Real Estate

Gimme 5: Must-see shows this week (Noise Pop edition)


Like sands through the hourglass, so are the festivals of San Francisco. Or something like that. SF Beer Week is over, dear readers, but fret not! It’s the end of February, which is undoubtedly the cruelest month, no matter what T.S. Eliot said, when the darkest days of winter (in places that have that season) are finally over, and the first blossoms of spring are testing their sea legs like so many trepidatious Bambis. In these parts, that means one thing: Noise Pop is upon us.

This the year NP turns 22, so the festival is definitely old enough to hang with the big kids. And there are indeed some big kids in this year’s lineup — Lord Huron, Real Estate, and Dr. Dog, to name a few. But our favorite part about this festival is what it means for up-and-coming Bay Area acts, for whom playing Noise Pop is something of a rite of passage. We’ll be highlighting a few of our favorites over the course of this week, but for now, here are some suggestions for places to show some local pride. As per usual, the tightly-packed schedule presents some tough choices — so yes, we know there are more than five options here. Life’s tough. T.S. Eliot got that one right.


Papercuts and Vetiver @ The Chapel
This is a dreamy package deal if I’ve ever seen one. Papercuts‘ Jason Robert Quever’s melodic, melancholy sighs have never sounded as subtlely polished as on his upcoming album, Life Among the Savages, his first for the brand-new LA-based label Easy Sound Recording Co. Labelmates and fellow San Franciscans Vetiver‘s breezy folk-pop is music for a spur-of-the-moment afternoon drive up the coast. Throw in San Diego opener The Donkeys and you’ve got yourself the sonic landscape of a California we’re in the habit of relegating to car commercials where someone in the passenger seat is grinning and sticking their hand out the window playfully, a California where everyone’s fresh-faced and it never rains. Noise Pop-goers, you can have it all! Especially that last part.
With EDJ, and Vinyl selections by Britt Govea
8pm, $18
The Chapel
777 Valencia, SF

(Plan B: Strange Vine/French Cassettes at Bottom of the Hill, or CCR Headcleaner/Skate Laws at Benders)


Jel @ Sparc
Forget the music, watching Jel repeatedly punch drum machine pads and twist sampler knobs on bulky, last-gen machinery would be worth the price of admission. The East Bay-based electronic hip-hop producer manages to keep his appendages intact while stabbing out a dizzying array of kick drums, snares, and percussion in ever-shifting breakbeat arrangements and tempos. On his latest LP, Late Pass (Anticon), Jel balances bass with shoegaze melodies, hints of psychedelia, electric guitar chords and some of his own emceeing. In line with the political undertones throughout the album (“Don’t get comfortable,” the title track advises), this show marks the two-year anniversary of the San Francisco Patient and Resource Center, a medical cannabis nonprofit. — Kevin Lee
7pm, free (RSVP req. for non badge-holders)
1256 Mission, SF

(Plan B: Social Studies, Aan, Farallons, Max and the Moon at the New Parish)


Painted Palms, Dirty Ghosts, Happy Fangs @ Slims
Sure, Cold Cave is technically the headliner, but calling these three local bands supporting acts just seems wrong. SF duo Painted Palms are the darlings du jour of the psych-rock world, for good reason — Forever, released just last month, is one of the most lush, layered debut albums we’ve heard in a while. Dirty Ghosts‘ Allyson Baker is a frontwoman and a half, drawing from punk, blues, experimental rock, and electronica, and the band has promised a new record in 2014, so we wouldn’t be surprised to hear some fresh material. And Happy Fangs, featuring boundless, rough-around-the-edges, sweet n’ salty energy from former members of My First Earthquake and King Loses Crown, will be playing their first show with a live drummer (check back here for a Q&A with them later this week).
7pm, $16
333 11th St, SF

(Plan B: Soft White Sixties/The She’s at the Chapel, Bleached/Terry Malts at the Rickshaw Stop)


Black Map, Free Salamander Exhibit, Lasher Keen, Happy Diving @ Bottom of the Hill
Yes, there’s a lot going on Saturday night. No, you shouldn’t go see that band you’ve seen a million times before. If you’re in the mood to get super-heavy and excellently weird, this is a solid lineup of newish Bay Area talent running the gamut from Black Map‘s epic, guitar-driven, smart-art-rock-meets-anthemic-metal sound to upstart Happy Diving‘s soft-grunge-leaning, head-bobbing power pop. Lasher Keen’s earthly psychedelia seems to be from another century, you just can’t tell if it’s the future or the past — we’re pretty sure they’d say that’s a good thing. And Free Salamander Exhibit is, of course, the new project from former members of the elaborately theatrical, cultishly loved experimental noise-rock outfit Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. Let’s just say you’re not going to be bored.
8pm, $15
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St, SF

(Plan B: Mikal Cronin at the Chapel, Mark Kozelek at Great American Music Hall — look for our feature on the latter in this week’s paper.)


Rogue Wave, Trails and Ways, Wymond Miles @ The Chapel

Oakland’s Rogue Wave set the tone for lo-fi, indie pop-rock way back in the mid-aughts, with an onset of popularity so sudden it seemed unsustainable. Not so — the lineup may change, but the band’s talent for crafting jangly earworms needs no further proving, as of last year’s Nightingale Floors. Trails and Ways, whose members met at Cal, make danceable, Bossa Nova-infused dream-pop that broadens and deepens with repeated listens, but doesn’t take itself overly seriously; oh yeah, they also sing in three languages. And Wymond Miles, still probably best known as the Fresh and Onlys’ guitarist, put out his second solo work late last year — a dense, thoughtfully arranged post-punk gem of a record. Note: This is an afternoon show and, with a bloody Mary on the side, would probably be an excellent hangover soother.
3pm, $20
The Chapel
777 Valencia, SF

Ammiano and Leno seek to reform the Ellis Act and slow SF evictions [UPDATED]


State lawmakers from San Francisco are launching a two-pronged attack on the Ellis Act, which real estate speculators are increasingly using to evict tenants from rent-controlled apartments and cash in on a housing market that’s been heated up by demand from high-paid employees of the booming tech sector.

