Volume 43 Number 51

City Planning’s latest mess

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EDITORIAL The San Francisco city planning director, John Rahaim, has kept a fairly low profile since taking over the troubled department in 2008. But some serious problems are starting to fester on his watch — and if he and the planning commissioners don’t clean up the mess, the supervisors need to step in.

Rahaim remains somewhat in the shadow of the former director, Dean Macris, who is responsible for some of the worst San Francisco development problems of the past three decades. And the Macris influence is still very heavy in the department. But Rahaim needs to step out and show that things are going to change. For starters, he should:

Scrap the plan to privatize environmental review. As Rebecca Bowe reports on page 15, the department is looking at bringing in outside consultants to help clear up the backlog in the Major Environmental Analysis division of the Planning Department. It’s a horrible idea — the environmental consulting firms that do this work make most of their money from developers, and that’s where their loyalties will always lie. The city planning staff is by no means perfect, but at least the unionized MEA staffers have some ability to demand that builders follow the rules and that environmental impact reports are relatively honest. The whole idea comes (not surprisingly) from the big developers, particularly Lennar Corp. at Hunters Point and the consortium looking to redevelop Treasure Island; they’re worried about the short-staffed Planning Department’s slow pace of project review. But we don’t see those developers helping raise new revenue for the city — money that could allow planning to hire more staff.

Back away from allowing developers to block sunlight in city parks. San Francisco voters approved a measure back in 1984 that essentially halted the construction of any tall buildings that would cast shadows on city parkland. Proposition K has worked remarkably well over the years. But now, with such behemoths as the 100-plus-story tower planned for the Transbay Terminal area and the high-rise condo complex near the Transamerica Building threatening to block out the sun in public open space, the developers are looking for ways to "update" — that is, gut — Prop. K protections. On Aug. 23, a who’s who list of big local developers, architects, and lawyers met with city planning officials to discuss the issue (the attendance list, and more background, is posted at sfbg.com). The Planning Commission will get a briefing on the topic Sept. 17.

We don’t see the problem with Prop. K — protecting parks from high-rise shadows is pretty basic planning and has been public policy for 25 years. Rahaim should drop this developer-driven plan, now.

Get Macris the hell out of the Planning Department. Mayor Gavin Newsom and the Planning Commission hired Rahaim a year and a half ago. So why does Macris, the former director, still have an office in the department? Why is he routinely consulted on major issues? When, oh when, will he finally go away?

According to the mayor’s press secretary, Nathan Ballard, Macris isn’t costing the city any money — a handful of developers are chipping in to cover the cost of his paycheck. That alone is a problem — since when do developers get to have their own paid planner sitting in on office in the Planning Department?

And frankly, Macris has been a shill for big developers all his career. He oversaw much of the massive over-construction that took place in the 1980s, and resisted all attempts at slowing down runaway growth. He’s a bad influence on the department, and Rahaim needs to send him packing, now.

Rahaim has gotten a fairly free ride so far, but things are starting to spiral out of control in his department. It’s a disturbing pattern, and the supervisors should be prepared to hold hearings and start taking action. *

Where would we be without rent control?

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news@sfbg.com

OPINION This year marks the 30th anniversary of rent control in San Francisco. On June 13, 1979, the Board of Supervisors passed a law that was seen by tenant activists as a fairly weak version of rent control. The supervisors were acting under pressure from landlords, who were lobbying them to hurry up and pass a law before the November election, when landlords feared San Francisco voters would enact a stricter version.

So the supervisors went with a middle-of-the-road measure, but its passage was still a milestone. Today, San Franciscans in rent-controlled apartments shudder to think where they would be without this basic protection. Many would be priced out of the rental market — and out of the city altogether.

The original legislation has been amended many times to limit annual rent increases, to expand who is covered by rent control, and to give increased protections from eviction to seniors, disabled people, the catastrophically ill, and long-term tenants. To curb the use of Ellis Act evictions by real estate speculators, buildings where seniors or disabled tenants have been evicted are now barred from condo conversion. In the past few years, we have worked to raise mandatory relocation payments for tenants, and added increased protections against landlord harassment.

