Aggressive Warriors



No standard defensive strategy is likely to stop the Golden State Warriors, Mayor Ed Lee, and their huge team of partners and employees from dominating the game of approving construction of a new basketball and concert arena on San Francisco’s central waterfront. That became clear on Nov. 14, as the political operation overcame fire, darkness, and neighborhood-based opposition for the first big score.

The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee was set to consider declaring the project, which the Warriors want to build on Piers 30-32 by the 2017 basketball season, to be “fiscally feasible,” recommending it move forward with more detailed environmental studies and a term sheet nailing down myriad administrative details.

Before the 11am hearing, the project team held a packed press conference to announce that the Warriors had volunteered to abide by the city’s local-hire standards for public works projects, hiring San Francisco residents or military veterans for at least 25 percent of total construction jobs and 50 percent of apprenticeships. A beaming Lee praised the deal as an “unprecedented” indicator of the Warriors’ willingness to partner with the city.

The event overflowed with union members in hard hats and orange “Build It Now!” T-shirts, as well as a full range of local political pros, from former mayoral and current project spokespersons PJ Johnston and Nathan Ballard to former aides to progressive supervisors, David Owen and David Loyola. Among the agreement’s four signatories were Joshua Arce, the Brightline Defense Project head who last year crusaded for Sup. John Avalos’s local hire ordinance, and building trades chief Michael Theriault.

Strikingly missing at the press conference was Sup. Jane Kim, in whose District 6 the project would be built — over the objections of many residents who are raising concerns about the loss of waterfront views, huge crowds attending what is projected to be more than 200 events per year, high interest rates paid by city taxpayers, the project’s accelerated approval schedule, and other concerns.

Kim is one of the three members of the Budget Committee, which held its meeting despite an electrical fire in the basement of City Hall that knocked out power to the building. Portable photography lighting was brought in to supplement the emergency backup lights, making it bright enough so the televised show could go on but giving a strangely surreal feel to the proceedings and reinforcing the urgency project supporters feel to move this forward without delay.

Kim raised the concerns of her constituents, winning support for amending the resolution to ensure the Citizens Advisory Committee — whose chair was given two minutes to convey how its members feel steamrolled by the accelerated process, asking it be delayed by a month or two — will be given chances to weigh in and pushing the EIR scoping meetings back a few weeks to January.

In the end, Kim and the committee voted to move the project forward. A few days later, on Nov. 19, the process repeated itself with another flashy press conference in the Mayor’s Office — with another important union endorsing the project — followed by the Land Use Committee responding favorably to the project.

The full Board of Supervisors was scheduled to approve the project’s fiscal feasibility the next day, after Guardian press time, but there was little chance that the full board would take any other action than giving the Warriors, Lee, and their huge roster of teammates what they want.

This despite unusual financing and some very real concerns about waterfront development.




Mayor Lee — who has placed a high priority on this project since announcing his deal with the team in May — emphasized its job creation and contribution to the local economy during the Nov. 19 press conference.

“I remind people, this is a private investment of hundreds of millions of dollars,” Lee said of a project pegged to cost around $1 billion. “It means a lot of jobs, and that is so important to all of us.”

The project is expected to directly create 4,300 jobs: 2,600 construction jobs and 1,700 permanent jobs, including those at the 17,000-seat sports and entertainment arena and the 250-room hotel and 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurants that would be built as part of the project.

“We’ve been spending a lot of these last many months describing what it is we want to build,” Warriors President Rick Welts said at the press conference before casting the project in grander terms. “That’s not really what we’re building. What we’re really building are memories.”

But city residents and workers are looking for more tangible benefits than just the highs of watching big games or concerts. The building trades were already expected to strongly support the project, which only got stronger with last week’s local-hire deal. Labor’s support for the project was broadened on Nov. 19 with the announcement that the Warriors agreed to card-check neutrality for the hotel, making it easier for its employees to join UNITE-HERE Local 2.

“Thank you for being a partner and we’re looking forward to working with you in the future,” Local 2 head Mike Casey, who notably also serves as president of the San Francisco Labor Council, said to Welts at the event before the two signed a formal agreement.

In addition to allowing the hotel workers to easily organize, the Warriors agreed to card-check neutrality for vendors at the arena with at least 15 employees and those outside the arena with more than 45 employees, as well as giving those who now work Warriors’ games at Oracle Arena first dibs on jobs at the new arena.

“I think that speaks a lot about what the project is. It’s not just a San Francisco project, but a Bay Area project,” Casey said. He also said, “I want to thank the mayor for bringing people together and laying all this out.”

While Lee and the Warriors do seem to have this deal pretty well wired, this is still a San Francisco project, a complex one on the politically and environmentally sensitive waterfront that city taxpayers are helping to pay for and one for which the residents there will bear the brunt of its impacts.



Lee, Office of Economic and Workforce Development head Jennifer Matz, and other key project supporters have repeatedly claimed this project is funded completely with private money, noting how rare that is for urban sports stadiums these days.

But in reality, city taxpayers are spending up to $120 million for the Warriors to rebuild the unstable piers on which the arena will be built, plus an interest rate of 13 percent, an arrangement that has drawn criticism from a key source.

Rudy Nothenberg, who served as city administrator and other level fiscal advisory roles to six SF mayors and currently serves as president of the city’s Bond Oversight Committee, wrote a Nov. 12 letter to the Board of Supervisors urging it to reject the deal.

“Quite simply, I would have been ashamed of such a recommendation,” Nothenberg wrote of the high interest rate. “In today’s markets it is incomprehensible to have such a stunning recommendation brought to your honorable Board in such haste.”

Johnston and Matz each disputed Nothenberg’s characterization, citing a report by the project consultants, the Berkeley-based Economic and Planning Systems Inc. (EPS), that 13 percent is a “reasonable and appropriate market based return.”

Matz told us the rate was based on the risky nature of rebuilding the piers, for which the Warriors are responsible for any cost overruns. And she compared the project to the massive redevelopment projects now underway on Treasure Island and Hunters Point, from which the city is guaranteeing powerful developer Lennar returns on investment of 18.5 percent and 20 percent respectively.

Johnston, who was press secretary to former Mayor Willie Brown and worked with Nothenberg on building AT&T Park and other projects, told us “I have great respect for Rudy.” But then he went on to criticize him for taking a self-interested stand to defend the views from the condo he owns nearby: “They don’t want anything built in their neighborhood. They would rather leave it a dilapidated parking lot.”

But Nothenberg told us his stand is consistent with the work he did throughout his public service career in trying to keep the waterfront open and accessible to the public, rather than blocking those views with a 14-story stadium and hotel complex.

“I have a self-interest as a San Franciscan, and after 20 years of doing the right thing, I don’t want to see this rushed through in an arrogant way that would have been unthinkable even a year ago,” Nothenberg told us. “I spent 20 years of my life trying to deal with waterfront issues.”

He is being joined in his opposition by other neighborhood residents, land use experts such as attorney Sue Hestor, some opponents of the 8 Washington project concerned with the creeping rollback of waterfront development standards, and members of the Citizens Advisory Committee who have felt steamrolled by the rapid process so far and unable to thoroughly discuss the project or the neighborhood’s concerns.

“We would like to slow this process down,” committee Chair Katy Liddell told supervisors on Nov. 14. “Things are going so quickly.”



The $120 million plus interest that the city will owe the Warriors would be offset by the $30 million the team would pay for Seawall Lot 330 (the property across from the piers where the hotel would be built), a one-time payment of $53.8 million (mostly in development impact fees), annual rent of nearly $2 million on its 66-year lease of Piers 30-32, and annual tax and mitigation payments to the city of between $9.8 million and $19 million.

Kim raised concerns at the Budget Committee hearing about the more than 200 events a year that the arena will host, but she was told by Matz that’s necessary to make the project pencil out for the Warriors.

Many of the project’s financial and administrative details are still being worked out as part of a term sheet going to the Board of Supervisors for approval, probably in April. Other details will be studied in the project Environmental Impact Report, which is expected to come back to the board in the fall.

The Department of Public Works, Police Department, and — perhaps most critically given its impact on Muni and roadways — Municipal Transportation Agency have yet to estimate their costs.

“We do have a lot of concerns in the neighborhood about this project,” Kim told the Land Use Committee, singling out impacts to the transportation system as perhaps the most important, followed by quality-of-life issues associated with huge crowds of sports fans.

Kim noted that the area already has a problematic transportation infrastructure, with some of the highest rates of motorist-pedestrian collisions in the city and a public transit system that reaches capacity at peak times, and said that many residents worry this project will make things worse. The EIR will deal with the transportation details. But Kim praised how about half the space on the piers, about seven acres, will be maintained as public open space: “I think the open space aspect is incredible and it could actually increase access to the waterfront.” In the end, Kim urged project proponents to heed the input of the CAC and other concerned parties because, “This could be a very valuable project, or it could also be a disaster.”

Critics urge caution on fast-moving Warriors arena deal


UPDATED The proposal to let the Golden State Warriors build a new sports arena complex at Piers 30-32 is moving forward quickly, with the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee considering approving its fiscal feasibility tomorrow (Wed/14), the Land Use Committee hearing its design and transportation aspects on Monday, and the full board scheduled to move it forward on Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving. After that, it will undergo an environmental study and work on myriad fiscal and administrative details, coming back to the board for final approval, probably in the fall, with the goal of opening by the 2017 basketball season.

[UPDATE 11/14: The Finance Committee today voted 3-0 to approve findings of fiscal feasibility for the project after Sup. Jane Kim made amendments delaying the EIR scoping session until January and ensuring the Citizens Advisory Committee will be given more time to review the project and its term sheet. City officials and the Warriors also signed a deal this morning requiring that at least 25 percent of its construction jobs and half of its apprenticeship positions go to local residents or military veterans. We’ll have more details and analysis of what happened in the coming days.]

Critics of the project say it is being rammed through too quickly, with too little public notice or attention to blocking off views of the bay, and on terms that are too costly to city taxpayers. To some, Lee’s quest for a “legacy project” is reminiscent of the groupthink boosterism that characterized the initial America’s Cup proposal, before it was revealed to really be a lucrative waterfront real estate scheme that was great for developers but costly to the public, and later abandoned.

And just like last time, when the Guardian, then-Sup. Chris Daly, Budget Analyst Harvey Rose, and others forced a major scaling back of the developers’ ambitions, there are some prominent voices of caution now being raised about the Warriors arena deal and its potential to fleece city taxpayers, including concerns raised by someone with decades of experience shepherding some of San Francisco’s biggest public works projects.

Rudy Nothenberg, who served as city administrator and other level fiscal advisory roles to six SF mayors and currently serves as president of the city’s Bond Oversight Committee, yesterday wrote a letter to the Board of Supervisors urging it to reject the deal.

Among other things, he criticized the 13 percent interest that city taxpayers would pay on the $120 million in pier restoration work that the Warriors will do. “Quite simply, I would have been ashamed of such a recommendation,” Nothenberg wrote. “In today’s markets it is incomprehensible to have such a stunning recommendation brought to your honorable Board in such haste.”

Project spokesperson PJ Johnston and its main advocate City Hall, Office of Economic and Workforce Development head Jennifer Matz, each disputed Nothenberg’s characterization, citing a report by the project consultants, the Berkeley-based Economic and Planning Systems Inc. (EPS), that 13 percent is a “reasonable and appropriate market based return.”

Matz told us the rate was based on the risky nature of rebuilding the piers, for which the Warriors are responsible for any cost overruns. And she compared the project to the massive redevelopment projects now underway on Treasure Island and Hunters Point, from which the city is guaranteeing powerful developer Lennar returns on investment of 18.5 percent and 20 percent respectively.

Johnston, who was press secretary to former Mayor Willie Brown and worked with Nothenberg on building AT&T Park and other projects, told us “ I have great respect for Rudy.” But then he went on to criticize him for taking a self-interested stand to defend the views from the condo he owns nearby: “They don’t want anything built in their neighborhood. They would rather leave it a dilapidated parking lot.”

But Nothenberg told us his stand is consistent with the work he did throughout his public service career in trying to keep the waterfront open and accessible to the public, rather than blocking those views with a 14-story stadium and surrounding commercial and hotel complex.

“I have a self-interest as a San Franciscan, and after 20 years of doing the right thing, I don’t want to see this rushed through in an arrogant way that would have been unthinkable even a year ago,” Nothenberg told us. “I spent 20 years of my life trying to deal with waterfront issues.”

Among those also sounding the alarm about how quickly this project is moving is land use attorney Sue Hestor and former Mayor Art Agnos, who told us the supervisors should heed the input of Nothenberg and make sure this is a good deal for the city.

Agnos said, “Rudy Nothenberg stands apart from every other department head and CAO in the modern history of San Francisco for his financial and managerial expertise in bringing major projects with complex finances to completion that worked for our City. That is why the past six mayors…whether conservative or liberal…trusted him to advise them and administer the biggest projects in this city from Moscone Convention Center to the new main library to the Giants baseball park and Mission Bay. “

Legislative Analyst Harvey Rose released his initial analysis of the project on Friday. The $120 million plus interest that the city is paying to the Warriors would be partially offset by the $30 million the team would pay for Seawall Lot 330, a one-time payment of $53.8 million (mostly in development impact fees), annual rent of nearly $2 million on its 66-year lease of Piers 30-32, and annual tax and mitigation payments to the city of between $9.8 million and $19 million.

But the report also notes that many city departments and agencies – including the Department of Public Works, Municipal Transportation Agency, and the Police Department – have yet to estimate their costs. Both Johnston and Matz emphasized Rose’s conclusion that the project is “fiscally feasible” – the determination that supervisors will have to agree with to move the project forward – but the report also noted “the finding of ‘fiscal feasibility’ means only that the project merits further evaluation of environmental review.”

The full text of Nothenberg’s letter follows:

Dear Supervisors:

My experience as a high level financial advisor and city administrator for Mayors Moscone, Feinstein, Agnos, Jordan, Brown, and Newsom, and current President of the City’s Bond Oversight Committee cause me to write in the hope that you will reject the outrageous 13% interest rate that the developers of the waterfront arena are proposing to charge the City for their cost of replacing Piers 30/32. 

In my years as General Manager of Public Utilities, the Municipal Railway System, Water and Hetch Hetchy, and later as the Chief Administrative Officer for the City and County of San Francisco, I took probably more that a billion dollars worth of various debt instruments to the Board. 

Never…even in the worst days of highest modern era interest rates of the 1970’s hovering at 20% …never did I ever bring a 13% City borrowing to the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors for approval.  Quite simply, I would have been ashamed of such a recommendation.

In today’s markets it is incomprehensible to have such a stunning recommendation brought to your honorable Board in such haste. 

Even more remarkable is the fact that just weeks ago, Allentown, Pennsylvania has just procured a 4.78 % interest rate for $224.4 million of taxable bonds to help build with private contributions a hockey arena for 8500 seats. 

Yet, you are being told the best our city can do is 13% for $120 million.

No Board of Supervisors I ever appeared before would tolerate such dramatic discrepancy.

It is with this in mind, I would most respectfully urge you to send this proposed deal back to the developers, instructing the City’s negotiators not to bring it back without a far more favorable interest rate for City tax payers not to exceed a maximum of 7.5%.