Assemblymember Tom Ammiano today introduced Assembly Bill 2405, which would allow the San Francisco voters or the Board of Supervisors to declare a mortorium on Ellis Act evictions when the city’s state-mandated affordable housing goals aren’t being met.

Sen. Mark Leno is also planning to introduce his own Ellis Act reforms by today’s legislative deadline for introducing new bills. He’s been working on a reform package with Mayor Ed Lee, but Leno is keeping the details under wraps under Monday at 9am when the pair will hold a press conference outside a Chinatown apartment building to announce their proposal.

Both proposals face an uphill battle in Sacramento given that San Francisco is one of only a couple jurisdictions in the state that have rent control, which Ellis Act was designed to undermine by allowing landlords to get out of the rental business and remove apartments for the market. And the real estate industry industry is expected to strongly oppose the reforms.

“It will, of course, be very difficult, but Mr. Ammiano has been talking about this for months and he’s committed to doing something,” his Press Secretary Carlos Alcala told the Guardian.   

UPDATE 2/24] Leno and Mayor Lee — flanked by other supporters of the legislation, including Sups. David Campos and David Chiu, rival candidates to succeed Ammiano — this morning announced the introduction of Senate Bill 1439. It would authorize San Francisco to prohibit those who buy rental properties to invoke the Ellis Act and evict tenants for at least five years, and only allow only one Ellis Act eviction for the life of each property. 

“The original spirit of California’s Ellis Act was to allow legitimate landlords a way out of the rental business, but in recent years, speculators have been buying up properties in San Francisco with no intention to become landlords but to instead use a loophole in the Ellis Act to evict long-time residents just to turn a profit,” Leno said.

Ammiano’s press release follows, followed by Leno’s:


Ammiano Introduces Bill to Stem Evictions from Affordable Housing


SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Tom Ammiano today introduced AB 2405 to empower local jurisdictions to stop the erosion of affordable housing stock.


“San Francisco is seeing a terrible crisis,” Ammiano said. “The people who have made our city the diverse and creative place that it is are finding it harder and harder to stay in San Francisco. The rash of Ellis Act evictions has only made it worse.”

Ellis Act evictions are permitted under certain circumstances when a property owner is taking a rent-controlled unit out of the rental market. However, some owners have been abusing these provisions and improperly evicting tenants from rent-controlled units. The problem is not restricted to San Francisco, although the city is going through a particularly critical loss of affordable housing.

AB 2405 would allow local jurisdictions – by means of a Board of Supervisors or public vote – to enact a moratorium on Ellis Act evictions when the local housing element is not met. Also, the bill would hide no-fault evictions from tenant records or credit checks in unlawful detainer cases, and would place Ellis Act unlawful detainer cases on civil court calendars.

“Experience shows you can’t build your way out of an affordable housing crisis,” Ammiano said. “We have to do what we can to preserve what affordable housing we have. This is one piece of that effort.”

New Legislation Closes Ellis Act Loophole for San Francisco

Senator Mark Leno Joins Mayor Ed Lee, Tenant Advocates, Labor Groups and Business Leaders

to Stop Speculative Evictions in San Francisco


SAN FRANCISCO – Senator Mark Leno today joined San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, other elected officials, tenant advocates, labor groups and business leaders to introduce legislation closing a loophole in the Ellis Act that allows speculators to buy rent-controlled buildings in San Francisco and immediately begin the process of evicting long-term renters. Aiming to mitigate the negative impacts of a recent surge in Ellis Act evictions in San Francisco, Senate Bill 1439 authorizes San Francisco to prohibit new property owners from invoking the Ellis Act to evict tenants for five years after the acquisition of a property, ensures that landlords can only activate their Ellis Act rights once, and creates penalties for violations of these new provisions.


“The original spirit of California’s Ellis Act was to allow legitimate landlords a way out of the rental business, but in recent years, speculators have been buying up properties in San Francisco with no intention to become landlords but to instead use a loophole in the Ellis Act to evict long-time residents just to turn a profit,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. “Many of these renters are seniors, disabled people and low-income families with deep roots in their communities and no other local affordable housing options available to them. Our bill gives San Francisco an opportunity to stop the bleeding and save the unique fabric of our City.”


Ellis Act evictions in San Francisco have tripled in the last year as more than 300 properties were taken off the rental market. This spike in evictions has occurred simultaneously with huge increases in San Francisco property values and housing prices. About 50 percent of the city’s 2013 evictions were initiated by owners who had held a property for less than one year, and the majority of those happened during the first six months of ownership.


“We have some of the best tenant protections in the country, but unchecked real estate speculation threatens too many of our residents,” said Mayor Lee. “These speculators are turning a quick profit at the expense of long time tenants and do nothing to add needed housing in our City. These are not the landlords the Ellis Act was designed to help, and this legislation gives San Francisco additional tools needed to protect valuable housing and prevent further Ellis Act speculator evictions, which has already displaced working families and longtime San Franciscans. This carve out is a good policy for San Francisco, and I thank Senator Leno for being a champion on this issue. Together we have built a large coalition of renters, labor and business leaders to fight this battle in Sacramento to support middle income and working families here in our City.”


