Christina Olague

Reform BART’s approach to labor


By Christina Olague

OPINION If BART is part of your daily commute, you know how critical a reliable system is to Bay Area working people. If you don’t ride BART, all you have to do it think about all the cars that the system keeps off the road every day.

That’s why everyone — most of all the BART unions and their supporters — found last year’s strike so upsetting. And now, a new report commissioned in part by BART Board member James Fang shows how unnecessary it was for management to drive workers to walk off the job.

In fact, the report says, hiring a union-busting outside negotiator was a serious mistake. Allowing that hired gun to pursue an extremist bargaining strategy was a major cause of the labor unrest.

The report, conducted by an outside consultant, involved interviews with dozens of workers, managers, and negotiators. The document is riddled with references to war: Bomb-throwing, Vietnam, a labor “massacre.” It shows how badly the executive management at BART allowed the climate for negotiations to deteriorate — and how hard it will be to repair the damage.

Here’s how one manager put it: “This strike was not productive. We never did a course correction and then there was another strike. Two people got killed. We spent millions to end up getting creamed, and engendering hate.”

The report notes how BART executive management and their notorious chief negotiator refused to take seriously the concerns workers expressed about safety.

“Key points made about safety in bargaining sessions fell on deaf ears…because management thought the unions were just posturing and the unions thought the management was refusing to engage,” it states.

Safety concerns were a central part of the negotiations from the workers’ perspective, and by dismissing those concerns as a tactic, BART’s consultant not only made an agreement more difficult but gambled with the safety of workers and riders in order get concessions from workers.

Fang, head of the BART Board’s Labor Negotiation Review Committee, is asking that the board adopt the report’s recommendations to prevent this from happening again. These recommendations include more transparency around the agency’s finances, a much earlier start to negotiations — and if needed, bringing in mediators, not outside anti-union consultants.

Once the rest of our elected BART Board of Directors became more involved, management found a reasonable solution that both sides could live with. Why didn’t that happen at the beginning of negotiations?

That’s what the BART Board needs to be asking itself. A fair post-mortem puts much of the blame on management — a general manager who had little experience in labor negotiations and a board that failed to show leadership and independence.

Fang, who is the one board member who joined workers on the picket lines, says it’s time for management to change its approach. He’s calling for a strike-prevention plan that starts with honest, fair labor relations.

We’ve heard from some politicians looking to score easy points from frustrated riders that BART strikes ought to be banned. And it’s easy to imagine frustrated commuters, stuck far from work when the trains weren’t running, feeling sympathetic.

But if workers don’t have the right to strike, they are powerless to speak out against dangerous working conditions to a recalcitrant and, in this case, misdirected management. That leads to a more dangerous system for all of us.

Recognizing this, BART Board President Joel Keller just withdrew his suggestion that strikes be banned.

The much better approach for riders like me is to follow Fang’s prevention plan: Hold management accountable for its failures and to make sure that both sides can work together better in the future.

BART is a phenomenally successful system. Ridership has doubled in recent years, to 440,000 trips a day. With trained and experienced BART workers, the system’s on-time performance has risen to 95 percent. That’s not the result of some high-paid labor negotiator — it’s the work of a dedicated and hard-working staff.

If you ride BART every day, you deserve to know that the trains will be running, that you can count on the system to get you to work on time. Between now and 2017, when the next contract will be negotiated, the BART Board needs to learn from its past mistakes and find a different, more collaborative approach. Christina Olague is a community activist and former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Supes to vote on Avalos’ “Let’s Elect Our Elected Officials” measure

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote tomorrow (Tue/15) on whether to submit a charter amendment to the ballot that would require a special election in the event of a vacancy on the Board of Supervisors or in the mayor’s office.

As things stand, the mayor holds the power to appoint someone to fill a vacant seat on the board. But Sup. John Avalos’ proposed ballot measure, unofficially dubbed “Let’s Elect our Elected Officials,” would shift that decision-making power to the voters. The measure needs six votes to pass.

If it wins voter approval, the measure would also likely have a significant impact on the city’s political landscape in the immediate future.

Sup. David Campos, who is co-sponsoring the initiative, is currently vying for a seat in the 17th Assembly District against Board President David Chiu, a narrow race that will leave a vacancy on the Board one way or another. If Campos, one of the board’s most progressive members, is elected, Mayor Ed Lee would presumably appoint someone to his seat with a rather different political bent.

The ballot needs an additional three votes (beyond its three sponsors) to reach the necessary six votes necessary for approval by the Board, and “it’s sort of up in the air at the moment,” according to Jeremy Pollock, Avalos’ legislative aide.

Some supervisors are reluctant to go against Lee by limiting mayoral power. Opposition from Sup. Katy Tang, herself a beneficiary of the current rules when she was appointed by Mayor Lee in February 2013, has also had an effect of the amendment’s approval.

But supporters of the bill are hoping the overall benefits of the measure will lead the supervisors to approve it.

“John sees this as a good government reform that takes some power away from the mayor and the Board and gives it to the voters,” Pollock said, with the hope that it would also work to discourage backroom deals.

Another potential issue raised over the approval of the measure is the cost of special elections, though it appears to be a relatively minor concern. According to the San Francisco Department of Elections, a special election for supervisors costs roughly $300,000 (a drop in the ocean given the city’s multi-billion dollar budget) and around $3.5 million for a citywide election, a substantial sum but also a relatively minor worry given the rarity of vacancies in the mayor’s office. Some might argue that given the importance of the mayor’s duties, that’s a small price to pay to allow the voters to have a say.

In addition to its main rule change, the measure includes a few other provisions, such as making an exception for the proposed rule if a regularly scheduled election would be held within 180 days of the vacancy.

It would also provide “that the Mayor appoints an interim Supervisor to fill a supervisorial vacancy until an election is held to fill that vacancy,” with the key addition that the interim supervisor would be ineligible to compete in that election.

That’s no small stipulation, given the sweeping historic success of incumbents in board re-elections. (Since 2000, when district elections returned, Christina Olague is the only incumbent who failed to gain re-election after being appointed.) Avalos appears set on plugging all holes with his proposed legislation, and it’s now up to the board to place it on the November ballot.



Red explosions and yellow starbursts lit the sky, accompanied by the requisite oohs and aahs.

San Franciscans sat by the beach at Aquatic Park celebrating our nation’s independence, eyes fixed upwards. But all around them, a team of independent scavengers, mostly ignored, methodically combed the wharf, plucking cans and bottles from the ground and overflowing trash bins.

Often derided as thieves or parasites, these workers are cogs in a grand machine instituted by California’s Bottle Bill in 1986, forming a recycling redemption economy meant to spur environmentalism with market principles.

The concept is simple. Taxpayers pay an extra five cents when they buy a can or bottle, and may redeem that nickel by trading the used can or bottle in at a recycling center. Thus, more recycling is spurred.

But now a wave of recycling center evictions is causing San Francisco’s grassroots recycling economy to crumble, and newly released numbers reveal just how much stands to be lost by the trend.

San Franciscan recyclers may miss out on millions of dollars in redemption, local mom-and-pop stores could wind up on the hook for millions of dollars in state fees, and neighborhoods stand to be besieged by recyclers flocking to the few remaining recycling centers.

Recycling activists and local businesses are pushing for change, but NIMBY interests are pushing for more of the same.



San Francisco Community Recyclers is on the parking lot of Safeway’s Church and Market location, and after months of legal entanglement, the recycling center’s eviction draws near. Still, SFCR is making a show of resistance.

The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department is set to evict the recycling center within a week or so, as the rebel recyclers have so far refused to vacate voluntarily.

Sup. Scott Wiener says he’ll be glad to see them gone.

“This recycling center caused enormous problems in our neighborhood,” he told the Guardian. This particular Safeway lies within the boundaries of his district, and Wiener says his constituents complain the recycling centers draw too many unruly patrons, who are often homeless.

“There is problem behavior around the center in terms of camping and harassing behavior, defecation, urination in a much more concentrated way,” he said.

This animation shows the areas around San Francisco where recycling centers remain, which are often overburdened with customers as other centers close. The red zones indicate areas where supermarkets are mandated by state law to host recycling centers, but have chosen to pay fees instead.

But others say the not-in-my-backyard evictions only serve to create a ripple effect. The catalyst is a story we’ve reported on before: As well-heeled Golden Gate Park neighbors complained of homeless recycling patrons and waged a successful campaign to shutter the Haight Ashbury Recycling Center two years ago, the clientele adjusted by flocking to the Church and Market recycling center. New numbers illustrate this outcome.

Susan Collins is the president of the Container Recycling Institute, a nonprofit that conducts analysis on recycling data. On average nationwide, Collins said, one recycling center serves about 2,000 people.

But since 2012 the number of recycling centers in San Francisco has been reduced from 21 to 7, causing Church and Market’s service population to boom closer to 40,000, a difference that has more to do with the closures than the density of the area. Data from CalRecycle shows almost half of the city’s populace lacks a recycling center within close proximity, forcing patrons to overwhelm the few remaining centers.

“This makes it a chicken and egg process,” Collins told us. “For people to have the perception that the site is attracting so many people, they have to realize it’s because there are so few sites to begin with.”

Late last month, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano wrote to Safeway Chief Executive Officer Robert L. Edwards, urging the grocery chain to reverse its decision to evict San Francisco Community Recyclers from the Church and Market Safeway.

“Safeway has such a long history of supporting sustainability efforts,” Ammiano wrote, “and I truly believe that it can do so again.” Safeway, however, has other concerns.

“As curbside recycling has increased in San Francisco and around the state,” Safeway Director of Public Affairs Keith Turner wrote to Ammiano, “Safeway’s focus on recycling has evolved as well.”

Safeway is now also flouting local and state laws to throw recyclers off its back. CalRecycle, the state’s recycling agency, performed an inspection in April of the Diamond Heights Safeway. It found that the grocer failed to accept recyclables and offer state guaranteed redemption, despite signing an affidavit with CalRecycle pledging to do just that. CalRecycle cited that location and two other San Francisco Safeways for noncompliance with the bottle bill.

