Strange bedfellows: Moderate Mark Farrell endorses progressive David Campos for Assembly


Political moderate Supervisor Mark Farrell announced his endorsement of Supervisor David Campos for Assembly today. It’s a real shocker, here’s why. 

A bastion of Marina district politics and part of the city’s neoliberal to fiscal conservative faction, Farrell is about as ideologically opposed to Campos’ brand of progressive politics as you can get in this city. If Campos is a firebrand with a picket sign, Farrell is a tie-wearing venture capitalist with his nose in a budget book. But still, Farrell has found an ally in Campos, and vice versa. 

“From working to close loopholes in San Francisco’s universal healthcare law to enhancing public safety and reducing homelessness by helping to implement Laura’s Law, David has proven his commitment to finding solutions through cooperation and compromise,” Farrell said in a press statement. “I trust his dedication to the public interest and know that he will find ways to bridge his progressive ideals with the pragmatic realities facing our state. I firmly believe he will be an effective leader for San Francisco in the State Assembly.”

The two worked together to find compromise solutions on a number of measures, including a deal to save St. Luke’s Hospital. But few deals were more controversial than Laura’s Law, which worried advocates for the homeless community, and Campos. The problem? The community felt that if homeless people would be forced into mental health treatment, their care and mental well-being would be threatened. On Farrell’s side, he was concerned for public safety, and felt those with mental health problems weren’t getting the treatment they needed.

There was an ideological split on how to help those with mental health problems. 

But Campos and Farrell eventually forged an agreement, allowing for interventions offering voluntary care from family and peer advocates, before involuntary treatment was invoked. Wrap around services would also be available to help alleviate the real life stressors that contribute to mental health issues, another win.

Farrell got Laura’s Law, and Campos and homeless advocates won vital protections. That’s the kind of compromise Board President David Chiu, Campos’ opponent in the Assembly race, has said time and time again that Campos is not capable of due to his staunch progressive values.

Clearly, Farrell disagrees, hence his endorsement.  

“I’m honored to have earned Mark’s endorsement,” Campos said, in a press statement. “We have worked together on a number of significant projects and pieces of legislation, from the CPMC rebuild project to small business tax legislation, and through community-minded negotiations, we have been able to find common ground on a number of issue critical to the residents of San Francisco.”

Although Chiu has passed much legislation, and brands himself as the “compromise candidate,” many political insiders noted that’s an easy political position when you maneuver yourself into becoming a key swing vote. When the board is split and you are the lone vote that could make or break legislation, people have to compromise with you. There’s a hammer over their heads. 

But Campos and Farrell are on opposite sides of the political spectrum, as far to either political pole on the Board of Supervisors as you can get. So the two talk, compromise, and make deals that help all their constituents win. 

No matter which Assembly candidate eventually goes to Sacramento, neither Chiu nor Campos will walk in wielding a hammer. The new Assemblyperson will be a freshman lawmaker, the back of the pack, as it were.

When we brought up that point with Farrell, he echoed the sentiment. 

“As a new legislator you don’t come up there with a ton of authority,” Farrell told us. “It’s about forging relationships and working for compromise. David Campos did that with me on the Board of Supervisors, and I believe he could do that in the Assembly.”

UPDATE 12:31 PM: David Chiu’s campaign consultant, Nicole Derse, got back to the Guardian with some observations from Chiu’s camp. 

“I don’t know why Farrell decided to endorse Campos, but when you look at endorsements that affect the district, Kamala Harris or Dianne Feinstein, those are what really affect the state,” Derse said. “This is one random supervisor. The deep support [for David Chiu] from statewide and elected officials is really strong.” 

The endorsement of Campos by Farrell is unique for its aisle-reaching quality. It’s as if the late, well-known Republican Warren Hellman endorsed the progressive anti-speculation tax. To that point, Derse said Chiu had an aisle-crossing endorsement as well. 

“Debra Walker is a pretty good comparison, she ran for the Harvey Milk LGBT Democractic Club and she came out really early for Chiu right out the gate,” Derse said.

Walker was appointed to the Building Inspection Commission by Chiu near the time she endorsed him. Even then, she told the Bay Area Reporter she was considering a dual endorsement.

King of the commons



When Susan King attends the Aug. 24 Sunday Streets in the Mission District — the 50th incarnation of this car-free community gathering, coming the week before her 50th birthday — it will be her last as director of an event she started in 2008.

That successful run was made possible by King’s history as a progressive community organizer who also knew how to do fundraising, a rare combination that has made Sunday Streets more than just a bicycle event, a street faire, or a closure of streets to cars that the city imposes on its neighborhoods on a rotating basis.

Instead, King took the ciclovia concept that started in Bogota, Colombia in the late ’70s — the idea was creating temporary open space on streets usually dominated by cars (See “Towards Carfree Cities: Everybody into the streets,” SFBG Politics blog, 6/23/08) — and used it as a tool for building community and letting neighborhoods decide what they wanted from the event.

“I regard the organizing as community organizing work rather than event organizing, and that’s significant,” King told the Guardian. “We’re creating the canvas that community organizations can use.”

San Francisco was the third US city to borrow the ciclovia concept to create open streets events — Portland, Ore, was the first in June 2008, followed quickly by New York City — but the first to do one that didn’t include food trucks and commercial vending, which Sunday Streets doesn’t allow.

“It’s not a street fair, it’s about meeting your neighbors and trying new things,” King said, referring to free activities that include dance, yoga, and youth cycling classes and performances. “It’s a really different way of seeing your city. A street without cars looks and feels different.”

Now, after seeing how Sunday Streets can activate neighborhoods and build community, and watching the concept she helped pioneer be adopted in dozens of other cities, King says she’s ready for the next level.

“I want to apply what I know on a larger scale, ideally statewide,” King said of her future plans. “This really opened my eyes up to the possibilities.”



After a lifetime of progressive activism — from grassroots political campaigns to city advisory committees to working with the Green Party — King knew the value of listening to various community stakeholders and earning their trust.

“We try to be culturally competent and work with each neighborhood,” King said. “We want to work with the neighborhood instead of dropping something on the neighborhood.”

That distinction has been an important one, particularly in neighborhoods such as Bayview and the Western Addition, where there is a long history of City Hall officials and political do-gooders trying to impose plans on neighborhoods without their input and consent.

“We worked really closely together and she gave me a lot of leeway to do Sunday Streets in a way that it worked for the community,” said Rebecca Gallegos, who managed public relations for the Bayview Opera House 2010-2013. “I can’t say enough great words about Susan. She was a truly a mentor to me. They’re losing someone really great.”

The first Sunday Streets on Aug. 31, 2008, extended from the Embarcadero into Bayview, opening up that neighborhood to many new visitors. King cited a survey conducted at the event showing 54 percent of respondents had never been to Bayview before.

“Susan wore a lot of hats. Not only did she create community in all the neighborhoods in San Francisco, but she knew how to go after the money,” Gallegos told us. “She walks the walk and doesn’t just talk the talk.”

Meaghan Mitchell, who worked with the Fillmore Community Benefits District, also said King’s skills and perspective helped overcome the neighborhood’s skepticism about City Hall initiatives.

“Susan came in and was very warm and open to our concerns. She was a joy to work with,” said Mitchell, who went on to work with King on creating Play Streets 2013, an offshoot of Sunday Streets focused on children.

The neighborhood was still reeling from a massive redevelopment effort by the city that forced out much of its traditional African American population and left a trail of broken promises and mistrust. Mitchell said King had to spend a lot of time in community meetings and working with stakeholders to convince them Sunday Streets could be good for the neighborhood — efforts that paid off as the community embraced and helped shape the event.

“It was nice to know the Fillmore corridor could be included in something like this because we were used to not being included,” Mitchell told us. “Community organizing is not an easy job at all because you’re dealing with lots different personalities, but Susan is a pro.”



It wasn’t community organizing that got King the job as much as her history with fundraising and business development for campaigns and organizations, ranging from the San Francisco Symphony to the San Francisco Women’s Building.

At the time, when city officials and nonprofit activists with the Mode Shift Working Group were talking about doing a ciclovia, King was worried that it would get caught up in the “bike-lash” against cyclists at a time when a lawsuit halted work on all bike projects in the city.

“I thought that would never fly,” King said. “We started Sunday Streets at the height of the anti-bike hysteria.”

But her contract with WalkSF to work on Masonic Avenue pedestrian improvements was coming to an end, she needed a job, and Sunday Streets needed a leader who could raise money to launch the event without city funds.

“I know how to raise money because I had a background in development,” said King, who raised the seed money for the first event with donations from the big health care organizations: Kaiser, Sutter Health/CPMC, and Catholic Healthcare West. And as a fiscal sponsor, she chose a nonprofit organization she loved, Livable City, for which Sunday Streets is now a $400,000 annual program.

King had a vision for Sunday Streets as an exercise in community-building that opens new avenues for people to work and play together.

Immediately, even before the first event, King and Sunday Streets ran into political opposition from the Fisherman’s Wharf Merchants Association, which was concerned that closing streets to cars would hurt business, and progressive members of the Board of Supervisors who were looking to tweak then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, whose office helped start the event.

City agencies ranging from the Police Department to Municipal Transportation Agency required Sunday Streets to pay the full costs for city services, something that even aggressive fundraising couldn’t overcome.

“We were in debt to every city department at the end of the second year. It was the elephant in the room going into that third year,” King said.

But the Mayor’s Office and SFMTA then-Director Nat Ford decided to make Sunday Streets an official city event, covering the city costs. “It was the key to success,” King said. “There’s no way to cover all the costs. The city really has to meet you halfway.”

King said that between the intensive community organizing work and dealing with the multitude of personalities and interests at City Hall, this was the toughest job she’s had.

“If I would have known what it would be like,” King said, “I would never have taken the job.”



But King had just the right combination of skills and tenacity to make it work, elevating Sunday Streets into a successful and sustainable event that has served as a model for similar events around the country (including at least eight others also named Sunday Streets).

“The Mission one just blew up. It was instantly popular,” said King, who eventually dropped 24th Street from the route because it got just too congested. “But it’s the least supportive of our physical activity goals because it’s so crowded. It was really threatening to be more of a block party.”

That was antithetical to the ethos established by King, who has cracked down on drinking alcohol and unpermitted musical acts at Sunday Streets in order to keep the focus on being a family-friendly event based on fitness and community interaction.

Even the live performances that Sunday Streets hosts are required to have an interactive component. That encouragement of participation by attendees in a noncommercial setting drew from her history attending Burning Man, as well as fighting political battles against the commercialization of Golden Gate Park and other public spaces.

“It was my idea of what a community space should look like, although I didn’t invent it…We really want to support sustainability,” King said. “We’re not commodifying the public space. Everything at Sunday Streets is free, including bike rentals and repairs.”

As a bike event, the cycling community has lent strong support to Sunday Streets, with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition strongly promoting it along the way.

“The success of Sunday Streets has been a game changer in showcasing how street space can be used so gloriously for purposes other than just moving and storing automobiles. At every Sunday Streets happening we are reminded that streets are for people too,” SFBC Director Leah Shahum told us. “Susan’s leadership has been such an important part of this success.”



Bruce Brugmann, Jean Dibble, and Tim Redmond

The San Francisco Bay Guardian — which has had a significant impact on the Bay Area’s cultural and political dynamics and dialogue over the last 47 years — was largely the creation of three people with complementary skills and perspectives, an amalgam that gave the Guardian its voice and longevity.

Although they are no longer involved with running the paper, we’re honoring their contribution and legacy with a form of recognition they created: a Local Hero Award in our Best of the Bay issue, an annual edition that has been adopted by almost every alt-weekly in the country.

Bruce Brugmann and Jean Dibble launched the Guardian in October 1966 after years of planning by the married couple, and they ran it as co-publishers until the paper’s sale to the San Francisco Newspaper Co. last year, with Dibble running the business side and Brugmann in charge of editorial and serving as its most public face.

“We were one of the few husband and wife newspaper teams, a real mom and pop operation,” Brugmann told us. “We couldn’t have done it without the two of us, we needed both of our skill sets.”

They met in 1956 at the University of Nebraska, where Brugmann studied journalism and served as editor of the Daily Nebraskan, starting his long career as journalistic rabble-rouser. Dibble studied business, which she would continue in graduate school at Harvard University’s Radcliffe College while Brugmann got a master’s in journalism at Columbia University.

As graduation neared, they started talking about forming a newspaper together, an idea that percolated while Brugmann served in the US Army, where he wrote for Stars and Stripes, and Dibble moved to San Francisco with their two kids to work in personnel and administrative positions.

After the Army, they settled in Wisconsin, where Brugmann worked as a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal before moving to the Bay Area to work on launching the Guardian while Brugmann supported the family working for the Redwood City Tribune.

“We came out here with the idea of doing it and we immediately started planning. Jean did the prospectus, a damn good prospectus,” Brugmann said.

The Guardian published sporadically in the beginning, but it tapped into a vibrant counterculture that was clashing with the establishment and began publishing important articles highlighting inequities in the Vietnam War draft and exposing local political scandals, including how Pacific Gas & Electric illegally acquired its energy monopoly.