Tenants are still being pressured to leave their apartments with supposed voluntary buyouts, a type of roulette in which speculators wave cash and tenants need nerves of steel to resist the threat of little money and no apartment — or more money and no apartment. But tenants keep organizing and holding on.

The San Francisco Tenants Union, Housing Rights Committee, St. Peter’s Housing Committee, Tenderloin Housing Clinic, and the Eviction Defense Collaborative all work with limited staff and many dedicated, inspiring volunteers to inform tenants of their rights and represent them when they need legal assistance. Tenants Together, founded last year, is now organizing tenants statewide and making progress all over California.

Sup. Eric Mar is sponsoring legislation that would give eviction protection to families with children — currently an endangered species in San Francisco. Study after study has shown the negative effect of evictions on families with children. More than half of all families with children in San Francisco live in rent-controlled apartments. A recent nationwide report named San Francisco as the major metropolitan area with the lowest number of children. In addition to tenants groups, a broad coalition of education and health groups have given their support to the Mar legislation. If you haven’t already done so, write or fax your supervisor in support of the legislation.

Meanwhile, come celebrate the 30th anniversary of rent control by stopping by one of our tenants rights counseling booths Saturday, Sept. 19 between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. (see www.sftu.org for locations). Get info on our reduced price anniversary memberships and commemorative t-shirts. Then join us back at 558 Capp St., the Tenants Union office, for a barbecue, raffle, and Tenants Hall of Fame festivities where we can all celebrate 30 years of fighting for safe, fairly priced housing.

Susan Prentice is a San Francisco Tenants Union counselor/activist.

Psychic Dream Astrology

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Mercury is still retrograde!

ARIES

March 21-April 19

You have come to the end of a cycle, Aries, and it’s time to get ready to start a new one. This could pertain to a relationship, project, or way of looking at things, but the upshot is the same. Know yourself well enough to know what you need. Display courage as you take some risks to make your life richer, from the inside out.

TAURUS

April 20-May 20

It is wholly appropriate for sadness to slow you down, as heavy emotions take time and energy to process. Worry, however, is like slamming on the breaks in an ice storm. It’s time to own your awesomeness. Stop checking and rechecking everything and start trusting yourself, or you will manifest your fears.

GEMINI

May 21-June 21

When you have a fast car, how can you resist opening her up and speeding away? And when you have a new lover, where ever can you find the self-control to keep your cards close to your chest? This week, though, you need to try to slow your roll on the stuff you’re stoked about. Allow your heart to catch up with your speedy head.

CANCER

June 22-July 22

You may not have what you want, but there are greater reasons for your malaise than you can currently see. The cosmos has a plan for you. Vanity and pride threaten to make you to fall short of your potential. Don’t get so caught up in your stories that you believe they’re the only truth.

LEO

July 23-Aug. 22

You’ve got a great idea, Leo. This week, follow through on your brilliant or harebrained schemes cause you are the man (or lady in charge, or gender queer ready to steer). With mercury retrograde, it’s better to act first and process later — as long as you’re willing to work hard, this is an excellent time for action.

VIRGO

Aug. 23-Sept. 22

What’s that ticking? Your tender, beating heart? Of course it is. Right now, don’t mess with people, projects, or things that your heart isn’t in. You’ve been chewing over some major changes and it’s high time that you follow through on at least one of them. You may have to step into a loss to create a gain. Be fearless.

LIBRA

Sept. 23-Oct. 22

When things move too fast, it’s impossible to remain authentically emotionally present. The human mind can text, drive, and sing along to the oldies at the same time, but the heart is not a multitasker, pal. You have tried to move too quickly through some emo terrain and are paying the price. Resist your feelings will only prolong your bummer.

SCORPIO

Oct. 23-Nov. 21

When you get overwhelmed, you become one hot mess. Mental chaos and emotional anarchy spring up when you get overstimulated, which is why your sign is famous for needing quality time alone to recharge from the world. This week, find a place of calm within yourself before you strike out.