And that would still be almost twice what the City would need to pay for City issued debt and more than amply compensate the developers for any risk premium that they allege that they are taking. 

Any such instruction from you to the City negotiators should also make it clear that they are not to make any new concessions to the developers in exchange for achieving a still high, but eminently more reasonable interest rate.

Thank you for your attention.

Rudy Nothenberg

Chief Administrative Officer (Ret.)


1.     The Warriors Arena negotiates 13% interest on $120 million from San Francisco when the City of Allentown in Pennsylvania just issued $224.4 million of taxable bonds for an arena at an average interest rate of 4.78%. 

13% for SF versus 4.78%  for Allentown


City of Allentown – PA – Official Site


The official website for the City of Allentown, PA. Learn about all the exciting events going on in the city of Allentown, from music, arts, theater, and sports. Allentown is the largest city in the 

2.     Allentown hockey arena bonds cost $4.2 million to issue 


Oct 10, 2012 – About $224.4 million in municipal bonds were sold last week to help finance arena construction. City officials say the issuance costs are about 



D5 shakeups flip the dynamics of that wild race


[UPDATED AND CORRECTED] Wild and unsettling political dynamics have rocked the District 5 supervisorial race, with three major candidates having prominent endorsements withdrawn, the most significant being this week’s mass exodus of support from the campaign of Julian Davis following his bad handling of allegations that he has mistreated women.

Those withdrawing their endorsements of Davis since Saturday include Sups. John Avalos, David Campos, and Jane Kim, Assembly member Tom Ammiano, the Bay Guardian, the Examiner, and the League of Pissed-Off Voters. The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club has scheduled a vote for Monday on whether to withdraw its sole endorsement of Davis.

Avalos gave his endorsement to Sup. Christina Olague over the weekend, and she seems to be getting more progressive support in the wake of Davis’ flame-out and her Oct. 9 vote in favor of reinstating Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. That vote triggered a strong backlash against Olague from Mayor Ed Lee and his allies, with San Francisco Police Officers Association withdrawing its endorsement.

But former Mayor Art Agnos reached out to Olague – who he didn’t know previously – after the Mirkarimi vote and is rumored to be considering offering her his endorsement and support. Agnos didn’t confirm or deny the rumor, but he did tell us, “I was very impressed by her commitment to the progressive issues we share.”

Olague has a long history of progressive activism and was a consistently good vote during her tenure on the Planning Commission, but many progressives were concerned by her early support for Lee, who then appointed her to the District 5 seat vacated by Mirkarimi’s election as sheriff, and by some of her votes and behaviors since then.

But now that she’s been viciously attacked by Lee’s staffers and allies over the Mirkarimi vote – and iced out by Lee himself, who she says won’t return her calls and who bailed out on a planned campaign appearance – Olague seems to have a newfound independence. “At the end of the day, we serve constituents and the city, and that’s who we should answer to,” Olague told us, agreeing that she feels freed up by recent developments, as difficult as they’ve been. “You don’t become an indentured servant.”

She told us that her decision last year to co-chair the “Run, Ed, Run” campaign to convince Lee to break his promise and run for a full term to the office he’d been appointed to was based on her belief that “we’d see an infusion of new energy and some more diversity” of both ideology and demographics in the Mayor’s Office.

“Sadly, I’m not seeing those changes happening really. I didn’t sign up for another four years of Gavin Newsom and those thugs, and I’ve seen a lot of that same behavior,” she said. “People who played prominent roles in the Newsom administration continue to play prominent roles in this administration.”

Olague said the schism with the administration began this summer when she supported Avalos in trying to bring in new revenue as part of the business tax reform measure that became Prop. E, which Lee had insisted be revenue neutral before compromising with progressives. That was when Olague said she got her first nasty message from Tony Winnicker, the former Newsom press secretary who now works for Lee and wrote Olague a text during the Mirkarimi hearing telling her “you disgust me and I will work night and day to defeat you.”

Some prominent progressives privately worried that schism was an election ploy designed to help Olague win the race for this progressive district given that Davis had captured most of the influential progressive endorsements. But with Lee and his allies continuing to be openly livid over the Mirkarimi vote – and with solid progressive John Rizzo running a lackluster campaign that has less than $5,000 in the bank – there is growing progressive support for Olague.

The big fear among many progressives is that London Breed will win the race, a concern that has been exacerbated by the support that Breed has been receiving from real estate and development interests, both directly and in independent expenditures by the Association of Realtors, which has spent more than $225,000 in this election cycle hoping to knock out progressives in Districts 1 and 5 and tip the balance of power on the board.

Breed told us that she doesn’t know the Realtors or why they’re offering such strong support, pledging to be an independent vote. “I’ve never made any promises to anyone that I would help anyone or that I would be this way or that,” she told us. “I’m not here to do anyone’s bidding, whether it’s Aaron Peskin or Willie Brown or anyone else.”

Brown helped launch Breed’s political career by [CORRECTED recommending then-Mayor Gavin Newsom] appoint her to the Redevelopment Commission, where Breed supported Lennar and other big developers, but she had a falling out with him earlier this year and made impolitic comments about him to the Fog City Journal, causing US Sen. Dianne Feinstein to withdraw her endorsement of Breed.

Brown, Lee, and Chinatown power broker Rose Pak helped raise money for Olague, who has received the maximum $500 donation from such powerful inside players as venture capitalist Ron Conway (and his wife, Gayle), Michael Cohen, Victor Makras, Lawrence Nibbi, Mark Mosher, and John Whitehurst.

But that was before the Mirkarimi vote, which Lee’s allies seem to see as a litmus test on Olague’s loyalty to them. As Tenderloin Housing Clinic director Randy Shaw, who helped engineer the progressive split that brought Lee to power, put it on his Beyond Chron blog, “Olague’s vote was an act of profound disloyalty not only to the mayor who appointed her, but also to those who pushed the mayor to do so.”

Olague says she’s disturbed by that viewpoint, and by those so blinded by their efforts to demonize Mirkarimi “and exploit and politicize issues around domestic violence” that they have failed to consider the price he has already paid for his actions or the legal standards for removing an elected official. “On something like this, it’s not a question of loyalty. It’s about principles,” she said.

Breed says that she has seen an increase in support since the Mirkarimi vote and the Davis meltdown, but she said that she doesn’t want to talk about those cases or exploit them politically. “I don’t take pleasure in the misery of someone else,” she said, adding her hope that the furor about Mirkarimi will die down. “The decision has been made and it’s time for the city to come together.”

Progressive leaders have made similar calls, but Mirkarimi’s critics are showing no signs of letting the issue go. San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee members Zoe Dunning and Matt Dorsey have put forward a resolution condemning the reinstatement vote and calling for Mirkarimi’s ouster, which the DCCC will consider on Wednesday evening, Oct. 24.

[CORRECTED At that meeting, the DCCC will also consider a motion] to reopen the D5 endorsement process, hoping to change the DCCC’s previous “no endorsement” vote, and sources tell us there is currently a strong backroom effort to give the endorsement to Breed. That vote will be a big test for progressives, which lost their majority control over the DCCC in the June elections.

Meanwhile, D5 candidate Thea Selby – who snagged one of the three endorsements by both the Guardian and the Examiner – continues to run a strong and well-funded campaign that has avoided the carnage taking place in the other campaigns. “I feel like I’m in the middle watching out for flying beams,” she told us, adding that both she and Rizzo have been “the grown-ups in the room, so there’s an opportunity there and I’m hopeful.”

But unlike Rizzo, who has seems strangely absent and didn’t return Guardian phone calls [see UPDATE below], Selby has plenty of money in the bank – nearly $60,000 as of the last official report two weeks ago – and could benefit from voter disgust with the ugly politics at play. “It’s my experience that is driving this,” says this small-businessperson, “and not my lifelong desire to be a politician, and that may ring some bells.”

How the ranked-choice voting system will play out in this mess is anyone’s guess, and even Davis seems to be hoping that he still has a shot, resisting calls by the Guardian and others to withdraw from the race. Poorly funded candidates Andrew Resignato and Hope Johnson this week announced they were joining forces for the “People’s Ticket” after being excluded from a University of San Francisco candidates forum.

But most political observers seem to think this race will come down to a two-person contest between Breed and Olague – who each have more than $45,000 in the bank with which to make a strong final push – and the distinctions between them are becoming clearer as more progressives get behind Olague and the moderates and monied interests get behind Breed.

Olague said she’s still “willing to work with anybody,” but that, “I’m worried that moderate forces will seize this moment to try to destroy us.”

UPDATE 4:45: Rizzo just got back to us and said he’s been actively campaigning and feeling good about his chances. “We have a great team and we’ll have enough resources to reach voters,” Rizzo said. He said that he’s had a stong fundraising push in the last couple weeks since the last campaign financing statement was released, and he noted his endorsements and active support by influential progressives including Ammiano, Campos, and Carole Migden. “We’re doing a lot of retail campaigning, meeting voters and getting the message out.”

SF Stories: Tiny


46TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL I have a Vision..(Too!)

of poor people-led revolutions and clan mothers wit solutions including the many colored, many spirited, humble people who still remain in San Francisco even though we are systematically incarcerated, profiled, shot or just hated Used by akkkademic institutions, Nonprofiteering, complex over-funded government collusions — From gang ijunctions to sit-lie laws —

Arresting poor folks of color for no just cause

From Ambassador security guards to Stop ‘ n’ Frisk-

using code words like”cleaning up streets”

so frisko is only for the white ‘ n’ Rich The Afrikan population Out-migration caused by Negro Removal, Redlining, Re-Devil-opment and Lennar displacement La Raza en la mission replaced, displaced by condominiums and Eastern Neighborhood Plans, making room for wheatgrass juice and gourmet coffe stands-

And then let’s go back to the Original removal — !st Peoples of the Ohlone Nation — rarely remembered, considered, spoken about or even named..

Caring for Pachamama, mother Earth in a good way, by the teachings of our ancestors every day

So where does this leave us folx who refuse to be cleaned out, incarcerated, profiled or Wheat-grasserated…

We still here, aqui estamos y no nos vamos —

You can’t Frisk, me, Injunct me or incarcerate me cuz let me be clear.

I am staying in my hood, on my corner

and gonna stay seated in my newly gentrifuked park

.. and to Google buses, condominium, devil-opers and un-conscous new-comers,

we will be a thorn in your side for life and up-end your corporate, money-driven hustle

with our feet, our love, our actions …and our ancestors at our side…

“Where we supposed to go, us po’ folks born here, raised here?” said Vietnam vet, disabled, poverty skola and panhandler reporter at POOR magazine, Papa Bear, arrested three times in one day under Sit-lie. “Going to Hell,” thats my vision (of the city) — when they killed the black community — the soul of this city was gone,” said Tony Robles, PNN co-editor, poet, author and organizer and revolutionary son of San Francisco natives of Manilatown. “I don’t care if I’m the last Mexican in the Mission,” said Sandra Sez, indigenous warrior mama and organizer born and raised in the Mission District.

I was born in the back seat of a car, dealt with houselessness and criminalization since I was 11. Ended up in the Bay Area when I was 14. Can’t say San Francisco is my town. But I have had the blessing of meeting and being in family with some of the most powerful revolutionaries from both sides of this beautiful bay. From the I-Hotel resistance to Mission Anti-displacement Coalition to HOMIES to PODER, from The Bay View Newspaper, Idriss Stelley Foundation to the Coalition on Homelessness. Me and my houseless mama along with other landless revolutionaries launched revolutionary projects, POOR Magazine/Prensa POBRE, PeopleSkool, the Po Poets/Poetas POBRE’s , the welfareQUEENs and Theatre of the POOR, to name a few.

I have also been houseless, incarcerated, evicted, profiled, poverty-pimped, gentriFUKed and welfare deformed in the Bay. I have seen beauty and felt resistance in this place in ways I don’t believe would have been possible anywhere else. And yet now it seems like the struggle is just to remain.

Should one fight to stay in a party that no longer includes most of your friends? Neighborhoods filled with people you don’t know and don’t want to know. Schools stripped of their color and cultures. Corporate streets filled with shiney white buses for people who can’t put their deliecate feet on a public bus. Bike lanes filled with $3,000 bicycles and coffee shops that only sell $4 cups of coffee and $3 vegan donuts.

My humble vision for SF includes reparations for black peoples in the Bay View, giving back stolen vacant land to Original Peoples, makng the more than 30,000 empty units in San Francisco available for poor, houseless, and foreclosed on peoples to live in. For landlords to rent at least one apartment per building to families in poverty at reduced or no rent, for doctors and dentists to see at least three patients per practice for a sliding scale starting at $0 — and for people to not question “where their money is going” when they give 50 cents to a panhandler/street newspaper vendor while never questioning where their tax dollars go to politricksters and CEOs of corporations. For the SFPD to arrest, profile, and harass drunken white people who spill out of Bay to Breakers and Golden Gate Park concerts with the same voracity that they do poor youth of color — cause then maybe it would actually have to stop.

And finally for all racist, classist laws that target us poor folks, like sit-lie, gang injunctions and stop and frisk be repealed for their flagrant and disgusting unconstitutionality so that public space will remain truly public and people might truly be free.

Tiny, aka Lisa Gray-Garcia, is a founder of POOR Magazine.

Endorsement interviews: London Breed for D5 supervisor


District 5 candidate London Breed has an amazing life story. She grew up in the Western Addition projects, living with her grandmother at a time when many of the people around her were killed or wound up in prison. She survived, went through public schools and UC Davis and now runs the African American Art and Culture Complex. She’s served on the Redevelopment Commission, where she voted in favor of the Lennar project, and is now on the Fire Commission. “I am here as the result of progressive politics in this city,” she said. She also talked about fiscal responsibility, and how it’s good to have someone at City Hall “who knows the value of a dollar.”

Listen to the full interview after the jump.

The malling of San Francisco



Shopping malls filled with national chain stores and restaurants are in many respects the antithesis of San Francisco. They’re the bane of any metropolis that strives to be unique and authentic. And those just happen to be qualities that make tourism this city’s number one industry.

The logic of modern capitalism, and its relentless growth into new markets, has already placed a Target or a Walmart, and a Nordstrom, Macy’s, Ross, or a JCPenney — along with a bevy of Starbucks, Applebee’s, Jamba Juice, and McDonald’s and myriad other formulaic corporate eateries — in just about every town in the country.

Do people really need them here, too? And in a city renowned worldwide for its scenic beauty and temperate (albeit sometimes foggy) climate, do people want to shop in the enclosed, climate-controlled malls popularized in the small or suburban towns that many residents came here to escape?

For me, the answer is no. Frankly, malls have an aura of artificiality that gives me the creeps — but I freely acknowledge that not everyone feels that way. Some San Franciscans may like malls and chain stores while others don’t.

But it doesn’t really matter what any of us think. Left unchecked, it’s the market that matters — and the logic of the market gives chain stores a huge competitive advantage over the mom-and-pops. Their labor and supply costs are lower, their financial resources are more extensive and appealing to commercial landlords, and their business models are based on constantly opening new stores.

All cities have to do is just say yes. And San Francisco has been increasingly saying yes to malls and chain stores.