“Rents in San Francisco are at an all-time high. My former neighbors and I, working families and seniors, were displaced from the place we called home for several decades,” said Gum Gee Lee. “Those that have yet to receive an Ellis Act notice continue to live in fear, fear that they too will be evicted from their homes. For seniors such as myself who rely on public transportation and access to social and health services within our community, Ellis evictions cut our lifeline, our independence to thrive. For working class families such as my former neighbors from Jackson Street, they continue to struggle to survive in San Francisco. San Francisco is our home.”


Enacted as state law in 1985, the Ellis Act allows owners to evict tenants and quickly turn buildings into Tenancy In Common (TIC) units for resale on the market. In San Francisco, the units that are being cleared are often rent controlled and home to seniors, disabled Californians and working class families. When these affordable rental units are removed from the market, they never return.


Senate Bill 1439 will be heard in Senate policy committees this spring.

Chiu and others get stung for support from speculators and evictors


Our colleagues down the hall at the San Francisco Examiner seem to have spoiled tonight’s [Thu/30] fundraiser for David Chiu’s Assembly race by reporting this hour that the host, attorney Steven MacDonald, is on a housing activists’ blacklist for representing landlords in controversial Ellis Act evictions.

Reporter Chris Roberts quotes Chiu campaign manager Nicole Derse pleading ignorance about “what type of law Steven practices” and pledging to return a $500 campaign contribution from him in October, but saying that the 6pm fundraiser at John’s Grill would go on nonetheless.

Derse told the Guardian that MacDonald represents a wide variety of clients, including many tenants who are fighting evictions, so the campaign decided to go ahead with the fundraiser but refused MacDonald’s direct financial support, consistent with a pledge not to take money from those involved in evictions.

“We won’t accept money from anyone who has been involved with evictions at all,” Derse told us, saying it was a mistake to accept money from MacDonald but acknowledging the challenge of the “scrutiny and vetting involved for a small campaign.”

“We’ll do everything we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” she told us.  

The controversy and the Chiu’s campaign’s quick decision to refuse the support from an early contributor show just how volatile and politically toxic the city’s eviction and affordable housing crisis have become, rapidly transforming the city’s political dynamics. It also shows how information being made public by housing activists, and their new confrontational tactics, are being used within that changed realm. 

Former Guardian Editor Tim Redmond had a story yesterday on his 48 Hills website focusing on the heat that Sup. Scott Wiener is taking over the political contributions that he’s received from real estate speculators and those involved in evictions, including Urban Green and speculator Ashok K. Gujral, who are among the Dirty Dozen serial evictors highlighted by the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, whose work we been covering for months here at the Guardian.

Below is an infographic of Supervisor Wiener’s campaign contributions, created by the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project:

Controversial housing proposal at 16th and Mission follows calls to “Clean up the Plaza”


El Tecolote had a great cover story last week about the coalition that has formed to oppose a large housing development proposed for the corner of 16th and Mission streets, with 351 new homes that would tower 10 stories above the BART plaza, which is a gathering place for the poor SRO residents who live in the area.

This could become the next great battleground over the gentrification and displacement struggles that are rapidly transforming the Mission, where commercial and residential evictions have been increasing as real estate speculators trying to cash in on the hot housing market.

The article covered a recent protest by the Plaza 16 Coalition, which includes Latino, social justice, and housing rights groups, as well as parents from nearby Marshall Elementary School, which would be left in the shadows of the development project.

The article mentioned but didn’t shed much light on the shadowy Clean up the Plaza campaign, which popped up in September, the month before Maximus Real Estate Partners introduced the lucrative project, which the San Francisco Business Times pegged at $175 million.

The Clean of the Plaza campaign started a website and covered the neighborhood with flyers decrying the “deplorable” conditions around 16th and Mission and painted a portrait of people risking violent assaults every time they use BART, employing more than a little hyperbole while declaring “Enough is enough.”

But the campaign didn’t return Guardian calls at the time or again this week, nor those from El Tecolote or others who have tried to ask questions about possible connections to the developers, who also didn’t return Guardian calls about the project.

“Everyone has assumed those are connected, but nobody has found the smoking gun,” activist Andy Blue told the Guardian.

The possible connection between the development project and a supposedly grassroots campaign seeking to “clean up” that corner did come during the Jan. 23 Assembly District 17 debate between Board President David Chiu and Sup. David Campos, who represents the Mission.

Chiu chided Campos for conditions in the area, claiming “crime has not been tackled” and citing the thousands of signatures on the Clean up the Plaza campaign claims to have gathered on its petition as evidence that Campos’ constituents aren’t happy with his leadership.

“It’s a way to get a luxury condo project,” Campos countered. “You would be supportive of that.”

Campos told the Guardian that he doesn’t have evidence of the connection and that he’s remaining neutral on the project, noting that it could eventually come before the Board of Supervisors. But Campos said he has worked with both police and social service providers to address concerns raised by the petitions and flyers.

“To the extent there were legitimate concerns by these people, I wanted to address them,” Campos said, noting that there have been more police officers patrolling the area and homeless outreach teams trying to get help to people who need it in recent months, a trend we’ve observed.

As to the fate of the project and efforts to promote it, stay tuned. 

Can we rediscover radical action on this marriage equality anniversary?