And that’s just the violations CalRecycle has documented so far. Ed Dunn, owner and operator of San Francisco Community Recyclers, has initiated his own investigation into Safeway statewide, filing complaints with CalRecycle alleging that as many as 75 Safeway stores aren’t following the mandates of their affidavits and offering redemption for recyclables.

On the other side of the fence, Safeway and other recycling-center critics (such as Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius) are essentially saying, who cares? Don’t we all just use blue bins nowadays?

The short answer: Nope.



“Why do we need recycling centers if we have curbside recycling?” Sup. Eric Mar asked the deputy director of recycling at CalRecycle, point blank.

Jose Ortiz responded in less than a beat. “While some communities think curbside operations ensure the state’s goals of collecting [recyclables], the reality is that 90 percent of recycling volume is collected through recycling centers, not curbside programs,” he said from the podium.

That number came as a shock to many at the Board of Supervisors Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee June 19, including Sups. Mar, David Campos, and Norman Yee. Only 8 percent of recycling statewide comes through blue bins, CalRecyle confirmed to the Guardian.

Nor is that limited to California: Data from the Container Recycling Institute shows that the 10 states with recycling redemption laws produce such a high rate of return that they account for 46 percent of the nation’s recycling. And since California Redemption Value recycling is pre-sorted, experts note, the bottles are often recycled whole (as opposed to broken) which can be used for higher-grade recycling purposes.

So for the city with a mandated goal of zero waste by 2020, the case for keeping recycling centers open is an environmental one. It’s also fiscal.

San Franciscans make $18 million a year selling back recyclables, Ortiz said, most of which went directly into the pockets of recyclers. Those scavengers at the Fourth of July festivities may have only collected five cents per can, but that’s enough to buoy the income of many poor San Franciscans.

At the recycling hearing, David Mangan approached the podium to speak. His red hat was clean and his grey sweatshirt was ironed, but his face was worn with worry-lines and creases.

“I can’t walk more than about eight blocks at a time, and I’m unemployable because of my disabilities,” he told the committee. Recycling centers are a lifeline, he added. “I need this job, I’m on a limited income. I need the help they offer. I need them to stay open, please.”

Critics say some poor and homeless depend on a black market of recycling truck drivers who trade drugs for cans and bottles, then turn to recycling centers to make a profit. But those at the hearing said the extinction of recycling centers actually helps the mobile, black market recycling fleets bloom, as motorists have an easier time shuttling recyclables across the city.

So recyclers are increasingly forced to rely on these so-called “mosquito fleets” for far-flung trips to cash in their bottles.



Meanwhile, recycling center evictions are becoming a source of anxiety within the small business community.

State law establishes a half-mile radius called a “convenience zone” around any supermarket that annually makes more than $2 million. The supermarket is mandated to provide recycling on-site, accept recyclables in-store, or opt to pay a $100 a day fee.

With the eviction of SFCR from Church and Market, Safeway may opt to pay the fee. But that gap would leave surrounding businesses inside that convenience zone with the same options: accept recyclables in-store or pay $36,000 a year.

Miriam Zouzounis of the Arab-American Grocer Association said those options are daunting for liquor stores and mom-and-pop grocers.

“We just don’t have the space for [recycling],” she said at the hearing. If SFCR were to close, the total of small businesses shouldering the burden of state recycling fees would jump from 100 to more than 360, said Regina Dick-Endrizzi, director of the city’s Office of Small Business.

All told, San Francisco small businesses would be made to send $12.96 million in annual fees to California coffers because a few supermarkets didn’t want to handle recyclables. Mar is now calling upon all involved to step up and solve this glaring problem.



This week the Board of Supervisors is tentatively set to vote on a moratorium of recycling center evictions, introduced by Mar on June 24. The pause would give Mar time to form a work group with those involved: Department of the Environment, Department of Public Works, CalRecycle, local supermarkets, grocers, the Coalition on Homelessness, and others to come together to form a compromise solution.

Department of the Environment proposed a mobile recycling center, which Wiener called an equitable solution that would help distribute recycling responsibility evenly across the city. While that agency did not provide a timeline on the creation of a mobile recycling center before our deadline, it’s been in the works since 2012, when then-District 5 Sup. Christina Olague said it was the answer to the Haight Ashbury Recycling Center’s closure.

It’s been a long wait for a solution. And in the meantime, many more stand to lose.

The anti-sunshine gang intensifies its attacks on the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force in City Hall


By Bruce B. Brugmann   (with special sunshine vendetta chronology by Richard Knee) 

The Guardian story in the current issue demonstrates in 96 point tempo bold how important the glare of sunshine and publicity is in City Hall in keeping the public’s business public. Yet, the anti-sunshine gang in City Hall is intensifying  its savage attack on the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force.

The Sunshine Ordinance established the Sunshine Task Force to serve as the people’s court for hearing citizen complaints on public access, thus giving  citizens a way to get secret records, open secret meetings, and hold government officials accountable. It empowers citizens to be watchdogs on issues they care about.  It is the first and best ordinance of its kind in the country, if not in the world, and its effectiveness is shown by the fact that the anti-sunshine gang regularly tries  to bounce strong members and gut the task force.

Terry Francke, then the executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition and author of the ordinance, and I as a founder anticipated this problem in trhe early 1990s and put a mandate  into the original ordinance for the task force to have representatives from the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (a journalist and media attorney) and the San Francisco League of Women Voters, two organizations with experience and tradition with open government issues. Later, the mandate included a representative from New America Media, to insure a member of color for the task force.

 I served for 10 years on the task force and then Mayor Willie Brown made the point about City Hall interference by targeting me for extinction.  He tried several times  to kick me off the task force.  I refused to budge, on the principle that neither the mayor nor any other city official should be able to arbitrarily kick off a member of the task force for doing his/her job. When Willie left office, I left the task force when my term was up  and the principle was intact.

Today, as Richard Knee writes in his timeline and chronology below, the principle is once again under city hall attack. Knee replaced me as the journalist representative  of SPJ and has served under fire  for a record 12 years. He writes that the latest attack is retaliation for a unanimous finding by the task force in September 2011 when Board President David Chiu and Supervisors Scott Wiener, Malia Cohen, and Eric Mar violated  local and state open meeting laws by ramming through the monstrous Park Merced redevelopment contract with 14 pages of amendments that Chiu slipped in “literally minutes” before the committee vote.

This was a historic task force vote in the public interest, and a historic vote for open government and for all the good causes. But instead it prompted a smear- dilute-and- ouster campaign by the Board of Supervisors, with timely assists from the city attorney’s office.  The ugly play by play follows. The good news is  that the sunshine forces inside and outside city hall are fighting back, hard and fast, and with a keen eye on all upcoming elections.   Stay tuned. On guard. :

 Special  chronology and timeline detailing the anti-sunshine gang attack on  the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force. By Richard Knee)

1. In April 2011, the Task Force voted to change its bylaws to declare that approval of substantive motions required “yes” votes from a simple majority of members present rather than a simple majority of all members, as long as a quorum was present. The quorum threshold remained at six. The bylaws change went against the advice of the city attorney’s office, which pointed to city Charter Sec. 4.104. Suzanne Cauthen and I cast dissenting votes on the bylaw change. David Snyder was absent from that meeting but made it clear that, reluctantly, he could find no reason to disagree with the city attorney’s opinion.

2. In September 2011, the Task Force voted, 8-0, to find that Board of Supervisors President David Chiu and Supervisors Eric Mar, Scott Wiener and Malia Cohen had violated the Sunshine Ordinance and the state’s open-meeting law (Brown Act). Mar, Wiener and Cohen served on the board’s Land Use and Economic Development Committee, which voted to recommend approval of a Parkmerced redevelopment contract. Literally minutes before the committee voted, Chiu introduced 14 pages of amendments to the contract. The deputy city attorney at the meeting opined that the amendments did not substantially alter the contract and therefore the description of the item on the meeting agenda was still apt and the committee could act on it. The full board approved the contract the same day.

Wiener tried to intimidate the Task Force from hearing the case. His legislative aide Gillian Gillette (now the mayor’s director of transportation policy) told us we had no business telling the board how to vote and that in taking up the matter, we would be overstepping our authority. Her tone of voice, facial expression and body language were clearly confrontational. We pushed back. Bruce Wolfe told her it was inappropriate to prejudge the Task Force’s vote before the hearing had begun. I told her that we were not interested in the LUED Committee’s or the board’s substantive vote on the contract, but we were concerned about the procedural aspect. A complaint alleging sunshine violations had been brought before us and we were duty-bound to hear it. I pointedly suggested she review the ordinance, especially Sec. 67.30, which defines the Task Force’s, duties, powers and composition. She skulked back to her seat, seething.

Chiu’s legislative aide Judson True told us that Chiu’s office had made a mad scramble to get the amendments printed and properly distributed to allow enough time for review by the supervisors and members of the public before the committee’s vote. He and Gillette, citing the city attorney’s opinion, reiterated that the committee and the board had followed proper procedure.

We were incredulous toward their claims that (a) 14 pages of amendments did not substantially alter the contract and (b) there was sufficient time to review the amendments before the committee’s vote. We consensed that there was no reason the committee could not have delayed its vote in order to allow adequate review time.

3. Wiener surreptitiously asked the Budget and Legislative Analyst in late 2011 to survey every city department on how much sunshine compliance was costing it. When we learned about it, Task Force Chair Hope Johnson sent a strongly worded letter objecting to the attempt at secrecy and to the form that the survey took; we felt many of the questions were vague or vacuous.

4. In May 2012, the Rules Committee (Jane Kim, Mark Farrell, David Campos) interviewed Task Force applicants. Committee members pointedly asked incumbents Suzanne Manneh (New America Media’s nominee), Allyson Washburn (League of Women Voters’ nominee), Hanley Chan, Jay Costa and Bruce Wolfe if it wouldn’t have been wise to follow the city attorney’s advice in order to avoid violating the Charter. They responded that while they deeply appreciated having a deputy city attorney at Task Force meetings and certainly gave due weight to the DCA’s counsel, such advice did not have the force of law, they had a right to disagree with it and they believed the bylaw change they had enacted in April 2011 did not violate the Charter.