“A lot of it was just keep your head down and keep going,” Dibble said. “We never talked about alternatives, it was just what we were going to do.” The Guardian covered the successful revolts against new freeways in the city and plans to build Manhattan-style skyscrapers, publishing the book The Ultimate Highrise in 1971. In the mid-’70s, the Guardian won a successful unfair competition lawsuit against the Chronicle and the Examiner over their joint operating agreement, allowing the paper to become a free newsweekly. “Eventually, things got better, and we got some large advertisers in the ’80s and they really helped kick us off,” Dibble said. That was also when Tim Redmond, a journalist and activist steeped in radical politics, started writing for the Guardian, going on to serve as the paper’s executive editor and guiding voice for more than 30 years. “Tim was always more radical than I was,” Brugmann said, giving Redmond credit for the Guardian’s groundbreaking coverage of tenant, environmental, and economic justice issues. “Every publisher needs an editor who was more radical than they are to push them.” The two journalists had a prolific partnership, mentoring a string of journalists who would go on to national acclaim, turning the Guardian into a model for alt-weeklies across the country, exposing myriad scandals and emerging arts and cultural trends, and helping to write and pass the nation’s strongest local Sunshine Ordinance. “We always wanted to make things better,” Brugmann said of what drove the Guardian. “Even the battles that we lost, we got major concessions. Yerba Buena is much better because of the stories we did at the time, same thing with Mission Bay…San Francisco is much better that we were here. And we’re really proud and we appreciate the work of the current Guardian staff in keeping the Guardian flame alive.”


LOCAL HEROES: Kate Kendell

The night Proposition 8 passed was one of the hardest of Kate Kendell’s life. She remembers it with startling detail — and she should, because she was one of the most prominent opponents of the measure to overturn marriage equality in California.

“I was hopeful right up until the end that Prop. 8 would be defeated,” she said, speaking slowly as she pulled her thoughts from what sounded like a dark place. “Our initial polling numbers said we’d probably lose, but I really hoped in the deepest heart of my heart that when people got in there that they’d punch their vote in favor of the person they knew.”

But as the voters of California showed in that 2008 election, sometimes the good guys lose.

Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, fought the good fight since she started there in 1994. The NCLR litigates, creates policy, and performs outreach for LGBT civil rights on a national level, with headquarters in San Francisco. After years of anticipation, she poured herself into the campaign against the proposition that would make her marriage illegal, and then the measure passed.

That night she hung her head in disbelief. She felt physically ill, and her mind roiled in grief equaled only by the death of one of her parents. “It felt like that,” she said.

Kendell and her wife, Sandy, went home without speaking a word, and when she got in the door she tried to pull it together. Steeling herself to face her family, Kendell walked out of the bathroom and burst into tears. Her son said simply “this just means we have to fight more.”

So she did, and we all won.

That led to the moment for which Kendell may be remembered for a long time to come. When Prop. 8 was overturned by the US Supreme Court this year, a flock of San Francisco politicians descended the steps inside the rotunda at City Hall. Kendell took to the podium and spoke to the nation.

“My name is Kate Kendell with the National Center for Lesbian Rights,” she said, “and fuck you, Prop. 8!” The crowd erupted into cheers.

She regrets saying it now, but history will likely forgive her for being human. For someone whose own marriage’s validity was threatened and who spent two decades fighting for equality, she earned a moment of embarrassing honesty.

Kendell’s infamous declaration may be how she’s known, but one of her key decisions behind the scenes shaped the LGBT equality movement as well. When then-Mayor Gavin Newsom’s administration wanted a couple to be the first in his round of renegade gay marriages in 2004, it was Kendell who suggested Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon.

The two were in a relationship since 1953, pioneers of LGBT activism in San Francisco. Kendell said it was only right that they were first to read their vows in the city they helped shape. “Were it not for their contributions, visibility, and courage in the ’50s and ’60s, we wouldn’t be in that room with Newsom contemplating marriage licenses,” she said. “I’m just happy they said yes. It was absolutely appropriate.” And it’s with that sense of history that she herself pioneers forward, pushing in states across the US what Harvey Milk fought for in California — workplace protections for the LGBT community. “In 38 states, you can be fired from your job or being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. That has to change,” she said. “When the next chapter of history is written, it will be about a nation that treats the LGBT community as equals.”


Theo Ellington

Last year, when San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee floated the idea of implementing stop-and-frisk, a practice that many civil rights advocates say amounts to racial profiling, Theo Ellington stepped up to create a Change.org petition to oppose the idea — and won.

The policy would have given San Francisco police officers the authority to stop and search any individual who “looks suspicious,” in an effort to get guns off the streets.

“I found it was basically a predatory policing practice that didn’t belong in a city like San Francisco,” Ellington told us. His petition garnered a little more than 2,300 signatures, “enough to show policymakers we were paying attention,” he guesses. Faced with mounting pressure and a community outcry, Lee ultimately abandoned the idea.

“That was a win, I think, for everyone fighting for what’s really a civil right,” the 25-year-old, native San Franciscan told us in a recent phone interview. “It’s not a black issue or a white issue,” but it did strike a nerve and provide Ellington with some momentum for coalition building.

Ellington was born and raised in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood, home to a significant portion of the city’s dwindling black population. The campaign against stop-and-frisk helped catalyze his still-evolving political organization, the Black Young Democrats of San Francisco, of which he is president.

Go to BYDSF’s website and you’re confronted with some startling statistics about the experience of black San Franciscans: In the last 20 years, the African American community has dwindled to only 6 percent of the city’s population; meanwhile, the high school dropout rate stands at 38 percent, the unemployment rate is 18 percent, and the level of poverty stands at a disheartening 20 percent.

To tackle these looming challenges, BYDSF now faces the hurdle of getting local elected officials to care. “Since then, we have been trying to build our membership and figure out where we fit in the political climate of SF,” Ellington says.

His group’s chief concerns include closing the achievement gap in San Francisco public schools, doing something about the escalating cost of housing, and finding better solutions for public transit. “There’s the housing need, obviously. It’s a need that working class folks in general are facing,” he said.

He’s pursing a master’s degree in urban affairs at the University of San Francisco, and says he’s taken it upon himself to learn everything he can about how cities operate. To that end, he often ponders vexing questions: “How do you figure out a way to give those same opportunities to everyone? How do you provide opportunities for all income levels?”

His successful opposition campaign to stop-and-frisk didn’t stop Mayor Lee from appointing him to the Commission on Community Investment and Infrastructure, which oversees the successor to the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. A major project under that body’s purview is the Hunters Point Shipyard development, a massive undertaking led by construction firm Lennar Urban, practically in Ellington’s backyard. Having grown up in the neighborhood, he sees himself as being in a unique position to ensure that the developers are providing jobs for local residents as required under the agreement. “It allows me to speak to both sides — on the community level, and in City Hall,” he said. “There are certain social dynamics you won’t understand unless you have lived in the community.” Ultimately, Ellington says, his goal is to push local politicians to find ways of making San Francisco a place where people of all income levels can find their way. “There’s a lot more work to do,” he said. “I think San Francisco is at a real pivotal point, where we can choose to go in the right direction … or we can choose the opposite.”


LOCAL HEROES: Shanell Williams

Shanell Williams is a chameleon activist, spearheading the effort to save City College of San Francisco from many fronts.

When City College fought off a statewide initiative to save money by stigmatizing struggling students, she defended the school as an Occupy activist. With a banner raised high, she faced down the California Community College Board of Governors, shouting their wrongs aloud at a meeting attended by hundreds. The board was stunned but her fellow activists were not, because that’s who Williams is: an uncompromising defender of San Francisco.

Now, as City College faces a fight for its existence, Williams is defending it again, this time as a duly elected CCSF student trustee.

Williams is at the forefront of Save CCSF, an Occupy-inspired group publicly protesting the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges, the body trying to shut down City College. San Francisco is holding its breath until next July to hear if the accrediting commission will close the city’s only community college — and Williams was one of the key organizers helping students’ voices rise up to decry the decision to close the school.

She has reason to fight hard, growing up watching her community ravaged by those in power who purported to do good. She is a black woman and San Francisco native raised in the Fillmore and the long history of redevelopment and its role in the flight of The City’s African American population shaped her ethos. To Williams, there are forces that care about money at the expense of communities and those forces need to be fought.

“How are we supporting people to have a decent quality of life?” she said, and that’s the way she’s approached saving her community since a young age.

In 2003, while in high school, Williams got a taste of politicking as a member of San Francisco’s Youth Commission, appointed by then-Mayor Willie Brown. “I think he’s a very interesting character with a lot of influence over the city,” she said, with just an edge of steel to her voice.

As a teenaged politician, she discovered the work of the Human Rights Commission and was inspired. While a student of Washington High School and then Wallenberg High, she had a tough home life and entered the foster care system, getting a firsthand look at how the state takes care of its youth.

It galvanized her, honed her, and made her yearn for change. “I just innately had a sense of wanting to see justice and fairness,” she said.

Energized, she joined the Center for Young Women’s Development, the Youth Treatment Education Court, Urban Services YMCA, the Youth Leadership Institute, and more. She joined so many organizations and taught so many youth and government officials that even she can’t remember all of them off the top of her head.

At one point, she even taught judges across the country about cultural competency. “We had this whole spoken word performance thing we did,” she said, laughing.

In 2010, as Williams took classes at City College, she waved the banner defending San Francisco’s community college students. She pushed for city-level minimum wage requirements for City College workers, who earned dollars less. She also pushed back against state requirements to cut off priority registrations to those who took too long in the community college system — because she’s been there herself.

“They need a few chances to get it right and become a good student,” she said. When the struggle to save City College is done, win or lose, Williams sees herself remaining an advocate for students for years to come. At 29 years old, she’s still a student herself, and she eagerly awaits the day she’ll transfer to Cal or Stanford as an Urban Studies major. It all comes back to defending her city. “We have to broaden the movement,” she said. “The enemy is not about color, it’s about wealth inequality. It’s not just about City College either. It’s about the austerity regime that doesn’t care about working class people and poor folks.”


San Franciscans for Healthcare, Jobs, and Justice

When the San Francisco Mayor’s Office cut a deal with Sutter Health and its California Pacific Medical Center affiliate for an ambitious rebuild of hospital facilities — which would shape healthcare services in San Francisco for years to come — community activists began to find serious flaws in the proposal.

So they organized and banded together into a coalition to challenge the powerful players pushing the plan, eventually helping to hash out a better agreement that would benefit all San Franciscans. Representing an alliance between labor and community advocates, the coalition was called San Franciscans for Healthcare, Jobs, and Justice.

When the whole affair began, it seemed as if the CPMC rebuild would incorporate a host of community benefits — but those promises evaporated after the healthcare provider walked away from the negotiating table, unhappy with the terms.

Then a second agreement, with much weaker public benefits, came out of a second round of talks between CPMC and the Mayor’s Office. But by then, so much had been given up that “we were stunned,” said Calvin Welch, who joined the coalition on behalf of the Council of Community Housing Organizations. “We met with [Mayor Ed Lee] and told him, this is absolutely unacceptable.”

But the mayor wasn’t willing to address their concerns at that time. When the deal failed to win approval after a series of hearings at the Board of Supervisors, however, “the unacceptable deal that the mayor created melted in the sun of full disclosure,” Welch said.

That plan would have allowed St. Luke’s Hospital, a critically important facility for low-income patients, to shrink to just 80 beds with no guarantee that it would stay open in the long run. CPMC’s commitment to providing charitable care to the uninsured was disappointingly low. And while the project was expected to create 1,500 permanent jobs in San Francisco, the deal only guaranteed that 5 percent of those positions would go to existing San Francisco residents.

Enter the movers and shakers with San Franciscans for Healthcare, Housing, Jobs, and Justice. The coalition took its place at the negotiating table, along with CPMC, a mediator, and an unlikely trio of supervisors that included Board President David Chiu and Sups. David Campos and Mark Farrell. Over several months, the coalition put in some serious time and energy to push for a more equitable outcome.

“We pushed so hard for a smaller Cathedral Hill [Hospital] and a larger St. Luke’s,” Welch said, describing their strategy to safeguard against the closure of St. Luke’s. They also pushed for CPMC to make a better funding contribution toward affordable housing, a stronger guarantee for hiring San Franciscans at the new medical center, and improvements to transit and pedestrian safety measures as conditions of the deal.

Under the terms that were ultimately approved, St. Luke’s will remain a full-service hospital, and CPMC will commit to providing services to 30,000 “charity care” patients and 5,400 Medi-Cal patients per year.

CPMC also agreed to contribute $36.5 million to the city’s affordable housing fund, and promised to pay $4.1 million to replace homes it displaces on Cathedral Hill. Under the revised deal, 30 percent of construction jobs and 40 percent of permanent entry-level positions in the new facilities would be promised to San Francisco residents.

One of the greatest victories of all, Welch said, was how well coalition members worked together. “This was the most straight-up equal collaboration with labor and community people, equally supporting one another, that I’ve ever been involved with,” Welch said. Even though they were motivated to participate by different sets of concerns, the two sides remained mutually supportive, Welch said. During the long, grueling hearings, “The nurses never left,” he noted in amazement. “The nurses stuck around for all the community stuff.”


Photos by Evan Ducharme

Compromises deliver results


OPINION When Guardian Editor Steven T. Jones asked me to respond to his recent columns (“Chiu becomes City Hall’s go-to guy for solving tough problems“, 7/23/13; “Chiu: Centrist Compromiser, Effective Legislator, or Both,” 7/30/13), I reflected on how our Board of Supervisors’ 2013 accomplishments exemplifies the lessons and rewards of working together.

After several decades of intense fights between TIC owners and tenants, I asked both sides to sit down, share perspectives, and brainstorm beyond the impasse. To our surprise, when TIC owners shared their struggles and offered to pay a fee to condo convert, tenant advocates agreed to finally support conversions as long as their core principle of preventing evictions — which I strongly shared — was addressed.

After a decade of failed CEQA reform attempts, the pundits predicted an epic battle between developers and neighbors this year. The breakthrough for unanimous support occurred when both sides acknowledged to me that real neighborhood input and predictability in the planning process are not mutually exclusive, and progressive leaders wanted to ensure that pedestrian, bike, affordable housing, and public projects are not delayed.

After years of controversy, CPMC/Sutter and the coalition of dozens of community-based organizations deadlocked over how to rebuild the Cathedral Hill and St. Luke’s hospital campuses. After exposing financial documents challenging the original proposal, I worked with colleagues for six months at a mediation table that refashioned a CPMC plan to rebuild those 21st century hospitals the right way.

