Why Newsom drives me nuts

Pub date February 9, 2010
WriterTim Redmond
SectionPolitics Blog

This is the kind of thing that drive me nuts about the Newsom administration.

A few days ago, SF Appeal ran an item on a speech Newsom gave about condo conversions. The mayor wants to let more people turn rental units and tenancy-in-common units into condominiums; that, Newsom argues, will bring more revenue into the city treasury (those conversion permits are expensive).

But there’s a reason why the city limits to 200 the number of units that can be converted in any one year. Turning a rental unit into a condo reduces the number of rentals available, and turning a rent-controlled unit into a condo (or into a TIC and then a condo) cuts into the affordable housing stock.

And a majority of the supervisors, who recognize the impact the mayor’s plan would have on tenants (by making it easier to take rental units off the market), are dubious.

Okay, that’s a difference of opinion. You don’t have to make it personal. And yet, at his press conference, the mayor insisted that

“Half of the members of the board have been beneficiaries of condo conversions, and yet they deny it to other people.”

As the Appeal pointed out, that’s simply untrue.

A majority of Board members own their homes, according to a check of property records: mayoral allies Michela Alioto-Pier, Sean Elsbernd and Carmen Chu all enjoy the benefits of owning and equity, as do Sophie Maxwell and progressive Budget chairman John Avalos.

Eric Mar and David Chiu rent, according to a City Hall source. Chris Daly lives in a condo, but “my condo has always been a condo,” according to the supervisor (and according to the Assessor-Recorder’s Office, Daly at least bought his condo as a condo and not a tenancy-in-common or conversion).

By all accounts, progressive Ross Mirkarimi is on the condominium-conversion waitlist (an older news report says Ross owns a TIC and is on the conversion list; we’ll check in with him to confirm, he is at this moment still in committee). Mirkarimi and Bevan Dufty would be the two Board members conflicted-out of any votes on condo-conversions; Dufty went from a condo to a TIC after his daughter was born.

“And nobody was evicted,” the Bev told us today.

Okay, as I see it only one supervisor is even in a position to benefit from the condo conversion law. So I asked Tony Winnicker, the mayor’s press secretary, whether Newsom had been misquoted. Apparently not. So why did ne make an innacurate statement that insulted half the members of the board?


His comments came in the context of the polarized politics of San Francisco which pit tenants vs homeowners to the benefit of no one. He was speaking that many Boardmembers enjoy the benefits of homeownership and that opposing the condo conversion proposal denies those benefits to others who are already living in TICs and displacing no one through condo conversion.

But there’s a big distinction between what Winnicker is talking about and what Newsom actually said. It’s entirely possible to be a homeowner in this city without evicting anyone and without taking a rental unit off the market. That’s what most of the homeowning board members have done.

As for TICs “displacing no one,” that’s wrong, too. The number one cause of no-fault evictions in this city is the use of the Ellis Act to clear the tenants out of a building to create a TIC. The only thing holding the TIC epidemic in check is the fact that the TIC ownership model is complex and a bit tricky. The minute you can convert those TICs into condos, you open the floodgates for a lot more of them — and that means a lot more evictions.

Newsom can make the case for condo conversions just fine without making factually inaccurate statements that insult the supervisors. Instead he pulls this shit. And then he complains about the supervisors not wanting to work with him

Drives me nuts.