The Rules Committee voted unanimously to recommend the appointments of newcomers Kitt Grant, David Sims, Chris Hyland and Louise Fischer, and returnee David Pilpel. Campos and Kim voted to recommend Wolfe’s reappointment; Farrell dissented.

Then, citing concerns about lack of “diversity,” Farrell and Kim said the Society of Professional Journalists, NAM and the LWV should have submitted multiple nominations for each of their designated seats. They pointed to language in ordinance Sec. 67.30(a) stipulating that the respective members “shall be appointed from … names” – and they emphasized the plural, “names” – “submitted by” the organizations. And the committee voted unanimously to continue those four appointments to the call of the chair.

It is important to note that this was the first time ever that the committee had made a multiple-nominations demand. Previously, the committee and the board had invariably accepted the single nominations from the three organizations.

The “diversity” argument was a smokescreen. They had already voted to bounce Chan, who is Chinese-American, and Manneh is a Palestinian-American fluent in Arabic and Spanish.

The truth was, they didn’t like the nominees. SPJ had nominated attorney Ben Rosenfeld and Westside Observer editor Doug Comstock. Both as a Task Force member and as a political consultant, Comstock had been a thorn in lots of local politicians’ and bureaucrats’ sides. And Manneh and Washburn had participated in the Task Force’s unanimous finding of violation against Chiu, Wiener, Mar and Cohen.

Upshot: By continuing those appointments, the committee and the board ensured that Manneh, Washburn and I would remain as “holdovers” and the SPJ-nominated attorney’s seat would stay vacant (Snyder had formally resigned). Manneh, citing an increased professional and academic workload, stepped aside a few months later, meaning two of the 11 seats were vacant, and it now took only four absences instead of five to kill a quorum.

5. At the subsequent meeting of the full board, after Campos moved to reappoint Wolfe, Wiener moved to replace his name with that of Todd David. In making his motion, Wiener delivered a scorching, mendacious attack on what was then the current Task Force. Details of the tirade are available on request. The board voted, 6-5, in favor of Wiener’s motion (ayes: Wiener, Chiu, Farrell, Cohen, Carmen Chu and Sean Elsbernd; noes: Campos, Kim, Mar, John Avalos and Christina Olague). The board then voted unanimously to appoint Grant, Sims, Hyland, Fischer, Pilpel and David.

6. Ordinance Sec. 67.30(a) stipulates that the Task Force shall at all times have at least one member with a physical disability. Wolfe was the only applicant in 2012 to meet that criterion. So when the board ousted him, the Task Force no longer had a physically disabled member. The city attorney advised the new Task Force that to take any actions before a new physically disabled member was appointed could land land the Task Force and its individual members in serious legal trouble. So the Task Force was sidelined for five months, finally resuming business in November 2012 following the appointment of Bruce Oka — who, by the way, is solidly pro-sunshine.

            7. After interviewing 12 of the 13 task force applicants on May 15, 2014, Rules Committee members Norman Yee and Katy Tang complained about a lack of racial/ethnic diversity among the candidates, but that didn’t stop them from voting to recommend the reappointments of members David, Fischer and Pilpel, all Anglos (Campos was absent). Nor were they deterred by the fact that David has missed six task force meetings since March 2013, including those of last January, February and April. They continued consideration of additional appointments to a future meeting, possibly June 5.

At the board meeting on May 20, Wiener repeated his slander of the 2012-14 task force and heaped praise on David, Fischer and Pilpel without offering a shred of corroborating evidence. The board voted to confirm their reappointments, again ignoring David’s porous attendance record.

8. To be seen: whether Rules and/or the board will continue insisting on multiple nominations, and whether it will move forward on other possible appointments. Including Grant’s resignation and the possibility of holdovers, there is a risk that as few as eight of the 11 seats will be filled, meaning three absences would kill a quorum. Sims is moving to Los Angeles but remaining as a holdover for the moment. If he resigns, that could pull the number of fill seats down to seven, meaning two absences would kill a quorum.

The foregoing commentary is strictly personal and not intended to reflect the views of any other individual or organization.

Respectfully submitted,

Richard Knee

Member (since July 2002) and past chairman of the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force

Member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter, Freedom of Information Committee

San Francisco-based freelance journalist

(The Bruce blog is written and edited by Bruce B. Brugmann, editor at large of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. He is the former editor and co-founder and co-publisher of the Guardian with his wife Jean Dibble, 1966-2012). In San Francisco, the citizens are generally safe, except when the mayor is in his office and the board of supervisors is in session. You can quote me.  B3

Fire displaces Olague


A fire broke out on Christmas night at the home of Christina Olague, a former San Francisco supervisor, and fatally injured her housemate and longtime friend, Randy David Sapp.

Now, Olague’s friends and supporters are holding an online fundraiser ( to help her get back on her feet in the wake of the tragic event. A benefit has also been planned for Jan. 12 at El Rio, 3158 Mission Street.

Olague told us she has been staying with friends since the fire, and doesn’t know where she will wind up living in the long run. She said she’d wanted to be respectful of her housemates’ privacy before making any public statements about what happened, and didn’t reach out to many people initially because she was in a state of shock.

Former supervisor displaced after Christmas Day fire

A fire broke out on Christmas night at the home of Christina Olague, a former San Francisco supervisor, and fatally injured her housemate and longtime friend, Randy David Sapp.

Now, Olague’s friends and supporters are holding an online fundraiser to help her get back on her feet in the wake of the tragic event. A benefit has also been planned for Jan. 12 at El Rio.

Olague said she has been staying with friends since the fire, and doesn’t know where she will wind up living in the long run. She said she’d wanted to be respectful of her housemates’ privacy before making any public statements about what happened, and didn’t reach out to many people initially because she was in a state of shock.

She told the Bay Guardian she had lived in the Victorian, located on Baker Street, for more than four years. Her housemates included Sapp, his partner, Patrick Ferry, and Olague’s sister.  She said she’d been friends with Sapp and Ferry for more than 15 years.

When the fire started on the evening of Dec. 25, Olague said, she was downstairs talking to a friend on the phone, and Sapp and Ferry were upstairs. “All of a sudden the commotion started,” she remembered. It was classified as a 3-alarm fire, and both were rushed to the hospital with serious burn injuries. Olague and her sister were unharmed. Sapp died from his injuries the following day.

The cause of the fire remains unknown, Olague said.

Sapp and Ferry were co-owners of a Cole Valley shop, The Sword and Rose, which sells incense, oils, and books. Olague said Sapp was also a musician, and described him as “a kind, understanding human being.” She said, “He gave so much to so many people.”

Ferry is still suffering from burn injuries, but is expected to recover fully.

Gabriel Haaland, a longtime activist and labor organizer, created an online fundraising website to help Olague upon hearing the news. He’d texted her randomly, he said, only to learn that “she’d lost her home and her best friend died. I was just blown away.”

The fundraising page, created on, has raised nearly $4,000 so far from 52 donors.

“After a long discussion, she agreed to let people know this happened, and at my urging accepted that she needs financial assistance as well with getting a new apartment and getting back on her feet again,” Haaland wrote in a statement on the fundraising website.

In addition, Haaland said a fundraiser is being coordinated by Sups. David Campos, Jane Kim and Eric Mar. It will be a Salsa Sunday at El Rio and is scheduled to be held from 3 to 8 p.m. on Jan. 12.

Look for a quick decision on D4 appointment


A Democratic Party resolution calling on Ed Lee to appoint a mother to the Board of Supervisors may have driven the slow-moving mayor to fill the seat of departing Sup. Carmen Chu quickly, perhaps as soon as today (Feb. 21), City Hall sources are saying.

Lee appointed Chu to fill the post of Assessor-Recorder vacated when Phil Ting moved to the state Assembly. But he’s been dragging his feet on naming Chu’s replacement.

Alix Rosenthal, a member of the Democratic County Central Committee, has put a resolution on the agenda for the group’s Feb. 27 meeting urging the mayor to name a woman with a family. Her argument:

Political office is often beyond the reach of mothers, because balancing a political life with family and work is often an insurmountable challenge.  Appointing a mother to fill the District 4 seat will demonstrate the Mayor’s commitment to stemming the tide of families leaving San Francisco, and it may serve to inspire women with children to be politically engaged, and to run for office themselves in the future.

That, of course, could put the mayor’s allies on the DCCC in a tough situation. Will they vote to urge the mayor to do something he doesn’t want to — or will they vote against, you know, motherhood?

Of course, if the mayor makes an appointment before Feb. 27, the resolution becomes moot.

Rosenthal and some other politically active women are supporting Suzy Loftus, a member of the Police Commission and a mom. But D4 is more than half Asian, and has always had an Asian supervisor, so it’s unlikely the mayor would appoint a non-Asian to the job.

One obvious candidate: Katy Tang, who is now Chu’s legislative aide.

The mayor will want someone he can count on as loyal — and who he’s pretty sure can win an election. His last two appointees to elective office, Christina Olague and Rodrigo Santos, were both defeated the first time they faced the voters.

But at this point, Lee isn’t saying anything. Look for an announcement soon.




White men behaving (very) badly


Could it be — the worst year ever?

I keep asking. And every time the Offies come around, I find myself boggled yet again. Our awards for the very worst — the dumbest, the most tasteless, the most truly offensive acts of the year past — keep sinking lower and lower.

But what can we do? There are still Republicans, and this year a lot of them ran for high office, and every single one made a fool of himself. There are still politicians who think you can run for San Francisco supervisor even if you live in Walnut Creek, and elected leaders who find the courage deep in themselves to prevent a bunch of old men from walking around with their sagging asses and limp dicks out.

There are still entertainers who punch psychics, and gun nuts who blame mass murder on TV sex, and … well, a whole lot of people who have made this a banner year for the Offies.



The audience at a Republican presidential primary debate booed a gay solider who called in from Iraq with a question about don’t ask, don’t tell.