While each story is unique, what all of these accomplishments — along with recently balanced budgets, business tax reform, and pension reform — have in common is hard work and extreme patience by dedicated San Franciscans seeking creative solutions.

As Board President, my job is to build consensus among our diverse supervisors and deliver results. When I first came to City Hall, I asked my colleagues to move beyond past politics that had magnified differences. I am proud that today’s Board has the highest approval ratings in a decade, as we do more together working through our differences.

At the negotiation table, it’s essential to stand firm on core values. My vision for San Francisco has been of a city that protects tenants and families; creates good jobs across the economic spectrum; offers high quality public services with Muni, our schools, and our parks; and embraces our diversity, our immigrants, our seniors, and those who have been historically disenfranchised.

When we can’t always find creative win-wins, it’s still important to fight for what’s right. I’ve taken my political lumps championing the right of noncitizen parents to vote in school board elections, standing up for workers requesting family-friendly workplaces, and taking on a Yellow Pages industry dumping millions of phone books on our streets.

When I hear criticisms of “compromise,” I reflect that the most important federal legislation in recent years — from the Civil Rights Act to the Affordable Care Act, Wall Street reform to comprehensive immigration reform — were also criticized as “compromises.” Critics often forget the big picture: by incorporating different views, reforms actually get done, and if we wait forever for the perfect policy, people will suffer.

San Franciscans are at our best when we unite around shared values — from marriage equality to universal health care to environmental protections. We still have plenty of challenges: housing affordability, struggling workforces, family flight, public transit.

Let’s continue to work together to show the rest of the country how our city can govern.

David Chiu, who represents District 3 (North Beach, Chinatown, Nob Hill), is serving his second term as president of the Board of Supervisors.

Chiu: centrist compromiser, effective legislator, or both


At the start of this year, when I wrote a Guardian cover story profile of Sup. Scott Wiener (which SF Weekly and San Francisco Magazine followed shortly thereafter with their own long Wiener profiles), he seemed like the one to watch on the Board of Supervisors, even though I noted at the time that Board President David Chiu was actually the more prolific legislator.

Now, it’s starting to seem like maybe we all focused on the wrong guy, because it is Chiu and his bustling office of top aides that have done most of the heavy legislative lifting this year, finding compromise solutions to some of the most vexing issues facing the city (ironically, even cleaning up some of Wiener’s messes).

The latest example is Wiener’s CEQA reform legislation, which the board unanimously approved on July 23, a kumbaya moment that belies the opposition and acrimony that accompanied its introduction.

That effort comes on the heels of Chiu’s office solving another big, ugly, seemingly intractable fight: the condominium lottery bypass legislation sponsored by Wiener and Sup. Mark Farrell. To solve that one in the face of real estate industry intransigence, Chiu showed a willingness to play hardball, winning over swing vote Sup. Norman Yee to get six votes using some hostile amendments.

In the end, Chiu won enough support to override a possible veto by the waffling Mayor Ed Lee, who has always echoed Chiu’s rhetoric on seeking compromise and consensus and “getting things done,” but who lacks the political skills and willingness to really engage with all sides. For example, it was Chiu — along with Sups. Farrell and David Campos — who spent months forging a true compromise on the hospital projects proposed by California Pacific Medical Center, replacing the truly awful CPMC proposal that Lee readily accepted.

“It’s been a very long year,” Chiu told the Guardian. “It’s been important for me to not just to seek common ground, but legislative solutions that reflect our shared San Francisco values.”

Next, Chiu will wade into another thorny legislative thicket by introducing legislation that will regulate the operations of Airbnb, the online housing rental corporation with a problematic business model.

After posting the preceding analysis of Chiu on the SFBG.com Politics blog on July 23, we heard lots of back channel concerns and complaints from progressive San Franciscans (and even some from moderates and conservatives who consider Chiu a raving socialist for helping suspend the condo lottery).

Nobody really wanted to speak on the record against Chiu, which is understandable given the powerful and pivotal position that he’s carved out for himself as a swing vote between the two ideological poles and on the Land Use Committee, whose makeup he personally created to enhance that role.

The main issue seems to be that Chiu allows both progressive and anti-progressive legislation to be watered down until it is palatable to both sides, empowering the moderates over the progressives. That’s a legitimate point. It’s certainly true that Chiu’s worldview is generally more centrist than that of the Guardian and its progressive community, and we’ve leveled that criticism at Chiu many times over the years.

The fact that he ends up in a deciding role on controversial legislation is clearly a role that Chiu has carved out from himself, no doubt about it. And that’s certainly why he played the pivotal role that he has this year. But when he uses that role to empower and support tenant groups, as he did on the condo lottery bypass measure, I think that’s something worth noting and praising.

On the CEQA reform legislation, it’s also a valid criticism of Chiu to note that Sup. Jane Kim had five votes for her legislation and that it was only Chiu who stood in the way of its passage (whether Mayor Ed Lee would have vetoed it, necessitating the need for two more votes, is another question).

In the end, Chiu can be seen as an effective legislator, a centrist compromiser, or both. Perspective is everything in politics.

Chiu becomes City Hall’s go-to guy for solving tough problems


At the start of this year, when I wrote a Guardian cover story profile of Sup. Scott Wiener (which SF Weekly and San Francisco Magazine followed shortly thereafter with their own long Wiener profiles), he seemed like the one to watch on the Board of Supervisors, even though I noted at the time that Board President David Chiu was actually the more prolific legislator.

Now, it’s starting to seem like maybe we all focused on the wrong guy, because it is Chiu and his bustling office of top aides that have done most of the heavy legislative lifting this year, finding compromise solutions to some of the most vexing issues facing the city (ironically, even cleaning up some of Wiener’s messes).

The latest example is Wiener’s CEQA reform legislation, which the board is poised to unanimously approve at today’s meeting, a kumbaya moment that belies the opposition and acrimony that accompanied its introduction. Rather than a battle between developers and the coalition of progressives, environmentalists, neighborhood activists, and historic preservationists, Chiu and board aide Judson True transformed the legislation into something that benefited both sides.

[UPDATE: For reactions to this post and another perspective on Chiu, read this.]

That effort comes on the heels of Chiu’s office solving another big, ugly, seemingly intractable fight: the condominium lottery bypass legislation sponsored by Wiener and Sup. Mark Farrell. To solve that one in the face of real estate industry intransigence, Chiu showed a willingness to play hardball and practice a bit of gamesmanship, winning over swing vote Sup. Norman Yee to get six votes using some hostile amendments to the legislation.

In the end, Chiu won enough support to override a possible veto by the waffling Mayor Ed Lee, who has always echoed Chiu’s rhetoric on seeking compromise and consensus and “getting things done,” but who lacks the political skills and willingness to really engage with all sides. For example, it was Chiu — along with Sups. Farrell and David Campos — who spent months forging a true compromise on the hospital projects proposed by California Pacific Medical Center, replacing the truly awful CPMC proposal that Lee readily accepted.

“It’s been a very long year,” Chiu told the Guardian. “It’s been important for me to not just to seek common ground, but legislative solutions that reflect our shared San Francisco values.”

Next, Chiu will wade into another thorny legislative thicket by introducing legislation that will regulate the operations of Airbnb, the online shared housing share corporation whose basic business model often violates local landlord-tenant laws, zoning codes, and lease conditions, in addition to openly defying rulings that it should be paying the city’s transient occupancy tax.      

“This challenge has been particularly difficult,” Chiu told us, referring the many hard-to-solve issues raised by companies such as Airbnb, who Chiu and board aide Amy Chan have been working with for several months. In fact, after originally predicting the legislation would be introduced before the board takes its August recess, Chiu now tells us it may need a bit more time to hammer out the details.

We’ll be watching to see how he sorts through the many tough issues raised by Airbnb’s approach, here and in other big cities with complicated landlord-tenant relations, which I will be exploring in-depth in an upcoming Guardian cover story. But if there’s anyone at City Hall capable of solving this one, it’s probably Chiu.

Giraudo (and activists) close CPMC deal


The takeaway message from a July 11 press conference held in the Mayor’s Office touting legislation authorizing California Pacific Medical Center’s construction of two new San Francisco hospitals was seemingly this: Everyone hearts Lou Giraudo.

A part owner of Boudin Bakery and former president of the San Francisco Police Commission, Giraudo was called in last year to help mediate a deal that seemed doomed when CPMC, city officials, and a coalition of labor and community organizations were unable to hash out an agreement that was acceptable to all sides.

Negotiations have been contentious over the past year due to early indications that CPMC would not guarantee that St. Luke’s, a health care facility relied upon by many low-income San Franciscans, would keep its doors open as a condition of moving forward with the new Cathedral Hill facility, a centerpiece of CPMC’s $2.5 billion project.

Enter Giraudo, who was, according to a not-so-subtle hint dropped by former Mayor Willie Brown in his San Francisco Chronicle column last year, “quietly brought in” by the mayor’s office to fix the half-baked mess that the CPMC deal had evidently devolved into.

Sup. David Campos sang Giraudo’s praises, saying, “I have yet to meet a finer public servant,” and calling Giraudo “a real hero of mine.”

Giraudo himself told the Guardian that his strategy was “to de-politicize the process and get people to think about the community.”

Board President David Chiu, who worked closely with Campos and Sup. Mark Farrell to negotiate with CPMC and other parties on behalf of the Board, went so far as to compare Giraudo to Batman. He even joked that he was going to shine a bat signal the next time a negotiator was needed, in hopes that Giraudo would save the day.

Yet while Giraudo may have provided the catalyst needed for a deal, it was community advocates who ensured that the public at large benefited from the CPMC plan more than they would have otherwise — since the mayor’s office seemed willing to go along with the health care giant’s original terms.

Long before Giraudo’s involvement, a coalition of labor and community organizations waged a campaign to rebuild CPMC “the right way,” holding strong on the issue of St. Lukes and refusing to agree to anything that would leave open the possibility that the hospital, a critically important facility for low-income patients, would be shuttered. “That coalition has been working for quite some time … to save St. Lukes,” Campos said of the diverse coalition of community and labor leaders, who formed under the name San Franciscans for Healthcare, Housing, Jobs and Justice. “It kept working for many years.” Under the terms of the agreement that was ultimately agreed upon, St. Luke’s will have a number of specified services to ensure it remains a full-service hospital, and CPMC will commit to providing services to 30,000 charity care patients and 5,400 Medi-Cal managed care patients per year. CPMC will also contribute $36.5 million to the city’s affordable housing fund, and it will pay $4.1 million to replace the homes it displaces on Cathedral Hill. While many advocates for San Francisco’s most vulnerable populations heralded the deal, some were disheartened that it did not dedicate space for psychiatric care.

A community-based coalition, a trio of supervisors and a very special mediator helped seal CPMC deal

The takeaway message from a July 11 press conference held in the Mayor’s office touting legislation authorizing California Pacific Medical Center’s construction of two new San Francisco hospitals was seemingly this: Everyone hearts Lou Giraudo.

A part owner of Boudin Bakery and former president of the San Francisco Police Commission, Giraudo was called in last year to help mediate a deal that seemed doomed when CPMC, city officials, and a coalition of labor and community organizations were unable to hash out an agreement that was acceptable to all sides.

Negotiations have been contentious over the past year due to early indications that CPMC would not guarantee that St. Luke’s, a health care facility relied upon by many low-income San Franciscans, would keep its doors open as a condition of moving forward with the new Cathedral Hill facility, a centerpiece of CPMC’s $2.5 billion project.

Enter Lou Giraudo, everybody’s favorite public servant who was, according to a not-so-subtle hint dropped by former Mayor Willie Brown in his San Francisco Chronicle column last year, “quietly brought in” by the mayor’s office to fix the half-baked mess that the CPMC deal had evidently devolved into.

“He’s often said he’s just a businessman. A baker, if you will,” Lee said during yesterday’s press conference. But Giraudo came to the table with the right “recipe” and the “main ingredients” for a successful deal, Lee added.

Sup. David Campos also sang Giraudo’s praises, saying, “I have yet to meet a finer public servant,” and calling Giraudo “a real hero of mine.” 

Giraudo himself told the Guardian that his strategy was “to de-politicize the process and get people to think about the community.”

Board President David Chiu, who worked closely with Sups. David Campos and Mark Farrell to negotiate with CPMC and other parties on behalf of the Board, went so far as to compare Giraudo to Batman. He even joked that he was going to shine a bat signal the next time a negotiator was needed, in hopes that Giraudo would save the day.

Presumably, when this happens, Giraudo will dust the flour off his apron after toiling away at some sourdough bread shaped like an alligator, duck into a Boudin Bakery bathroom to squeeze into a superhero costume, strap on his jet pack and take off for the gold-capped dome.

Giraudo may have provided the catalyst needed for a deal, but it was community advocates who ensured that the public at large benefitted from the CPMC plan more than they would have otherwise – since the mayor’s office seemed willing to go along with the health care giant’s original terms.

Long before Giraudo’s involvement, a coalition of labor and community organizations waged a campaign to rebuild CPMC “the right way,” holding strong on the issue of St. Lukes and refusing to agree to anything that would leave open the possibility that the hospital, a critically important facility for low-income patients, would be shuttered.

“That coalition has been working for quite some time … to save St. Lukes,” Campos said yesterday. The diverse coalition of community and labor leaders, who formed under the name San Franciscans for Healthcare, Housing, Jobs and Justice, commissioned studies on the need for health care services for low-income populations, studied housing and transportation impacts, and developed a broad base of support for a better deal than what was originally floated by the healthcare giant. “It kept working for many years,” Campos noted.

Under the terms of the agreement that was ultimately agreed upon, St. Luke’s will have a number of specified services to ensure it remains a full-service hospital, and CPMC will commit to providing services to 30,000 charity care patients and 5,400 Medi-Cal managed care patients per year. CPMC will also contribute $36.5 million to the city’s affordable housing fund, and it will pay $4.1 million to replace the homes it displaces on Cathedral Hill.

