipal law who currently works for a few mobile app companies (one small, one very small), whose passions include protecting and promoting San Francisco’s nightlife and culture, getting more women elected to public office, and bringing more public art to cities around the world. I’m Second Vice Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, and I also like long walks on the beach.

Mayor: Ed Lee
City Attorney: Dennis Herrera
Treasurer: Jose Cisneros
District Attorney: George Gascon
Sheriff: Vicki Hennessey
Community College Board: Alex Randolph
District 3 Supervisor: Julie Christensen
Prop A: Affordable Housing Bond – YES!
Prop B: Paid Parental Leave for City Employees – YES!
Prop C: Expand Lobbyist Ordinance – NO
Prop D: Mission Rock – YES!
Prop E: Remote Testimony in Public Meetings –NOOOOO!
Prop F: Restricting Short Term Rentals – F-NO!
Props G/H: Clean Energy – NO on G, YES on H
Prop I: Mission Housing Moratorium – YES!
Prop J: Legacy Businesses – Yes
Prop K: Affordable Housing on City’s Surplus Property – YES!

Mayor: Ed Lee

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.11.17 AMBroke-Ass Stuart is a friend of mine, and I’ve donated to his mayoral campaign. His candidacy is a performance art piece that gives voice to widespread frustration with the direction the city has headed in recent years. The city’s ever-widening economic divide and the scary housing market are making it impossible for young folks and the middle class to survive here. BUT: (1) calling attention to this doesn’t mean Stuart has the know-how to run a city with a $9 billion budget (Sorry, Stuart!); and (2) the city’s economic trajectory is not Ed Lee’s fault. Just as the mustachioed mayor can’t legitimately take credit for the dramatic increase in property tax revenues and record low unemployment, he also can’t be blamed for the housing crunch or for $4 toast. The mayor is, frankly, not powerful enough to control the economy in either direction. The rent is too damn high because too many damn people want to live here. And it takes a lot longer to build a hundred new housing units than it does for a tech company to create a hundred new jobs.

And hey, Lee is doing a fine job with the meager amount of power he does wield. He is working to alleviate the affordable housing crisis (see: Prop A – his affordable housing bond, and Prop K – his effort to build affordable housing on city-owned property) and he is showing leadership on keeping families and the middle class in SF (see: universal pre-school and improving economic opportunities for women). He has 26 years of experience in city government, he is not afraid to roll up his sleeves, and he has appointed women to the most important jobs in city government (which I just love, of course). Personally, I think the folks who actively oppose him need someone to blame for the outrageous cost of…well, everything.

City Attorney: Dennis Herrera
Treasurer: Jose Cisneros
District Attorney: George Gascon

I’m not going to waste your time on these races, because all three of these folks are unopposed. And each of them is doing a decent job. Let’s reflect on that for a minute: In San Francisco, where every public figure, movement, real estate development, legislation and stop sign placement has opposition, these three candidates don’t. To me, that’s saying something.

Sheriff: Vicki Hennessey

This was a hard one for me. Ross Mirkarimi has been a friend of mine for many years, and by most measures, he’s been a solid Sheriff. He is a strong advocate for progressive prison reform: from health care rights for prisoners, to improving recidivism rates through education, to stopping the gouging of inmates for the cost of personal phone calls (which has garnered national attention). But his successes have been overshadowed by the accusations that he engaged in domestic abuse against his wife Eliana early in his term. Eliana has always denied those charges and she has fought hard to defend him. However, Ross did plead guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment for his actions, and earlier this year, he had his driver license suspended for failing to report an auto accident to the DMV. He has also taken heat for Sheriff deputies who were promoting fights among prisoners, and the accidental patient death at SF General that his deputies might have been able to prevent. Even just last week, it was reported that a deputy challenged Mirkarimi’s ability to take a firearms exam given his misdemeanor conviction. These distractions, I think, are preventing him from getting more done and they have affected morale in the department.