Rush Limbaugh attacked law student Sandra Fluke, calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute” because she testified that health-care plans should cover contraceptives.



Mitt Romney said he really liked Michigan because the trees were all the right height.



Herman Cain proclaimed that for every woman who claimed he sexually harassed her, there were a thousand others who didn’t.



An American Airlines pilot kicked a woman off a flight for wearing a shirt that said “if I wanted the government in my womb I’d fuck a senator.”



Rick Perry proclaimed in a debate that he was going to do away with three agencies of the federal government, but after listing Commerce and Education, he couldn’t remember what the third one was, identifying it only as “oops.”



Rick Santorum said that he’d listened to John F. Kennedy’s speech on the separation of church and state and it made him want to throw up.



Donald Trump, mistakenly believing Romney won the popular vote but lost the election, called the election “a sham and travesty” and called for “revolution.”



Romney insulted the British by saying the nation didn’t appear ready to host the Olympics.



More than 50 thousand people signed a White House petition asking for permission for Texas to secede.



On the same day that a gunman opened fire at a showing of the Dark Knight movie in Colorado, the National Rifle Association’s magazine sent out a tweet that read: “Good morning, shooters! Happy Friday.”

A Congressman from Texas, Louie Gohmert, argued that the Dark Knight shootings happened because of “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs.”

Mike Huckabee blamed the massacre in Newtown, CT on atheism. “We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools,” Huckabee said on Fox News. “Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”

Timothy Bordnow at Tea Party nation said the shooting was caused by too much sexual stimulation in the media . “There is a reason why young people commit these sorts of crimes, and sex plays no small part. Their passions are eternally inflamed, and they wander the Earth with no outlet for their overstimulated glands.”

Megan McArdle, the Daily Beast writer, urged the victims of mass shootings to gang-rush the shooter so he wouldn’t kill as many people.

The head of the National Rifle Association said the only way to stop mass murders of school children is to post armed guards in every school.



Sup. Scott Wiener promoted a ban on public nudity in San Francisco.



Michael Breyer, who has never been elected to anything, spent roughly $1 million trying to win a state Assembly seat as the candidate of “traditional San Francisco values,” and lost badly.



Confetti thrown in the Giants parade turned out to be lightly shredded internal police documents that included home addresses and social security numbers of officers.



Mayor Ed Lee testified under oath that he’d never discussed the Ross Mirkarimi case with members of the board of Supervisors, although friends of Sup. Christina Olague said she’d been open about her talks with the mayor on the topic.



A San Francisco bicyclist who was allegedly trying to beat a speed record crashed into and killed a 71-year-old man in the Castro.



Political consultant Enrique Pearce oversaw perhaps the worst district election campaign in history, helping Olague become the first incumbent ever to lose in ranked-choice voting in SF.



Union official Leon Chow dropped his challenge to Sup. John Avalos when the SF Appeal revealed that he didn’t live in District 11, or even in San Francisco.




1. Divine providence rape (Rick Santorum): “The right approach is to accept this horribly created .. gift of life, accept what God is giving to you.”

2. Honest Rape (Ron Paul): “If it was an honest rape, that individual should go immediately to the emergency room.”

3. Forcible Rape (Paul Ryan): Federal law should prevent abortion except in the case of “forcible rape.”

4. Emergency Rape (Linda McMahon): “It was really an issue about a Catholic Church being forced to issue those pills if a person came in with an emergency rape.”

5. Legitimate Rape: (Todd Akin): “If it was a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”



After a Justin Bieber concert, Lindsay Lohan punched a psychic in the face at a New York nightclub, then threw her personal assistant out of the car.



Romney’s campaign manager said that his candidate would change his right-wing positions for the fall campaign: “It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”



Newt Gingrich proposed sending 13,000 Americans to the Moon and creating a new state there.



After Gabby Douglas became the first black woman to win the Olympic gold medal in all-around gymnastics, the news media reported on problems with her hair.



Justice Antonin Scalia, in defending his argument that sodomy is legally equivalent to murder, told law students at Princeton that the Constitution is not a living document, it’s “dead, dead, dead, dead.”



Kim Kardashian fell 90 places, to 98, on AskMen Magazine’s list of the worlds 100 most desirable women.



Herman Cain said his life’s philosophy came from a Pokemon song.



Romney said he’s “not concerned about the very poor.”



Romney said he didn’t remember beating up a gay student at his prep school and cutting off his long hair.



A full 78 percent of Americans thought Ryan Seacrest was doing a good job broadcasting from the Olympics, although most of them couldn’t figure out what he was actually doing.



Karl Rove on election night kept insisting the Romney still had a chance to win.



David Petraus resigned as CIA director after an affair with a woman who was threatening another woman who might have had a thing for him.



A petition to allow every American to punch Grover Norquist in the dick was removed from the White House website.



One-time software mogul John McAfee fled Belize claiming the cops would persecute him after he was sought for questioning in the shooting death of his neighbor — using a body double, faking a heart attack, pretending he was crazy, and winding up in Miami.



Ann Romney was deeply depressed that her husband didn’t win the election, telling friends she though it was their fate to move into the White House.



Marco Rubio, when asked about the age of the Earth, said “I’m not a scientist, man.”



After Dominique Strauss-Kahn was held overnight in Lille to be questioned about possible connections between a prostitution ring and orgies he attended in Paris and Washington, his lawyer said: “I challenge you to distinguish a naked prostitute from any other woman.”



Vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan lied about his time in the marathon.



Surprise guest speaker Clint Eastwood addressed GOP convention delegates for 12 minutes, during which he carried on an imagined dialogue with an empty chair he identified as President Obama.



Santorum told a gathering of conservatives in Washington, “We will never have the elite, smart people on our side.”

The next board president


EDITORIAL The president of the Board of Supervisors does more than bang the gavel at meetings, tell people to put their clothes back on, and run for higher office. It’s a powerful position largely because the president makes appointments — to the Planning Commission, the Police Commission — and unilaterally decides who serves on which board committees.

Two years ago, Sup. David Chiu, who won the top post in 2009 with progressive support, wanted re-election, and the left wasn’t siding with him anymore. So he cut a deal with the conservative members, appointing the right-wing of the board to plum committee posts — and making life harder for progressives who wanted to pass Legislation or prevent bad developments from happening.

He clearly likes the job and would love to hold it for a third term. But that won’t be easy — Sup. Scott Wiener, who is to the right of Chiu on many issues, is also interested, as is Sup. Jane Kim, who has always been close to Chiu, and Sup. David Campos, who is one of the leading progressives. None of the candidates can count to six right now, so somebody’s going to have to back down or make a deal.

And before that happens, the candidates ought to tell us something about what they plan to do.

Chiu’s 2011 committee appointments were a bit of a shocker, although, in retrospect, the horse trading shouldn’t have surprised anyone. In fact, after he made his decisions, and put Carmen Chu, one of the most conservative supervisors, in charge of the Budget and Finance Committee and put the conservative Scott Wiener and the moderate Malia Cohen on Land Use and Economic Development, and put conservative Sean Elsbernd in charge of two committees, he told us that he felt he had no choice. If the progressives had voted for him, he wouldn’t have had to reward the conservatives.

This time around, with two new supervisors taking office (a more centrist Norman Yee replacing Elsbernd and a more moderate London Breed replacing Christina Olague) everything is up in the air. The progressives still have a solid three votes, and can sometimes count on Jane Kim and Chiu. That’s not enough to elect a president, but it’s coming pretty close.

Based on experience, skills, and temperament, our first choice for board president is Campos, who would be fair to everyone, approachable, and a voice for open government and community participation. But if Campos can’t get six votes, he and his progressive colleagues should ask anyone who want their support to be open about what he or she plans to do.

Who will be on the budget committee? Rules? Land Use? Where will he or she look for candidates for commissions? We know it would look unsightly if, say, Chiu named in advance his preferences for key committees — and then those people voted for him. But the reality is, those discussions are happening anyway, those deals being cut — and it’s happening behind closed doors, where the public (and the other supervisors) can’t watch.

Let’s bring all of the discussions into the sunshine, and have an open debate about the next board president.


More recycling fallout


The unintended consequences of closing the Haight Ashbury’s only recycling center are about to ripple through small businesses in the neighborhood. As the recycling center’s final days loom, merchants are gearing up to face new fees — as much as $100 a day.

But they may get a reprieve sooner than they think.

State law requires stores that sell beverages in cans and bottles to take them back for recycling — unless there’s a functioning recycling center within a half-mile radius.

With the Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council recycling center gone, Whole Foods supermarket, the largest purveyor of beverages on Haight Street, will be faced with a decision — provide bottle and can buy-back services, or pay a $100 a day fee instead. If Whole Foods decides to pay the fee and not provide recycling in the area, small businesses in the Haight will be forced to make the same choice — only they won’t be able to afford the $36,500 a year fee.

San Francisco’s Department of the Environment doesn’t enforce those fees, but does provide oversight on recycling in San Francisco. Guillermo Rodriguez, spokesperson for the department, said that his office is in the planning stages of creating a mobile recycling center, which could roll out in early 2013.

“Certainly it’s not in our interest to have those businesses pack up and move out,” Rodriguez said. The mobile recycling center gives the neighborhood a new option.

If a recycling center serves the Haight neighborhood, the small businesses in the area could avoid paying the steep fees, and from having to go through the trouble of seeking exemption.

“Its similar to food trucks,” Rodriguez said. “After they finish for the day, they leave. But they’d set up at a usual time in a usual spot.”

San Francisco Supervisor Christina Olague, whose district includes the Haight Ashbury, said she was working on a way for HANC to turn into a mobile recycling center. Though she said that those talks had since stalled, Rodriguez said that if HANC wanted to be a partner in the new mobile center, the Department of the Environment would be open to it.

Why does the state of California expect small businesses to provide a can and bottle buy-back program on site, or face fees in the first place?

Rodriguez explained that the laws weren’t necessarily made with San Francisco in mind.