But wait, one last thing we’ve just learned about Giraudo: Did you know he also served as chairman at Pabst Brewing Company? The next time you get drunk off PBR while gorging yourself on sourdough baked into the shape of a teddy bear, or for that matter receive emergency medical care at St. Luke’s after an unsuccessful attempt at building a DIY jetpack, you’ll know who to thank.

Care clash


The first week in April was a rough time for Connie Salguero. The Filipina nursing assistant, who says she would’ve been eligible to retire in two years, reported to her shift at the University of California San Francisco medical center at Mt. Zion on April 1 — and was told she was laid off. Two days after that, she was forced out of her home through an eviction, but fortuitously met an elderly Filipina woman who said Salguero could stay with her until she gets back on her feet.

“This manager said to me, Connie, come here, let’s talk,” and delivered the bad news, Salgeuro recounted, getting a little misty-eyed. Two other Filipina hospital assistants in her unit met with the same fate that day, she said.

“I’m trying to find a job,” Salguero said. “It’s very hard. But I will survive.” She projected a sense of resolve despite the whirlwind of sudden stress, which seemed fitting for someone whose job entailed feeding, bathing, and assisting up to ten bedridden patients at a time, many of them suffering from cancer.

Salguero said management told her the layoffs were necessary because of the most recent wave of federal budget cuts. But Cristal Java, lead organizer for UC patient care technical workers’ union, AFSCME 3299, interjected during an interview with the Bay Guardian to refute that explanation, calling it “total crap. They don’t want to tell workers the truth,” Java said, “which is that the hospitals are extremely profitable.”


Salguero is one of about 25 UCSF certified nursing assistants whose recent layoffs prompted AFSCME to register a formal complaint with the Public Employee Relations Board, an agency that mediates labor disputes. The CNA layoffs hit in March and early April as part of a raft of cutbacks that eliminated a total of 300 full-time equivalent positions. Some of those positions were unfilled while other staffers were reassigned elsewhere or had their hours cut; a total of 75 individuals were laid off.

The cuts prompted union representatives to organize a protest at UCSF’s Parnassus Campus April 4, with San Francisco Sup. John Avalos and California Sen. Leland Yee turning out in support of the workers. Salguero was there too, waving a sign, and she wound up telling her story for an international broadcast by a Filipino news station. Things took a dramatic turn when police arrived on the scene, and Union President Kathryn Lybarger and some others were escorted off the premises in handcuffs.

Asked to explain the rationale behind the layoffs, UCSF spokesperson Karin Rush-Monroe responded, “We evaluated the impact of the Affordable Care Act, expected reductions in Medicare, MediCal and private insurance reimbursements,” as well as employee benefits and rising costs in drugs and medical supplies, and ultimately decided on a 4 percent labor budget cut. “We must make a ‘course correction’ if we are to maintain our resources to care for our patients,” Rush-Monroe said.

But the staffing cuts hit just weeks after AFSCME published a blistering report, titled “A Question of Priorities,” charging that UC has prioritized profit margins at its medical centers since 2009 while needlessly eliminating frontline staff positions, all to the detriment of patient care.

“It feels very much like they’re chasing down the Wall Street model of business,” Randall Johnson, an MRI technologist at UCSF Parnassus Campus who is active with Local 3299, told the Guardian. “We’re pressed to move faster and faster and faster. It’s more about profit than it is about patient care.”

Steve Montiel, spokesperson for UC Office of the President, told us that UCSF is “consistently ranked as one of the top hospitals in the country by U.S. News and World Report,” and pointed out that the AFSCME report coincided with an ongoing contract dispute concerning patient care technical workers, which may lead to a strike authorization in the next few weeks.


Billed as a “whistleblower report,” AFSCME’s 40-page publication portrays an internal environment throughout UC medical centers in which staffers — particularly frontline workers — are exhausted, overburdened, and dangerously likely to make mistakes.

Peppered with anecdotal horror stories describing things like dried blood observed on operating room tables at facilities where custodial staffing was cut to a bare minimum, or an incident in which a mentally altered patient was found on a window sill at a medical facility where harrowed nursing assistants’ attention was divided too many ways, the report portrays an unsafe environment that seems out of sync with the system’s reportedly healthy earnings derived from patient care.

“Bring it up at bargaining, and you get told to kick rocks,” said union spokesperson Todd Stenhouse. AFSCME has called upon state agencies and lawmakers to investigate UC policies on “cutting costs, reducing staff, and maximizing revenue.”

“We’ve been getting lots of reports about short staffing, and no coverage for breaks,” said Tim Thrush, a diagnostic sonographer who works with patients experiencing complications in pregnancy, and has worked at UCSF for years. “If you get a break or a lunch, it seems to be rare — even though it’s state law.” Thrush added. “It looks to us … that UC’s response to us raising concerns … is to say, OK well then let’s make it worse. Let’s lay off a whole bunch of people.

“It’s been very disappointing,” he said, “and it’s getting to be kind of scary.”

The report emphasizes California Department of Public Health findings of violations relating to bedsores from 2008 to 2012. The sores can occur if a patient stays in one position for too long, causing reduced blood flow and damage to skin tissue, and have been linked to infection.

Among those affected by the layoffs were “lift and turn team” members, including care workers tasked with turning immobilized patients to prevent bedsores.

Ironically, Rush-Monroe, the UCSF spokesperson, noted in response to a Guardian query that a $300,000 “incentive pay” bonus CEO Mark Laret received in 2011 was based on multiple “clinical improvement goals” that had to be satisfied in order to qualify for the 2011 compensation increase. One of these targets was a reduction in the number of hospital-acquired bedsores.

While the union report points to rising instances of bedsores, and the UCSF administration claims they were reduced to the extent that the CEO was monetarily rewarded for the accomplishment, a quick look at scores on hospital ranking website California Hospital Compare showed that pressure sore rankings at UCSF are almost exactly even with the statewide average.

Meanwhile, hospital rankings of patient safety indicators on Health Grades, an online consumer ranking website, didn’t reflect any dramatic differences between patient safety scores at UCSF, CPMC or Kaiser Permanente.


In the midst of these staffing cuts, AFSCME charges, the $6.9 billion system has enjoyed robust finances, with UCSF earning $100 million in net revenue last year. Between 2009 to 2012, management positions increased by 38 percent system-wide, while payroll costs for managers grew by 50 percent, with an additional $100 million a year allocated to administrative staffing.

According to a 2013-14 budgetary report prepared at the UC level, the system’s network of public universities have suffered deep financial cuts while its five medical centers “have continued to flourish and grow,” and “enjoy robust earnings.”

A revenue breakdown in the UC budget report shows that 62 percent of medical center earnings system-wide were derived from private health care plan reimbursements, while about a third came from Medicare and MediCal, funded by the federal and state government.

Meanwhile, ASCFME’s report has raised eyebrows in the California Senate. Sen. Ed Hernandez, who represents part of Los Angeles County and chairs the Senate Health Committee, “has expressed an interest in looking at it further,” according to committee consultant Vincent Marchand. “We may decide to call a hearing” sometime in May to see if further action is warranted, he added.

Sen. Yee lambasted the UC system for what he called “blatant disregard for the working staff.” Yee said the layoffs raised concerns about the quality of patient care, saying, “How do you lay off 300 individuals and think that it’s not going to compromise patient care?”

Yee added that he thought the UC budget ought to be scrutinized when it goes before the Senate. “Although the Constitution gives the UCs of California tremendous autonomy via the Board of Regents, ultimately we in the Legislature still allocate dollars … so there is a legislative and moral responsibility that we need to exercise,” he said. “Are the dollars within UC being used appropriately to take care of patients and in ensuring their safety?”


In early 2015, UCSF will open its new Mission Bay complex, a 289-bed facility featuring a children’s hospital with an urgent/emergency care unit and an adult care unit for cancer patients. The estimated price tag for the project is about $1.5 billion, and construction costs associated the project were referenced in an Oct. 12 letter Laret, UCSF’s CEO, issued to hospital staff announcing the pending staffing cuts.

Thrush questions decisions made at the highest administrative levels. Laret is “eliminating 300 jobs, and we’re opening a new facility, and he’s getting a $300,000 bonus,” he said, referring to a “retention bonus” expected to be awarded this year, which could be followed by a $400,000 bonus in 2014. “Why is he getting a huge bonus if we’re having to lay off so much staff?”

With a total compensation of around $1.2 million in 2011, Laret’s salary seems excessive in comparison with that of frontline workers — and it is. At the same time, it seems to be within the realm of a CEO of a major medical facility, a quick Internet search reveals.

ACSFME’s report targets Laret specifically, saying he repeatedly emphasized to hospital staff, “When you see patients, you should see dollar signs.” Johnson, the MRI technician, told the Guardian he heard Laret make this statement years ago, when he first came on as CEO. “I know that some physicians were outraged by it,” he said. “I heard that the physicians told him to stop, and he stopped saying it.” UCSF did not respond to Guardian requests for a comment on this allegation.

The report also focuses on a practice of so-called “VIPs” — patients connected with the UC Regents or other influential persons — receiving preferential care. “I got called in on a Sunday to take care of a celebrity, because they had a headache,” said Johnson. “I’ve seen patients have to be on hold so we can scan the [VIPs]. They definitely get preference. I’ve been told, if one of those VIPs comes in, we have to get them on the scanner.” UCSF didn’t respond to Guardian questions concerning VIP patient treatment, either.


Montiel, the media relations director for the UC system, responded to a Guardian query with a wholesale rejection of the detailed 40-page report, without directly addressing any of the allegations. Instead, he said the whole controversy arose from a labor rift over pension reform.

“These claims by AFSCME coincide with a bargaining impasse, and the scheduling of a strike vote by its patient care technical workers,” Montiel wrote in an email. “Quality of care is not the issue. The real issue is pension reform. AFSCME has resisted pension reforms that eight unions representing 14 other UC bargaining units have agreed to. The reforms also apply to UC faculty and staff not in unions.”

AFSCME recently announced that its membership would begin voting on April 30 over whether to authorize a strike, following months of stalled negotiations over a contract that expired last September. Stenhouse, the union spokesperson, called it “the impasse of impasses” yet suggested to the Guardian that the strike authorization vote was a side issue from the concerns raised in the whistleblower report. The workers are there to “provide patient care,” he told the Guardian. “They’re not making Buicks.”

“This report is about something much bigger than our members’ livelihoods,” Lybarger stated when the report was released. “It’s about whether the UC is prioritizing quality care for the millions of Californians who put their lives in our hands.”

Sutter/CPMC agrees to a contract with its nurses in SF, clearing the path for its hospital deal


Ending a long and contentious labor impasse and setting the stage for the city to approve the pair of new hospitals that Sutter Health and its California Pacific Medical Center affiliate want to build in San Francisco, the California Nurses Association today announced that it has reached a tentative contract agreement with the hospital corporations.

As we’ve reported, reaching a deal with its nurses seemed to be the last major hurdle for Sutter/CPMC to overcome before the community-labor coalition would fully support the compromise hospital deal that a city-CPMC negotiating team announced on March 5. The nurses helped force that hard-won deal in part by aggressively advocating for St. Luke’s Hospital to remain financially viable and open to the low-income community it serves.

“We are delighted to finally reach a contract deal. It’s been six years of a very contentious relationship,” Eileen Prendiville, a registered nurse who works at CPMC’s California Campus, told the Guardian. She said that the nurses are thrilled to have attained good job security and patient advocacy standards while ensuring St. Luke’s stays open. “Working with a coalition of labor and community, we were successful at changing the face of healthcare in San Francisco.”

Under a previous agreement reached last year between CPMC and the Mayor’s Office, St. Luke’s would have had just 80 beds and could have been closed if the corporations revenues sagged. But activists and the Board of Supervisors were able to kill it and force the corporations back to the bargaining table.

In today’s print edition of the Guardian, I cover the movement to value caregiving in our uncaring economic system and the key role that CNA has played has in that growing movement. In San Francisco, CNA has faced down lawsuits, lock-outs, and harsh union-busting tactics as it pushed for contracts with strong patient advocacy protections.

Sup. David Campos, who help negotiate the latest hospital deal, said he was “thrilled” to hear Sutter/CPMC reached a deal with CNA. “We’ve always said it’s really important as we finalize the agreement that there is protection for the workers,” Campos told us.

Board President David Chiu, another key negotiator in the recent deal, told us, “I’m tremendously excited that there’s finally an agreement between oru nurses and CPMC, and thank the parties for their hard work in reaching this point. Along with the agreement we recently arrived at for the new Cathedral Hill and St. Luke’s campuses, this is an important moment for our city’s health care futue.”

CPMC spokespersons didn’t immediately respond to our calls for comment, but we’ll update this post if and when we hear back. The CNA press release announcing the deal and its details follows:



Nurses Reach Agreement with Sutter California Pacific

RNs Hail Community Support, Decision to Keep St. Luke’s Open 


Registered nurses at two San Francisco Sutter hospitals, California Pacific Medical Center and St. Luke’s Hospital, have, at long last, reached agreement with hospital officials on a new collective bargaining contract for the 800 RNs who work at the two facilities, the California Nurses Association said today.

The agreement expands patient protections, strengthens the nurses’ bargaining and job security rights, and provides for economic gains. It must still be ratified by CPMC and St. Luke’s nurses who will vote on the pact in membership meetings soon.

The RNs emphasized that they are especially pleased with the overall political and community framework, announced earlier this month, that preserves St. Luke’s after years of uncertainly and threats of closure for the historic hospital that serves a medically underserved community in San Francisco.

CNA Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro praised the unity of the nurses over the long contract fight and the broad public support for nurses as critical to protecting St. Luke’s and winning a new agreement for the nurses.