San Francisco’s political establishment will rightly celebrate itself this afternoon [Wed/12] at 5pm with a ceremony in City Hall marking the 10th anniversary of the unilateral decision to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, kicking off what became known as the Winter of Love.

It was the greatest thing that then-Mayor Gavin Newsom did during his seven-year tenure in Room 200, a bold and principled stand for civil rights that started California down the long and arduous road toward marriage equality.

“It was a proud moment for San Francisco, and some of my most meaningful moments in public service,” Mayor Ed Lee wrote in a guest editorial in today’s Examiner, referring to the minor role that he played as a city administrator at the time.

But that kind of political leadership and willingness to take radical action in the face of injustice — or even the recognition during this kumbaya moment that what Newsom did far exceeded his actual legal authority — seems to be absent in today’s City Hall, which overvalues civility and compromise.

Real estate speculators and greedy capitalists are rapidly changing the face of San Francisco, killing its diversity and some would say its very soul, and the Mayor’s Office hasn’t done anything of any real substance to address the problem. While Mayor Lee gives lip service to protecting the city “for the 100 percent,” it is his supporters from the 1 percent that are acting with impunity to evict our workers, artists, and valued cultural institutions.

So as San Francisco officials pat themselves on the back this afternoon at City Hall, celebrating what was indeed an important and historic effort, our hope is that they will remember the radical spirit of that fateful moment and apply it to the pressing problems that have ignited such populist outrage today.   

A very Indy decade


LEFT OF THE DIAL If there’s one thing Allen Scott remembers from opening the Independent 10 years ago, it’s the rush. Not the emotional high (though surely that was a factor too), but the literal rushing around that was necessary to open a state-of-the-art live concert space with a capacity of 500 “on a shoestring budget.”

“We barely got open on time,” recalls Scott, the managing owner of the venue at 628 Divisadero — the latest in a long line of storied San Francisco clubs that have shared that address. “We had friends painting it right up until about the day before we opened. We’d moved the sound system in but didn’t have alarms set up, so we were taking turns sleeping on the stage overnight. People would come by and say ‘When are you opening?’ and we’d say ‘In a couple days,’ and they’d laugh, like ‘Good luck with that.’ The night we opened, the fire department signing everything off while the band was sound-checking.”

That band was I Am Spoonbender, and that show was the first of more than 2,500 that have taken place within the Independent’s walls since February 2004. If the space feels like it has a deeper history than that, it’s for good reason: In the late 1960s, it was home to the Half Note, a popular jazz club that saw the likes of Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk; the house band featured George Duke and a young Al Jarreau. In the early ’80s it became the VIS Club, and served as a hub for local punk, new wave, and experimental bands; by the late ’80s it was the Kennel Club, and hosted up-and-comers like Nirvana and Janes Addiction. In the mid-’90s, it was reborn as the Justice League, nurturing burgeoning electronic and hip-hop acts — Fat Boy Slim, Jurassic 5, the Roots, and plenty others all found enthusiastic crowds. To put it mildly, if those walls could talk, they’d tell a lot of good party stories. Next week’s lineup of shows will only add to the vault: From Feb. 19 through Feb. 26, the Independent will host Allen Stone, John Butler Trio, Beats Antique, DJ Shadow, Two Gallants (below), Rebelution, and Girl Talk in a series of special performances to celebrate the club’s 10th anniversary.

Two Gallants play The Indepednent Feb. 23

As the club has changed, San Francisco — as it is wont to do — changed around it. The formerly gritty Western Addition is now shiny NoPa (at least according to real estate agents); what was once a bustling center for the city’s African-American population and jazz scene is now more of a bustling dining destination for the upper-middle-class. Regardless, says Scott, there’s no question that the Independent is “in the heart of the city…being part of this neighborhood, this community, is so important to us.”

Scott was just a young San Francisco promoter with an impressive track record when he was approached in 2003 by Gregg Perloff and Sherry Wasserman — proteges of Bill Graham and owners of the scrappy, barely-year-old concert promotion/marketing team Another Planet Entertainment — to run booking and promotions at the unopened venue.

“The name ‘The Independent’ came up through some discussions with music industry friends,” Scott told SF Weekly at the time of the club’s opening. “The whole idea of the Wal-Marting of America applies to the music industry as well. We wanted to stand alone: independent thinking, independent music. We’re an independent company. Of course, it was also an elbow in the side of the corporate giant out there.” (Perloff had just parted ways with Clear Channel under less-than-friendly circumstances.)

A decade later, of course, APE runs a couple of the biggest festivals in Northern California, and functions as the exclusive promoter for Berkeley’s Greek Theatre, Oakland’s Fox Theater, and the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, among others. And Scott’s now the vice president of APE. But The Independent, now the smallest APE operation, is still his baby.

“We wanted a utilitarian room that had great sound, great lights, and perfect sight lines,” he says. “And because it’s a box, the sight lines there really are perfect — no matter where you’re standing in the room, you can make eye contact with the performers and vice-versa. I think it’s the best-sounding room in the city. And I’d say it has the best lights of any venue underneath the size of the Fillmore.”

Nicki Bluhm is among the local artists who now regularly pack larger venues (see: her sold-out Fillmore show Jan. 25) but maintain a soft spot for the Independent. “[The club] treats their artists with so much respect,” she says, adding that the atmosphere there has led to some of her band’s most memorable shows. Also memorable, says Scott: Obama’s first presidential win, when the club held a free results-viewing party with live music. “When he won, the place erupted, and everyone spilled out into the streets…so there was a band playing inside and people just raging outside,” he recalls. “Very San Francisco.”