“When the rules were drafted, San Francisco was the exception, as we are for a lot of things,” Rodriguez told us. “The law was written for the suburbs, where small businesses generally have parking lots where recycling can easily be handled.”

The San Francisco Recreation and Parks department has long pushed for the Haight recycling center’s ouster. Sarah Ballard, spokesperson for the department, said the recycling fees and regulations that will hit local businesses aren’t Rec-Park’s problem.

“HANC has been on a month to month lease for over a decade,” she said. “The Parks Department have never sought to stop them from seeking non-park property to continue to run their business.”

Basically, HANC can operate wherever it wants to — just not in Golden Gate Park. And there aren’t a whole lot of other low-cost open spaces where the center can set up shop.

Small businesses we’ve talked to say they don’t have the space, staff, or ability to handle buying back recyclables. Fred Kazzouh, owner of “Fred’s New Lite Supermarket” on Haight and Masonic streets, doubted he’d get a reprieve from the fee.

“I mean if we all apply for an exemption, there’ll be half a mile radius without a recycling center,” Kazzouh said. “I saw recycling centers on Safeway on Webster (street) and I don’t see why Whole Foods can’t do it.”

Kazzouh’s store has been in the Haight neighborhood since 1995. The Haight has long been known as a place that draws alternative people, he said. And that’s the way he likes it.

“I don’t like to be in the clean neighborhood with the white picket fence and suits and ties,” Kazzouh said. “That’s not a real life. Its a very fake life.”

Even some of the ritzier stores along Haight St. aren’t bothered by the homeless population there. Firras Zawaideh, owner of Liquid Experience on Haight, sells high end (expensive) alcohol that few homeless people can afford.

He said he thinks only the transplants and new folks to San Francisco are bothered by them.

“I’m a native San Franciscan, from the Sunset [district],” Zawaideh said. “We’re the ones who don’t hate the homeless. Its all the transplants from New York and the midwest who complain about it.”

Zawaideh already handles bottle and can buy-back through his store, though he said that no one has ever taken advantage of it. But with HANC closing, he dreads the idea of people bringing cans and bottles en masse to his store.

“Say on a busy Friday night someone comes in with a cart full of recyclables,” he said. “Then what? I have to help them out too?”

The mobile recycling center would exempt Zawaideh of that responsibility. But if neighbors of HANC complained about the homeless population, would the same customers cause a problem for the mobile center as well?

Rodriguez said he wouldn’t speculate on if the homeless population that now uses the Haight recycling center would follow the food trucks around as well.

“I think we’ll have to take it as it comes,” Rodriguez said. Though he wanted this to be clear: “Not everyone that participates, frankly, is a homeless person.”

Fred Kazzouh was dubious that the homeless population would go away with HANC’s closure. “If HANC goes away, the homeless won’t go with them,” Kazzouh said. “The homeless will just have less people fighting for them.”



So much for the holiday spirit.

In a win for the NIMBY neighbors of the Haight neighborhood, the Haight Ashbury Recycling Center was gifted with its final eviction notice, ordering it out on the street by the day this story goes to print, Dec. 5.

But those who hoped this eviction would rid the neighborhood of poor people recycling bottles and cans may be disappointed — and so might local small businesses that could face some unintended consequences of the move.

The site, run by the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council (HANC), houses a community garden, native plant nursery, and recycling center. HANC battled eviction for nearly a decade as newer neighborhood associations complained to the city, saying the center was too noisy and attracted too many homeless people.

The recycling center is located at the edge of Golden Gate Park behind Kezar stadium, and has been crushing cans and busting bottles since 1974.

The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department issued several eviction notices to HANC over the years, and the process seemed to drag on, but the eviction notice from the Sheriff’s Department on Nov. 28 is likely the last nail in the coffin.

“We’ve exhausted our legal options,” Ed Dunn, HANC’s director, told us.

Even Sup. Christina Olague, who has championed HANC as one of their few supporters on the current Board of Supervisors, said that the recycling center was done, although representatives from Sup. Eric Mar’s office told us they were still hopeful the eviction could be delayed long enough to relocate HANC somewhere else.

Olague told us that she’d talked to Mayor Ed Lee about the issue many times, and they discussed many options. But with the finality of the eviction notice, she said, “I just don’t know what we can do.”



The recycling center’s employees will lose their jobs just at the start of the winter holiday season. “The notion that they’d put people out of work before Christmas was horrendous,” Dunn said.

What will happen to HANC’s 10 employees is up in the air. “I have no idea what I’ll do,” HANC employee Brian McMahon told us, lowering his orange protective headphones to talk. He’s worked there since 1989, and his last job was at a Goodwill store. “The quote under my high school yearbook picture says ‘take it as it comes,’ and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Susan Fahey, the sheriff’s media relations officer, declined to discuss the details of how the officers would handle the eviction, saying only that “we plan accordingly.”

A staff report prepared for the Recreation and Park Commission’s Nov. 20 meeting estimated that just 0.1 percent of San Francisco’s recycling tonnage is processed at HANC, according to a report by citizen journalist Adrian Rodriguez. The agenda also said that the Department of Environment was confident that recyclers would use other nearby sites instead.

But the customers at HANC that we talked to didn’t agree.

“I think it’s necessary they have the [recycling center] here,” HANC customer Eugene Wong told us. Wong lives in the Haight, and hauls in his recyclables every six months or so for some extra pocket money. As Wong and his friend Bob Boston spoke, one of their Haight Ashbury neighbors, Rory O’Connor, surprised them as he walked up.

“Just droppin’ off my beer cans, man,” O’Connor said. Asked if he would make his way out to the Bayview recycling center when HANC closed, he said, “You’ll spend more on gas than you would even get back.”

There were quite a few neighborhood locals there that day, and more people drove into the recycling center than there were people pushing shopping carts. But it’s the folks with the shopping carts that had HANC’s opponents up in arms.

And though some — like Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius, a regular critic of HANC — are celebrating HANC’s demise, the unintended consequences should have all small businesses in the Haight Ashbury worried.



State law requires that Californians have easy access to a “convenience zone,” basically somewhere nearby that they can collect the five-cent deposit all consumers pay for cans and bottles. HANC served that purpose for a half mile radius around its location on Frederick, near Stanyan.

“Whole Foods and Andronico’s were serviced by HANC’s existence,” Regina Dick-Endrizzi, the director of San Francisco’s Office of Small Business, told us. With HANC gone, “They will be required to buy back [bottles and cans] from local stores.”

San Francisco’s Department of Environment oversees recycling policy in the city, but did not respond to calls or emails.

The reason that HANC was being pushed out was due to a vocal few, like the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association, complaining that HANC was a magnet to the homeless population looking to sell bottles and cans collected in shopping carts. That group didn’t respond by press time. Now those same poor folks may take their business from Golden Gate Park to the Haight neighborhood itself by recycling at the local Whole Foods, the new legal alternative to HANC.

Sometimes local grocery stores defy the state mandate, and instead choose to pay a state-mandated fee, Dick-Endrizzi said. If Whole Foods chooses not buy back recyclables, small businesses all over the Haight will be required by state law to do it themselves.

Suhail Sabba has owned Parkview Liquors on Stanyan Street, just two blocks from HANC, for nine years. He said that he doesn’t have the employees, storage, or scale “to handle even a portion of HANC’s customers.”

He may not have much of a choice. If small businesses don’t buy back the recyclables, they would face charges of $100 a day under California state law. A year gone without complying would lead to charges up to $36,000, an amount that large-scale businesses often factor into their budgets, but which could bankrupt a small store.

When contacted, Whole Foods representative Adam Smith said that the company was aware of the issue and was still deciding on a course of action.

The company has a 60-day grace period to make a decision that, for good or ill, would ripple through the Haight neighborhood. “I might go out of business,” Sabba said.

Store owners can apply for an exemption, but the process can be as lengthy as a few months and fines could still accrue, Dick-Endrizzi said. The Office of Small Business will soon reach out to the affected store owners, but she encourages them to contact her office directly at 415-554-6134.



The HANC site houses more than the recycling center. It also encompasses a native plant nursery, run for the past decade by caretaker Greg Gaar, who we’ve profiled before (“Reduce, reuse, replace,” 5/30/12). Gaar raises Dune Tansy, Beach Sagewort, Coast Buckwheat and Bush Monkey — all native plants bred from the dunes of old San Francisco, which Golden Gate Park used to be.

Adjacent to the nursery is a community garden with 50 plots serving just more than 100 neighbors. But the odd part is, when the city is done tearing down the recycling center and gardens, it plans to put in, well, another community garden, at taxpayer expense.

The new plan does offer a few tweaks. There will be a small stone Greek-style amphitheater, and removing the recycling center will leave more green space for the site. The new community garden will feature 10 fewer plots. As of now, there is no formal plan to transfer the 100 gardeners from HANC’s community gardens to the new plots once they’ve been built.

Some of HANC’s current gardeners count among the local homeless population, said Soumyaa Behrens, HANC’s social media coordinator. Those few homeless use their plots to grow food.

“You meet people you wouldn’t meet anywhere else,” said Miriam Pinchuck, a writer who will soon lose her and her husband’s garden plot at HANC. “It’s very shortsighted, and it’d deprive us of a chance to meet our neighbors.”

Though Dunn and Gaar are in negotiations with city officials on their gardners’ behalf, at this point it looks like the current gardeners will need to sign up for the new plots, just like everybody else.

Gaar looks like he may be the only employee to work at the new garden site once it replaces the recycling center. He’d have to volunteer, but he said that doesn’t necessarily bother him.

“For me, gardening is a joy,” Gaar said, although he did voice one concern: “I just want the nursery to survive.” With HANC’s eviction, it seems like everyone has something to worry about.

Left-right punch knocks out increased development fees for Muni


A new and unusual coalition of nonprofit, religious, and corporate interests today killed a legislative effort to get more money for Muni through the Transit Impact Development Fee, which was going through its process of being reauthorized every five years and came to the Board of Supervisors today.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency was hoping to get millions of dollars more per year from the fee to help cover the increasing costs of Muni service, so the city last year commissioned a study establishing a nexus between new development projects and their impact on the public transit system as a way to set the fees developers would pay.