The economic desperation that set in since the financial crash of 2008 has overcome the trend of resistance to so-called “formula retail establishments” that had been building in San Francisco during the years before the recession.

So now, rather than dying from neglect, the Metreon mall has been brought back to life by a huge Target store set to open this fall, the second Target (the other one at Masonic and Geary) going into a city that had once eschewed such national mega-retailers.

Just down the street, in the heart of the city’s transit-rich commercial center, the CityPlace mall that had been abandoned by its previous owners after winning city approval two years ago is now being built by new owners and set to open next spring with “value-based” national chain stores like JCPenney.

Projects funded with public money aren’t immune either. The new Transbay Terminal transit center now under construction will have its own mini-mall, with 225,000 square feet of retail, much of it expected to house national chains. Even more retail will be built on the ground floor of the dozen other nearby residential and office buildings connected to the project.

And it isn’t just these new malls going in a stone’s throw from the Westerfield Mall, Crocker Galleria, San Francisco Center, and other central city malls. All over town, national chains like the Whole Foods and Fresh & Easy grocery stores are replacing Cala Foods and other homegrown markets, or going into other commercial shells like the S&C Ford building on Market near the Castro.

Just a few years ago, the approval of Home Depot on Bayshore Boulevard (since then sold and opened as Lowe’s, another national chain) was a hugely controversial project approved by the Board of Supervisors on a closely watched 6-5 vote. Now, Lennar is building an entire suburban-style complex of big box stores on Candlestick Point, hundreds of thousands of square feet — without much controversy at all.

Even Walmart — the dreaded poster child for huge corporations that use their market power to drive down wages or force local stores out of business — is reported to be actively looking to open “a couple” of stores in San Francisco (see “Walmart sets sights on San Francisco,” June 24, San Francisco Chronicle).

To Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich and others who have long encouraged San Francisco to embrace the kind of urbanism advocated by famed author and activist Jane Jacobs — which emphasizes unique, neighborhood-based development that enhances public spaces and street life — accepting the malls feels like giving up on more dynamic urban models.

“It’s sort of an admission of failure,” Radulovich said. “It’s the failure of urbanism in San Francisco.”




Mid-Market Street is a bellwether for the type of city San Francisco may become. Every mayor since at least Dianne Feinstein in the late 1970s has called for the redevelopment of Mid-Market into a more active and inviting commercial and social corridor, and few have done so more fervently than Mayor Ed Lee.

Several city studies have explored a wide variety of ways to accomplish that goal, from eliminating automobiles and transforming Market Street into a lively pedestrian promenade to using redevelopment money, tax breaks, and/or flashy lighted signs to encourage distinctive development projects unique to San Francisco.

“But the city failed, so the market filled the void,” Radulovich said.

It isn’t that all shopping malls or enclosed commercial areas are necessarily bad, Radulovich said, citing the influential work by writer Walter Benjamin on the roles the enclosed “arcades” of Paris played in public life. “They work when they are an extension of public spaces,” Radulovich said.

Yet that isn’t what he sees being built in San Francisco, where what gets approved and who occupies those spaces is largely being dictated by private developers who are more interested in their bottom lines than with the creation of a vibrant urban environment where people are valued as more than mere consumers or workers.

San Francisco isn’t alone in allowing national chains to increasingly dominate commercial spaces. In fact, Stacy Mitchell, a researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, said that until recently San Francisco was one of the best big US cities in controlling the proliferation of chain stores.

But the city has lost ground since its anti-chain high water mark in 2007, when voters approved Proposition G, which expanded the controls on formula retail outlets — generally requiring them to get a conditional use permit and go through public hearings — that the Board of Supervisors had approved in 2004.

Those controls are only as good as the political will to reject a permit application, and that doesn’t happen very often. A memo prepared last July for the Planning Commission — entitled “Informational Presentation on the Status of Formula Retail Controls” — found that of the 31 formula retails applications the city received since 2007, just three were rejected by the commission, six were withdrawn, and 22 were approved.

It’s gotten even worse since then, as the two Targets and other chains have been courted and embraced by Mayor’s Lee’s administration, whose key representatives didn’t respond to Guardian interview requests by press time.

Mitchell said it’s not nearly as bad in San Francisco as it is in Chicago, New York City, New Orleans, and other iconic US cities whose commercial spaces have been flooded with chains since the recession began.

“It’s nothing compared to the no-holds-barred stuff going on in New York City right now,” Mitchell said. “Walking down Broadway now is like a repeating loop of the stores you just saw further up the street.”

It isn’t that these cities are actively courting the national chains in most cases. It’s just that in the absence of strong local controls, developers and large commercial landlords just prefer to deal with chains, for a variety of reasons.

“If you’re just going with the flow of what developers are doing,” she said, “you always end up with national chains.”

And that’s what San Francisco has started to do.




Stephen Cornell, the owner of Brownie’s Hardware and a board member of the nonprofit advocacy group Small Business California, said chains have a huge competitive advantage over local businesses even before either one opens their doors.

“In general, landlords tend to like chains more,” said Cornell, whose business has struggled against Lowe’s and other corporate competitors. “The landlord always worries: is this guy going to make it and do they have the funds to back it up?”

Big corporate chains have lawyers and accountants on staff, and professional systems established for everything from buying goods to opening new stores, whereas most local entrepreneurs are essentially figuring things out as they go along.

“They’re very good at selling themselves,” Cornell said. “They’re going to manipulate the system perfectly, whether it’s the city and its codes or dealing with neighborhood merchants.”

And for large malls, Cornell said the problem is even worse. Brokers that fill malls have standing relationships with the national chains — most of which are publicly traded corporations seeking to constantly expand and gain market share — and no incentive to seek out or take a chance on local entrepreneurs.

“Chains have a lot of advantages,” Cornell said.

Mitchell said there are two main ways in which malls favor national chains over local businesses. In addition to the relationship between mall brokers and national chains, malls are often built with financing from financial institutions that require certain repayment guarantees.

“What they want to see are credit-worthy clients signed onto those places, and that means national chains with a credit rating from Standard & Poors,” Mitchell said, noting how that “automatically locks out” most local businesses.

Cornell also noted that national chains have already figured out how to maximize their efficiency, which keeps their costs down even though that often comes in the form of fewer employees with lower pay — and less reliance on local suppliers, accountants, attorneys, and other professionals — which ends up hurting the local economy. In fact, big chains suck money out of the city and back to corporate headquarters.

“All those people are making money and spending money here, so you have to look at the full circle,” Cornell said.

Mitchell said there are often simple solutions to the problem. For example, she said that city officials in Austin, Texas recently required the developer of a large shopping mall to set aside a certain percentage of the units for locally owned businesses.

So rather than hiring a national broker to find tenants, the developer hired a local broker to contact successful independent businesses in the area who might be interested in expanding, and the project ended up greatly exceeding the city’s minimum requirements.

Mechanisms like that, or like the formula retail controls pioneered in San Francisco, give her some hope. But she said, “Whether the counter-trends will be enough to counter the dominant trend, I don’t know.”




The increased malling of San Francisco isn’t simply the result of official neglect. Often, the city’s policies and resources are actively encouraging the influx of chain stores. A prime example is the massive redevelopment project on Hunters Point and Candlestick Point that city voters approved in 2008 after mega-developer Lennar and most San Francisco political officials pushed the project with a well-funded political campaign.

“If you’re selling the land to Lennar for a dollar, and then building all the automobile infrastructure for people to get there, then that’s a massive public subsidy,” Radulovich said of the big-box mall being built on what was city-owned land on Candlestick Point.

That public subsidy creates a cycle that makes San Francisco less intimate and livable. Creating commercial spaces on the city’s edge encourages more people to drive on congested regional roadways. These spaces are filled with national chain stores that have a direct negative impact on small, locally owned stores in neighborhood commercial districts all over the city, causing some of these businesses to fail, meaning local residents will need to travel further for the goods they once bought down the street.

“Those neighborhoods are going to be less walkable as a result,” Radulovich said, noting how the trend contradicts the lip service that just about every local politician gives to supporting local businesses in neighborhood corridors. “There’s a certain schizophrenia to San Francisco’s economic development strategy.”

Sup. Eric Mar has been working with Jobs with Justice San Francisco and other groups to tweak city policies that have allowed the chains to proliferate. Last year, Mar held high-profile hearings in City Hall on how national chains impact local businesses, which pointed to the need for additional protections (see “Battling big box,” Jan. 3).

This year, he’s working on rolling out a series of legislative initiatives designed to level the playing field between local interests and those of Wall Street and the national chains it champions.

Last month, the Board of Supervisors approved Mar’s legislation to add banks to the city’s formula retail controls, a reaction to Chase Bank and other national banks snapping up vacant stores in neighborhood commercial corridors such as Divisadero Street.

Now he’s working on legislation that would mandate minimum labor and community benefit standards for chain stores — including grocery outlets such as Fresh & Easy — and study how chains affect San Francisco’s overall economy.

“There should be good neighbor policies when they come into a neighborhood,” Mar said. “Some neighborhoods are so distressed they may want a big box grocery story coming in, but we need to try to mitigate its negative impacts.”

One of his partners in that effort is his brother, Gordon Mar of Jobs with Justice, who argues the city needs to have a clearer picture of how national chains impact local communities.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in corporate chain stores coming into San Francisco in the last year, and nobody has really been tracking it,” he said.

While the Planning Department’s quarterly pipeline report shows that applications for retail outlets has held steady at about 3 million square feet on the way in recent years, it doesn’t break out how much of that is national chains — let alone how that impacts the city’s economy and small business sector.

The city’s Legislative Analyst is now studying the matter and scheduled to release a report later this summer, which Gordon Mar said will be helpful in countering the narrow “jobs” rhetoric that now dominates City Hall.

“They are exploiting the economic recession by saying they’re bringing much needed jobs into the city and serving low-income residents,” he said. “But when you bring out the facts about the impact of these low-road retail stores on neighborhoods and small businesses, there is a net loss of jobs and a lowering of labor standards.”




Yet the fate of those controls is uncertain at best, particularly in a tough economic environment in which the city needs revenue, people are desperate for jobs, and many residents have seen their buying power stagnate, making the cheap goods offered by Target and Walmart more attractive.

“It’s complicated stuff,” Michael O’Connor, a local entrepreneur and former member of the Small Business Commission who favors formula retail controls, told us. “Stores like Target do appeal to lower income families…The progressive agenda needs to understand that working-class families need somewhere to shop.”

O’Connor acknowledges how small businesses like those he owns, including a clothing store, often can’t compete with national chains who buy cheap goods in bulk. So he said he favors protections in some neighborhoods while allowing chains in others, telling us, “I don’t have a problem with the Target going into the Metreon.”

That argument also held sway with city officials when they considered approving the CityPlace project two years ago, which was presented as a mall filled with “value-based” stores that would be affordable to median income San Franciscans.

“At the time, the decision was around whether a value-based retail operation made sense in that location, and the answer was an emphatic ‘yes,'” Barbary Coast Consulting founder Alex Clemens, who represented the project, told us.

On a national or global level, there are good arguments against reliance on national chains selling cheap imported goods, which has created a huge trade deficit between the US and countries such as China that costs American jobs — ironically, the very things that some use as arguments for approving chain stores.

“The recession has created a climate of desperation where cities are more easily swayed by the jobs argument,” Mitchell said, noting the falsity of those arguments by pointing to studies showing that the arrival of chain stores in cities usually creates a net loss in employment. Finally, supporters of chain stores say the cash-strapped city needs the property and sales tax revenue “Because they say they’ll produce a lot sales tax revenue, they’re going to get away with all kinds of shit,” Cornell said, arguing that shouldn’t justify city policies that favor big corporations, such as tax breaks and publicly financed infrastructure. “I certainly don’t think [city officials] should be giving them any advantages.” There are few simple solutions to the complex and interconnected problems that result from the malling of San Francisco and other cities. It’s really a question of balance — and the answer of whether San Francisco can regain its balance has yet to be answered. “Given the mayor’s approach to economic development, it’s inevitable that we’ll have more coming into the city,” Sup. Mar said. “But the ’50s car culture, and the model of malls that came in the ’60s, don’t build communities or strong neighborhoods.”

Bikes and business, a new and evolving union in SF


Building Owners and Managers Association of San Francisco (BOMA) is being honored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition at next week’s annual Golden Wheel Awards, recognizing BOMA’s help earlier this year in passing a city law requiring commercial landlords to let workers bring their bikes indoors or another secure bike parking area.

It is a strange and noteworthy honor for BOMA, a downtown force that is usually at odds with SFBC and progressive political entities, including opposing an effort to pass similar bikes-in-buildings legislation a decade ago. But this time, BOMA was an early partner on legislation sponsored by progressive Sup. John Avalos, an indicator of just how much the politics surrounding urban cycling have changed in recent years, particularly in San Francisco.

In the city where Critical Mass was born 20 years ago this fall – since then exported to dozens of cities around the world, globalizing urban cyclists’ demand for the equal right to use roadways often built mainly for automobiles – the bicycle has moved from the preferred mode of rebels, children, and the poor into a mainstream transportation option recognized even by the suits in the corner offices.

“They’re responding to a market demand. They see lots of employees looking for bike access in their buildings,” San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Lean Shahum said BOMA.

It was a point echoed by John Bozeman, BOMA’s government and public affairs manager and a regular cyclist. “Ten years ago, our members didn’t see it as something their tenants were asking of them,” Bozeman told us. “With the rise of young workers coming into our buildings, there was a greater demand for better bike access.”

But there are different ways of looking at this switch, which could undermine the progressive movement in San Francisco as SFBC increasingly adopts a more neoliberal approach of reliance on corporate support, rather than relying primarily on the political strength of their 12,000-plus members. For example, the Sunday Streets road closures that SFBC helped initiate are sponsored by a long list of corporations looking to improve their public image, including Bank of America (whose representative recently joined SFBC and city officials at a press conference announcing an expansion of the program), California Pacific Media Center, and Clear Channel, and in the past PG&E and Lennar.

“It reflects that bicycling sells real estate, and that’s a recent trend in hip, tech-focused cities,” says Jason Henderson, a San Francisco State University geography professor now finishing up a book on the politics of transportation, which explores these shifting dynamics.

The relationship with and dependence upon the business community could diminish SFBC’s willingness to champion bold reforms to our transportation system, such as congestion pricing charges for cars entering the city core during peak hours or demanding public transit mitigation fees of downtown corporations.

“On the other hand, it’s helping legitimize the bike as a legitimate form of transportation when the power elite accept it,” Henderson said.

Whatever the case, SFBC decision to honor BOMA with an award – which will be presented on the evening of June 5 during an event at the swank War Memorial Building – represents a new and evolving political dynamic for San Francisco.

“San Francisco has become a very different place in terms of embracing bicycling,” Shahum said. “There is a strong understanding that biking is good for the economy.”

D5 candidates and constituents scrutinize Olague


San Francisco’s political lines are in the process of being redrawn. That’s true literally, with the current reconstitution of legislative districts based on the latest census, but it’s also true figuratively: old alliances based on identity and ideology are being replaced with uncertain new political dynamics. And nowhere is that more true than in District 5.