“San Francisco nurses have worked extremely hard, with the widespread support of a very broad community coalition and the support of a number of community leaders, including members of the Board of Supervisors, to protect this vital community resource. We are proud of the efforts of everyone who has held the line for maintaining St. Luke’s,” DeMoro said.

For the first time, the RNs at both hospitals will be under one contract with equal job security and seniority rights. The pact includes safe patient handling provisions to stem patient falls and injuries to patients and nurses. Additionally it obligates the employer to provide for meal and rest breaks and stipulates that new technology not supplant RN professional judgment.

On economics, all the RNs will receive across the board pay increases of 6 percent over the next 34 months, as well as additional pay based on years of service in the San Francisco hospitals, at other Sutter facilities, and foreign nursing experience.

“We are delighted to finally reach a contract settlement with Sutter/CPMC,” said California Pacific campus RN Susan Blaschak RN.  “Our contract provides for continued patient advocacy and will keep our professional nursing standards high for years to come.”

“The process has been tumultuous but in the end we had a vision and we were successful in performing the ultimate in patient advocacy – saving St Luke’s,” said Jane Sandoval, a St. Luke’s RN and CNA board member. “In addition, with our collective bargaining agreement we have preserved patient care standards, having a voice in that and in our professional integrity.”

“Working with a coalition of labor and community groups, we have been successful in changing the face of healthcare for San Francisco’s future. St Luke’s will not only remain open it will offer more healthcare services to residents in the community south of Market,” said Eileen Prendiville RN at the California Pacific campus of CPMC.

“Our contract settlement was also made possible by the strong support for the nurses by San Franciscans for Healthcare, Housing, Jobs and Justice as well as elected leaders who knew San Franciscans overall would be best served by a fair collective bargaining agreement,” said Sandoval.

CNA also calls on Sutter officials in its headquarters in Sacramento, and other Sutter regions to view the San Francisco agreement as a new opportunity to resolve outstanding contract fights with RNs in the East Bay and North Bay.

Nurses have now reached agreement with CNA-represented Sutter hospitals in the past nine months at Mills-Peninsula in Burlingame and San Mateo, Sutter Santa Rosa, Sutter Lakeside in Lakeport, and Sutter VNA in Santa Cruz.

Contracts remain unresolved at Alta Bates Summit in Berkeley and Oakland, Eden in Castro Valley and San Leandro, Sutter Delta in Antioch, Sutter Solano in Vallejo, and Sutter Novato.

“Every one of those disputes could also be resolved if those hospital’s officials would approach negotiations with a desire to stop the war on their nurses, remove unwarranted and punitive concessions demands, and show the community served by their hospitals that they desire a cooperative relationship with nurses based on therapeutic healing for their patients,” said Sandoval.

Do we care?



Teresa Molina faced abusive, belittling treatment on the job.

The 52-year-old immigrant from Sinaloa, Mexico, says she was paid $500 a month to provide 24-hour, live-in care to a girl in a wheelchair and her family. She wasn’t allowed regular breaks. She couldn’t eat what she wanted. Even her sleep was disrupted.

“I spoke up a couple times, but when I did, my employer told me I was dumb and good for nothing,” Molina, speaking Spanish through a translator, told us. “She would ask my immigration status, and I said that was not important, but she used that as a threat.”

Molina is a domestic worker — one of the only two professions (the other being farm work) exempt from federal labor standards.

Her experience, a common one among immigrant women in California, prompted Molina to get involved in last year’s California Domestic Worker Bill of Rights campaign, part of national effort that resulted in the first-ever protections being signed into law in New York in 2010.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the California version of the bill late on the night of Sept. 30, 2012, the deadline for signing legislation, citing the paternalistic concern that better pay and working conditions might translate into fewer jobs or fewer hours for domestic workers.

“I was offended by how he did it, in the middle of the night on the last day, and he basically trivialized it,” Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-SF), who sponsored the measure, told us. “Here in California, it’s a major workforce, but there’s no rules and there’s a documented history of abuses.”

But if anything, Brown’s veto has energized local activists, who say the battle for domestic worker rights is part of a much larger issue that women, children, immigrants, and their supporters are struggling against as they try to get society to value one of the most basic of social and economic functions: caring and caregiving.

Those in the caregiving professions are used to such defeats, but this one seems to be galvanizing and uniting several parallel movements — most of which have a strong presence here in the Bay Area — that want to apply human values and needs to an economic system that has never counted them.

It is, economists and policy experts say, a profoundly different way to measure economic output — and if the domestic workers and their allies succeed, it could have long-term implications for national, state, and local policy.



There are endless examples of how society undervalues caring and caregiving and other labor that has long been deemed “women’s work.” They range from nurses fighting for fair contracts to in-home support service workers fighting for their jobs. Many are jobs that have traditionally been done in the home — and in some cases, not counted at all as part of the Gross Domestic Product.

Social work, teaching, administrative support, caring for children or seniors, community organizing, and other jobs held predominantly by women and people of color are consistently among the lowest paid professions.

But the demand for those jobs is increasing — and the price of under-investing in education, caregiving, and child development is decreased productivity and increased crime and other costs for decades to come — so activists say they are critical to the nation’s future.

“It’s a different perspective. Caregiving isn’t transactional the way we think about other jobs,” said Alicia Garza, executive director of People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER), which has joined with other organizations nationwide for a Caring Across Generations campaign. “We’re a nation that has a growing aging population with no plan for how we’re going to take care of these people.”

In California today, caregivers find themselves under attack. Despite playing an important role in electing Brown as governor and in keeping Kaiser Hospital in Oakland and CPMC’s St. Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco open to the low-income residents they serve, the California Nurses Association is still stuck in a years-long contract impasse with those huge hospital corporations.

“We don’t think of ourselves first, we think of others first,” says Zenei Cortez, a CNA co-president who has been a registered nurse for 33 years, noting that patient care and advocacy standards have been key sticking points in their negotiations.

During each year with a budget shortfall, in-home support services for the sick, elderly, and disabled have been placed on the budgetary chopping block in California and many of its counties — including San Francisco, which has about 21,000 such workers — saved only by political organizing efforts and a longstanding lawsuit against the state (which was just settled on March 20 and will result in an 8 percent across-the-board cut in services).

“This program has been under assault for a full decade,” says Paul Kumar, a public policy and political consultant for the National Union of Healthcare Workers, calling that attack short-sighted, in both fiscal and human terms. “People get better care in a home setting.”



If people generally act in their financial self interest, as economic theory holds, Oakland resident Lil Milagro Martinez would oppose the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and its requirement that she pay her nanny at least minimum wage and allow for breaks and sick days.

After all, Milagro and her family are barely scraping by, with her husband working four jobs as she balances care for their infant son with coursework as a theology graduate student. Instead, Milagro said, she offers their nanny a living wage, benefits, and good working conditions.

“I wanted to feel that we were affirming her rights, so she would pass on that level of respect to my son,” Milagro told us. “If I can do this, and there are companies out there saying they can’t afford to do the right thing, that angers me.”

She was also angry when Brown vetoed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. She’s been working with a domestic worker employer group called Hand in Hand, a part of the larger National Domestic Worker Coalition.

“Our goal is to bring people together to create the kinds of worker relationships they want with people in their homes,” Danielle Feris, the national director of Hand in Hand, told us. “There will just be more and more people that need care in the home, so this touches all families.”

Milagro and other domestic worker employers say their stand is about much more than enlightened self-interest. They say this is an important step toward recognizing the important contributions that women and minority groups make to society and creating an economy focused on addressing human needs.

“Care, we can say, is undervalued across the board,” Feris said.

In addition to reintroducing the bill in Sacramento this year, the coalition is pushing similar legislation in Massachusetts and Illinois.

“I think the domestic workers have done a fantastic job at organizing across the country,” Ammiano said. “Making a movement of something isn’t easy, but once it gets traction then it’s tough to ignore.”

Like Milagro and Ammiano, Molina said she was bitterly disappointed by Brown’s veto, although all say it only strengthened their resolve to win the fight this year. “I felt very sad, depressed, and betrayed,” Molina said. “But we will win this…And I think the movement for women, workers, and immigrants will only grow from us winning.”

Domestic Workers Coalition campaign coordinator Katie Joaquin noted that the campaign is about triggering a cultural shift as much as it’s about winning legal protections, as important as they may be. “Once this bill passes and we have basic protections doesn’t mean the abuses will stop,” she said, noting that this is really about valuing care work.

“It’s bringing people together around the care we need,” Joaquin said. “These are conversations that are breaking new ground. The bill is really something that gets the ball rolling.”

Once some household work gets recognized, it’s not a big step toward a conversation about valuing all kinds of caring work and including that in our measures of economic progress.

“We definitely support the idea of valuing all care work, both paid and unpaid,” Feris said. “We all have something to gain by valuing each other.”



Author and researcher Riane Eisler has been a leading thinker and advocate for creating a more caring economy for decades, work that resulted in her seminal 1988 book The Chalice and the Blade, which sold half a million copies and was lauded as a groundbreaking analysis of the gender roles in ancient and modern history. She followed that with The Real Wealth of Nations in 2007, and the creation of the Center for Partnership Studies (CPS) and the Caring Economy Campaign.

Eisler takes issue with what most people call “the economy,” a wasteful and incomplete system that doesn’t actually economize in connecting what we have to what we need. She persuasively argues that it makes sense in both human and fiscal terms to value caring and caregiving, for one another and the natural world, providing myriad examples of countries, cultures, and companies that have benefited from that approach.

“In a way, the concepts are very simple. What could be more simple than saying the real wealth of nations isn’t financial? It consists of the contributions of people and nature,” Eisler told us by phone from her home in Monterey.

On March 20, Eisler gave a Congressional Briefing (attended by members and staffers in the Rayburn House Office Building) entitled “The Economic Return From Investing in Care Work & Early Childhood Education,” presenting a report on the issue that CPS and the Urban Institute released in December: “National Indicators and Social Wealth.”

“I think this is extremely timely,” Eisler told us, noting that the Republican Party’s currently aggressive fiscal conservatism must be countered with evidence that meeting people’s real needs is better economic policy than simply catering to Wall Street’s interests.

Her address to Congress followed ones that Eisler has given to the United Nations General Assembly and other important civic organizations around the world, and it was followed the next day by an address she gave to the State Department entitled: “What’s Good for Women is Good for World: Foundations of a Caring Economy.”

While Eisler said “there are people who are very excited about it,” she admits that her ideas have made little progress with the public even as the global economy increasingly displays many of the shortcomings she’s long warned against. “This is still very much on the margins.”

But that could be changing, particularly given the political organizing work that has been done in recent years around the rights of domestic workers and immigrants and on behalf of the interests of children and the poor, some of it drawing on the work of liberal economists such as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz.

“The Gross Domestic Product is a very poor measure of economic health,” she told us, noting that it perversely counts excessive healthcare spending, rapid resource depletion, and the cleanups of major oil spills as positive economic activity.

Erwin de Leon, a Washington DC policy researcher, opens “National Indicators and Social Wealth” with a quote from a speech that Robert F. Kennedy gave in 1968 criticizing GDP as a bad measure of progress: “It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor devotion to our country, it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

De Leon then writes: “An urgent need met by measuring a nation’s social wealth is identifying the attributes of a society that make it possible to create and support the development of the full capacities of every individual through the human life span. Social wealth indicators identify these drivers, with special focus on the economic value of caring for and educating children and the contributions of women and communities of color.”

The carefully documented report makes an economic argument that investment in caregiving and early childhood development more than pays for itself over the long run in terms of increased productivity and decreased costs from crime and other social ills, creating a happier and more egalitarian society in the process.

“Nobody talks about the work that immigrant women do and how it contributes to productivity. They free us up to do other things, but we don’t count it,” De Leon told us in a phone interview. “We put lots of value on numbers and the views of economists. The problem with the numbers is it’s an economic number that just values production.”

Eisler’s approach is neither liberal nor conservative, and she takes equal issue with capitalism and socialism as they’ve been practiced, labeling them both “domination-based” systems (as opposed to the “partnership-based” systems she advocates) that devalue caregiving and real human needs.

In fact, she seems to be even harder on progressives than those on the other end of the ideological spectrum, given the Left’s stated concern for women and communities of color. It was a point that Ammiano echoed: “There’s a lot of liberal guilt, but the follow-through has yet to happen.”

“What this entails is re-examining everything,” Eisler told us. “It starts with examining the underlying beliefs and values.”



Even in supposedly enlightened San Francisco, things are getting worse. On March 26, following a battle with SEIU Local 1021 that began last fall, the city’s Department of Human Resources submitted to a labor mediator its proposal to lower the salaries for new hires in 43 job categories, including vocational nurses, social workers, and secretaries.

The rationale: Those workers were paid more than market rates based on a survey of other counties. But it’s also true that those positions are disproportionately held by women and minorities. In the 1980s, San Francisco made a policy decision to raise the pay of what were traditionally female-dominated professions, part of a nationwide campaign to erase decades of pay inequity.

“The city is rolling back decades of historic work on pay equity in this city,” SEIU Political Director Chris Daly told us. “We were concerned about equal treatment of workers who were disproportionately women and people of color.”

DHS spokesperson Susan Gard told us, “The city is committed to that principal, equal pay for equal work, and we don’t think our proposal erodes that.” But she couldn’t explain why that was true. In reality, the move will lower the salaries for women that come to work for the city.

Those involved in the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights campaign mince no words when it comes to seeing the long history of sexism in political and economic institutions as one of the main obstacles they face.

“In so many ways, domestic work is women’s work, and women’s work has always been undervalued and underpaid,” Milagro said.

She even saw it growing up as child when she accompanied her father when he did housekeeping work, when he was treated “as nonentity, not human,” abuse and mistreatment that was exacerbated by the twin facts that he was an immigrant doing women’s work.