Using that study, Sup. Scott Wiener sponsored legislation that increased the cost per square foot of development for some business types – mostly notably hospitals, big retail and entertainment complexes, and Cultural/Institution/Education facilities – and ended the categorical exemption for nonprofit organizations.

Those who could be impacted by the increased fees banded together into an organization calling itself NOTT (Non-profits Opposed to the Transit Tax), a group that included the city’s major health care providers, religious institutions, and influential nonprofits such as Council of Community Housing Organizations and Chinatown Community Development Center.

“We are gravely concerned that elements of the forthcoming Transportation Sustainability Program (TSP), especially elimination of the non-profit fee exemption, have been selectively imbedded in the TIDF update legislation. Elimination of the non-profit exemption has not been considered through a thorough and transparent process and is not good public policy,” SF Chamber of Commerce President Steve Falk wrote in Nov. 27 letter to supervisors on behalf of the organization.

In the face of opposition from both downtown and progressive groups, and hoping to get SFMTA more money for its next budget cycle, Wiener appealed for support to sustainable transportation activists, who had mixed feelings on the legislation for reasons ranging from its exemption of parking garages and development in Mission Bay to its inclusion of organizations serving low-income communities.

So Sup. Sean Elsbernd – who spoke on behalf of Catholic schools and churches – was able to amend the legislation back to the status quo on a 9-2 vote, with only Wiener and Sup. Carmen Chu opposed (Sup. Christina Olague, who co-sponsored the measure with Wiener, even failed to support it in the end).

While that ends this effort for now, it is really only the first round of efforts that are just getting underway to find more funding for Muni, which is underfunded and at capacity on many lines, and implement the TSP when it is unveiled next year.

Supervisors approve nudity ban on close vote


Over the objections of progressive supervisors and under threats of a lawsuit from nudists and civil liberties advocates, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors today voted 6-5 to outlaw public nudity in the city. Supervisors voting against the ban were David Campos, Christina Olague, John Avalos, Eric Mar, and Jane Kim.

Sup. Scott Wiener, who sponsored the measure, cast it as a last resort to deal with what has become daily displays of nudity in the Castro district he represents (and most recently around City Hall as his legislation was being considering in committees), noting that, “Public nudity is part of San Francisco and is appropriate in some circumstances.” His legislation makes exceptions for permitted events such as the Folsom Street Fair and Bay-to-Breakers.

But Wiener said that “public nudity can go too far,” as he says it has over the last two years in the Castro’s Jane Warner Plaza, and that “freedom of expression and acceptance does not mean you can do whatever you want.”

Campos echoed some of the legal concerns that critics of the legislation have raised, noting that, “As a lawyer, I do worry about when you ban specific conduct and then you have exceptions to that.” He also questioned whether Wiener has done enough to try to mediate the increasingly divisive conflict he’s been having with the nudist community and whether this was an appropriate use of scarce police resources.

“I don’t believe we’re at the point of saying this becomes a priority over violent crime,” Campos said, noting that he’s been unable to get more police foot patrols to deal with a recent spate of violent crimes in the Mission, which shares a police station with the Castro.

Avalos said it was absurd to focus city resources on this victimless issue when the city is wrestling with far more serious problems, such as poverty and violence, and he played a clip from the film Catch 22 where a soldier goes naked to a ceremony to highlight that absurdity. “I will refuse to put on this fig leaf, I just can’t do it,” Avalos said.

Mar said he sympathized with Wiener’s concerns, but agreed with Campos that Wiener could have done more to mediate this situation before both sides dug in: “I really don’t think we need citywide legislation, particularly overbroad legislation, to deal with a problem isolated to one neighborhood.”

Wiener seemed stung by the comments and said he could cite example of each supervisor pushing resolutions or ordinances that dealt with similarly trivial issues, comparing it to refusing to deal with a constituent’s pothole complaint until that supervisor fixed Muni and solved the city’s housing problem. But Campos pushed back, calling the comparison ridiculous and saying there was no reason for a citywide ban to deal with such an isolated issue.

Nudists at the hearing reacted angrily to the approval and started to disrobe before President David Chiu ordered deputies to intervene and abruptly recessed the hearing. Now, it will likely be up to the courts to decide whether Wiener’s concerns about weiners can withstand legal scrutiny.

Shit happened



Recology, the city’s garbage monopoly, has a problem: It charges residential customers only for the black cans full of unrecyclable material headed for the landfill — but thanks to city policy and environmental consciousness, there’s less and less traditional trash out there. Ultimately, the company wants to get rid of the big black cans altogether.

So a business model based on offering free recycling and compost doesn’t work any more — and everyone has known for some time that it had to change.

But there was no discussion of rate changes earlier this year; in fact, Recology folks said there were no plans for an immediate rate hike in the works. That’s because the June ballot included a measure that would have created competitive bidding for the city’s garbage contract — and the last thing Recology wanted was the threat of a rate hike to drive voters toward amending the 1932 City Charter provision that gives just one company complete control over the lucrative waste franchise.

Ah, but the June election is long over, and Recology beat back that effort — so the rate hike we all expected is now on the table.

On Sept. 11, Recology informed the city that it intends to apply for a new rate structure — and while the process is long and convoluted, we’ll see the details in a few weeks, and you can expect to start paying more for your service by next summer.

There’s no formal proposal yet — that will come in December. The director of the Department of Public Works has to approve it, and so does a Rate Board made up of the city administration, the controller and the head of the Public Utilities Commission. But both Recology and the city say there will be some significant changes in the way San Franciscans pay to have their refuse removed.

“We can’t focus our financial operations on a black can if we’re trying to get rid of it,” Recology spokesperson Eric Potashner told us.

Douglas Legg, the finance director at the Department of Public Works agrees. “As we’ve been pushing diversion, the blue and green cans have been pretty heavily subsidized.”

But shouldn’t good habits, like recycling, be subsidized? Should people who recycle and compost more be penalized? “That’s the challenge,” Potashner said.

And in the end, it’s going to be more than a shift in which bins cost how much. There’s no doubt that your bills will be rising, perhaps by a significant amount. “I assume it will go up,” Legg said. “There hasn’t been a cost-of-living increase since 2010.”

Which, of course, brings back the competitive bidding point. If others had a chance to make a play for the city contract, might rates be lower? Or might the city get more out of the deal?

Retired Judge Quentin Kopp, who helped spearhead the campaign for competitive bidding, thinks so. “If we had competitive bidding,” he told us, “these rate hikes would be more moderate.”


While most everyone’s attention was focused on electoral politics in late October, Supervisors David Campos and Christina Olague were talking about a different level of political issue, one that’s still a huge taboo: Gay men in professional sports. At an Oct. 30 press conference, the two LGBT supes joined with representatives of The Last Closet, an SF-based campaign that’s trying to get gay professional athletes to come out.

It’s remarkable (or maybe, sadly, it isn’t) that in 2012, not one openly gay man has played in any of the Big Five pro sports (football, basketball, hockey, baseball and soccer). There are, everyone knows, plenty of gay athletes, and the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and various soccer associations all have gay players. Some of them have come out after they’ve retired. But on the field (or on the floor, or on the ice)? No way.

Why does anyone care? Because youth sports are still, even in this town, full of homophobic language and homophobic attitudes, and it’s hard to imagine what young LGBT football or basketball players have to endure. Even one gay player could make a world of difference.

“What I saw with the San Francisco Giants, all of the Latino players, was such a source of pride to Latino boys and girls,” Campos told us. “We can’t feel that in the LGBT community. We know there are gay baseball players, but the LGBT youth don’t have those role models to look up to.”

The Last Closet campaign emerged out of a documentary film project that sought to look at homophobia in pro sports. “It became clear that some members of the sports hierarchy were not going to make themselves available to speak about this taboo subject,” the group’s website notes.

In fact, Fawn Yacker, one of the project directors, told us that nobody in a senior position in any sports organization was willing to talk — and that’s turned the movie into a political campaign. “We want the fans to push the sports leaders to address this,” she said.

In fact, all The Last Closeters want right now is for the commissioners of the major sports leagues to make a statement that homophobia is unacceptable and that the leagues will do everything possible to make sure that out gay players are accepted. Seems like a pretty simply no-brainer — but so far, not one sports official has gone along.

It’s pretty crazy, considering that it’s almost inevitable that a few major sports athletes will come out in the next few years — and the leagues are going to look foolish if they pretend it’s not going to happen. Any bets on which sport is going to be the first? “I don’t know,” Yackey said. “I think it might be hockey.” 

Sorting out a strange election


The way the San Francisco Chronicle pundits put it, Mayor Ed Lee was the clear winner in a grand San Francisco election. “All his measures on the ballot won hands down,” noted Willie Brown, the high-paid lawyer and political operative who also functions as a Chron columnist. “It was a great day for Ed Lee,” proclaimed columnist C.W. Nevius.

Well, not really.

There are a lot of ways to explain and analyze the inconsistent results of one of the most heavily propagandized elections in recent San Francisco history. But no matter how you look at it, the election was at best a wash for the mayor. Indeed, we’d argue that voters rejected the basic premise of the mayor’s political agenda – that tax cuts and favors for big business are the best economic policy – despite record-breaking outside spending selling that agenda and targeting those who stood in its way.

Let’s take a look at the real facts:

• Every single initiative backed by the mayor, the ones he’s getting credit for – from the City College parcel tax to the housing fund to the business tax – was either a compromise with progressives or a measure that originated on the left. There was nothing the mayor pushed that had any significant progressive opposition; his wins were equally, if not more dramatically, wins for the left.

• Both people the mayor appointed to office were soundly rejected by the voters. Rodrigo Santos, his high-profile appointee to the troubled City College Board of Trustees, spent almost $200,000 and finished a distant sixth. Sup. Christina Olague lost to the candidate Lee had rejected for appointment, London Breed, in a complicated race where the mayor’s actual role was unclear (he never withdrew his endorsement of Olague even as his allies trashed her in nasty ways).