In a recent Guardian, we explored the implications of Sup. Christina Olague’s dual (and potentially dueling) loyalties between Mayor Ed Lee, who appointed her to the job, and the progressive political community with which Olague has long identified. Those seemed to play out yesterday when Olague bucked progressives to be the sixth co-sponsor of Sup. Mark Farrell’s proposed charter amendment to repeal ranked-choice voting for citywide offices.

Already, many of her progressive constituents – even those who have strongly supported her – have been privately grumbling that Olague hasn’t been accessible and expressing doubts about her ability to lead one of the city’s most progressive districts. Olague, who initially returned our calls immediately but said she’d have to get back to us about supporting Farrell’s legislation (I’ll add an update if/when she calls back), adamantly denied that she’s had a slow start.

“We’ve been working with constituents constantly,” she said, rattling off a list of nightly meetings. “I’m in the community all the time, getting coffee with folks…We’re working on multiple issues here.”

Michael O’Connor – who owns The Independent and other businesses and who ran in D5 in 2004 and may run again this year – supports Olague but questions the conventional wisdom that her progressive roots and mayoral support make her a lock for reelection this year.

“Olague is an awesome person and she would be a great supervisor in District 9,” O’Connor said, citing her strong ties to the Mission District and work with the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition. “But she’s very beatable in D5 because she doesn’t have the deep connections to the community.”

That’s a belief that is shared by others, including London Breed – the executive director of the African American Art & Cultural Center for the last 10 years – who jumped into the race last week and threatened to cut into Olague’s support among Mayor Lee’s supporters.

With Attorney General Kamala Harris and other Lee supporters by her side, Breed cast herself as a more authentic and grassroots representative for the district where she was raised. Or as Harris said, “London understands the challenges and strengths of the district. She is, bar none, the best voice for District 5.”

Left unsaid was the split that her candidacy created among supporters of Lee, whose ascension to Room 200 was engineered largely by former mayor Willie Brown and Chinatown power broker Rose Pak. Brown (along with some of the city’s most influential African American ministers) strongly backed Breed for the D5 appointment, while Pak wanted her ally Malcolm Yeung, although she reportedly got behind Olague in the end.

Breed told us that she was supportive of Olague and that “I’ve been adamant about people giving her a chance and working with her.” But she said that it’s already become “clear that she just doesn’t have what it takes and was probably not going to get there,” based on “the feedback and phone calls I got with the experience people had in meeting her.”

“She’s familiar with planning, but not necessarily with the neighborhood and all its community groups,” Breed said. As for crossing Mayor Lee with her decision to run, Breed told us, “This was a hard decision for me to make because I work with many of these people and have good relationship with him.”

Progressive D5 candidates, such as City College Board President John Rizzo, are waiting to take advantage of votes on which Olague breaks with the progressives to carry water for the mayor. As he told us, “The mayor doesn’t get to make this decision, it’s the voters of this district that will decide.”

Like Breed, Rizzo also emphasized his long ties to the district. “I respect Christina and like Christina, but my connections are very deep,” he said, citing his 26 years of living and working as an environmental activist in the district. “I have a record of going out and taking the initiative and making things happen.”

Thea Selby, president of the Lower Haight Merchants and Neighbors Association, has also been running an active campaign for the D5 job, including highlighting Olague’s split loyalties. “She literally switched camps to help chair the Run Ed Run committee,” she told us. Julian Davis, who ran for D5 supervisor in 2004 and has been rumored to be mulling another run, said that it’s disconcerting just how many elected officials in San Francisco started off with the advantage of being appointed to the office: “It’s not participatory democracy the way we envision it.”

Selby and others will be closely watching how Olague votes this year, and trying to differentiate when those votes are significant (such as being the swing vote to place the challenge to RCV on the ballot) or not (including Olague’s early vote to override Lee’s veto, which fell two votes short of the eight needed). “We need to look and see how she votes on things – and when it matters and when it doesn’t,” Selby said.

Yet already, even before the really big and controversial votes like the upcoming 8 Washington and CPMC projects, Olague is feeling the polar tugs on issues such as bicycling. Many bike advocates are mad that Lee has delayed promised bike lanes on Oak Street and with a rash of tickets that cyclists on the Wiggle have received.

“I’ve long been an advocate of biking, but I know there are issues related to parking in the neighborhood,” Olague told us, straddling the issue. “Parking for some reason is a very controversial issue in the city.”

And where does she come down on the stepped up enforcement of bikes rolling stop signs on the Wiggle? “I want to sit down with the Bike Coalition and see what they think,” Olague said.

Meanwhile, Breed – who is widely considered a political moderate, which could cause her problems winning in D5 – is also trying to position herself as more independent than Olague. “I’m about being progressive,” she told us, citing her recent hiring of a case worker at the AAACC to help young African Americans work through barriers to success. “To me, that’s what being progressive is.”

Breed readily acknowledged her early political support from Brown, who appointed her to the Redevelopment Commission when he was mayor, but said that she would still take a tough stand against Lennar and other developers to ensure the needs of current San Franciscans are being met by new projects.

“I’ve told people, this does not mean you have my support,” Breed said of her political contributors and her support of Lennar’s massive redevelopment of the southeast part of the city. “As my grandmother used to say, all money ain’t good money.”

On Breed’s entrance into the race, Olague told us, “It was expected, so I’m not surprised.” Olague said that she’s begun to set up her election campaign, but that most of her focus has been on getting up to speed at City Hall and in D5: “I’m just trying to focus on the work of the district.”

Following court ruling, SF Redevelopment seeks a “legislative fix”


Redevelopment agencies were dealt a statewide hit after a unanimous ruling Dec. 29 by the California Supreme Court decided not only that lawmakers had the ability to terminate the agencies, but that those agencies could not continue forward with redevelopment projects as smaller entities.

Assembly Bills 1X 26, which eliminates redevelopment agencies but makes existing redevelopment housing projects an “enforceable obligation,” and 1X 27, which would have required agencies to make payments to the state of California in exchange for continuing to exist in smaller form, both came under scrutiny by the state Supreme Court. AB26 was upheld, but AB27 was considered illegal.

While large-scale redevelopment projects in San Francisco have generated no shortage of criticism and controversy, Mayor Ed Lee described the decision as disappointing and harmful for the city’s future.

“Redevelopment has not only played a critical role in creating jobs, transforming disadvantaged communities and delivering affordable housing, but it has spurred economic growth for our entire City at a time when we needed it most,” Lee said in a statement issued earlier today.

Gov. Jerry Brown introduced the idea of eliminating redevelopment agencies about a year ago as part of budget cuts designed to revitalize the state economy, as the Guardian reported last January. Today’s decision, which leaves the state with $1.7 billion more to work with in the first year of implementation of this plan, may help cushion the blow as state legislators seek to balance the budget.

However, the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency isn’t giving up.

“We are aggressively looking at solutions, most likely a legislative fix, to provide for redevelopment to continue,” S.F. Redevelopment Agency executive director, Tiffany Bohee, told the Guardian. “The state will do what it needs to do to fill the hole [in the state budget] but there are unintended consequences.”

Private funding from companies like Lennar Homes supplementing state funding has made the continuation of redevelopment projects in San Francisco’s Mission Bay, Bayview Hunters Point Shipyard, and Treasure Island possible. Lee maintains that these areas will remain unaffected.

The legislation does, however, affect future projects. “We call on the state to find a legislative solution to this problem” Lee’s statement noted. “And while we are committed to working with the state, we have already started to look at local solutions and alternatives.”

Bohee echoed the mayor’s resolve. “We are committed to the long haul and focused on what the next steps are,” she said.

Fresh and Easy displacement


OPINION You could cut the hate with a knife. All eyes were on my fumbling fingers, unable to sign my WIC coupons fast enough with one hand while holding my 13-month-old son with the other. “Somebody’s using welfare checks to pay for their food,” A 20 something man in a polo shirt shouted into his phone next to me.

I spend so many days like this while trying to shop as a poor mama, its hard to even think about them. The life of a poor parent in the U.S. is always a scarcity model rollercoaster ride of hate, system abuse, subsistence crumbs and criminalization, best exemplified in the supermarket experience where the so-called paying customers suffer through the bother of waiting for poor parents to pay with our WIC coupons, working poor mamas to pay with payroll checks or indigenous elders to count out their multiple coupons.

I began to reflect on this when I heard about the new fresh and Easy Markets opening in the Bayview-Hunters Point, the Mission and the Portola district. It’s a new supermarket chain from England that by policy doesn’t accept WIC coupons.

WIC — the federal Women, Infants and Children’s program, is not welfare, but rather a supplemental program that allows low-income parents to get milk, grains, cereal and other basic foodstuffs. It’s a program used by many working poor as well as mamas on government crumbs so we can feed our children a balanced diet.

The Bayview, Mission, and Portola neighborhoods are peopled with a lot of multi-generational, multi-lingual mamas, and families in poverty like mine, who need access to affordable fruits and vegetables and non-hormone-filled meat like Fresh and Easy has, but are these stores really being built for us?

Like so much of San Francisco and the whole Bay Area, these communities are under attack from redevelopment and gentrification efforts. Removal and evictions of poor families and elders happen everyday in the city to make way for the corporate veneer of Lennar and John Stewart properties, condominiums, lofts and the rich young people who they are built for.

So who is Fresh and Easy for? They don’t take coupons, personal checks or WIC — and like their Whole Paycheck counterparts, they don’t hire union employees, or ultimately many employees at all, as they have the new self-pay check-out stands.

Fresh and Easy claims it doesn’t except the manufacturers’ coupons for the same reasons it doesn’t accept paper personal checks, W.I.C. vouchers, or cash payroll checks: That elimination of manual paper processing, combined with its self-service checkout system, saves money.

Pressured by community members who protested outside the Bayview store on its opening day, Fresh and Easy CEO Tim Mason now claims that Fresh and Easy in the Bayview will eventually begin taking WIC.

As this poor mama tries to move out from under the lie of criminalized government crumbs and the non-existent, bootstraps centered, corporate underwritten American dream, I have come to realize our collective, self-determined liberation begins with growing our own food in our poor neighborhoods with people-led community gardens, taking back stolen indigenous land and resources with organized poor people led/indigenous people-led efforts and whenever we have the energy, after all the other things we have to do to survive in this capitalist society fighting the exclusion and removal efforts of us by the smooth talking corporations who don’t see us as part of their grand profit-making plans.

Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia, daughter of Dee and mama of Tiburcio is the co-founder of POOR Magazine/PoorNewsNetwork and author of Criminal of Poverty: Growing up Homeless in America

You can’t trust Ethics


By Larry Bush

OPINION Proposition F, a measure on the November ballot, is supposed to clean up some provisions of the law that requires political consultants to register and make disclosures about their clients and their work. It was approved by all 11 supervisors.

But Prop. F has some serious problems. For starters, it grants authority to the Ethics Commission to make any other changes it wants in the law.

As the Voter Handbook says:

“A yes vote means: You also want to allow the City to change any of the campaign consultant ordinance’s requirements without further voter approval.”

Why should you oppose that? Because the Ethics Commission can’t be trusted.

The reason San Francisco has a law forcing political consultants to register and make disclosures is because the voters demanded one. City Hall fought against it every step of the way.

Former Supervisor Tom Ammiano introduced the measure in 1996, and it won board approval. Then-Mayor Willie Brown vetoed it. Ammiano rewrote the measure 1997 to meet Mayor Brown’s objections. Brown vetoed it again. And the supervisors who had voted for the law refused to vote for it again and overturn the veto.

So Ammiano and several other supervisors put the measure on the ballot. The political consultants raised a war chest to defeat it and spent more than $100,000 in direct mail, billboards and other voter contacts.

It passed with 61 percent of the vote.

What kind of clean up does Ethics plan now on the political consultant law? You can bet it won’t come down on the side of greater disclosure.

In 2009, two years ago, the Ethics Commission decided to write a clean up of the city lobbyist law. Just like they want to do with the political consultant law now.

And what happened with that law?

It changed one little aspect that didn’t get any real attention. It changed what is defined as a lobbyist — a person or entity who seeks to influence administrative or legislative decisions.

And what is the result?

Now the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce no longer has to file and disclose its lobbying. Neither does Lennar. Neither does the America’s Cup or Larry Ellison.

All those groups had to file under the old rules.

The bottom line is that a sleeping watchdog that can’t be trusted wants the right to change the laws governing political consultants — without any further oversight or public vote.

The former Ethics Commissioners who also are opposing this measure are Paul Melbostad, who served on the commission when the political consultants act was passed; Bob Dockendorff; Joe Julian; Bob Planthold; and Eileen Hansen, who just completed her term and was the only commissioner who voted against the pay-to-play rewrite.

I urge you to join them in opposing this measure.

Larry Bush is the publisher of Citireport.com, a City Hall watchdog.

Civil Grand Jury slams shipyard development project


“The Civil Grand Jury concludes that the Hunter’s Point Shipyard redevelopment project will require more communication, more transparency, and more commitment from the City in order to achieve its goals of providing housing, jobs and economic development, tax revenue and open spaces to San Francisco and its residents, particularly those residing in the surrounding neighborhoods.”

So reads the conclusion of the Civil Grand Jury’s 2010-2011 report, which is titled, “Hunters Point Shipyard: a shifting landscape.” The report makes six findings and seven recommendation that city departments and the Board will have to respond to within the next 60-90 days. And some of these recommendations reflect problems the Guardian unearthed and highlighted during in its coverage of the development.

The jury found that the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) is not in compliance with its pledge to the California Department of Public Health to keep residents informed of developments at the Hunters Point Shipyard. As the report’s authors note, the SFDPH’s website “is not regularly updated.”

The jury also found that the City has placed itself in a potentially compromising situation with developer Lennar where in essence, “the wolf is paying the shepherd to guard the flock.”

The jury further noted that by having developer Lennar reimburse the city for monitoring expenses associated with the shipyard project, SFDPH has created a situation that “could raise doubt in the public’s mind about its commitment to proactively and impartially enforce environmental health regulations even when it might adversely impact Lennar.”

Public trust in the SFPDH has been further jeopardized by its failure to update its website in a timely manner, and its apparent reluctance to comment publicly on the best method to deal with the clean-up of Parcel E-2, which is the site of a former dump and deemed one of the most polluted parcels of land on the shipyard.

The jury found that the above concerns were “further reinforced by the recent release of email messages that purportedly showed inappropriate communications between senior officials at the SFDPH and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Lennar.”

The jury found that with the exception of Parcel A, the City has no legal control over the remaining shipyard property. “Consequently, in a technical sense, the City has no authority over matters dealing with deadlines and deliverables for environmental clean-up. However, the City does in fact have some standing in these matters via the 2004 conveyance agreement between the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) and the Navy. The agreement stipulates that the Navy will work collaboratively with the SFRA and share information about cleanup work.”

Last but not least, the jury found the previous efforts by the City to implement workforce policies at city-funded construction projects such as the shipyard have “largely proved ineffective” as they only require contractors to make good-faith efforts, but that earlier this year, a new local hire ordinance was implemented with stricter requirements and mandates.