What does a quintessentially Brooklyn-loft-party-post-punk band sound like when two of its principal members relocate to LA? Judging by VoyAager, the lush, layered, immersively and epically spacey new album from experimental stalwarts Aa (“big A, little a”), it sounds like someone sent an assortment of synthesizers, samplers, and drum sets into the future, and the future is an industrial cityscape full of curiously advanced life forms who don’t communicate in a narrative sense, but they sure have lots of energy, and they like writing melodies (though not the kind you’ll likely hear on the radio anytime soon). Life sounds rough around the edges on this planet, but you kinda don’t ever want to leave. (Give the first track a listen at the end of this story.)

John Atkinson, the drummer-heavy band’s main vocalist and one of said members who relocated to the West Coast about three years ago, said the album — the band’s first in seven years — is actually the culmination of nearly seven years of recording. “We all work on songs together even when we’re not in the same place,” explains Atkinson, who lived (and recorded some of his parts) in France in the mid-aughts. Though Aa’s lineup and instrumentation seem to be constantly in flux (at this point, says Atkinson, there’s something of an East Coast lineup and a West Coast one), the band’s sound is distinctly more cohesive and melodic than on its 2007 debut, gAame.

Aa perform, with Lil B looking on.

“We don’t want to be making straight-ahead pop songs, but at the same time, I’d say the sounds of pop music have broadened our palette, while sticking to the way we like to put songs together,” says Atkinson. The changing lineup has helped the band’s sound evolve, as well: “Everyone listens to different music…dark industrial heavy stuff, electronic stuff, metal, punk, another drummer is into Samba, world music and jazz…everyone brings something different, so it’s great to watch that kind of stew congeal into something that still sounds like us.”

Playing the Hemlock on Feb. 15 will be the second stop on a weeklong West Coast tour that will take the guys up to Seattle, after which Atkinson will be making a point to stop at every basketball stadium he can on the way back down — the Jersey native is a fairly new appreciator (not a bandwagon fan, he wants to be clear) of California basketball.

As for the NYC/LA transition in general: “New York’s always gonna be home to me, but every time I go back, so much has changed about Brooklyn — all these condos, cookie-cutter new restaurants, and the vibe of the city is just not what it used to be,” he says, “LA is a really hard city to get to know, but that also means there’s a ton of interesting new stuff to discover all the time. It’s starting to feel like home.”

Last but definitely not least: Don’t forget to check out the first Bay Area Record Label Fair, (or B.A.R.F., which is funny whether or not you are 12, admit it), at Thee Parkside on Feb. 15, the brainchild of SF promoters Professional Fans and the city’s own Father/Daughter Records. Some 18 different labels will be represented at the daylong affair, plus live performances from Cocktails, Dog Party, and others TBD. Oh yeah, and it’s free — so bite your tongue the next time you find yourself saying that everything in this city has gotten too expensive.


The Independent’s 10th Anniversary Celebration
Feb. 19 – Feb. 26, show times and prices vary
628 Divisadero, SF

With Alan Watts, Wand, and Violent Vickie
Saturday, Feb. 15 9pm, $8
Hemlock Tavern 1131 Polk, SF

Saturday, Feb. 15 12pm – 5pm, free
Thee Parkside
1600 17th Street, SF

Full steam ahead


BEER Just across McCovey Cove from AT&T Park, the San Francisco Giants and Anchor Brewing Company are concocting a beer-filled future for Pier 48. As part of the Mission Rock development project, the new Anchor brewery, slotted to break ground in late 2015, would allow Anchor to quadruple production and remain in San Francisco.

The proposed brewery will eventually contain a restaurant, museum, educational space, and distillery. It’s being designed with giant windows that will offer an unprecedented view of operations. Brewing would be transparent enough to be observed while casually strolling the pier or even from certain seats inside the ballpark.

“As you come in and you look into the brewery, the first thing you’ll see will be one of the cold fermentors,” says architect Olle Lundberg, referring to the large cooling pans or “cool ships” Anchor still uses to chill its boiled beer batches. “The bar for the restaurant will look out over that, so you’ll be looking out over this kind of sea of beer into the brewery. If that doesn’t inspire you to drink, I don’t know what will.”

Anchor has been poised to expand for years. It even has a copper German brewhouse ready to install in the new facility. It’s been sitting in storage since it was purchased in the early 1990s by then-CEO Fritz Maytag. He left the collection of kettles, mash tuns, and fermentors unused when his plans for a new brewery were sidelined by that rarest of business concerns: happiness.

“In 1990 the brewery was doing about 100,000 barrels, which made it the number one craft brewery in the country,” says CEO Keith Greggor in his cheery British accent. “Further expansion was going to be very difficult, very costly. At the same time, [Maytag] got very interested in distilling and he decided, ‘You know what? I’m number one. I don’t need to focus on being the biggest and the baddest. I’m happy with what I’m doing and I’m going to focus on distilling now.’ And he was one of the first in that kind of craft distilling revolution that’s happened.”

This was the second craft revolution that Maytag, the great-grandson of Maytag Appliance founder Frederick Maytag, helped to ignite. In 1965, he was enjoying a “Steam Beer” at a North Beach restaurant when he was told it would be the last he would ever have: the brewery, which had survived Prohibition decades earlier, was closing. Hearing this, he purchased a controlling share of the company, saving from extinction not only a brewery in operation since 1896, but one of the only known styles of beer to have originated in America. “Steam Beer,” technically classified as “California Common Beer,” is a lager fermented at ale temperatures.