• A million-dollar effort funded by some of the mayor’s allies to oust Sup. Eric Mar was a spectacular failure, suggested some serious problems in the mayor’s political operation, and undermined his emphasis on “civility.”

• The voters made clear on every level that they believe higher taxes on the wealthy and closing tax loopholes on big business are the right approach to the economy and to funding government. From Prop. 30 to Prop. 39 to Prop. A to Prop. E, the message was pretty clear: The tax revolt that started in California in 1978 may be winding down, and the notion of making property owners and the wealthy pay for education and public services is no longer a radical idea.

Robert Cruikshank, who writes for the Calitics blog, argues that the November election signals a major sea change in California. “[The] vote to pass Prop 30 — by a larger margin than most observers expected — does more than just provide $6 billion of badly needed funding to the state’s public school,” he wrote. “It brings to a close a 34-year long tax revolt that came very close to destroying California’s middle class, locking its low income families into permanent poverty, and left the state on the edge of financial ruin.”

That sounds like a progressive message. The agenda put forward by the mayor’s closest allies, including right-wing billionaire Ron Conway, who played a heavy-handed role in this election, not only failed to carry the day; the big-money types may have overplayed their hand in a way that will shape the political narratives going forward.


Let’s start with the ballot measures (before we get to the huge and confusing mess that was D5).

Proposition A, the parcel tax for City College, didn’t come out of the Mayor’s Office at all; it came from a City College board whose direction the mayor tried to undermine with the appointment of Santos, a pro-development engineer so conservative that he actually endorsed the Republican opponent of Assembly member Tom Ammiano.

Lee didn’t even endorse Prop. A until a few weeks before the election, and played almost no role in raising money or campaigning for its passage (see “Words and deeds,” 9/11/12). Yet it got a higher percentage of the vote than any of the three measures that Lee actively campaigned for: Props. B, C, and E.

Then there’s Prop. C, the Housing Trust Fund. Lee’s office played a central role in drafting and promoting the measure -– but it wasn’t exactly a Lee initiative. Prop. C came out of the affordable housing community, and Lee, who has strong ties to that community, went along. There were tough negotiations -– the mayor wanted more guarantees and protections for private developers -– and the final product was much more what the progressives who have spent decades on the housing front wanted than what the mayor would have done on his own.

The way the mayor envisioned business-tax reform, the city would have eliminated the payroll tax, which tech firms hate, and replaced it with a gross-receipts tax -– and the result would have been revenue-neutral. It was only after Sup. John Avalos and the progressives demanded that the tax actually bring in more money that the outlines of Prop. E were drafted and it received strong support from groups across the ideological spectrum.

“You had a lot of consensus in the city about these ballot measures,” political consultant David Latterman, who usually works with downtown-backed campaigns, said at SPUR’s post-election round-up.

The supervisorial races were a different story, with unprecedented spending and nasty messaging aimed at tipping the balance in favor of real estate and development interests. Mayor Lee didn’t get directly involved in the District 1 race, but he was clearly not a supporter of incumbent Sup. Eric Mar.

The real-estate and tech folks who are allied with Lee spent more than $800,000 trying to oust Mar — and they failed miserably, with Mar winning by 15 points. While Mar did have the backing of Chinatown powerbroker Rose Pak, who raised money and helped organize ground troops to help, Mar’s victory was primarily the result of a massive outpouring of support from labor and progressive activists, many reacting to the over-the-top effort to oust him.

Mar, who voted to put Lee in office, won’t feel a bit indebted to the mayor for his survival against a huge money onslaught. But in District 5, the story was a whole lot more complicated, and impact more difficult to discern.


Before we get into what happened in D5, let’s dispel some of the simplistic and self-serving stories that circulated in the wake of this election, the most prominent being that Olague’s loss -– the first time an incumbent was defeated in a ranked-choice election –- was payback for crossing Mayor Lee and voting to reinstatement Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.

It’s certainly true that Lee’s allies went after Olague and supported London Breed, and that they tried to make an issue of domestic violence, but there was much, much more to this district election. Breed is an SF native with a compelling personal story who ran a strong campaign –- and that three strongest progressive candidates in the race each had major flaws that hurt their electability. By most accounts, the Olague campaign was a disaster until the very end. Equally important, the progressive community was divided over D5, leaving room for Breed to slip in.

“It’s hard to unravel what happened here,” Latterman said.

San Francisco Women for Responsibility and an Accountable Supervisor was an independent expenditure group fronted by domestic violence advocates and funded by more than $100,000 from the families of Conway and fellow right-wing billionaire Thomas Coates. It attacked Olague’s Mirkarimi vote as being soft on domestic violence — but it also did a last minute mailer criticizing Olague’s vote for CleanPowerSF, muddling its message of moral outrage.

On election night, Olague told us she believed her split with the Mayor’s Office really had more to do with CleanPowerSF –- which the board approved with a veto-proof majority over the objections of Lee and the business community –- and with her insisting on new revenue from Prop. E than it did with Mirkarimi, whose ouster she dismissed as “a power play” aimed at weakening progressives.

“They don’t want to say it, but it was the whole thing around CleanPowerSF. Do you think PG&E wanted to lose its monopoly?” she said.

Yet Olague said the blame from her loss was also shared by progressives, who were hard on her for supporting Lee, courting his appointment to the D5 seat, and for voting with him on 8 Washington luxury condo project and other high-profile issues. “The left and the right both came at me,” she told us. “From the beginning, people were hypercritical of me in ways that might not be completely fair.”

Fair or not, Olague’s divided loyalties hurt her campaign for the D5 seat, with most prominent progressives only getting behind her at the end of the race after concluding that John Rizzo’s lackluster campaign wasn’t going anywhere, and that Julian Davis, marred as he was by his mishandling of sexual impropriety accusations, couldn’t and shouldn’t win.

Olague told us she “can’t think of anything I would have done differently.” But she later mentioned that she should have raised the threats to renters earlier, worked more closely with other progressive candidates, and relied on grassroots activists more than political consultants connected to the Mayor’s Office.

“The left shouldn’t deal with consultants, we should use steering committees to drive the agenda,” Olague said, noting that her campaign finally found its footing in just the last couple weeks of the race.

Inside sources say Olague’s relations with Lee-connected campaign consultant Enrique Pearce soured months before the campaign finally sidelined him in the final weeks, the result of his wasteful spending on ineffective strategies and divided loyalties once a wedge began to develop between Olague and the Mayor’s Office.

Progressive endorsements were all over the map in the district: The Harvey Milk Club endorsed Davis then declined to withdraw that endorsement. The Tenants Union wasn’t with Olague. The Guardian endorsed Rizzo number one. And none of the leading progressive candidates had a credible ranked-choice voting strategy — Breed got nearly as many second-place votes from Davis and Rizzo supporters as Olague did.

Meanwhile, Breed had a high-profile falling out with Brown, her one-time political ally, after her profanity-laden criticism of Brown appeared in Fog City Journal and then the San Francisco Chronicle, causing US Sen. Dianne Feinstein to withdraw her endorsement of Breed. That incident and Olague’s ties to Lee, Brown, and Pak may have solidified perceptions of Breed’s independence among even progressive voters, which the late attacks on her support from landlords weren’t ever able to overcome.

Ironically, while Breed and some of her prominent supporters, including African American ministers in the district, weren’t happy when Lee bypassed her to appoint Olague, that may have been her key to victory. Latterman noted that while Olague was plagued by having to divide loyalties between Lee and her progressive district and make votes on tough issues like reinstating Mirkarimi –- a vote that could hurt the D5 supervisor in either direction -– Breed was free to run her race and reinforce her independence: “I think Supervisor Breed doesn’t win this race; challenger Breed did.”

But even if Breed lives up to progressive fears, the balance of power on the Board of Supervisors could be up in the air. District 7 soundly rejected Mike Garcia, the hand-picked successor of the conservative outgoing Sup. Sean Elsbernd.

At press time, progressive favorite Norman Yee seemed headed for victory, although FX Crowley was within about 30 votes, making this too close to call. But either way, the once-solid conservative seat will now be a swing vote on many issues, just as Breed will be in the once-solid progressive D5.

“The Board of Supervisors as a whole is becoming a helluva lot more interesting,” was how political consultant Alex Clemens put it at SPUR election wrap-up. “Determining what’s going to happen before it happens just got more difficult.”


The other big story of this election was money, gobs of it, and how it can be spent effectively — or used to raise suspicions about hidden agendas.

Third-party spending on D1 loser David Lee’s behalf was $454,921, with another $219,039 to oppose Mar, pushing total spending to defeat Mar up over the $1 million mark, roughly doubling the previous record. Labor groups, meanwhile, spent $72,739 attacking Lee and $91,690 backing Mar. But many political analysts felt that lop-sided spending only served to turn off voters and reinforce the idea that powerful interests were trying to buy the seat.

In District 5, the landlords, Realtors, and tech moguls spent $177,556 in support of Breed, while labor spent $15,067 attacking her as a shill for the landlord lobby. The only other D5 candidate to attract significant spending by outside groups was Olague, who had $104,016 spent against her, mostly by the families of Conway and Coates, and $45,708 spent in support of her by SEIU 1021. Yet ultimately, none of these groups bought very much with their money. Conway, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, and San Francisco Association of Realtors each spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of their money, and the most obvious result was to convince San Franciscans that they’re working together to move an agenda in San Francisco. They may have the mayor on their side, but in a politically sophisticated city like San Francisco –- with its cost of living being driven up by the schemes of Lee, Conway, and the Realtors -– they seem to have a long way to go before they achieve they’re stated desire of destroying the progressive movement, particularly with its rising new leaders on the left, including Matt Haney and Sandra Fewer on the school board and Steven Ngo and Rafael Mandelman on the City College board. As Haney said on Election Night, “It was a good night for progressive San Francisco,” which stands for important egalitarian values. “We are the ones about equity and compassion. That’s what this city is about.”