Based on these findings, the jury recommended that SFDPH needs to update its shipyard project website on a weekly or monthly basis, immediately stop accepting money from Lennar to pay for monitors at the shipyard and cover the costs from its own resources, rigorously enforce conflict of interest guidelines governing deals between its officials and the companies they are monitoring, and conduct its own environmental assessment of the issue of capping Parcel E-2 and make its findings available to the public for comment.

The jury also recommended that because the Navy still owns the majority of the shipyard land and therefore the city has no direct control over deadlines and deliverables, it is critical that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and SFDPH be “particularly vigilant in monitoring clean-up activities at the shipyard.”

The jury further recommended that the City and the SFRA should have “contingency plans in place” for continuing Redevelopment-related projects, including the shipyard, “in the event State redevelopment plans are cut or eliminated.”

Last but not least, the jury recommended that to ensure that promised job creation goals for the shipyard are realized, “the City should ensure that the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement has sufficient resources to allow it to effectively enforce the provisions of the new workforce laws.”

According to the conditions of the Civil Grand Jury’s report, for each finding the responding parties must report if the recommendation has been implemented or not, whether it requires further analysis, or was not implemented because it is either unwarranted or not reasonable.

So, expect to see some fireworks in the coming weeks, given that the Mayor’s Office, the Board, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, SFDPH, the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, the Redevelopment Agency and the BAAQMD have been named as the responding parties in this report…

Treasure Island goes to the Board


There’s three reasons I’ll always remember the Chronicle’s Phil Bronstein: he used to be married to Sharon Stone, he got bitten by a Komodo Dragon at the L.A. zoo, and he had the audacity to write a column in the Chronicle that was titled “Treasure Island eco-dream is bad choice for funds.”
Now it’s true that Bronstein was a 1986 Pulitzer Prize finalist for his work in the Philippines. But that was 25 years ago, and I didn’t read what he wrote, so I can’t comment on the quality of his work  then. But now I live in the East Bay and drive past Treasure Island most days of the week—and I have been waiting for someone at the Chronicle to finally voice something other than their usual preppy praise for this increasingly large development in the middle of the Bay.
And Bronstein certainly did have plenty to say about Treasure Island. And it wasn’t the usual upbeat pap about “bold and robust visions” that the Chron usually serves up when it concerns anything that involves Lennar and public-private development. Instead,  Bronstein began by describing T.I.  as a “onetime secretive Navy base filled with deer, political patronage and who knows what buried in the ground.”

Now, part of Bronstein’s fire may have been a result of him writing his column in April, a few weeks after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, triggering a nuclear meltdown. Or two or three.

Bronstein’s infamous rant even mentioned some of the radiologically impacted things at Treasure Island that, as he put it, “leached into the soil from weaponry or other deadly items: radium and PCBs 100,000 times the acceptable levels.”
And then he compared Lennar and billionaire Ron Burkle to “contemporary development pirates.” Believe me, that was a surprise to read in the Chronicle.

“This year, they’re scheduled to break ground on a huge multibillion-dollar public-private ecotopia mini-city built upon toxic waste and landfill,” Bronstein wrote. “This glorious contradiction might become a triumph of super-green living and high-end dreams. But it also represents something else: bad choices about how to spend public money in ever tighter times.”

Bronstein noted that the Board has a brief panic in April when they considered whether a Japan-style disaster could wipe out the T.I. plan, but that Rich Hills of the Mayor’s Office said the “disaster potential has already been addressed.”
“Unless we have what Hills called ‘a freak disaster,’” Bronstein added with a cutting bite that his Komodo dragon would have been proud of, including Bronstein’s inclusion of the fact that Treasure Island is on the California Emergency Management Agency’s tsunami inundation map, and that while we are coughing up $105 million to developers who want to profit from high-density living on T. I, all of us are neglecting aging infrastructure that we already have.

“While T.I. developers are busy putting some kind of shower cap-like cover over the land so trees and foundations don’t touch toxic ground that can’t and won’t be cleaned up, our children stand a pretty good chance of being flattened like pancakes in existing structures while they’re learning math and history during the next, inevitable big quake,” Bronstein concluded.
Meanwhile, those of us who drive the seismically-compromised Bay Bridge each day can’t help wondering how folks who decide to move to the development that’s being planned for Treasure Island will ever get off the island—unless they have a pirate ship.

That’s because every morning, we get to see a long line of drivers waiting—without much success—for drivers on the Bay Bridge to slow down and let them into the traffic.

Those of us who sometimes commute by ferry also know how tricky it is try and catch the last ferry, which leaves the San Francisco Ferry Building at 8:25 p.m. That’s way earlier than most commission meetings end. And earlier than most nightlife begins.

And then there’s the question of what happens when you get back to Treasure Island–and realize you forgot to buy milk, collect the dog, or pick up the kids from day care.

Now, maybe the city and the developers believe they have thoroughly considered and answered all these questions. But have they done any outreach to East Bay commuters, whose journey will likely be further impacted by the T.I. plan? If so, I certainly haven’t heard about it. And what about the folks in Berkeley who likely won’t be able to see San Francisco once a bunch of high-rises pop up in the Bay? Have they been consulted?

This Tuesday (June 7) at 5 p.m., the Board will hear an appeal of the city’s Treasure Island environmental impact report and consider a huge batch of related documents. (And I’m willing to bet that most current supervisors don’t know too much about this plan, and probably have only flipped through the thousands of pages of documentation related to it)

The appeal was filed by the Sierra Club, Golden Gate Audubon Society, and Arc Ecology, who last year filed an appeal around the city’s EIR for Lennar’s massive Hunters Point Shipyard/Candlestick Project. Only this time, this trio is being joined by a group of Treasure Island residents—and former Board President Aaron Peskin.

Which reminds me: Three weeks after Bronstein wrote his amazing Treasure Island hit, piece, his fellow columnists at the Chronicle, Phillip Matier and Andy Ross, were back, sounding much more like the Chronicle’s attack dogs usually do, when it comes to anyone who dares to find the city and Lennar’s massive plans less than perfect: “Peskin, who as a supervisor was notorious for his middle-of-night phone rants to department heads, called the proposed high-rise plan that just squeaked by the Planning Commission a ‘laughingstock mistake,’” M& R crowed.

But in the end, they quoted the very thought that Peskin wants M&R to print and Chronicle readers to consider about the city’s current Treasure Island plan:

“It will horrify San Francisco and the Bay Area for decades to come,” Peskin said.

Now, as the folks joining Peskin in opposing the city’s current plan note, they aren’t trying to stop the development of Treasure Island. They are simply fighting the latest plan.

“The developer and the city already have an approved EIR and project plan for a 6,000 unit smaller scale, more transit friendly project that was passed in 2006,” Arc Ecology states in a flier that it plans to distribute at the June 7 hearing. “Environmentalists and many of the appellants supported that plan. Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric. It was the earlier plan that won all the awards for sustainability.”

And as Arc points out, the city’s latest EIR and the plan currently before the Board is an entirely different animal from the city’s 2006 plan.

“It’s 25 percent bigger than the 2006 plan, tipping the scales on its impacts,” Arc states. “It increases the housing by 25 percent to 8,000 units, decreases transit service and affordable housing and competes with hotels and businesses that already exist downtown.”

“What can you do? Tell the Board to go back to the 2006 plan,” Arc advises.

The flier also lists a bunch of bullet points that outline some of the coalition’s objections.

“It’s unsustainable,” the flier states, claiming that under the new plan, there will be, “too many cars, too much traffic, too much air pollution.”

Under the new plan, there is also a seven percent reduction on the affordable housing set aside and a 17 percent reduction in overall affordable housing units, Arc notes. That’s another way of saying, “There is not enough affordable housing.”

And Arc claims the island will remain contaminated (see Bronstein’s rant about radionuclides and PCBs at the beginning of this post) even after the Navy completes its toxic and radiological cleanup. That the 40-story high-rise towers will obstruct views of San Francisco from the East Bay, and vice versa. And that the project financing plan will drive the city further into debt for at least another 15 years.

Arc’s flier concludes by asserting that the whole plan is undemocratic.
“Once approved, there will be no further environmental review of project plans—ever!” Arc claims. “Once approved the project will be implemented by an unelected nonprofit corporation. There has been no outreach or involvement of East Bay residents despite traffic and view impacts. The plan repays $55 million in additional developer costs to purchase this island with hundreds of millions of dollars of impacts on Bay Area residents.”

Now, I’m sure officials for the City and the developer will have plenty of counter arguments–and possibly busloads of low-income T.I. residents/unemployed SF workers, who will be shipped into the Board’s Chambers to argue that they need the Board to approve this plan so they can have new homes and jobs. Because that’s what happened last year, when Arc and the Sierra Club and Golden Gate Audubon expressed their concerns about plans to carve up the Candlestick State Park Recreation Area and build a bridge over the Yosemite Slough. And suddenly found themselves cast as the big bad villains, when it came to the city and Lennar’s wish to ram through the Candlestick/Shipyard plan.

But regardless of whether you believe in the project, oppose it, or don’t know much about it, make sure you show up at 5pm in Room 250 at City Hall on June 7, if you want to hear what actually goes down. Especially if you work in San Francisco, and live in the East Bay, because much of the Treasure Island traffic will directly impact the East Bay. 

Or as Arc puts it, “This new project is 25 percent larger than the prior one and like the difference between a 75 degree day and a 100 degree day – this increase in size makes all the difference. The new project will overdrive bridge capacity, create too much traffic, not enough transit, reduced levels of affordable housing, and vests enormous public power in an unaccountable, unelected development authority.  Please tell the Board they don’t have to go back to the drawing board – just to the 2006 plan and recirculate the EIR.”

Tourk’s clients sully Herrera’s mayoral campaign


Does anyone really believe that lobbyist and campaign consultant Alex Tourk isn’t talking to City Attorney Dennis Herrera, whose mayoral campaign Tourk is running, about the biggest clients and issues that Tourk is representing? Honestly, do they believe the public is that stupid?

Apparently so, because that’s the story they were feeding to the Chronicle and its readers today, denying that the two men had ever talked about the Stow Lake Boathouse vendor contract or California Pacific Medical Center and its controversial plan to build a new hospital and housing project on Cathedral Hill.

I mean, c’mon, Tourk even filed documents with the Ethics Commission stating that they had talked about those issues and clients, only to now deny it after realizing that it’s actually illegal to lobby one of your campaign clients. Luckily, Herrera had the good judgment to refer the matter to the Oakland City Attorney’s Office to investigate, considering that this city’s hopelessly corrupt and ineffectual Ethics Commission has abdicated its watchdog responsibilities in favor of repeatedly rubber-stamping every ethics waiver that comes before it, making a mockery of itself and contributing mightily to culture of political corruption that has been on the rise in San Francisco.

This is a problem that runs far deeper that just the Recreation and Parks Department steering the Oretega family vendor to Tourk, who then used his insider connection to get them the contract, which is unseemly enough. No, that’s just the tip of the iceberg with a consultant who has deep connections to monied interests and who has been hired by a mayoral candidate who actually hopes to gain some progressive support.

Consider Tourk’s client list. CPMC is perhaps the most controversial project facing city approval this year, one in which a powerful corporation is making big demands that are being strenuously opposed by a wide swath of working class San Franciscans. Whether Herrera would support this project as mayor and what modifications he would make are important litmus tests to determine what kind of mayor he would be. Yet his campaign consultant is simultaneously advocating for CPMC.

How would Herrera be on police issues, ranging from officer accountability to pension reform to whether to retain new Police Chief Greg Suhr? And can we really have faith that whatever stands Herrera takes weren’t influenced by the fact that the San Francisco Police Officers Association is another Tourk client?

Other Tourk clients include Civil Sidewalks, which advocated for the sit-lie ordinance that police are now struggling with how to legally implement; CH2MHill, the Lennar subcontractor who exposed Hunters Point residents to carcinogenic construction dust; Medjool Restaurant, whose politically connected owner has pushed projects that clash with local planning codes; Prado Group, which has a number of development proposals in SF; Target Corp., which is doing a controversial remodel of the Metreon; and many others.

Is Tourk touting his inside access to man who may be the next mayor? Will Herrera’s campaign benefit from that cross-pollination? I’ve left messages with Tourk and Herrera to ask these questions and others, and I’ll update this post when the call back, but what do you think they’re going to say? And, based on their credibility-stretching comments to the Chron today, will anyone believe them?

UPDATE: Herrera called back, but he wouldn’t discuss these issues on-the-record, instead just giving me a quote similar to the one he gave the Chron: “I was surprised to read that Alex Tourk listed me on his lobbying disclosure forms because he never lobbied me on any of those clients and issues.”

Last stand against Lennar



Hunters Point, the last major swath of usable land in San Francisco, appears at first glance to be a developer’s dream — a prime piece of real estate with sweeping views of the bay, ample space, and a city government eager to capitalize on its potential.

But community groups have filed lawsuits challenging the project’s many uncertainties, such as the fate of the toxic stew beneath the former U.S. Navy base in the heart of the project area, and both sides are now awaiting a court ruling on whether more studies are needed.

As an EPA-designated Superfund site, the 500-acre plot is home to an abundance of buried chemical contaminants, radioactive waste, and other unknown toxins, and the Navy has been slow to clean it up. Concerned that development plans have been premature in the face of this lingering mess, opponents filed lawsuits against developer Lennar Corp. and the city last year.

The project, approved July 2010 by the Board of Supervisors, includes plans for a new stadium for the 49ers, 10,500 housing units, parks, and commercial retail space. It has received praise from city and state government agencies as an economic and cultural boon to the community. But activist groups say the cleanup should happen before development occurs.

The Sierra Club settled its lawsuit over the project after the developer made some design changes (see “Uncertain developments,” Jan. 18), so the lawsuit filed by People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER) and Greenaction is the last piece of litigation holding up the project. At the core of the legal challenge is whether the environmental impact report (EIR) properly analyzed the health impacts from toxic contamination at the site. After an April 18 hearing on the case, both sides are awaiting a ruling on whether the claims have merit and should be the subject of further study.

Activists claim the EIR violates California Environmental Quality Act protocols because it contains too much uncertainty, including the unknown fate of a large parcel of land slated for a stadium that is contingent on whether the 49ers decide to stay in San Francisco. POWER wants more details about the possible threats to human health before the 20-year project gets the final green light. But since the Navy is responsible for the cleanup, Lennar and the city have repeatedly countered that a full analysis is not their responsibility.

“The main issue that Greenaction and POWER have been concerned about throughout lawsuit is that it’s very unclear from the EIR what exactly is going to happen and what level of contamination will be left,” said attorney George Torgun with EarthJustice, which is representing the community groups. “What are the impacts of building on a federal Superfund site? There is a real lack of knowledge in the EIR.”

April 18 was the second of two recent hearings held on the case. On March 24, Judge Ernest H. Goldsmith listened to a full day of testimony before a packed courtroom. Subsequent settlement discussions weren’t successful, so both sides returned to court to seek a ruling that is expected sometime in the next two months.

Lennar attorneys offered to relinquish the possibility of a pre-cleanup early transfer of the property, which has been a major concern for POWER. Under this proposal, no development on any of the six parcels slated for transfer from the Navy could proceed until the federally mandated cleanup process was finished and certified. However, POWER does not believe this offer reduces the scope of the issues because final approval would still ultimately award control of the land to the developer based on what they believe is a flawed EIR.