But times have changed since 1965. Craft brewing has been revived in America to the point that decorative plastic hops are A Thing. And competition demands more than being the only kid on the block with flavorful barley-pop. So in addition to the new brewery plans, Anchor will be discontinuing its bock beer and Humming Ale, while offering a new saison and an IPA.

“We like to say that we’re resting those beers,” says Greggor of the discontinued lines. “We have to respond to the consumer and retail demand for beer. And the demand for today is: ‘I want new. I want new.'”

And new it will be. Since 2010, when Maytag sold the brewery to the Griffin Group of Novato, most noted for their work with Skyy Vodka, Anchor has introduced several new beers to its regular line, including Brekle’s Brown, California Lager, and Big Leaf Maple. One the most recent is Small Beer, which draws from well-trod brewing techniques, making a lighter, more session-able ale from the mash of Old Foghorn — a more robust, flavorful brew.

And the Mission Rock development hopes to get even more out of those spent grains. As part of a proposed district-wide energy management facility, Anchor’s waste and run-off could be used to create methane for heating, and gray-water for toilets and sprinklers.

“We’re looking at all kinds of crazy, fun ideas for waste recapture,” says Fran Weld, director of real estate for the Giants. (The team, which is partnered with the Port of San Francisco on the project, asked Anchor to be the first tenant.) “The idea of looking at a district-wide solution is you can consolidate all of those chilling towers and boilers that the developers would otherwise build. You can do fewer of them because of the fact that you’re meeting the demands of the site as a whole — so your baseline of required energy is much lower.”

Still awaiting final approval from city agencies, the Mission Rock plan also includes mixed-use office, retail, restaurant, and manufacturing spaces, as well as affordable housing. But perhaps most remarkable is the development will enable San Francisco’s oldest and largest manufacturer to remain within the city, though at no small cost.

“You can imagine there are much, much cheaper places for them to build this facility,” says Lundberg, whose design firm is joint-venturing the project with Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. “They could just keep Potrero Hill as a kind of, you know, boutique signature facility and then make most of their product in Chico or somewhere. But instead they’ve decided that they really want to be here and they want to do it all here and there’s a big number attached to that.”

When asked if he has considered a opening an additional brewery elsewhere (as Petaluma-based Lagunitas has done in Chicago), Greggor is almost offended.

“I believe that Anchor belongs in San Francisco. That’s our history, that’s our heritage,” says Greggor. “People have an affinity to us, whether they drink beer or not, they like us being part of the city. They applaud our efforts to stay on in the city and make beer here even though it’s a very expensive environment to do so. And we ourselves are all committed personally and passionately to the city. And we don’t want to go anywhere else! We’ll make less money and live here, please.” *

Thirsty for more? Check out all the sudsy goings-on at SF Beer Week (, including events featuring Anchor beers, now through Sun/16.


Staying power


Despite the rain on Feb. 8, organizers of a citywide tenants’ convention at San Francisco’s Tenderloin Elementary School wound up having to turn people away at the door. The meeting was filled to capacity, even though it had been moved at the last minute to accommodate a larger crowd than initially anticipated.

“Oh. My. God. Look at how many of you there are!” organizer Sara Shortt, executive director of the Housing Rights Committee, called out as she greeted the hundreds in attendance. “Tenants in San Francisco, presente!”

The multiracial crowd was representative of neighborhoods from across the city, from elderly folks with canes to parents with small children in tow. Translators had been brought in to accommodate Chinese and Spanish-speaking participants.

Six members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors also made an appearance: Sups. John Avalos, David Campos, Eric Mar, Malia Cohen, Jane Kim, and Board President David Chiu.

In recent weeks, the convention organizers had convened a series of smaller neighborhood gatherings to solicit ideas for new policy measures to stem the tide of evictions and displacement, a problem that has steadily risen to the level of the defining issue of our times in San Francisco.


Ana Godina, an organizer with the SEIU, went to the convention with her daughter Ella, 5. Godina drove from Sacramento to support her colleagues. Three of her fellow union members have been evicted recently, all of them Tenderloin and Mission residents. Guardian photo by Amanda Rhoades

While several legislative proposals are on track to move forward at the Board of Supervisors, the meetings were called to directly involve impacted communities and give them an opportunity to shape the legislative agenda on their own terms, according to various organizers.

Addressing the crowd, Shortt recalled what she termed “some amazing jiu jitsu” during last year’s tenant campaigns, which resulted in a 10-year moratorium on condo conversions rather than simply allowing a mass bypass of the condo lottery, as originally proposed.

That measure, which won approval at the Board of Supervisors last June, was designed to discourage real estate speculators from evicting tenants to convert buildings to tenancies-in-common, a shared housing arrangement that’s often a precursor to converting rent-controlled apartments into condos.

That effort brought together the founding members of the Anti Displacement Coalition, and momentum has been building ever since. “This is the beginning of a movement today,” Gen Fujioka of the Chinatown Community Development Center, one of the key organizations involved, told the gathering. “We are shaking things up in our city.”



Around 160 participants attended the first in a series of neighborhood tenant conventions in the Castro on Jan. 10. The one in the Richmond a week later drew so many participants that organizers had to turn people away to appease the fire marshal.

“The idea of the neighborhood conventions was to solicit ideas,” explained Ted Gullicksen, head of the San Francisco Tenants Union. “The idea of this event is to review existing ideas and ultimately rank them.” From there, the campaign will pursue a ballot initiative or legislative approval at the Board of Supervisors.