Vicki Hennessey is a former Chief Deputy Sheriff with several decades of experience. She ran the department while Mirkarimi was fighting domestic violence charges, and has avoided involvement in any scandal. I have worked with her since 2001 when I was on the Elections Commission and she did a good job at designing a ballot custody system. She has the support of lots of folks, and I sincerely hope that she will use the Sheriff’s office to continue the kinds of progressive reforms that her two predecessors have worked so hard to achieve.

Community College Board: Alex Randolph

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.12.38 AMAlex Randolph was appointed in April to fill an open seat on the College Board, and he is running to defend the appointment against two challengers: Tom Temprano and Wendy Aragon. All three have credited community college with giving them a leg up, although Randolph is the candidate with the most experience and insight to solve CCSF’s accreditation and enrollment problems. He wants CCSF to staff up the class registration process, which would help with the dramatic decline in enrollment, and he has also identified several places where CCSF could upgrade the technology it uses, to start solving its problems on a larger scale.

I met Alex Randolph when he was the campaign manager for my opponent in my ill-fated Supervisor race nine years ago. Back then, he was young and scrappy, and I was impressed by his willingness to work hard, even though it was against me. He has an impressive list of endorsements, including a majority of both the Board of Supervisors and the Board of Education.

District 3 Supervisor: Julie Christensen

Christensen is smart and competent, and she is working hard on stopping evictions, promoting neighborhood safety and improving transit. Her opponent is a former ally of mine, but we’ve parted ways politically for several reasons. For those reasons and more, see my endorsement in a separate blog post.

It's safe to say this housing is not affordable.

It’s safe to say this housing is not affordable.

Prop A: Affordable Housing Bond – YES!

If this bond is approved, $350 million will go toward building low- and middle-income units, and to rehab the city’s public housing. It also includes down payment assistance for teachers and middle-income folks. There is no reason not to vote for this measure! Housing prices are ridiculously high, and it costs a lot of money to build new units in the city. The entire city family has coalesced behind this bond measure.

Prop B: Paid Parental Leave for City Employees – YES!

Prop B would allow every city employee who becomes a parent to have the time to bond with their newborn. I’m not sure why this needs to be a ballot measure – perhaps the proponents want to make sure it’s hard to repeal? But it’s a no brainer to me – city government is the largest employer in San Francisco, it should absolutely serve as a model for family-friendly policies.

Prop C: Expand Lobbyist Ordinance – NO

Some pieces of legislation are better for the ballot, and some are better for the legislative process at the Board of Supervisors. Laws approved by ballot measure can only be amended by another ballot measure, making it nearly impossible to change it – it basically sets a law in stone. Laws that go through the Board, by contrast, can be improved by the public input of many stakeholders, and can be able to be amended over time, as time passes and circumstances change. Prop C should have been brought to the Board, and that is why I am opposing it.

Prop C is well meaning. It promises to daylight the activities of anyone engaged in direct or indirect lobbying, public outreach, research, reports on city activities, advertising, etc., requiring them to register and pay a $500 fee and submit monthly reports on their activities. It casts a wide net that catches all kinds of nonprofits and community organizations whose activities don’t warrant this kind of scrutiny. This law should be presented to the Board and subjected to public input, so that the Board can determine exactly which kinds of organizations should be registering, and which ones shouldn’t.

Prop D: Mission Rock – YES!

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.14.37 AM“Mission Rock” is code for “Giants Parking Lot A.” The Giants have been planning a mixed-use development on their parking lot for years, but it is currently zoned for open space. And after Prop B was passed in 2013, any waterfront development that seeks to increase height limits has to go to the voters. So – if the Giants want to build anything taller than a maintenance shed, they have to ask the City’s voters to give their consent. To the Giants’ credit, they did a good job of soliciting input from lots of stakeholders: neighbors, planners, community groups… and what has resulted is a great project. It includes 1500 new housing units (33% of which would be in the price range of low- and middle-income residents), 8 acres of parks and open space, and a retail center with shops and restaurants. Almost everyone supports it – even the staunchest of opponents to waterfront development. I’m looking forward to seeing it built.

Prop E: Remote Testimony in Public Meetings – NOOOOOO!