“Severing any discussion of early transfer from this EIR would only serve to worsen the defects that petitioners have identified and would be contrary to the requirements of CEQA,” Torgun wrote in the April 13 letter to the court.

POWER’s counterproposal would allow large portions of the project to go through — rebuilding the Alice Griffith housing project and development on Candlestick Point — but Lennar considers it economically unfeasible. These portions of the project are not located on the shipyard but are included in overall plan.

“We want to see the project move forward with Alice Griffith and Candlestick Point,” said POWER organizer Jaron Browne. “They’ve rebuilt housing projects at Cesar Chavez and other areas in the city — why can they only rebuild this one if they can redevelop the shipyard? It’s a political game that Lennar has tied the rebuilding of it to this mammoth 770-acre development.”

Lennar representatives wouldn’t comment for this story. Community members have clashed with the megadeveloper over health issues in recent years. In 2008, Lennar was fined more than $500,000 by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District for allowing dust containing asbestos to settle on the surrounding neighborhoods. Then, in March, community organizations released a report showing e-mails from 2006 to 2009 between the EPA, the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and Lennar revealing a possible cover-up of the asbestos exposure.

“They underestimated our understanding of what is happening here,” Browne said. “The whole heart of this issue is that this is a Superfund site. Even if you remove the possibility of early transfer, they are still planning on doing work while remediation is still years to go on other parcels.”

Longtime Bayview resident and Greenaction member Marie Harrison said that not only is the EIR too fraught with uncertainty, it’s incomplete. “There are over 600 blank pages in that document,” she said. “How can you approve an EIR that is supposed to tell you what is there, what the effects will be, and what the project will be? We kept asking the supervisors: How do you convince the community that they are doing something that is good and safe when the history shows otherwise?

During both court hearings, it was evident no clear definition of the project exists since it contains many variables to account for unknowns. Attorneys for Lennar and the city argue that the EIR effectively addresses each potential use and demonstrates a full knowledge of possible contaminants.

Wilma Subra, an environmental scientist for New Orleans-based Environmental Health Advocates, has worked with POWER and Greenaction to understand the breadth of contamination and the typical process of cleanup of a Superfund site. She pointed out that the Navy’s cleanup plan is completely separate from the EIR submitted for the project.

“Those two documents don’t agree with what development will be,” Subra said. “Usually you wait much longer in the process to really know that the land is safe. In a normal Superfund process, you would first do an implementation of the remediation process, find out if it worked, then — years down the line — you would start thinking about development.”

If the EIR is deemed inadequate, Lennar and the city will be required to further analyze the contaminants, outline cleanup strategies, and resubmit a new EIR. If the judge rules the EIR satisfies CEQA, the project can move forward.

“CEQA is one of the few really democratic processes,” Browne said. “If you just have this one moment in 2011 when people are able to comment and weigh in, and then have 20 years where they are building within that, it’s not really fair.”

Reject the Treasure Island plan


EDITORIAL After a long, long hearing April 21, as the San Francisco Planning Commission prepared to vote on an ambitious development plan for Treasure Island, Commissioner Gwyneth Borden acknowledged that the plan wasn’t perfect. But, she said, on balance it ought to be approved: “Twenty five percent affordable housing is better than zero percent.”

That’s not necessarily true.

Treasure Island is an usual piece of real estate, 403 acres of artificial land created in 1937 by dumping sand and dirt on a shallow part of the bay. It’s less than two miles from downtown San Francisco — but there’s no rail service, no BART station. The only way off the island is by boat — or by driving onto a Bay Bridge that’s already jammed way beyond capacity every morning and afternoon.

The soil is unstable, prone to liquefying in an earthquake — and if sea levels rise as high as some predictions suggest, the whole place could be underwater in a few decades.

A strange hybrid agency called the Treasure Island Development Authority, created by former Mayor Willie Brown, cut a deal with Lennar Urban (the same outfit that has the redevelopment deal for Bayview Hunters Point) and several partners to construct a neighborhood of some 19,000 people on the island. Among the features: a 450-foot condominium tower and 6,000 units of high-end housing. The developers brag that a fleet of new ferries will offer a 13-minute ride to the city and that some streets will be designed for pedestrians and bicycles.

But the fact remains that the developers want to add 19,000 new residents — almost all of whom will work off the island somewhere — to a place that has no credible transportation system. City studies show that even with an extensive (and costly) ferry service, at least half the new residents would drive cars to work (and, presumably, to shop, and go to movies, and eat and drink), joining the mob of vehicles heading east or west on the bridge. That’s almost 10,000 new cars each day trying to jam onto a roadway that can’t handle the existing traffic. The backups would stretch well onto San Francisco surface streets and as far back as Berkeley.

A rail line on the Bay Bridge would solve part of the problem. So would bike lanes. Neither option is even remotely possible in the foreseeable future. Free, or heavily subsidized ferries could, indeed, be a positive alternative — but who is going to pay for that service? Nonsubsidized ferries would be far more expensive than current Muni or BART service, a particular burden on the residents of the below-market housing.) And does anybody really think there’s going to be enough ferry capacity to carry 10,000 people a day to downtown SF, the East Bay, and the Peninsula?

The bottom line: this isn’t a good deal for San Francisco. The affordable housing level is too low. The transportation problems are nightmarish. The last thing Treasure Island needs is a 450-foot tower.

There’s no rush to approve this — and no immediate downside to waiting for a better deal. The supervisors should tell Lennar to come back with a project that has fewer residents, better transit options, and more affordable housing. Because zero is looking a lot better than what’s on the table.

PS: The 4-3 Planning Commission vote demonstrated exactly why it’s important to have key commission appointments split between the mayor and the Board of Supervisors. The mayoral appointees all rolled over — but at least the board-appointed members made strong points, forced real debate, and gave the supervisors plenty of ammunition to demand a better deal.

Editorial: Reject the Treasure Island plan


After a long, long hearing April 21, as the San Francisco Planning Commission prepared to vote on an ambitious development plan for Treasure Island, Commissioner Gwyneth Borden acknowledged that the plan wasn’t perfect. But, she said, on balance it ought to be approved: “Twenty five percent affordable housing is better than zero percent.”

That’s not necessarily true.

Treasure Island is an usual piece of real estate, 403 acres of artificial land created in 1937 by dumping sand and dirt on a shallow part of the bay. It’s less than two miles from downtown San Francisco — but there’s no rail service, no BART station. The only way off the island is by boat — or by driving onto a Bay Bridge that’s already jammed way beyond capacity every morning and afternoon.

The soil is unstable, prone to liquefying in an earthquake — and if sea levels rise as high as some predictions suggest, the whole place could be underwater in a few decades.

A strange hybrid agency called the Treasure Island Development Authority, created by former Mayor Willie Brown, cut a deal with Lennar Urban (the same outfit that has the redevelopment deal for Bayview Hunters Point) and several partners to construct a neighborhood of some 19,000 people on the island. Among the features: a 450-foot condominium tower and 6,000 units of high-end housing. The developers brag that a fleet of new ferries will offer a 13-minute ride to the city and that some streets will be designed for pedestrians and bicycles.

But the fact remains that the developers want to add 19,000 new residents — almost all of whom will work off the island somewhere — to a place that has no credible transportation system. City studies show that even with an extensive (and costly) ferry service, at least half the new residents would drive cars to work (and, presumably, to shop, and go to movies, and eat and drink), joining the mob of vehicles heading east or west on the bridge. That’s almost 10,000 new cars each day trying to jam onto a roadway that can’t handle the existing traffic. The backups would stretch well onto San Francisco surface streets and as far back as Berkeley.

A rail line on the Bay Bridge would solve part of the problem. So would bike lanes. Neither option is even remotely possible in the foreseeable future. Free, or heavily subsidized ferries could, indeed, be a positive alternative — but who is going to pay for that service? Nonsubsidized ferries would be far more expensive than current Muni or BART service, a particular burden on the residents of the below-market housing.) And does anybody really think there’s going to be enough ferry capacity to carry 10,000 people a day to downtown SF, the East Bay, and the Peninsula?

The bottom line: this isn’t a good deal for San Francisco. The affordable housing level is too low. The transportation problems are nightmarish. The last thing Treasure Island needs is a 450-foot tower.

There’s no rush to approve this — and no immediate downside to waiting for a better deal. The supervisors should tell Lennar to come back with a project that has fewer residents, better transit options, and more affordable housing. Because zero is looking a lot better than what’s on the table.

PS: The 4-3 Planning Commission vote demonstrated exactly why it’s important to have key commission appointments split between the mayor and the Board of Supervisors. The mayoral appointees all rolled over — but at least the board-appointed members made strong points, forced real debate, and gave the supervisors plenty of ammunition to demand a better deal. *


The Treasure Island nightmare


There are times when people like me, who think development should be driven by public needs, not private profit, are in something of a bind. I don’t like the Lennar plan for Bayview Hunters Point — but I agree that doing nothing isn’t a very good alternative. Sometimes, the “no-project” alternative isn’t an alternative at all — which gives the developers a huge hand up in negotiations with the city. Gee, you want affordable housing? We can give you 15 percent — or we can walk away and you’ll get nothing.

But when it comes to Treasure Island, I think we’re in a different situation. The proposed development is so out of whack, so looney, that it makes no sense to me — and the alternative of doing nothing, at least for now, isn’t so bad at all.

The plan calls for 19,000 new residents on the 403-acre artificial island in the Bay. At most, 25 percent of the units would be below-market. Which means some 13,700 rich people, virtually all of them with jobs in San Francisco, the Peninsula or the East Bay, would be plunked into a place with no viable transportation alternatives.

I wonder if any of these planners have ever tried to leave TI by car; it’s a nightmare. And there’s no way to fix it: Even if they build a new acceleration ramp (the current stop-and-go into 60-mile-an-hour traffic is a death trap), the Bay Bridge is already at full capacity during a very long rush hour in the morning and evening. And does anybody really think those 13,700 people will all take the ferry to work every day?

Impossible: There’s no way to provide enough ferry service for that population at anything resemble the cost the developers are willing to pay. How about all the Google and Yahoo and Genentech employees (and that’s a big part of the population buying new high-end condos in San Francisco)? You think they’re all going to take a ferry to downtown SF then hop on a bus or train then take another bus to the office? Not these folks. A lot of them will want to drive.

And the bridge, which is already backed up, will back up further, driving more traffic onto the streets of SOMA and creating a slowdown all the way back to Berkeley.

Meanwhile, the island is sinking, and water levels are rising. Forget the fancy engineering plans to sink stone columns deep into the clay under the Bay; what happens when the water rises? Are we going to surround the entire place with seawalls?

And here’s the bottom line: The current situation isn’t all that awful. There’s a small amount of housing out there, some of it affordable. There’s lots of open space. A little effort and the playing fields and parkland could be upgraded and TI could, for the intermediate term, be a day-use area for the city. Not a terrible alternative.

At some point, either the island’s going to sink back into the Bay or it’s going to have to be completely redeveloped. But right now, with no public money available, we’re at the whims of private developers. And what they’re offering doesn’t even remotely meed the city’s needs — and will create a catastrophic transportation problem.

So the supervisors are in a great position to negotiate. We want 50 percent affordable housing, we want the developer to pay for substantially increased bus and ferry service (or maybe we want to add a rail line to the Bay Bridge). And if that’s not something the developers want to do, fine: we’ll wait. Nothing wrong with that.



Drawing a line in the toxic triangle



GREEN ISSUE California is often viewed as being among the brightest shades of green. The Golden State’s landmark climate-change legislation has proven magnetic for green-tech startups, while Northern California is defined in part by its longstanding love affair with natural foods and solar power. San Francisco boasts a well-used network of bike routes, a ban on plastic bags, mandated composting of kitchen scraps, and a host of urban agriculture projects.

While much of the Bay Area’s environmental reputation is well-deserved, things look different from poor neighborhoods where homes are clustered beside hulking industrial facilities and public health suffers. For years, grassroots organizations working in Richmond, Oakland, and Bayview-Hunters Point have sought to improve air quality and promote environmental justice in neighborhoods plagued by higher-than-average rates of respiratory disease, cancer, and other preventable illnesses.

The Rev. Daniel Buford of Oakland’s Allen Temple Baptist Church told the Guardian that he began talking about the polluted areas of Richmond, Oakland, and San Francisco as a “toxic triangle” two decades ago. It was an analogy, he explained, that plays off the mysterious deaths that the Bermuda Triangle is famous for. Yet the label also served a purpose — to unite three communities of color that were fighting separate yet similar battles against health hazards associated with their surroundings.

“There were a lot of things that weren’t in place with public consciousness that are in place now,” Buford said.

Today, he isn’t the only one uttering the catch phrase. A host of community organizations banded together as the Toxic Triangle Coalition last year to organize three forums on environmental justice in the three cities. Advocates cast the neighborhood-specific problems as three parts of a regionwide phenomenon, highlighting how pollution from shipping, crude oil processing, freeway transportation, abandoned manufacturing sites, hazardous waste handlers, and other industrial facilities disproportionately affect communities of color, where poverty and unemployment rates are already high.

Buford views the Toxic Triangle Coalition as a strategy to mount pressure for stronger enforcement of environmental laws in disproportionately affected areas. “We live in the whole Bay Area — we don’t live in one little part of the Bay Area,” he noted. “Our coalition strongly urges our state representatives in each of the counties to call for a hearing at the state level.”



In Richmond, California’s top greenhouse-gas emitter looms as an expansive backdrop of the city, a tangled network of smokestacks and machinery near a hillside cluster of large, cylindrical oil storage containers. Chevron Corporation’s Richmond Refinery was built more than a century ago. A few years ago, the oil company began making noise about how it was in need of an upgrade.

Weaving through a blue-collar residential area of Richmond in her sedan, Jessica Guadalupe Tovar recounted how Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), the nonprofit she works for, revealed that Chevron hadn’t told the whole story when it was petitioning for a permit to expand the refinery. The oil company’s long-term goals, CBE learned from a financial report, included gaining capability to process thicker crude that tends to be sourced from places like Canada’s Alberta tar sands.

“We call it dirty crude,” she said. “But it’s really dirtier crude.”

Converting thicker crude to fuel requires higher temperatures and pressures — and that translates to higher greenhouse-gas emissions and a heightened risk of flaring and fires.

The refinery expansion could have meant an air-quality situation going from bad to worse. Public health problems such as asthma and cancer have spurred campaigns led by the West County Toxics Coalition, CBE, and other environmental justice groups. Tovar explained how CBE orchestrated an air-monitoring program in 2006, collecting samples from 40 homes in Richmond and 10 in Bolinas as a point of comparison.

While trace amounts of chemicals from household cleaners were present in both, samples from the Richmond residences also contained the same toxic compounds that spew from Chevron’s refinery. “We found pollution known to come from the oil refinery settling inside people’s homes,” Tovar explained. “Once it’s trapped in your home, it starts to accumulate.”

Chevron won its expansion permit by a slim margin in 2008 with a city council dominated by officials who had reputations for being friendly to the oil giant. Yet environmental organizations filed suit, saying the environmental impact report (EIR) approval was based on was illegal because it failed to analyze the company’s likely plans for heavier crude processing. A Contra Costa County judge ruled in favor of the environmentalists, halting the expansion project in 2009. Chevron appealed, but the decision was upheld in 2010.