Ted Gullicksen, director of the San Francisco Tenants Union, and his dog Falcor. Guardian photo by Amanda Rhoades

But first, a few speakers shared their stories. Gum Gee Lee spoke about being evicted from her Chinatown apartment last year along with her husband and disabled adult daughter, an event that touched off a media frenzy about the affordable housing crisis taking root in San Francisco.

“There were times that were very stressful for me. I would call places only for the owner to say, ‘I’ll get back to you,’ but they never did,” she said of that ordeal.

“To see everyone here, all kinds of people, it makes me really happy,” she later told the Bay Guardian through a translator. “I just hope they don’t get evicted.”

Mike Casey, president of UNITE-HERE Local 2 and an executive committee member of the San Francisco Labor Council, also made a few comments at the forum.

“Having the ability to live and vote in this city makes a difference,” he pointed out, saying workers who have to commute long distances for political actions because they’ve been displaced from San Francisco are less likely to get involved.

“The struggle of our time is the widening gap between the rich and the poor,” Casey added. “That is exactly what this struggle is about: to maintain that diversity. What we need to move forward on is bold, effective, measurable change that makes sure we are able to protect the fabric of this community.”

Maria Zamudio, an organizer with Causa Justa/Just Cause, emphasized the idea that the problem of evictions in San Francisco is less of a market-based problem and more of a threat to the city’s existing, interwoven communities.

“Those are our neighborhoods and our communities,” Zamudio said. “We’re fighting for the heart of San Francisco. Fighting for strong tenant protections is a necessary struggle if we are going to keep working class San Franciscans in their homes.”



As Gullicksen noted at the start of the convention, San Francisco rents have ballooned in recent years, rising 72 percent since 2011.

“We are seeing the most evictions we have seen in a long, long, long, long time,” Gullicksen said. “Most Ellis evictions are being done by one of 12 real estate speculators — evicting us and selling our apartments, mostly to the tech workers.”

Even though median market-rate rents now hover at around $3,400 per month in San Francisco, low-income tenants can avoid being frozen out by sudden rental spikes because rent-control laws limit the amount rents may be increased annually.

But that protection only applies to a finite number of rental units, those built before 1979. That’s why tenant advocates speak of the city’s “rent-controlled housing stock” as a precious resource in decline. Long-term tenants with rent control — in the worst cases, elderly or disabled residents who might be homeless if not for the low rent — are often the ones on the receiving end of eviction notices.

From 2012 to 2013, according to data compiled by the Anti Eviction Mapping Project, the use of the Ellis Act increased 175 percent in comparison with the previous year. That law allows landlords to evict tenants even if they’ve never violated lease terms. Advocates say real estate speculators frequently abuse Ellis by buying up properties and immediately clearing all tenants.

Concurrently with local efforts agitating for new renter protections, organizers from throughout California are pushing to reform the Ellis Act in Sacramento.

Assemblymember Tom Ammiano has promised to introduce a proposal by the Feb. 21 deadline for submitting new legislation, and Sen. Mark Leno is working in tandem with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee on a parallel track to pursue some legislative tweaks aimed at softening the blow from the Ellis Act.

“Our goal is to change the conversation in Sacramento, where tenants’ concerns are routinely ignored,” said Dean Preston, director of Tenants Together, a statewide organization based in San Francisco.


Those who didn’t speak English were given head sets so they could listen to each of the speakers comments, which were translated into either Spanish or Chinese. Guardian photo by Amanda Rhoades

On Feb. 18, busloads of protesters will caravan to Sacramento from San Francisco, Oakland, and Fresno for a rally. Preston said they’ve got three demands: reform the Ellis Act, restore a $191 million fund that provides financial assistance for low-income and senior renters, and pass Senate Bill 391, which would provide new funding for the construction of affordable housing.

Even though the law is technically intended to allow property owners to “go out of the business” of being a landlord, Ellis Act evictions in San Francisco are most often carried out by speculators who purchase real estate already occupied by tenants, Gullicksen said.

“Our focus is on the most immediate problem, which is the misuse of the Ellis Act by real estate speculators,” Preston said. “It’s urgent to address that specific use. That’s what Ammiano and Leno are looking at, is ‘what’s the best way to stop speculative use?'”



Tyler McMillan of the Eviction Defense Collaborative said his group is often the last resort for tenants threatened with the loss of their rental units. “Too often, we face a losing fight at court,” he said. “We need to write better laws that work better to keep people in their homes.”

The legislative proposals moving forward at the local level seek to attack the problem of evictions and displacement from several angles. On Feb. 3, Sup. David Campos introduced legislation to require landlords who invoke the Ellis Act to pay a higher relocation fee to displaced tenants, equaling two years’ worth of the difference between the tenants’ rent and what would have been considered market rate for that same unit.

“It is time that we recognize that tenants must receive assistance that is commensurate with market increases in rent if we are to truly address our affordability crisis and check the rampant growth of Ellis Act evictions,” Campos said.

As things stand, relocation assistance payments are around $5,261 per tenant, and are capped at $15,783 per unit, with higher payments required for elderly or disabled tenants. But at current market rates, a tenant would not last more than a few months in the city relying solely on the relocation fee to cover rental payments.

Surveying the strong turnout at the tenant convention, Campos said, “There is a movement that’s happening in San Francisco to take our city back, and to make it affordable for all of us.” Yet he noted that he is concerned there will be major pushback from the San Francisco Apartment Association and the real estate industry, formidable interests that oppose the relocation fee increase.