If approved, Proposition E would require that public meetings, testimony and comments all be made accessible through electronic and pre-recorded means. It also requires that any pre-recorded public testimony and live, remote public commentary be played at the meeting. Sounds great, right? Who doesn’t love public participation in the democratic process?

Rush Limbaugh wants you to vote for Prop E

Rush Limbaugh wants you to vote for Prop E

If you’ve been to a commission or board meeting at City Hall, you know that this measure would be a complete disaster. In my opinion, it would allow interest groups to jam up meetings that are already jammed up by folks who show up by the dozens to read the SAME. TALKING. POINTS. FROM A SCRIPT. OVER AND OVER. FOR HOURS. Don’t get me wrong – public comment is extremely important, and can often be persuasive to legislators who are on the fence. But to require that every video and email that gets sent to the City be played in its entirety would open the process up for abuse. And would be a catastrophic waste of time.

Moreover, this law would require that public testimony – from ANYWHERE in the world – be played live at the meeting. This means that every time Rush Limbaugh disagrees with legislation at the Board of Supervisors, he can tell his listeners to send thousands of emails, voice recordings and videos to City Hall. And City Hall will be required to play them. In their entirety. And because this is a ballot measure, the law will be very difficult to repeal, it might take a year or more to do it. ICK. Please vote NO.

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 3.19.10 PMProp F: Restricting Short Term Rentals – F-NO!

The main reason I oppose this measure is the same reason I oppose Prop C (above): Laws approved by ballot measure are nearly impossible to change. And this is exactly the kind of law that needs to iterate over time. The products and services created by technology companies like Airbnb are constantly evolving – and the laws that regulate them need to be just as nimble. If Prop F passes, it sets these restrictions in stone, and the Board of Supervisors won’t be able to amend them. Any revision – no matter how small – will require another election cycle and another contentious and expensive battle for votes. For a detailed explanation of the merits and flaws of this complicated legislation, see my separate blog post about Prop F.

Prop G/H: Clean Energy – NO on G, YES on H

Here’s the inside scoop on these two measures that you probably won’t hear from anyone else. The City has created a program called CleanPowerSF that will give city residents and businesses the option to buy power from renewable sources, such as wind or solar power. This program will be taking customers away from PG&E, and so the company (or rather, the electrical workers union) put Prop G on the ballot in order to make it harder for the city to market this new program. The measure would prevent the city from calling large portions of the energy produced by CleanPowerSF as “clean” or “renewable.” Yep, it is kinda evil.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.17.07 AMAfter Prop G qualified for the ballot, Supervisor London Breed sprang into action, crafting Prop H as a compromise measure, using the same definitions of “clean energy” and “renewable energy” as those used by state law. CleanPowerSF is happy because the new law will allow the city to call more of the energy it produces, “clean.” Consumers win because the city is forced to be accurate in its marketing of the program, in describing the percentage of types of renewable energy to be supplied.

In fact, Prop H was so well crafted (good work, Supervisor!) that PG&E (oops, I mean the electrical workers union) has withdrawn its support for its own measure, and has agreed to throw its weight behind Prop H. That’s why – you may have noticed – there is no “Yes on G” campaign, and everyone in town has endorsed H. Vote NO on G and YES on H. And then go to www.cleanpowersf.org to sign up for the program.

Prop I: Mission Housing Moratorium – YES!

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Boundaries of the Proposed Mission Moratorium

If approved, Prop I would establish a temporary, 18-month prohibition on the construction of any housing project larger than five units in the Mission neighborhood, roughly bounded to the west by Guerrero Street, to the south by Cesar Chavez Street, to the east by Potrero Avenue, and to the north by U.S. Route 101. Projects that include only 100% affordable units are exempt from the moratorium.

Yes, it’s true: the law of supply and demand tells us that stopping the building of housing is not the way to alleviate the housing crunch. However, this moratorium is not about solving the housing crisis. It’s about saving the Mission from losing its essential character, and about slowing the pace of change so that the neighborhood isn’t swallowed by the city’s insatiable appetite for development.