Stopping the expansion was a substantial victory, but environmental justice advocates remain wary of Chevron — particularly after the company attempted to blame job losses on the green coalition that filed suit. “Chevron pit workers against us,” Tovar noted. “And also started saying, ‘This is why environmental laws are bad for the economy.'”



Each day, the Port of Oakland fills with trucks waiting to load up on goods shipped in from around the globe on massive cargo vessels. It’s a local symbol of a globalized economy. But for the West Oakland neighborhoods surrounding the port, the daily gathering of diesel rigs means an unhealthy infusion of particulate matter into the air.

A report issued by the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), the Pacific Institute, and the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports found that West Oakland residents are exposed to particulate matter concentrations nearly three times higher than the regional average. Health studies have shown that asthma rates in West Oakland are five times higher than that of people living in the Oakland hills, and cancer risks are threefold compared to other Bay Area cities. For the truck drivers, the risk of cancer is significantly higher than average.

A state air-quality law that went into effect in early 2010 banned pre-1994, heavily polluting diesel trucks from the port, thanks in part to years of environmental campaigning that has publicized public-health impacts associated with the diesel pollution. Yet the new regulation brought an unintended consequence: for truck drivers who must purchase their own gas and pay for their own upgrades, the new rule was ruinous. A survey by the Public Welfare Foundation found that since the new environmental regulation went into effect, 25 percent of Oakland truck drivers had declared bankruptcy, been evicted, or faced foreclosure.

Retrofitting the trucks with new air filters is a five-figure prospect, while the cost of a new truck can clear $100,000. “At the end of the day … a lot of them will only take home about $25,000 a year,” explained EBASE spokesperson Nikki Bas. “It’s an immigrant workforce who are living in poverty.”

So the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports, which pushed for tougher air-quality regulations, is now pressuring for a reform of the trucking industry to place the cost of clean upgrades onto powerful trucking companies instead of low-wage drivers. The coalition’s campaign has sought to link the needs of the drivers and the surrounding community, organizing rallies with blue-green signs bearing the motto “Good Jobs & Clean Air” to call for a change to the truckers’ employment classification from independent contractors to employees, which would shift the cost of compliance onto employers instead of drivers.

West Oakland isn’t the only East Bay area inflicted by excessive levels of diesel particulate matter from trucks entering the Port of Oakland. The fumes also affect East Oakland neighborhoods bisected by the big rigs’ primary thoroughfares. In addition to truck traffic and freeways, East Oakland is also the site of numerous hazardous-waste handlers and abandoned industrial sites.

Nehanda Imara, an organizer with CBE who also helped put together the Toxic Triangle Coalition forums, described how her organization recruited volunteers to count the number of trucks passing through a heavily traveled East Oakland strip as a way to quantify the source of particulate matter pollution. They reached a tally of around 11,700 over the course of 10 days.

Some progress has been made to limit the exposure of diesel pollution for East Oakland residents. The city is working on a comprehensive plan to assess trucking routes, and a campaign to limit truck idling is helping to limit unnecessary tailpipe emissions.

Yet youth hospitalizations for asthma in East Oakland are 150 percent to 200 percent higher than Alameda County taken as a whole, and an air-monitoring project in that area revealed high levels of particulate matter exceeding state and federal standards.

“That’s also an environmental injustice,” Imara said. “When the laws are there, but not being enforced.”



In San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood, environmental justice groups have spotlighted the toxic stew associated with the naval shipyard and other pollution sources for years. A 2004 report produced jointly by Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice, the Bayview-Hunters Point Mothers Environmental Justice Committee, and the Huntersview Tenants Association outlined a “toxic inventory” of the area. The inventory depicts a more complicated web of toxic sources than the asbestos dust and naval shipyard cleanup that have been focal points of news coverage surrounding Lennar Corp.’s massive redevelopment plans for that neighborhood.

“Over half of the land in San Francisco that is zoned for industrial use is in Bayview-Hunters Point,” this report noted. “The neighborhood is home to one federal Superfund site, the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard … a sewage treatment plant that handles 80 percent of the city’s solid wastes, 100 brownfield sites [a brownfield is an abandoned, idled, or underused commercial facility where expansion or redevelopment is limited because of environmental contamination], 187 leaking underground fuel tanks, and more than 124 hazardous waste handlers regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”

The shipyard, meanwhile, has been the central focus of controversy surrounding plans to clean up and redevelop the area. People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER) and Greenaction are currently challenging the EIR for Lennar’s massive redevelopment plan for the neighborhood, charging that the study is inadequate because a cleanup effort on the part of the U.S. Navy has yet to determine the level of toxicity that will need to be addressed, so the assessment is based on incomplete information. Asthma is commonplace in the Bayview, and health surveys have shown that the rates of cervical and breast cancer are twice as high as other places in the Bay Area.

“Our environmental issues are massive still, and it’s not just Bayview- Hunters Point,” notes Marie Harrison, a long-time organizer for Greenaction and a Bayview resident.

Harrison recalled the many times she’d gotten out of bed in the middle of the night to drive a friend’s or neighbor’s asthmatic child to the hospital. “That story has repeated itself tenfold in Richmond and in Oakland,” she added. Nor is the problem simply limited to those Bay Area cities, she said, noting that communities of color throughout the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 9 face similar issues.

As awareness about the scope of the problem has increased over the years, she said, “We start to say, my God, this triangle has to become a circle.”


US EPA, SF Health Department and Lennar accused of asbestos collusion


The  SLAM Coalition of Bayview Hunters Point Community Organizations and the New Orleans-based Advocates for Environmental Human Rights held a press conference outside US EPA Region 9’s San Francisco office today to protest the contents of a string of emails they obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request that they claim “show conspiracy by the US Environmental Protection Agency Region 9 and the San Francisco Health Department officials to cover-up dangers of the Lennar Corp.’s development project at the Hunters Point Shipyard.”

“Since 2006 when heavy grading and excavation began by the Lennar Corporation at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, residents of the Bayview Hunters Point Community, a majority African-American, Samoan and Latino low-income community, suffered from health problems including nose bleeds, rashes and headaches that they believed were caused by asbestos and heavy metals being unearthed from these actions,” the SLAM/E.H.R.’s press release states. “However, little did residents know that officials in the Environmental Protection Agency Region 9 and the San Francisco Department of Public Health were conspiring with the Lennar Corporation to conceal the health threats of asbestos laden dust.”

E.H.R’s Wilma Subra said she first saw the emails Thursday March 17.
“As I started to go through them, I could clearly see where EPA and DPH are wrestling with how to downgrade, or make less important, the information on asbestos on Parcel A of the shipyard,” Subra said,

Parcel A is the plot of shipyard land where military housing used to stand before the land was transferred to the city in 2004. Lennar began grading and excavating operations on the site in 2006, which led to health complaints and a $500 million fine by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District  when it turned out that Lennar’s asbestos dust monitors had not been properly functioning and that regular dust mitigation measures had not been enforced.

“So, the community has been asking tough questions, because people have been sick,” Subra continued. “And this clearly shows that the agencies are trying to figure out how to message to the community and downplay the impact, and that Lennar was at the table.”

SLAM member and Bayview Organizing Project Organizer Jaron Browne concurred with Subra’s assessment of the email string.

‘This establishes a consistent pattern of communication right from the beginning,” Browne said. “It shows pressure in the agency to communicate in ways that are less negative.”

“The ones we have included are just examples of many, many more, “ Subra added, noting that the community-based agencies did not receive any attachments in their FOIA request, nor did they get copies of responses from Lennar to US EPA’s emails.

“You see this type of collusion fairly frequently but it’s usually limited to a person or two,” Subra continued. She notes that these emails relate to Parcel A, but two more shipyard parcels are scheduled for early release, and that the city’s Redevelopment Agency and Lennar would then take the parcels over.

“If this is how it’s going to go, but public health is being impacted, then it’s totally unacceptable,” Subra said.

Browne predicts that US EPA will issue a statement standing by its original statements around asbestos exposure at the site. “But we’ve asked a number of agencies and will be ccing our findings to US senators,” Browne said.

The emails obtained through SLAM and E.H.S.’s  email request number in the thousands and can be viewed here, which is also the site where POWER has posted its concerns with the city’s environmental draft environmental impact report for Lennar’s shipyard development –concerns that led POWER to file a suit that will be heard in San Francisco’s Superior Court at 400 McAllister Street at 10 a.m. on Thursday March 24.

“The emails are a separate issue from the lawsuit, but what unites then is that the Bayview community is really organizing,” Browne said. “The EPA recognizes that the Bayview is an environmental justice community, and what cuts across all these issues, whether they are at Parcel A or over the EIR [for Lennar’s massive shipyard-Candlestick development] is that we see the same pattern of behavior in which they dismiss the community’s concerns.”

Browne says POWER’s issue with the EIR was that it did not address toxic contamination at the shipyard.
‘The city says that’s the Navy’s concern, but CEQA [the California Environmental Quality Act] requires you to explain what’s there and, if there’s a negative impact on health, how to address it. But the Navy can’t answer that question yet, and therefore it’s premature to approve the EIR.”

Calls to US EPA were not returned today, but we’ll be sure to post their reply here, so stay tuned…

Redevelopment debate full of bum choices


At the Potrero Hill Democratic Club’s debate about Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to ax local redevelopment agencies to balance the state’s $26 billion deficit, folks attempted to evaluate if redevelopment agencies are essential for job creation and community revitalization, if reform, not total destruction, is possible, and if bum choices are all we have to look forward to.

The Chronicle’s Marisa Lagos, who moderated the debate, noted that redevelopment agencies were created over 60 years ago to create economic development opportunities by borrowing against future tax increases that agencies think they can create.

 “That’s a fancy way to say ‘borrow against future taxes,’” Lagos joked, pointing to the Candlestick Point/Hunters Point Shipyard project as an example of an ongoing project, and the Yerba Buena project as an example of a completed success.

 “The Governor is arguing that when the state is cutting schools and other essential services, this is not the best use of tax dollars,” Lagos stated.

 Panelist Olson Lee, deputy executive director of San Francisco’s Redevelopment Agency, pointed to affordable housing as evidence of the agency’s positive impact.

 “I think Redevelopment is important because of the good things it has done,” Lee said, pointing to 11,000 units of affordable housing that the agency helped build in the city.

 Panelist Carroll Wills, the communications director for the California Professional Firefighters, said “many wonderful projects” have occurred under Redevelopment. But he pointed to what he called “a decade of tricks and games,” on the part of Redevelopment agencies as one reason why the state is in a fiscal crisis that threatens firefighters’ jobs.

 “Concrete does not trump core services,” Wills said, arguing that it’s not clear that many affordable housing projects would not have been built without redevelopment aid

Arc Ecology’s Saul Bloom accused Gov. Brown of “short-circuiting” what could have been an important statewide discussion about redevelopment reform, with his bombshell suggestion in January to eliminate redevelopment agencies entirely

 “I’m sympathetic to the argument that Redevelopment takes money away from core services,” Bloom said. “But what do we do to replace it? And is economic development versus core services a false choice?”

Lee pointed to Mission Bay as further evidence of Redevelopment’s success.

“It was considered a brown field, and through development, it’s much different,” Lee said, noting that 20 percent of tax increment financing goes to the General Fund to pay for redevelopment infrastructure. “Clearly the university would not have been there. It was an opportunity to place UC there and generate economic opportunities.”

 Wills argued that Redevelopment Agencies are a luxury we can no longer afford, even as he acknowledged being unfamiliar with local redevelopment projects.

“At best, redevelopment moves around the pieces,” Wills said. “It doesn’t increase economic development and it doesn’t necessarily pay for itself.”

Bloom noted that developments like Mission Bay are dependent on large institutions, like the University of California, which can’t be forced to implement city laws like local hire.

And he said he found it “disappointing” that there wasn’t much more of a dialogue around the plans to redevelop Candlestick Point and the Shipyard, despite the fact that the city held hundreds of meetings over the past decade.

“It was more a case of, Here’s our idea, tell us what you think of it,’” Bloom said. “Perhaps if we had invited the nation’s largest industrial developer, instead of the nation’s second largest home developer, we would have had a different dialogue.”

 Lee replied that the Shipyard has been under discussion for 15 years.

“It’s a very large project, the largest in the Western United States,” Lee said. “It’s a brownfield, though I know Espanola will say it’s a Superfund site,” he continued, as Bayview elder Espanola Jackson bristled under her hat, and the audience wondered if Lee meant that the US E.P.A. somehow got it all wrong.

Lee further shocked audience members by saying Treasure Island was not a redevelopment project (leading Bloom to clarify that Treasure Island is under the jurisdiction of the local Treasure Island Development Authority, if not the SF Agency).

“People felt they wanted economic development at the shipyard,” Lee continued, noting that the neighborhood suffered after the Navy withdrew from the shipyard in the 1970s. But he did not mention that major bones of contention around the redevelopment proposal, centered on plans to build 10,000 mostly market-rate condos, a bridge over an environmentally sensitive slough, the taking of a chunk of the community’s only major park, and no proof that thousands of promised jobs will materialize.

Wills noted that most local redevelopment commissions are peopled by the members of each municipality’s city council, a situation he believes leads to a lack of accountability. But members of the audience, including this reporter, noted that San Francisco’s Redevelopment Agency consists entirely of mayoral appointees, who, unlike elected officials, can’t easily be voted off the proverbial island.

It was at this point that panelist Calvin Welch, a longtime housing activist, showed up at the debate, apologizing for being late, but blaming his tardiness on being on a phone call with Sen. Mark Leno to discuss Brown’s redevelopment proposal.

And from there, the conversation veered towards discussions of what could happen to existing redevelopment projects if Brown goes through with his elimination threat.

 Lee noted that if projects simply had a disposition and development Aagreement (DDA), but Redevelopment was no longer there, there would be no project financing. “The devil’s in the details,” Lee said. “Because if you don’t have bonds, what’s the point of having an agreement.”

 Wills opined that Gov. Brown’s proposal has “a vehicle to roll back the bum’s rush” of projects that local municipalities have been trying to push across the finish line, ever since Brown dropped his Redevelopment elimination bomb in January.

 Welch went off on a historical riff about how the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) was met with controversy and outrage until 1988, when Art Agnos was elected mayor, and brokered a deal under which SFRA could do tax increment financing, provided the majority of funds were used for affordable housing.

“It became a finance agency to build infrastructure and affordable housing,” Welch said, noting that attempts to build out Mission Bay around commercial offices and high rises failed, until the Agency used tif to redevelop the site.

 “But mark my words, Lennar is going to come out of this just fine,” Welch added, reminding me of a recent comment that former Lennar executive Emile Haddad reportedly made that suggests Haddad believes the California housing market is poised for a rebound.