“Sexism has undervalued care work,” Feris said.

Ammiano likened the current struggle to the gay rights movement, and he said that when he started as a teacher back in the 1970s and wanted to teach in the early primary grades, he was told that was for women.

“It’s the feminization of labor,” Ammiano said. “When you have institutional sexism, you have to peel it back layer by layer.”

Eisler is equally direct: “We’ve all been taught to marginalize anything connected to the feminine,” she said.

She noted the vastly disproportionate global poverty rates of women compared to men and said “it’s because most are full or part-time caregivers,” work that isn’t often compensated.

Eisler said the current economic system “marginalizes and dehumanizes half the population,” asking how that could ever be considered ethical or equitable. She dismisses arguments that we can’t afford to value caregiving or work done in the home, noting that “there’s always money for the masculine values” of war and economic expansion.

Ammiano said the cultural blinders that prevent people from seeing how society discriminates against women and the work they do makes the problem more insidious and tougher to solve.

“If they’re doing it deliberately, it’s almost better because you can sink you teeth into it, but if it’s not deliberate then it’s tougher to corral,” he said.

Yet there could be subtle but important changes underway in how people value the roles of men and women in society.

There are indications that substantial majorities of people increasingly see men and masculine values as a big part of the problems the people of the world are facing. Author John Gerzema, whose forthcoming book is entitled Athena Doctrine: How Women (And the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future, revealed some of the extensive polling research behind his book in a recent TED Talk.

Much of it points to what he called a “global referendum on men,” with strong majorities in countries around the world — with Canada the only exception — agreeing with the statements “I’m dissatisfied with the conduct of men in my country” and “The world could be better if men thought more like women.”

He and his research partners also had the tens of thousands of people they surveyed rate a list of traits as either masculine or feminine, and then later he had respondents state the traits they most wanted to see in their political leaders, finding that people around the world have begun to strongly prefer feminine traits to male ones in their leaders.

His conclusion: “Femininity is the operating system of 21st Century progress.”



The “silver tsunami” — Baby Boomers reaching old age and about to need more care — is about to break.

POWER, Senior Action Network, and many other San Francisco-based organizations in the Caring Across Generations campaign are part of a national push to increase access to and investment in caregiving, from early childhood development through care for those with disabilities to elder care.

“The caregiver industry is something we should invest in,” said POWER’s Garza. “We believe in a society that values care and we want to value that work.”

Yet with short-term, bottom-line thinking guiding the decisions, that requires a bold paradigm shift. Instead, the popular state In-Home Support Services program — which provides some compensation for caregivers of those with disabilities — is now facing an 8 percent cut as part of the recent settlement to lawsuits filed to prevent the 20 percent cut that then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had proposed.

The SF-based lawyer who filed the lawsuit, Stacey Leyton, told us this was the best settlement possible given the current political climate and the risk of deeper cuts if the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the state’s favor. But she thinks any IHHS cuts are short-sighted: “Any cuts to home care may balance the budget ledger now, but they can cause more costs later in the form of nursing home care and emergency room visits.”

James Chionsini, a community organizer with the Senior and Disability Action (SDA, formerly Senior Action Network), tells us that in addition to the sheer size of the “silver tsunami” coming through — which will require a huge influx of caregivers — efforts by the federal and state governments to contain medical costs could hurt the “upper-poor,” who are required to somehow pay a share of their MediCal health care costs.

That’s one reason why SDA, POWER, and other groups are supporting several campaigns aimed at creating a more caring society, from the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights to Caring Across Generations to basic, bread-and-butter political organizing efforts.

“Organizing is so important,” Garza said, while Chionsini said, “It’s about raising the profile of people who are providing care.”

Milagro said that if the immigrant women who do domestic work score a major victory, that could empower other marginalized groups. “It’s about a change in consciousness,” she said. “This can show a path for other movements to build, strengthen, and work together.”

Garza agrees that important, foundational changes are already underway, even though they will require lots of hard organizing work to bring them to fruition.

“There is a groundswell. This is happening,” she said, noting that it revolves around asking important questions. “How do you look at an economy not rooted in patriarchy? What would it look like if we had to compensate mothers?”

Next week: Part II, Do we care about the natural world?

The real CPMC story


OPINION The recently announced terms for the development of California Pacific Medical Center’s hospitals at Cathedral Hill and St. Luke’s generated front-page and lead stories in the local news media. But nearly without exception, only part of the story was reported. Missing from most accounts of the terms of the new deal, which dramatically changed last year’s failed draft development agreement negotiated by Mayor Ed Lee, was the decisive role played by a community/labor coalition, San Franciscans for Healthcare, Housing, Jobs and Justice.

Key details of the agreement have yet to be finalized, and provisions of the terms announced on March 5th need to be improved. But the new agreement, in virtually all respects, is an improvement over the old one. And on the same day the terms of the new deal was announced one of the union members of the coalition, the National Union of Healthcare Workers signed a contact with CPMC that protected union organizing rights, job security at Cathedral Hill and full employer paid health care — issues that had been unresolved over the last few years. Still missing is an ageement between Sutter and its nurses, a critical component of labor peace.

The basic structure of the current terms mirror almost exactly the positions outlined by the SFHHJJ over the last year, including a requirement for labor peace with all unions at CPMC. This was no accident; it was the result of the efforts of the community/labor coalition. When the old deal was stalled at the Board of Supervisors in early 2013 and it was clear that the Mayors Office had no idea how to proceed, the members of the coalition came up with a framework to get discussions going again. The key ingredient was the involvement of a skilled an knowledgeable mediator, mutually respected by all parties and the participation of Sutter Corp. in Sacramento — the real party able to make actual binding corporate commitments, not the subsidiary the mayor had dealt with.

The second step was to agree to a framework of issues that would form the substance of negotiations — and the coalition’s own comprehensive set of positions served as that framework.

The next step was to get a critical mass of supervisors to agree to participate in the negotiations. Two Supervisors, David Chiu and David Campos, agreed to the coalition’s framework and the use of a third-party mediator. They added a third supervisor, Mark Farrell, to their group in order to assure buy-in from the full board.

Finally, the mediator had to be found and in that the coalition (and the rest of the city) simply were lucky that Lou Girardo was willing and able to provide his own special skills and credibility.

The SFHHJJ is not the first community/labor coalition in San Francisco history. Such coalitions were present in both the District 1 and District 5 supervisors races last year with mixed success, and in 2008 a community/labor coalition fought for revenue measures, again with mixed success but real unity. A new labor/community coalition has emerged to oppose Scott Wiener’s ill-advised weakening of our local California Environmental Policy Act procedures.

As the Democratic Party transforms itself into ever greater political irrelevancy by becoming the home of moderate Republicanism at all levels of government, community and labor co-operation seems to be growing over an increasing number of issues, showing a level of political vibrancy impossible to ignore.

Calvin Welch is a longtime community organizer in San Francisco and is a member of the SFHHJJ CPMC Negotiating Committee

CPMC deal gets warm welcome despite some shortcomings


Even though the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the term sheet for the California Pacific Medical Center’s hospital deal this week, comments from the supervisors and the general public indicated there are still a few outstanding issues before the project returns to the board for final approval, probably in July.

As the Guardian recently reported, CPMC’s longstanding contract impasse with the California Nurses Association remains the biggest sticking point even for many labor-community coalition members who helped hammer out the deal that was announced last week. James Tracy of the Community Housing Partnership told the supervisors that he was almost ready to uncork the champagne and celebrate, “but I’m holding off until there is labor peace with the nurses.”

New District 5 Sup. London Breed went on extended tirade ripping into the hard-won compromise plan, voicing support for the nurses, wanting more specifics on how affordable housing money will be used, calling for more money for job training to support the plan’s local hiring standards (“I need to know how this is going to transfer into support for Western Addition residents,” and concluding that she’s generally supportive of the deal but “I will reserve final judgment.”

Calvin Welch of the Council of Community Housing Organizations echoed Breed’s concern that the $36.5 million in affordable housing funds will be paid into the Mayor’s Office of Housing’s general pot rather than be set aside for specific projects. “We are very concerned with how this multi-faceted program will unfold,” Welch said, asking that COCHO be included in decisions about how the money from CPMC gets used.

Sup. Scott Wiener decried how the new deal’s $14 million in transportation impact fees is 30 percent less than the ill-fated previous deal – the result of a significantly smaller footprint of the Cathedral Hill Hospital – saying, “Once again transit comes out on the short end.”

The change called for by more supervisors than any other is an increase in job training funds to support the guarantee that 30 percent of construction jobs and 40 percent of permanent entry level jobs go to San Franciscans. Even though job training funds were doubled to $4 million under the new agreement, some supervisors and activists say that’s not enough.

“That’s a big improvement, but it’s still not enough, given the type of training needed for low-income San Franciscans to be able to work in the hospitals,” Gordon Mar of San Franciscans For Healthcare, Housing, Jobs and Justice told the Guardian.

Yet even with all these gripes and picking of nits, which will play out as the development agreement is prepared and goes through the Planning Commission approval process starting in May, the consensus across the ideological spectrum seems to be that this is a good deal for the city that is likely to be approved if CPMC can reach a contract with CNA

And all hailed it as a vast improvement over the deal CPMC cut last year with the Mayor’s Office, offering a lesson for city officials who are now negotiating other big deals, such as the Warriors Arena proposal. As Sup. John Avalos said at the hearing, “I remember a statement form the Mayor’s Office last year that this is the best we can get. I think we always need to challenge that.”

Editor’s Notes



EDITOR’S NOTES I wasn’t invited to the meeting where Mayor Ed Lee (and Willie Brown and Rose Pak) sat down with representatives of Lennar Corp. and a Chinese investment consortium to try to finalize a deal for Treasure Island. But I can tell you with near-absolute certainty that what comes out will not be good for San Francisco.

I can tell you that because every major project the mayor has negotiated has been bad for the city.

The way the California Pacific Medical Center project came down is a perfect example. The mayor worked directly with Sutter Corp., which owns CPMC, last spring, and in March, came out with a proposal that he and his allies presented as the best the city and the hospital giant could do.

It was awful.

CPMC would pay nowhere near enough in housing money to offset the new jobs it was creating. St. Luke’s, the critical public health link in the Mission, would be cut to 80 beds, below what it needed to be sustainable. Only about five percent of the 1,500 new jobs would go to existing San Francisco residents.

It was also pretty much dead on arrival at the Board of Supervisors, where a broad-based group of community activists pushed for big changes — and won. Sups. David Campos, David Chiu, and Mark Farrell stepped into the void created by a lack of mayoral leadership and forced Sutter to accept a much better deal, with St. Luke’s at 120 beds, vastly increased charity care, a guarantee that 40 percent of the new jobs will go to San Franciscans, and a much-better housing and transit component.

The mayor got rolled; he was ready to accept what everyone with any sense knew was better for Sutter than for his constituents. He clearly didn’t know how to say what the supervisors said: This won’t work, and we’d rather walk away from the whole deal than accept a crappy outcome.

That’s exactly what’s going on with the Warriors’ arena — the mayor is giving away the store. And he, with Brown and Pak at his side, will do the same at Treasure Island.

The balance of power in the city is moving to the board. And for good reason — the supervisors seem to be able to get things done.

Next, the Treasure Island sellout


Now that he’s done such a bang-up job negotiating a deal for the CMPC hospital, leaving the supervisors to clean up the mess, does anyone think that the hurry-up-and-finish-in-time-for-a-China-trip talks with Rose Pak and Willie Brown (who has his own interests here, too) will have a good outcome for San Francisco?

Because I don’t.

Nothing the mayor has directly negotiated with private interests has been anything but a disaster for the city. America’s Cup, the Warriors arena, CPMC … the guy just can’t seem to say No. And you really don’t want someone who gives away the story to be representing the city when there are billions of dollars and the future of a huge new neighborhood (on a sinking island in the middle of a rising bay) at stake.

I still don’t see how intense residential and commercial development works on TI, when there’s only one overcrowded artery on and off the island. In New York, people who live on Staten Island are used to using the (free, heavily subsidized)  ferry — 60,000 a day take the boats into Manhattan. That’s going to be a huge stretch for people who live on TI, where there will be limited shopping (even for things like groceries) — and at this point, I don’t see the developer, or the city, purchasing and paying for enough cheap ferry service to make it an effective form of transportation.

That said, if we can make it work as a transit-first community, I have no problem with developing Treasure Island — but I don’t see Lee getting the level of civic benefits out of Lennar and the China Development Corporation that San Francisco needs to make this pencil out. Hasn’t happened yet. 


Labor activist urges “innovation” in workers’ rights organizing

Even as renowned labor activist Bill Fletcher Jr. geared up for a talk last Thursday to describe the dire situation he believes the labor movement is facing, local organizers had victories to celebrate.

Fletcher joined organizers from the Filipino Community Center, OUR Walmart, PODER and POWER for a March 7 forum hosted by San Francisco Jobs With Justice, called “Labor at the Crossroads.”

Prior to the discussion, Fletcher told the Guardian he believes the national labor movement is witnessing a “final offensive” from big business and right-wing interests, and “an attempt to destroy unions altogether.” He also criticized a reluctance among national labor leaders to openly recognize the gravity of the situation. Fletcher’s latest book, published last August, is titled They’re Bankrupting Us, and 20 Other Myths About Unions.

Fletcher said he believes labor should place less emphasis on “being invited to this or that social occasion,” and more on reaching out to community-based organizations to foster movement building. He said he thought there was a need for “innovation” by organized labor, such as forging alliances with the unemployed, or reaching out to under-employed workers earning low wages in retail positions. “The labor movement grew by being audacious … by making the comfortable uncomfortable,” he said.

Despite Fletcher’s bleak portrait and the generally discouraging trends of the day, such as the impacts of the sequester, an international move toward austerity and stubbornly high unemployment in the United States, representatives from San Francisco Jobs with Justice nevertheless were able to point to some recent worker victories.