There are lots of good reasons to support this moratorium. The Mission has suffered the most profound effects of the housing crisis because every new tech worker moving to the city wants to live there. The speed of development there is especially intense, and has led to an unprecedented number of evictions and displacement. Walk down Valencia Street, and you will have to agree that the neighborhood looks nothing like it did even a few years ago. Moreover, when buildings are demolished, and new market-rate condos are built, the change is irreversible; the new buildings are designed to last for 50-100 years. Slowing this process down by 18 months – so that the city can be more deliberate in planning what the neighborhood should look like in 10, 20, 50 years – is a very good idea. It is a brief little window of time in the big picture. And finally, the amount of real estate we’re talking about is a small portion of the city. There are other places in the city where market-rate housing can be developed in the next few years.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.31.51 AMMy only hesitation about Prop I is that it would have the consequence of delaying the Armory’s plans to turn its Drill Court space, recently fitted with a new floor and sound-proofing, into a full-time concert and event venue. The city needs more event venues of this size! But under Prop I, new permits of all kinds, including changes of use like the Armory’s, would be halted for 18 months. It’s a shame the Armory’s plans are caught up in this measure – but it would only be until mid-2017, so on balance, it’s a temporary sacrifice worth making.

It won’t surprise you to learn that landlords, developers, realtors, and construction trade unions oppose Prop I, along with the more moderate elected officials in town. Prop I supporters include an interesting combination of folks who don’t always agree, such as tenant groups; black, Asian and Latino groups; labor unions; teachers; environmental organizations; neighborhood political clubs from all over the city; and women’s organizations. I’m a homeowner and a real estate attorney, and I generally like development. And yet I side with the “yes” folks. Let’s give the Mission a breather.

Prop J: Legacy Businesses – Yes

As I have mentioned several times before, the city is changing very very rapidly. Neighborhood businesses give the city its character, and the ones that have been around the longest are disappearing quickly due to rising rents and the pressure from gentrification. Prop J, if approved, will establish small grants for these “legacy businesses” that have existed for more than 30 years and can show significant contribution to San Francisco’s identity and character. Eligible businesses will receive $500 for each of their full-time employees, and property owners leasing to these legacy businesses will be given a small grant ($4.50 per square foot) if they provide the business with a 10-year lease. (Aw! Isn’t that nice.)

The City Controller says this measure will cost the city about $3.7 million in the current fiscal year if fully funded. And the cost to the city could increase every year, reaching somewhere between $51 million and $94 million annually within 25 years. (Yikes! That’s a lot of money.) However – and this is critical – the actual costs of this proposition will depend on the number of businesses added to the “legacy list” and the budget approved each year by the Mayor and Board of Supervisors. Prop J would not legally require any amount of the annual budget to go towards the fund.

So…it’s really a symbolic gesture. But it could be a useful tool that city leaders can use to give a hand to neighborhood businesses that are contributors to the essential character of this fine city. Since it doesn’t actually commit the funds, I say, why not? Let’s give it a shot and let the Board and the Mayor duke it out later over how much money they are willing to put into it.

Prop K: Affordable Housing on City’s Surplus Property – YES!

By now you are sick of hearing about the city’s housing crisis. But hey! This is the last measure on the ballot, and it’s about housing. And it’s a good one.

Yep.

Don’t click on this image so that you can see the detail. Don’t do it.

 

One of the main reasons why it’s so hard to build affordable housing in the city is because the underlying land costs are so high that these projects just don’t pencil out for private developers. So! Enter Prop K, which attacks the shortage of affordable housing in the city by encouraging the development of below-market-rate units on surplus property already owned by the city. That’s right, it doesn’t matter how much the underlying property is worth, because the city already owns it and can do whatever it wants with it, like handing it over to affordable housing developers to build units that non-millionaires can afford.

Specifically, Prop K prioritizes the use of all surplus property to build housing for a range of households from those who are homeless or who make less than $51,000 per year (55% of area median income), to those with incomes up to $112,000 per year (120% of area median income). For projects of more than 200 units, some housing would be available for households earning up to $140,000 per year (150% of area median income). Everyone agrees that the city needs more housing for regular people and working class folks. And I do mean everyone, including both the Examiner and the Chronicle. The only people who oppose this measure are Chicken John and the people who hate taxes generally. Yes on K!