(The article outlined how Haddad sold 12,000 acres in California for a $277 million profit at the housing market’s peak four years ago, reacquired it at half the price in 2009, and is now saying it’s time to build in his new role as CEO of FivePoint Communities Inc., which is developing four new master-planned communities with a combined 45,000 residences at Newhall Ranch north of L.A., the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Orange County, the Candlestick Point/Hunters Point shipyard and Treasure Island  in San Francisco, with investors including Lennar, Michael S. Dell’s MSD Capital LP, Ross Perot Jr.’s Hillwood Development Co. and Rockpoint Group LLC. “I don’t want the party to show up and I’m not dressed,” Haddad, 52, reportedly said in a recent interview. “When the market says ‘I’m here,’ we’ll be one of the few that can deliver inventory.” 

(The Haddad article, which appears to be a non-bylined reprint from Bloomberg News, also claimed that Hunters Point sales are set to begin by late 2012 with prices starting at $525,000, as the Navy continues its cleanup of the 700-acre site. And that the plan now calls for as many as 12,000 homes, 3 million square feet (of commercial space and a new stadium for the 49ers. And that 7,000 homes may eventually be built on Treasure Island and adjoining Yerba Buena Island, under terms of a final development agreement that may go before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for approval in May, with units averaging  $800,000 and reaching up to $2 million, according to Lennar V.P Kofi Bonner.)

And during the Potrero Hill Dems debate, Bloom noted that the Treasure Island plan is being “sped up” and that the Board is expected to vote on the plan as soon as possible. “But since these plans were not bonded before January [when Gov. Brown took office], what’s the point of speeding up the process?” Bloom asked.

“We’re basically seeing a brick wall,” Welch interjected. “There are virtually no funds for permanent affordable housing in San Francisco.But Jerry Brown is not going to commit financial hari kari. Every major developer of market rate housing will come out just fine, because of state actions, not because of a local vote. Deals are going to be made. It’s the question of affordable housing that’s our challenge. You’re gonna be stuck with public housing, as it is, unless there’s affordable housing financing.”

 Wills claimed that Prop. 22, which voters approved last November, “created a mechanism so rigid,” that the state’s only option was to eliminate redevelopment. “Basic services are dying on the vine,” he said. “We can’t afford to give developers subsidies.”

 Lee noted that SFRA built thousands of affordable units over the years that saved the city thousands in terms of core services it would otherwise have to provide. “Affordable housing is so basic, you can’t do things we take for granted if you are living under a freeway,” he said.

 Bloom suggested Redevelopment could do a better job of economic development, including the creation of permanent and sustainable jobs, like his proposal to create maritime uses at the Shipyard—something not entertained under the city’s Shipyard plan.

 Welch connected the dots between the taxpayer revolt that led to Prop. 13’s passage and the current fiscal woes of municipalities unable to raise taxes on commercial development. “That’s a killer,” he said, noting that housing costs more to build and maintain than it generates property taxes, especially if it’s family housing. ‘It’s those damn kids,” he joked.

Welch noted that Gov. Brown used redevelopment money to enable market rate development in downtown Oakland when he was mayor of Oakland—and claimed that Brown equated affordable housing with crime, at the time.

“We love Brown better than Meg Whitman, but it’s 2011 and we face bum choices.”

Community advocate Sharen Hewitt, who heads the C.L.A.E.R. project, asked if the panel thought San Francisco could be a “demonstration model” for using Redevelopment funds to build 50 percent affordable housing.

Welch said conversations have “already happened” between Mayor Ed Lee and Gov. Jerry Brown that have led him to believe that, “all of San Francisco’s redevelopment projects will be made whole, affordable housing will be protected and Brown will be committed to a San Francisco model.”

“It’s like the film Casablanca, when people are shocked to find out that gambling is going on in a casino,” Welch said. “People are shocked to find out that capital talks in a capitalist system.”

 Espanola Jackson asked Welch what will happen to the shipyard development, in face of a lawsuit that POWER brought that’s due to be heard March 24.

“The shipyard plan has a political function,” Welch said, noting that it was the result of a citywide vote in 2008. ‘We opposed it, but we lost. The structure of that deal flows from the vote.”

 City College Board member Chris Jackson expressed frustration that the Redevelopment conversation had devolved into a housing conversation.

“Mission Bay is all about biotech, but who works at UCSF?” Jackson said, noting that Redevelopment, as a state-funded agency, does not have to agree to the city’s newly approved local hire law.

Welch acknowledged that there has never been a study to determine the tipping point required to lift the Bayview out of poverty.

Lee admitted that Redevelopment’s focus has been housing, “because San Francisco is such an unaffordable city.” But he claimed that SFRA had a “much more aggressive program on local hire than the city, for many years.” Noting that SFRA has tried to attract restaurants and food establishments to Third Street, over the years, Lee said, “It hasn’t been something we’ve been particularly successful at.”

Welch opined that the “skills and abilities of the San Francisco community are far greater at stopping projects and protecting neighborhood character, but we can’t figure out how community-based organizations can employ their own people.”

 And then it was time to go back out into the cold March wind and try to wrap our minds about the true meaning of “bum choices” in 2011.

Don’t nobody give a damn: day 3


Unemployed construction workers protested outside UC Mission Bay’s Hospital building for the third day straight—but by early afternoon seemed to have got some clarification from UC officials over upcoming job opportunties at the site.

At issue is the tension between UCSF’s stated desire to be a good neighbor and put local residents to work, and the reality that while unemployment remains high throughout the construction industry, the communities immediately neighboring UC’s Mission Bay campus have been hard hit.

.“I want them to set up a system where we have a referral mechanism that includes CityBuild, and for UC to discontinue using DPR’s subcontractor Cambridge and other consultants,” James Richards, President of Aboriginal Blackmen United (ABU), said shortly before he met with UC officials. “Because if you don’t have a community-based organization helping UC make good on its commitment to be a good neighbor, then you are going to see stuff like UC’s voluntary local hire system. The idea that you can have a voluntary system without someone like ABU, which organizes folks from the community, is why this system is going to fail. And it’s why we only see token folks on the site. Because if you don’t work with the community, you won’t get the community to work. Really it’s an easy proposition: you have unemployed union workers at the gate. So put them to work.”

Just then Dwayne Jones, who worked in the Mayor’s Office when Gavin Newsom occupied Room 200, stopped by to chat with Richards and the ABU crew. 
Jones, who is now with Platinum Advisors, told the Guardian that he works as consultant for DPR Construction, UC’s prime contractor at Mission Bay. Fortune recently ranked DPR number 22 in its list of Top 100 companies to work for in the U. S.

Jones noted that his work with DPR had nothing to do with ABU’s local hire protest. “I’m only involved because I have worked with all these folks in the past and know all the players,” Jones said. “So, I’m helping these folks. At the end of the day, DPR’s concerns and mine are the same: I want to facilitate a process that maximizes opportunities for local folks.”

“These are all great people,” Jones continued. “I’ve worked for them for 15 years.”

Asked what the city can do to get the state-owned UC to hire more folks from economically disadvantaged communities on a project that isn’t financed by city funds, Jones said, “I agree that there is little leverage that the city has, given the constraints of the contract, so people need to be creative.”

Jones said he was not aware that Dr.Arelious Walker and the San Francisco Workforce Collaborative has issued a flier stating that they were gathering lists of names to be submitted to UC for jobs, amove that angered ABU members since they have been protesting for jobs at the site for over a year

“I was not aware of this group but there are a multitude of organizations trying to do good work,” Jones said. “And frankly this [multitude] was one of the things that led to the end of the lead agency methodology, because it caused so much division in the community. I hope we build a really strong coalition in the community that leverages its strengths.”

Jones gave UCSF credit for trying to move the local hire process forward
“I’m glad that they accepted the initial recommendation to do whatever they can to mirror the city’s local hire legislation,” he said. “Because although it’s voluntary, if it’s part of your culture and you embrace it, it’ll get done. And these are the people who have been out here for a year.”

Last December, the Board approved local hire legislation for city-funded projects. Mayor Gavin Newsom did not sign the legislation, which met stiff opposition from the building trades, and it’s fallen to Mayor Ed Lee to mplement this new law, which does not apply to state agencies,but had led to a parallel dialogue with UC.

“Much like any policy, implementation is the biggest challenge,” Jones observed. And until we do some inventory of which organizations, contractors, individuals and groups can do each piece of the work, it’s going to be a struggle. What I’m praying for is that local hire legislation allows us to get a bigger table. What I’m interested in doing is creating a pipeline of qualified workers, so that whenever something like this happens, I don’t have to hear the excuse that folks aren’t ready to work.”

Then Richards took off for a meeting with UC Vice Chancellor Barbara French that lasted two hours during which time rumors started circulated that Mayor Ed Lee had called French to try and help move the conversation along, as ABU members continued their protest and shared stories with reporters of how they came to be standing on a picket line in Mission Bay.

One worker, who preferred to remain anonymous, said he was frustrated by UCSF’s plea for workers to remain patient because jobs are coming soon. “We’ve been out here for one and a half years, so since before they did their demolition, and they have been playing games with us,” he said. “ Folks with ABU were promised jobs. But then they didn’t get anything. That’s what UC does. They try to pacify you and tell you stories, then the money gets taken out of the community, and another year goes by. So, if anybody says, why aren’t you more patient, the answer is that the whole area has been built with only a handful of people from our community. Especially now, when no one has jobs, and everybody wants to work here. We are not going into other communities and trying to steal their jobs. We just want to work here. But we could be protesting every day, until this whole stuff has been built. It’s a city within a city. Just look around you. We was patient. And all this stuff has been built and we got no jobs.”

Michelle Carrington, 58, a flagger and an operating engineer from the Bayview, said Dwayne Jones helped her graduate from Young Community Developers. “He got me in tears, he dropped me in the mud at 5 in the morning and made me do push ups, but I fought and kept on and graduated at the top of my class out of three women and 15 men,” she said. “But now we got people going behind the gate, folks who used to work for Dwayne Jones, like Dr. Arelious Walker, who are trying to say that they are the ones who have got the sign-up list for jobs here. But you ain’t been here marching, or down at City Hall fighting for local hire. And I saw Rodney Hampton Jr. on the number 54 bus, and I let him have it. I said, what’s this I heard about you and Walker? And he said he went to UCSF and tried to get a bid but was told ABU had it. So the only way to get in was for him and Marcellus Prentice to go to God’s house.  But Walker’s not out here. Meanwhile, we see folks coming from Hayward, Sacramento and Vallejo and working on this yard. Why is it such a hard decision to try and put us to work? It’s easy. Just take 5 or 10 of us, put us to work, and we will go away. Work smarter, not harder.

Laborer Sharon Brewer, who was born and raised in the Bayview and has been out of work for two years. She helped her granddaughter, Akira Armstrong, hold a protest sign and talked about losing her apartment because she lost her job.
“I had to move back in with my daughter because nobody lets you live for free,” she said. “I used to work for UCSF as a patient coordinator for physical therapy but I got laid off. Now I have to dummy down my resume to try and get a job making $8 an hour selling coffee and donuts .”

Jesse Holford said he had reached the fourth level of his apprenticeship as a Carpenter.
‘There are eight levels between an apprentice and a journeyman,” he said.

Jason Young and Alonzo McClanahan said they were unemployed laborers from  Bayview Hunters Point resident. Robert English, a carpenter journeyman from the Bayview, had been out of work 6 months. Tina Howards, a carpenter’s apprentice from the Bayview with four kids,  had been out of work for a year. And Keith Williams, a carpenter from the Bayview, had been out of work for nine months.

Fred Green, who has lived in the Bayview for 50 years and has five kids, said protesters were trying to remain as peaceful as possible.

“But an empty belly makes you do strange things,” Green said. “If there’s enough work for everybody, why should we be stuck at home while someone comes into my community and takes food out of my kids’ mouths. I got five kids and they all go hungry.”

Bayview resident Carlos Rodriguez has three kids and has been out of work for two years.
“They called me to work before Christmas but never hired me, “ he said.

Bayview resident Truenetta Webb has two kids and has been out of work for four months.
‘Some guys called me and took my information, but there’s been no work,” she said.

Troy Moor, who has lived in the Bayview for 47 years and has two kids, worked in January on Lennar’s shipyard development for 17 days.

“Two weeks ago, UC said they were going to hire four folks on ABU’s list, but they didn’t,” he said. “We don’t want it to get ugly out here. All we want to do is feed our families.”

Moor said he believes Mayor Ed Lee will ensure local hire is implemented on city-funded projects. “Ed don’t want no problem, we know him personally, we used to work for him when he was at DPW (the city’s Department of Public Works),” he said. “He’s a decent guy, as long as you keep the pressure on him.”

Moor speculated that if ABU blocked both gates to the UC Mission Bay hospital project, it would cost UC thousands of dollars.“Here at the front gates, we are visible, but we figure that if by next week, nothing is happening, we’ll start making them lose money,” he said.

Ed Albert, a retired painter and a Bayview resident for 57 years, said he was protesting for folks in his community.
“I grew up in the Bayview, I’m a servant of the Bayview,” he said. “I went from paperboy to contractor. I was a painter for Redevelopment and the San Francisco Housing Authority. But I don’t want a job. Who’d hire a 67-year-old guy with one eye? But I want to see my people get a job.”

James Amerson, a laborer with Local 261, said he worked on the Transbay Terminal in July, then got transferred to Pier 17.
“But when that was over, they didn’t bring me back to the Transbay, so I’ve been out of work since the end of December,” Amerson said. “They sent me to the Transbay as a flagger, and I rode by the other day, and saw they had an apprentice operator doing flagging.”

“When we are not working, we always come back to James [Richards]’s church at Double Rock,” he continued. “We meet at 9 a.m., Monday through Thursday. James is sick with diabetes. But he ain’t asking for anything. He’s here for the people, coming out here, buying food every day. We feed everybody. Yesterday he was feeding the police officers.”

Finally, Richards emerged from his meeting with UC officials. After he crossed 16th Street slowly, Richards was encouraged take a swig of orange juice from the back of ABU’s flatbed truck before giving folks an update.

“When DPR needs someone for a job, they’re gonna call Dwayne Jones, and then Dwayne will let us know,” Richards finally said. “There’s enough work for everybody. There’s hundreds of jobs, but I don’t know if they are in every trade. So, I feel good. But not so good that I can say that ten carpenters will be hired tomorrow. There’s not enough need for that, right now. But the work that’s there, when they call, you’re going to know it. Laborers, there are going to be no others going first. You guys are going first. So, I suppose next week, more laborers should be going, then more carpenters.”

Asked if ABU was going to continue its protest, Richards ‘said he thought folks needed to regroup.

“I think we got enough to not have to come out here tomorrow again. So, we’ll come back to church on Monday and let everyone know what happened. Then we’ll make a decision about what we are going to do. If the majority says, fuck this man, make ‘em hire 10 or 20 more folks, then that’s what we’ll do. But for now, we gotta regroup.”

Reached by phone, as ABU members prepared to pack up for the day, Cindy Lima, executive director of UC Mission Bay Hospitals Project, said she felt UC’s meeting with Richards was positive

“We clarified some misunderstandings and made some progress,” Lima said. “Our goal is still to create jobs for San Francisco residents and make this project happen. So, we are continuing to try and match people who need to go to work with available job opportunities. The bottom line is that there are a lot of people in this city who are out of work and a lot of groups with different intentions in mind and we get tangled in that process. So, maybe we need to have more dialogue about when jobs will become available. And we have made a commitment to talk more.”