SAGITTARIUS

Nov. 22-Dec. 21

Adventure is easy to embark upon when you feel the wind at your back and you have tons of cash in your pocket. Right now, though, you are being challenged to find the fun in the unknown without all the signs pointing to "yes." Channel your spirit of exploration into all that you do, especially regarding your homebase and sense of security.

CAPRICORN

Dec. 22-Jan. 19

Enjoy the fruits of your labors, Cap! Ever the workhorse, it’s easy for you to forget to stop and smell the roses you just slaved away to grow. Make a point to be grateful for all the goodies in your collection, and the good you have cultivated in the past three years. You deserve it.

AQUARIUS

Jan. 20-Feb. 18

Things have gotten totally out of hand. You may have taken a wrong turn, and even though it’s not anything major, you are tripping balls. By being humble instead of assigning blame, you will get out of this internal mess a lot quicker. Get some perspective to get it together.

PISCES

Feb. 19-March 20

The best way to combat worries is by looking them squarely in the face and finding what’s true. No matter what you’re resisting, it is the resistance that is the worst part. Get grounded and get real, my fishy friend. Otherwise, you may not be able to distinguish fantasy from fear. When in doubt, look deeper. *

Jessica Lanyadoo has been a psychic dreamer for 15 years. Check out her Web site at www.lovelanyadoo.com or contact her for an astrology or intuitive reading at (415) 336-8354 or dreamyastrology@gmail.com

Appetite: Root beer floats, grilled moist melts, shrimp creole, and more

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Every week, Virginia Miller of personalized itinerary service and monthly food, drink, and travel newsletter, www.theperfectspotsf.com, shares foodie news, events, and deals. View the last installment here.

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DEALS
Just for You’s new happy hour and New Orleans inspired bites
Despite this past weekend’s thunderstorms, our Summer is still in its early stages – Just for You Cafe commemorates an SF Indian Summer (and their nostalgia for New Orleans, which I acutely share) with new menu items and Wednesday through Friday happy hour specials. There’s $4.50 Root Beer Floats made with Nawlins’ own Abita Root Beer and our Mitchell’s Ice Cream. And it wouldn’t be an ode to the South without Red Beans and Rice ($4.50, $2 to add Louisiana hot sausage), Hush Puppies ($4) or a Creole Sampler ($6) of red beans and rice, jambalaya, and shrimp creole. Heineken and Miller beers are $2 and there’s Chicken Empanadas ($2.25) or Crispy Chicken Tacos ($2.95) for a veer off the New Orleans’ path.
Wednesdays-Fridays, 4:30-6:30pm
732 22nd Street
415-647-3033
www.justforyoucafe.com/specials

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NEW OPENING
Fish & Farm launches American Box
Gourmet lunches from top notch chefs continue to proliferate downtown, with Fish & Farm now in the mix, launching American Box. Executive chef, Chad Newton, created a menu that, similar to the flagship restaurant, is farm-fresh, local, sustainable. Eat from changing menu items, like a "Chop" Salad ($9) with Molinari salami, a Double Taco Box ($7), or a Grilled Moist Melt Box ($8, a rye, cheddar, pickle, caramelized onion sandwich), to go or in Fish & Farm’s dining room. Save room for cookies or brownies for dessert.
Monday-Friday, 10:30am-1:30pm
Cash only
339 Taylor Street
415-474-3474

www.americanboxlunch.com

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EVENTS
Test your blind wine tasting skills at Press Club all month
So the Governator himself has dubbed September California Wine Month (isn’t every month?) No matter… I like the sound of Press Club‘s Blind Tasting throughout the month – to test or improve your tasting skills, as the case may be. In Press Club’s roomy underground environs, $17 will get you pours of three wines, each selected from some of Nor Cal’s best wineries. If you’re feeling comfortable, submit your guesses as to each wine in the blind tasting and be entered to win a $50 private tasting for two.
20 Yerba Buena Lane
415-744-5000

www.pressclubsf.com