Many San Franciscans who gathered for “Labor at the Crossroads” were encouraged by successful negotiations that resulted in what they viewed as a much-improved deal for the San Francisco CPMC hospital project, which included stronger local hiring requirements and other items labor and community organizers had fought for.

Organizers also applauded last month’s Chinese Progressive Association victory against Dick Lee Pastry on behalf of workers subjected to wage-theft violations. The San Francisco Chinatown restaurant was forced to pay a whopping $525,000 in back wages and penalties.

At the state level, the California Domestic Workers’ Coalition kicked off its mobilization last week in Los Angeles urging passage of the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, authored by Assembly Member Tom Ammiano. The legislation would extend basic labor protections to housekeepers, childcare workers and caregivers, who collectively represent a primarily immigrant workforce. At the national level, momentum is starting to build around the Fair Minimum Wage Act, with supporters calling on lawmakers to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

“The union movement should be helping unemployed workers get organized, fight back and fight for jobs,” Fletcher said. “There is no significant organization of the unemployed – no significant force that has taken up this issue and said, we need to build a mass movement around jobs.”

He urged local organizers to identify priorities. “We have to go forward with, what is the vision?” he said. “What do the people of Oakland and San Francisco need?”

Nurses still waiting for CPMC to fully embrace San Francisco


Labor and community activists cheered this week’s news of a much-improved deal between the city and California Pacific Medical Center to build two new hospitals in San Francisco, and there are hopeful signs that frosty local relations with this sometimes-stubborn corporate behemoth may improve. But they also say they are withholding full support for the deal until CPMC reaches a contract agreement with the California Nurses Association.

CPMC and its parent, Sutter Health, have had a nasty running battle with CNA over the six years since their last contract expired that has included strikes, lockouts, lawsuits, harsh union-busting tactics, and the pooling of bad blood on both sides. But CPMC announced a labor agreement with its other major union, National Union of Healthcare Workers, on the day after the hospital deal was announced and there are signs that a deal with CNA could also be imminent.

“We’ve made some progress and we have the makings of a settlement on the table, but we’re not there yet. Yet now is the time,” Fernando Losada, CNA’s collective bargaining director for California.

It was CNA and other labor groups that effectively partnered with community organizations and progressive members of the Board of Supervisors last year to kill the hospital deal that CPMC cut with the Mayor’s Office and to force the much-improved agreement that was announced on Tuesday. “It’s all about necessity and their being able to implement their plans,” Losada said of CPMC’s designs on San Francisco. “Obviously, the full of implementation of their plans were thwarted with the help of some good community organizing.”

And Losada said he expects that labor-community coalition to stand firm on expecting CPMC to reach a fair agreement with the nurses, who are seeking more job security and benefit concessions than CPMC has been willing to make so far.

“The successful community organizing that we played an active role in putting together has had a lot to do with them being more forthcoming at the bargaining table,” Losada said. “We like where this has ended up, particularly on the St. Luke’s [Hospital] issue [guaranteeing a larger and more viable new hospital than originally proposed]. But we can’t support this wholeheartedly and we won’t if our nurses are left out in the cold.”

Gordon Mar of San Franciscans for Healthcare, Housing, Jobs, and Justice, which formed up around the CPMC negotiations with the city, said that most community groups will also insist on CPMC reaching an agreement with CNA before the project moves forward.

“A contract for CNA is the last remaining big issue the coalition would like to see resolved,” Mar, who also works with the labor group Jobs With Justice, told us. “We at Jobs With Justice would not support the deal unless the CNA dispute is resolved.”

Paul Kumar, a consultant with NUHW who represented the coalition during the negotiations between CPMC and the city, as represented mostly by Sups. David Campos, David Chiu, and Mark Farrell, said he was happy to see CPMC reach agreements with the city and NUHW, but that it’s too soon to conclude the corporate has turned over a new leaf.

“I think it’s premature because relationships take a long time to transform themselves, but there are transformative moments, and it’s our duty to make the best of them. This may be one of them,” Kumar told us. “They’re obviously now trying to pursue their business interests in alignment with their community instead of without regard to their community, which has characterized their behavior in the past.”

Kumar said the coalition that overcame last year’s aggressive and uncompromising effort by CPMC to push through a deal that was bad for the city has learned a lot from that fight and evened out the playing field. “It’s up to us to try to build on their breakthrough,” Kumar said.

CPMC spokesperson Dean Fryer was unable to put the Guardian on contact with Sutter officials that our sources say may be responsible for the softening of CPMC’s tough negotiating stance in San Francisco, or to offer a comment on the changing dynamics in the company.

He stressed that CPMC has “a lot of interface with various communities in San Francisco” and said the company “does more charity care than anyone in San Francisco.” But he’s only been with CPMC for a few months and was unaware of studies last year showing CPMC actually does the least per-capita charity care of any hospital in San Francisco, a major point of controversy that resulted in improved charity care commitments in the latest agreement.

As for the prospects of an agreement with its nurses, “I can’t address CNA, that has been ongoing and it’s something I can’t comment on.”

NUHW – which represents medical technicians, administrative staff, and hospital workers other than nurses and doctors – announced that it reached a deal with CPMC at 12:30am on Tuesday that includes no labor concessions, retroactive wage increases, job security provisions, fully employer-paid health coverage, an improved pension, and maintenance of retiree health coverage.

Losada said he was happy to see the CPMC agreement with the city include strong local hiring requirements for construction workers, a predominantly male workforce, and now it’s time for CPMC to do right by its nurses, “an overwhelmingly female workforce.”

“As it stands, they have no protections and no guarantees they’ll be hired in the new facilities,” he said, noting how frustrating it’s been to get any assurances from CPMC as it has pursued this hospital deal over many years. “It’s always been about issues of job security, and affordable health care, ironically.”

Compromised position



When Mayor Ed Lee came to the Board of Supervisors for his monthly “question time” appearance Feb. 12, Sup. David Chiu tried to get some sense of where the mayor stood on a controversial piece of legislation that would allow more condominium conversions.

Chiu explained the complexities and implications of an issue where the two sides have dug in and appear to have little common ground, and he asked the mayor for some guidance.

“What is your position on this pending legislation?” he asked. “What protections would you support to prevent the loss of rent-controlled housing in our increasingly unaffordable city? How would you address the concern that if we allow the current generation of tenancy in common owners to convert, we will replace then with a new generation of TIC owners and additional real estate investments that will lead us right back to an identical debate within a short time?”

But if Chiu and other board members were looking for leadership, direction or a clue of where the mayor might stand, they didn’t get it. Lee said he understood both sides of the issue and hoped they could reach a consensus solution — without offering any hints what they might look like or how to achieve it. “I can’t say that I have a magic solution to this issue that will make everyone happy,” the city’s chief executive explained.

Asked by the Guardian afterward why he didn’t take a position and whether he might be more specific about how he’d like to see this conflict resolved, he replied, “I actually did take a position, even though it didn’t sound like it, because I actually believe they have good points on both sides.”

That’s a typical answer for a mayor who rose to power preaching the virtues of civility and compromise and striving to replace political conflict with consensus. But now several major, seemingly intractable issues are facing the city — and insiders say Lee’s refusal to take a strong stand is undermining any chance for successful.

The lack of mayoral leadership has been maddening to both sides involved in the negotiations over the condo-conversion legislation. Tenant advocates say the mayor’s waffling hardened the positions on both sides and emboldened the group Plan C and its allies in the real estate industry to reject the compromises offered by supervisors and tenant advocates.

“It’s very unhelpful,” San Francisco Tenants Union head Ted Gullicksen said of Lee’s refusal to take a stand. “Someone needs to kick the realtors in the butt, and that’s not happening. They have no impetus at all to compromise.”

Then there’s the case of California Pacific Medical Center’s proposed new hospital, a billion-dollar project that would transform the Cathedral Hill neighborhood and have lasting impacts on health care in San Francisco.

The mayor’s eagerness to get the deal done — even if it wasn’t the best deal for the city — led to a proposal that fell apart last year under scrutiny by the Board of Supervisors. That project has now been in mediation for months — and sources tell us they’re getting close to a deal that has little resemblance to the anything offered by the Mayor’s Office.

California Nurses Association Director of Public Policy Michael Lighty, who has been involved with the CPMC negotiations, said Lee’s unwillingness to take a strong and clear stand, or to help mediate the dispute once the deal blew up, is why this negotiation has been so difficult and protracted.

“If he had engaged stakeholders and the supervisors, we wouldn’t have had to go to the brink last summer,” he said. “You’ve got to have clear objectives and be willing to fight for those, and that means saying no…If you’re willing to accept any deal and just put political spin on it, this is what you get.”




Neither Lighty nor others involved in the CPMC negotiations would discuss details of the pending deal, as per the instructions of mediator Lou Giraudo. But they did talk to the Guardian about the political shortcomings that led to such a protracted mediation process on a project that has been in the works for many years and involving a looming state deadline to replace the seismically unsafe St. Luke’s Hospital.

Lighty called Lee’s conciliatory approach to CPMC “an administrative orientation and not a political one,” noting that what worked during Lee’s long career as a city administrator may not be working well now that he’s in the Mayor’s Office dealing with issues where consensus isn’t always possible.

“I don’t think it’s a very sophisticated view and I don’t think it’s one that produces the best results,” Lighty said.

Lighty did say the negotiations were getting close to resolution. “What comes before the board is going to be vastly superior to what the mayor and CPMC proposed,” he said. “I think what you’ll find whenever this comes out is it will repudiate the mayor’s approach.”

He contrasted Lee’s style to that of his predecessor, Gavin Newsom, who took positions on most controversial issues and would often get involved with forcing his allies to cut deals. For example, shortly after taking office on 2004, Newsom demanded that his allies in the hospitality industry end their lockout of hotel workers, and when they refused he turned on them and even famously joined workers on the picket line, pressuring the hotels to soon end the lockout.

“Why did you need to bring in an outside mediator for CPMC? Why didn’t the mayor do that?” Lighty asked, noting that Lee has stayed away from the current negotiations.

Ken Rich from the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development has been in those meetings but didn’t return our call. Mayoral Press Secretary Christine Falvey has also ignored repeated messages seeking comment on the issues raised in this story.

Rudy Nothenberg, who negotiated big deals on behalf of five successive mayors before Lee and who has been critical of the Warriors Arena deal that the Mayor’s Office has negotiated, said Lee’s unwillingness to take strong stands with developers is hurting the city.

“I was able to say I’m going to get the best deal I can for the city,” Nothenberg told us, saying he approached all negotiations, including the construction of AT&T Park, with the understanding from the mayors he worked for that he could simply say no to bad deals. “You need to bargain for the city as if these guys walked away, well, then that’s okay too.”

Sup. David Campos, who has been trying to get CPMC to strengthen its commitment to keeping St. Luke’s open as a full-service hospital, agreed that, “There have to be times when you’re willing to say no.” And on the CPMC project, Campos said that fell to the supervisors when the Mayor’s Office wasn’t willing to. “It was clear that the board was not going to approve it,” Campos said, “and sometimes you have to do that to get to a result you can live with,”

UCSF Political Science Professor Corey Cook said the problem is less with Lee’s overall philosophy than with what is strategically smart on individual issues.

“The mayor’s strength is in trying to come up with consensus measures,” Cook told us, calling the approach “generally a good one” and saying “the decider isn’t always who you want, then you get George W. [Bush].” Yet Cook also said intractable problems like the condo conversion debate may require a different approach. “Sometimes you do need to stake out clear ground to limit the terms of the debate.”




Chiu has at least been willing to put his energies behind his belief in compromise, taking an active role in the CPMC and condo negotiations, as well as complicated current negotiations involving how to legalize but limit Airbnb’s shared housing business in San Francisco, which involves landlord-tenant-neighbor dynamics, regulation of private leases, and complex land use and taxation issues.

“It’s been a very long month. I’ve been going around the clock on several challenging negotiations,” Chiu told the Guardian. “The most important things to work on are often the ones that are the most difficult to get done.”

Chiu was reluctant to discuss the negotiations, calling it a sensitive moment for each of them. But he did admit that he was disappointed in Lee’s non-answer to his publicly posed question. “I had hoped for a little more direction,” Chiu said. And while these negotiations haven’t shaken his faith in compromise, he did say, “It depends on the substance of the issue whether there are common ground solutions that are superior to two warring sides.”

But all involved in the condo debate say it appears we’ll be stuck with the latter. “The two sides are so far apart that I don’t know what a compromise that both sides would live with would even look like,” Campos said. “There are certain issues where I don’t think compromise or consensus is possible.”

On this one, tenant advocates are trying to protect a finite supply of rent-controlled housing and real estate interests want to convert that same housing into condos. “If the issue was just existing TIC owners, we would come to an agreement,” Gullicksen said. “But clearly the agenda of Plan C and the realtors is they just want more condos.”

Plan C board member Kat Anderson told us, “I have a simple approach to this: Home ownership is important to me.”

She was undeterred by arguments that thousands of new condos are now being built in San Francisco, but there’s a steadily dwindling number of rent-controlled apartments in a city where two-thirds of San Franciscans are renters.

Anderson made it clear that she wants to not only allow the backlog of condo applicants to be approved, but she doesn’t want to slow the flow of condo conversions for a few years thereafter or place TICs themselves under the cap, compromises offered by Gullicksen. “The worry is that if you change the system, it will never come back and we’ll lose our tiny toehold of 200 units [that the lottery allows to be converted to condos annually],” Anderson said. And so we end up with the very thing Lee sought to avoid: a big, nasty, divisive public fight that will probably end up being decided by big money and deceptive campaign mailers rather than a civil, deliberative political process. And the mayor has nobody to blame but himself.