Out of the last closet


It got pretty well buried in the last-minute election madness, but Sups. David Campos and Christina Olague did a very cool thing Oct. 31 — they helped create some press, and some possible national buzz, for a small San Francisco organization that’s taking on a very big issue.

The Last Closet is trying to get someone — anyone — in the senior hierarchy of male professional sports to talk about homophobia and the fact that there are no out gay men in any of the five major pro sports (football, basketball, baseball, hockey and soccer). When Olague and Campos held a press conference to introduce a resolution endorsing the group’s aims, it got at least passing mention on sfgate. And that’s a start.

Everyone knows there are gay men in the NFL, and in the NBA, and in MLB, and on the ice playing professional hockey. Yet even in 2012, when retired tough-guy athletes can talk about homophobia and the need for equality, not one active player has come out of the closet.

Who cares? Well, if you’re a young LGBT person involved in sports, you care — and you care a lot. Middle-school and high-school locker rooms (male locker rooms, particularly) are still pretty homophobic places and can be scary for gay kids. And there’s nobody for them to see as a role model.

As Campos told me, “What I was with the San Francisco Giants, all the Latino players, was such a source of pride to Latino boys and girls. We can’t feel that in the LGBT community. We know there are gay baseball players, but the LGBT youth don’t have those rold models to look up to.”

Not that sports figures are great role models, but still: One badass NFL player — I envision a linebacker — comes out, and a generation of LGBT youth can say: He’s gay. He’s tougher than any of you assholes who are teasing me.

And it would change lives.

All the Last Closeters want right now is for the commissioners of the five major sports to speak out, to make a statement, to say that out gay players would be welcomed and protected in their leagues and that homophobia would not be tolerated. Doesn’t seem like much to ask.

And yet: Not one will do it.

Maybe Larry Baer can bring it up at the next owner’s meeting.


Election makes the Board of Supervisors tougher to predict


I’m still a bit too bleary-eyed for serious political analysis on D5 or other races today, but I’ll offer a few of my own post-election observations and those that politicos Alex Clemens and David Latterman delivered during their usual political wrap-up at the SPUR office this afternoon, noting how this election has altered local political dynamics.

“The Board of Supervisors as a whole is becoming a helluva lot more interesting,” Clemens said, noting that progressive District 5 just elected London Breed, the most moderate candidate in that race, while conservative District 7 gave the most progressive candidates, Norman Yee and FX Crowley, its top two spots (with Crowley the likely winner once ranked choices ballots are tallied).

The result is that both the progressive and moderate blocs lost their most reliable votes to the squishy center, so that “determining what’s going to happen before it happens just got more difficult,” a dynamic that could play out most strongly on land use issues.

“I think land use politics is going to be even more interesting,” Clemens said, with Latterman adding, “In this city, all politics really comes down to land use.”

Assessor Phil Ting’s election to the Assembly also now paves the way for Mayor Ed Lee to appoint his replacement, with Sup. Carmen Chu widely considered the clear favorite, which would in turn give Lee an appointment to her District 4 seat on the board.

Yet Clemens speculated that Lee may wait to replace Chu until after the next Board of Supervisors is seated in early January – which would allow that person to finish her final two years and still run for an additional two full terms, whereas the Charter would otherwise limit that person to one more term – which could complicate an already complicated election for board president. Sups. Jane Kim and Scott Wiener are the likeliest contenders, but anything could happen.

“Counting to six from 10 is going to be so much fun to watch,” Clemens said, although he added, “I believe in the era of Ed Lee, it’ll all be worked out beforehand.”

Neither Clemens nor Latterman agreed that the overwhelming expenditures on political hit pieces (mostly against D1 Sup. Eric Mar, who won a surprisingly big margin of victory) by allies of Lee, or the fact that they turned on Sup. Christina Olague in nasty fashion, would diminish Lee’s public standing or the aura of civility he’s tried to cultivate.

Personally, I don’t agree, and it think progressives have been given an opportunity to highlight the money-driven nature of the agenda that Lee and his billionaire backer Ron Conway have for San Francisco. It’s also significant that the most anti-progressive candidates – Lee’s City College appointee Rodrigo Santos, D1’s David Lee, and D7’s Mike Garcia – all fell far short of victory.

Progressives now have a chance to set a positive, proactive agenda for the city, of the kind eloquently voiced by new school board member Matt Haney, whom Clemens thanked for running such a strong and positive campaign, as well as top City College finisher Steve Ngo and Sup. David Campos, who shared an election night campaign party and positive message about progressive prospects.

“That’s what me, Steve, and David were saying here tonight,” Haney told me, calling for an end to the adversarial style of practicing politics. “Our values are love and compassion.”

Latterman and Clemens did acknowledge that that record-breaking spending against Mar may have backfired, but they gave more credit to Mar’s campaign. “You don’t bet against [Mar campaign manager] Nicole Derse in a ground game in the last week of the campaign,” Latterman said.

Derse, who was there, noted its innovative voter identification efforts and strong grassroots volunteer push, a drive partially helped by those reacting to the big-money attacks. Latterman also acknowledges that the strange and controversial videos attacking Mar didn’t help, telling the crowd, “And tactically, don’t have the Realtors make the videos.”

As for District 5, neither politico claimed to fully understand the complex variables that shaped the race.

“It’s hard to unravel what happened here,” Latterman said of the D5 race, noting the complicated dynamics created by Olague’s mayoral appointment, her vote to reinstate Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, Julian Davis’ problems, and the outside spending. He praised Breed’s campaign, calling it a “a solid win,” but he also said Breed’s independence helped her and she might have suffered the same fate as Olague if she had gotten the appointment from Lee back in January: “I think Supervisor Breed doesn’t win this race; challenger Breed did.”

D5 race displays key SF political dynamics


There’s so much to say about the District 5 supervisorial race, whose top five finishers’ parties I attended tonight, gathering interesting perspectives from each candidate. But given the late hour, I’m just going to run a few thoughts and quotes and save most of it for a more in-depth report tomorrow, because there’s a fascinating story to be told here.

Christina Olague, John Rizzo, and Julian Davis – respectively the second through fourth place candidates – each presented as more progressive than the likely winner, London Breed, who has an 8-point lead going into the final ballot tally and ranked choice tabulation. They and their allies raised concerns that renters were undermined by Breed’s victory in one of the city’s most progressive districts.

“It was a lie. I’m a renter, I live in a rent-controlled apartment,” she told us just before midnight outside in party at Nickie’s on Haight. “I will do everything to protect rent control. I will work with the Tenants’ Union. I’m here to be everybody’s supervisor.”

She pledged to work productively with all the progressive groups who opposed her, such at SEIU Local 1021, whose members “ take care of my mom at Laguna Honda,” while others are her friends.

“The pettiness of politics is over and it’s time to move forward,” Breed said.

It was a widely sounded theme among jubilant progressives tonight, but D5’s (likely) runner-up Olague sounded a bit of bitterness when we caught up with her a little after 11pm as she was leaving her party at Rassela’s on Fillmore. “The Left and the Right both came at me,” she told us.

She felt unfairly attacked by progressives after being appointed to the D5 seat by Mayor Ed Lee, saying her only bad vote was in favor of the 8 Washington luxury condo project, which Sup. Eric Mar also backed without losing progressive support. “From the beginning, people were hypercritical of me in ways that might not be completely fair.”

Then, this fall, Mayor Lee’s people – chief of staff Steve Kawa, tech point person Tony Winnicker, and billionaire backer Ron Conway – turned on her after a series of votes culminating in the one to reinstate Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, resisting what she labeled “a power play” aimed at progressives.

Yet she believes her key vote in favor of CleanPowerSF, coming after her support for Sup. John Avalos getting new revenue out of the business tax reform Prop. E, was really what turned Conway and the downtown crowd against her and attracted outrageous attacks that she condoned domestic violence and supported Big Oil.

“They don’t want to say it, but it was the whole thing around CleanPowerSF. Do you think PG&E wanted to lose its monopoly?” she said. “It’s not about disloyalty, it’s about power.”

Julian Davis was similarly deflective about his campaign’s fourth place finish, despite having a strong presence on the streets today and lots of energy at his crowded campaign party at Club Waziema, after he weathered a loss of prominent progressive endorsements over his handling of sexual misconduct allegations.

“It’s been a challenging few weeks, but I’ve kept my head held high in this campaign,” Davis said, decrying the “self-fulfilling prophecy of the local media” that didn’t focus on the progressive endorsers who stayed with him, such as former D5 Sup. Matt Gonzalez and the SF Tenants Union.

Third place finisher John Rizzo, whose party at Murio’s Trophy Room party reflected his less-than-exuberant campaign, was generally positive about the night, although he expressed some concerns about the agenda of the “people putting up hundreds of thousands of dollars” into this race and the D1 contest, where progressive favorite Eric Mar won a strong victory.

I stopped by Breed’s party twice tonight: at the end, and a little before 10pm, when the results were coming over the television proclaiming that voters in Maryland approved same-sex marriage and Colorado voter legalized marijuana – and the room erupted in cheers – and Oregon voters rejected legalizing weed, drawing big boos.

Breed’s was a liberal crowd, a D5 crowd, and a largely African American crowd. Rev. Arnold Townsend, who is on the Elections Commission and local NAACP board, told me as I left Breed’s party the second time, “It’s a good election for my community. The black community was energized by this.”

New school board member Matt Haney, whose party at Brick & Mortar was my final stop of the night, also likes Breed and said her likely victory was another part of “a good night for progressive San Francisco,” which stands for important egalitarian values. “We are the ones about equity and compassion. That’s what this city is about.”

Preliminary RCV points to Breed, Crowley


How incredibly strange: District Five, the most left-leaning district in the city, just elected a moderate supervisor who supports the sit-lie law and has the backing of the landlords. District 7, the most conserative district, elected a labor guy who may sometimes be a swing vote.

The preliminary RCV results show London Breed winning in D5 and FX Crowley in D7. The D7 results are close and could change; the D5 results are not. Promoted by landlord money and helped by two billionaires attacking incumbent Christina Olague, Breed is now in a position to move the board to the right.