“Unlikely trio” of supervisors saves CPMC hospital deal


An ideologically diverse trio of supervisors, a community-minded mediator, and a deliberate negotiations process (one that that involved local stakeholders and verified corporate claims) has managed to do what the Mayor’s Office couldn’t: reach an agreement that seems to be a good deal for the city and has broad political support for California Pacific Medical Center to build two new full-service hospitals in town.

It differs from the disastrous deal announced by Mayor Ed Lee last year in key ways. St. Luke’s Hospital – a staple of care for low-income San Franciscans that must to rebuilt to meet new state earthquake safety standards – will be about 50 percent larger than previously proposed, while the new luxury hospital that CPMC has been trying to build on Cathedral Hill will be about 50 percent smaller.

That simple flip alleviated much of the Cathedral Hill project’s impact on traffic and affordable housing – which CPMC will still pay $14 million and $36.5 million respectively to mitigate, more than in the previous agreement and part of a roughly $80 million payment to the city – and overcame community concerns about the company’s commitment to St. Luke’s.

The new deal also has stronger local hiring requirements and more stringent guarantees that CPMC will serve MediCal patients and provide more charity care to the poor, regardless of the company’s financial situation, while maintaining contributions to community-based organizations at the same level as under the previous agreement.

In many ways, the agreement repudiates the deal cut last year by Mayor Ed Lee, which CPMC refused to significantly modify or even support with verifiable financial claims even as it fell apart in spectacular fashion under scrutiny last year by the Board of Supervisors, particularly during hearings at the Land Use Committee chaired by Sup. Eric Mar.

That flawed deal was rushed to completion just as the Saleforce headquarters expansion that had been trumpeted by Lee and the America’s Cup real estate deal both fell apart, which sources tell the Guardian put pressure on Lee to quickly deliver something to the business community and building trades (read tomorrow’s Guardian for more on Lee’s approach to tough negotiations and its implications).

But today’s press conference to announce the new deal at St. Luke’s was a forward-looking celebration of what was universally lauded as a big victory for the community. And most of the credit seems to go to mediator Lou Giraudo, who owns Boudin Bakery, and Sups. David Campos, David Chiu, and Mark Farrell, who all stepped up late last summer to salvage the project.

“There are two stories: the deal itself and the process,” Giraudo told the crowd. He said that he had some trepidation going in and that all he knew of the supervisors was what he read in the newspapers, and that the three represented the left (Campos), right (Farrell), and center (Chiu). Giraudo said they were the keys to making this deal happen.

“I have never been so impressed by politicians to come together as one,” Giraudo said, praising the trio for working hard, bringing in outside expertise to verify CPMC’s financial claims, and working with their constituencies. “We depoliticized together and then we built trust.”

Farrell also praised both the deal – “It ensures we have access to quality health care for years to come in San Francisco.” – and the process, in which the three supervisors worked well together. “I think about the future of the Board of Supervisors and us working together as colleagues,” he said. “None of us have spent more time on anything than we have CPMC.”

Campos echoed the point. “I really cannot be more proud of the work that we as the Board of Supervisors did here,” Campos said, noting how they had all committed to work together for the good of the city, demonstrating “how we, as the Board of Supervisors, can work on even the most difficult issues and resolve them.”

He also praised his constituents in the community coalition of labor, housing, and social justice advocates – including San Franciscans for Healthcare, Housing, Jobs, and Justice – who had pushed for a better deal for San Francisco. “This is a victory for them at the end of the day,” Campos said, singling out their consultant Paul Kumar for helping shape a deal that ensures that, “St. Luke’s plays a large role in the CPMC system.”

Kumar, a consultant with the National Union of Healthcare Workers who wasn’t at the event, later told the Guardian, “This is a victory for democratic planning.” He noted that CPMC and its parent company, Sutter Health, are notoriously hard-nosed negotiators and that he’s hoping this agreement represents a turning point in their relationship with the community and their employees.

“The question is if we can parlay this into a better and more responsible relationship between Sutter and the city,” Kumar said.

Chiu – who has been at the center of several difficult city negotiations in recent years, and who helped lead the board’s charge against CPMC last year – told the conference, “When we started this process, I was not hugely optimistic we would get here,” calling the supervisors “an unlikely trio.” But he praised all parties involved for working to get a deal with strong local hiring and charity care provisions.

“This is a comprehensive project,” Chiu said.

When Lee spoke, he praised the deal and the crucial role played by the three supervisors. “This project would not have gotten done without their direct involvement,” said Lee, who didn’t attend any of the dozens of negotiating sessions, although Ken Rich from the Mayor’s Office was involved. Yet the unusually grim-faced mayor also seemed to bring up the only doubts expressed about the deal, saying “The job is never done, this is an announcement about where we are today” and vaguely warning that, “It’s sensitive, people do have trepidation about what this will mean to them going forward.”

Afterward, Lee took reporters’ questions while walking steadily to his car, without pausing to get into what he was alluded to or why this deal seems so much better than the one he cut, except to say that the “health care landscape has changed.” Later, a mayoral staffer who would only speak on background, said one key to this deal was that CPMC had decided that demand for hospital beds would drop in the future and that they needed fewer in San Francisco.

CPMC CEO Dr. Warren Browner, who had some tough clashes with supervisors last year, didn’t go into the reasons behind the sweetened deal during his presentation (except to contest Giraudo’s comment that he had fought through “deal fatigue and was weary at times” by saying that he actually had a lingering case of “walking pneumonia” that he thanked CPMC’s medical staff for helping to cure.).

After comparing the negotiations to the legend of Sisyphus repeatedly pushing a boulder uphill, Browner said, “We are looking forward to going through the process and putting shovels in the ground, hopefully in 2013.”


Terms of the deal, which were formally introduced at today’s Board of Supervisors meeting, include:

  • Permits for a 120-bed St. Luke’s Hospital, 274-bed Cathedral Hill Hospital (or an additional 30 beds if St. Luke’s operates at 75 percent capacity), medical office buildings at both hospitals, a parking garage with up to 990 spaces (limited to CPMC staff and patients only) on Cathedral Hill, and a new Neurosciences Institute at Davies Medical Center.

  • St. Luke’s Hospital will have a number of specified services – including acute care, senior and community health care, labor and delivery, intensive care, cancer treatment, mental health services, and outpatient care – to ensure it remains a full-service hospital.

  • CPMC caring for 30,000 charity care and 5,400 Medi-Cal managed care patients per year, limits on healthcare cost increases to city employees, and CPMC endowing a new $9 million Healthcare Innovation Fund to increase capacity at local clinics.

  • CPMC contributing $36.5 million to the city’s affordable housing fund and paying $4.1 million to replace the homes it displaces on Cathedral Hill.

  • At least 30 percent of construction job and 40 percent of the permanent entry-level positions in the new facilities will be San Franciscans, and CPMC will contribute $4 million to job training.

  • To offset transportation impacts at Cathedral Hill, CPMC will give $14 million to the SFMTA and “institute a robust transportation demand management program,” as well as spending $13 million on pedestrian safety and streetscape improvements at all its San Francisco facilities.






Refugee Hotel

Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission, SF. 6:30-8pm. Join photographer Jim Goldberg, photographer Gabriele Stabile, and journalist Juliet Linderman for a discussion about Refugee Hotel, a collection of photography and interviews documenting the arrival of refugees to the United States. Hosted by Voice of Witness, a nonprofit book series published by McSweeney’s Books that illuminates contemporary human rights issues. Free before 5pm; admission is $5 after. Advance tickets encouraged. info@thecjm.org; 415.655.7881. If you can’t make the Thursday event, consider dropping by Gallery Carte Blanche (973 Valencia St, SF) Friday/18 at 6 pm, when Voice of Witness will host a talk and book signing for Refugee Hotel, followed by a reception.



Protest Citizens United at Chevron Refinery

March departs Richmond BART station at noon; rally at Chevron Gate 14 (corner of Castro and Chevron Way), 1pm, Richmond. Chevron is widely known in these parts for letting loose a toxic plume of smoke that blackened skies last year when the refinery caught fire. What you may not have heard is that the oil behemoth also bears the distinction of being the single-largest contributor to a so-called Super PAC (for the GOP, naturally) since the Citizens United decision. On the third anniversary of the Supreme Court’s notorious ruling, which opened the floodgates to skyrocketing corporate contributions to political campaigns, activists are planning a march and rally outside the Chevron Oil Refinery. Live music from the Brass Liberation Orchestra will accompany the 2.5-mile walk, local activists and community leaders will speak at the rally.



Fracking in California

Gazebo Room, CPMC Davies Campus, 45 Castro Street, SF. 7-9 p.m. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is an environmentally damaging oil and gas–drilling technique that involves injecting high volumes of pressurized water, sand and toxic chemicals deep into the earth. It’s already taking place in nine California counties, according the Center for Biological Diversity. TransitionSF will host a free presentation on fracking with speakers Rose Braz, Climate Campaign Director of the Center for Biological Diversity; and Adam Scow, California Campaigns Director for Food & Water Watch. The talk will cover the environmental effects of fracking and offer ideas on how environmentalists can take action against it. Free.


Chiu’s committee assignments keep the moderates in charge


A week after engineering his unanimous re-election to an unprecedented third consecutive term as president of the Board of Supervisors, David Chiu today announced his assignments to board committees, placing fiscal conservatives into two of the most powerful posts and making himself a key swing vote on the Land Use Committee.

“I believe these committee assignments reflect a balanced approach and the diverse interests and talent of the supervisors,” Chiu said just after 4pm during the Roll Call portion of today’s meeting.

But some progressive activists were immediately grousing about some of the selections, which seem to reflect Chiu’s neoliberal approach to governance, preventing progressives from doing much to challenge development interests or the appointment of Establishment insiders to city commissions.

The Land Use Committee is perhaps the most powerful and impactful, particularly as the Warriors arena and other controversial waterfront developments and the CPMC hospital deal come to the board. Scott Wiener – a moderate who is already perhaps the most prolific supervisor – gains far more power as he is named to chair that committee. It is balanced out by Chiu and Sup. Jane Kim, both of whom have some progressive impulses on land use issues but also personal ambitions and a penchant for cutting deals. Developers have to be happy about this lineup.

Sup. Mark Farrell was named chair of the Budget Committee, succeeding Sup. Carmen Chu – a pair that are indisputably the most conservative supervisors on the board. While progressive Sups. Eric Mar and John Avalos will help balance out the permanent committee, their influence will be offset by the temporary members added during budget season: Sups. London Breed and Wiener.

That roster essentially puts Breed in the swing vote role, which should immediately give her some clout. Chiu’s defenders note that Budget’s balance of power is essentially status quo (with Breed now in the same swing vote role that Sup. Malia Cohen played) – and that the committee’s work last year was supported by labor and business interests alike.

Chiu is proposing to combine the Public Safety and City Operations & Neighborhood Services committees, naming Sup. David Campos as chair, Mar as vice-chair, and new Sup. Norman Yee as its third member. Yee, who nominated Chiu for president last week, was also rewarded with a chair on the Rules Committee – controlling appointments, it arguably the board’s third most influential committee after Land Use and Budget – with that committee filled out by Breed and Sup. Malia Cohen.

Speculation that Cohen and Kim would be rewarded for withdrawing their nominations as president before the vote last week don’t seem to have materialized in these appointments. Cohen was also named to the Government Operations Committee, along with Campos, which Sup. Carmen Chu will chair. That doesn’t give Cohen, who told us that she wanted to be on Land Use, much power.

Similarly, Kim was named chair of the City & School District Committee – nice, but not exactly a political launching pad – and Kim’s only real power on Land Use will come when Chiu is opposing some project, as he did with the controversial 8 Washington project that Kim and seven of her colleagues supported.

Aaron Peskin, Chiu’s predecessor as board president, said that he vaguely saw some semblance of Chiu’s claimed strategy of having conservative committee chairs balanced out by liberal majorities (although even that depends on how you define your terms). Yet Peskin questions that approach, and sees committees unlikely to really gel around good decisions or policies.

“It’s a recipe for dysfunction,” Peskin told us. “But it certainly will be fun to watch.”

The Chamber of Commerce becomes even more irrelevant


It’s been years since anyone really took the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce seriously as a political force. The verdict from the techies came in long ago; they do their own thing with their own money. Small business never got much out of the Chamber, and most of those folks have their own organizations. Even the big-business agenda was taken over for a while by the Commitee on JOBS. Then there’s SFSOS, Plan C and a bunch of other pro-business and anti-regulation groups. Rose Pak and her allies have their own Chamber of Commerce. You rarely hear anyone at City Hall worried about what the Old Chamber says or is doing.

Steve Falk, the current director, has softened the Chamber’s image a bit and tried to be somewhat diplomatic. But now this organization is about to go backwards.

If what Matier and Ross report is accurate, a former City Hall aide, former failed candidate for supervisor, and current director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association may be the new chamber director. Rob Black seems to have a line at the top job after Wade Rose, an executive with Catholic Healthcare West, dropped out of the running:

We’re told some of the chamber’s big dogs – like the brokerage house Charles Schwab and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. – weren’t all that enamored of the soft-glove approach that Rose was promising to bring to his dealings with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

That jobes with what I’ve been hearing from local politicos, who’ve been saying that there were two candidates for the job — one very good and one very bad. Looks like the very good candidate (good by Chamber standards, anyway) is gone.

I don’t know Rose, but I do know that even this more moderate board of supes isn’t likely to take direction from what many see as an antidiluvean organization, a moribund old white men’s club with a ridiculous out-of-date agenda. Putting a person in charge who actually sought to build bridges (and who, by the way, might not have gone all-out for the new CPMC hospital) might have edged the Chamber back toward some sort of relevance.

But no: If Black gets the job, prepare for the Chamber to stick to its old ways, whine about everything the board does that’s even remotely progressive, issue report cards that nobody cares about — and waste its members dues. Great move.