Meanwhile, Sup. Mar has proposed an ordinance that would require the city to track the conversion of rental units to tenancies-in-common, a housing arrangement where multiple parties own shares of a building through a common mortgage. Speculators who buy up properties and immediately evict under the Ellis Act often angle for windfall profits by immediately converting those units to TICs.

Campos is also working on legislation that would regulate landlords’ practice of offering tenants a buyout in lieu of an eviction, a trend advocates say has resulted in far greater displacement than Ellis Act evictions without the same kind of public transparency.

Peter Cohen of the Council on Community Housing Organizations said there’s “no silver bullet” to remedy San Francisco’s affordable housing crisis. “This process is going to come up with another bundle of things,” he said. “All of that is also complimentary to the state campaign. You could have five, six, or seven policy measures going forward — and all of them winnable.”

An idea Cohen said has received traction is the idea of imposing an anti-speculation tax to discourage real estate brokers who abuse the Ellis Act by buying up properties and evicting all tenants soon thereafter (see “Seeking solutions,” for details).

During a breakout session at the tenant convention, longtime LGBT activist Cleve Jones piped up to say, “Harvey Milk proposed the anti-speculation tax back in 1979.”

It wasn’t successful at that time, but Cohen said that given the current level of concern about housing in San Francisco, it’s being talked about in some circles as the most winnable ballot initiative idea.



At the Feb. 8 convention, tenants shared stories of challenging orders to vacate their rental properties. “The most important thing that has brought us to the victories we’ve had so far is that tenants have stayed in their homes,” Shortt said. “Tenants have fought, tenants have sought help, tenants have organized.”

Tenants from a North Beach building owned by real estate broker Urban Green shared their story of banding together and successfully challenging an Ellis Act eviction. Chandra Redack, a nine-year resident of 1049 Market St., where tenants continue battling with owners who submitted eviction notices last fall, described to the Bay Guardian how her small group of tenants has continued to organize in the face of ongoing pressure, including the owners’ recent refusal to accept rent checks.

“Our organizations only can support tenants when they stand up and fight,” said Fujioka. “The tenants’ resistance themselves is part of the strategy. If we don’t have rights, we are going to create them.”

Paula Tejeda, a longtime resident of the Mission District originally from Chile, told the Bay Guardian that she’d been threatened with an eviction from her home of 17 years, a Victorian flat on San Carlos Street.

“I thought I was dealing with an Ellis Act, now he’s trying his best for a buyout,” she explained.

Living in that rent-controlled unit made it financially feasible for her to contribute to the Mission community as a small business owner, as well as a poet, author, and active member of the arts community, she said. Tejeda is the proprietor of Chile Lindo, an empanada shop at 16th and Van Ness streets.

“Having the rent control made it possible for me to build Chile Lindo, go back to college and get my MBA,” she said. That in turn gave her the resources to employ one full-time and three part-time staff members, she said.

When she was initially faced with the prospect of moving out, “I wanted to shut down and leave, and go back to Chile,” she said. “We are suffocated, as a society that cares only about the bottom line.”

But surveying the hordes of tenants milling about at the convention, she seemed a bit more optimistic. “The fact that this is happening to everyone at the same time,” she reflected, “is kind of like a mixed blessing.”


Free lunch, had some vegan options. Guardian photo by Amanda Rhoades

Seeking solutions

A number of policy ideas emerged from the neighborhood tenant conventions, which were held by the San Francisco Anti Displacement Coalition in the Mission, Chinatown, Haight/Richmond, Castro, SoMa, and the Tenderloin.

Here’s a list of what tenants came up with at those forums, which attendees ranked in ballots collected at the event. The ideas will most likely result in a November ballot initiative and one or more legislative proposals, which organizers plan to announce in the near future.

Anti-speculation tax: One idea is to impose a tax on windfall profits garnered by speculators who buy up housing and then sell it off without maintaining ownership for at least six years. The tax would be structured in such a way that the quicker the “flip,” the higher the tax. This would require voter approval.

Eviction moratorium: This proposal is to put a yearlong freeze on certain kinds of “no-fault evictions,” instances where a tenant is ousted regardless of compliance with lease terms. State law would prohibit it from applying to Ellis Act evictions. It might potentially require voter approval.

Department of Rent Control Enforcement and Compliance: This new department, which could be done by local legislation, would create a new city department with the mission and mandate to enforce existing tenant-protection laws and conduct research on eviction trends.

Relocation assistance: While Sup. David Campos is working on legislation to upgrade relocation assistance payments to displaced tenants who face eviction under the Ellis Act, this proposal would do the same for all other forms of “no-fault” evictions. This would require voter approval.

“Excessive rents” tax: While the Costa-Hawkins state law does not allow for cities to control rents in vacant units, this proposal would create a tax on new rental agreements where rents exceed an affordability threshold.

Housing balance requirement: This proposal would make it so that approval of new market-rate housing would be restricted based on whether affordable housing goals were being met. It would create new incentives to build affordable.

Legalize illegal units: This would provide a way to legalize the city’s “illegal” housing units that nevertheless provide a safe and decent source of affordable housing. (Board President David Chiu has already introduced a version of this proposal.)

Presidio Trust decides on museum proposals

The Presidio museum showdown has come to an end for now, and the winner of the hotly contested mid-Crissy Field site is (drum roll, please) … no one.

Not the Golden Gate National National Park Conservancy. Not the Bridge Institute. And no, not Star Wars creator George Lucas.

At an impromptu press conference this afternoon, Presidio Trust Chair Nancy Hellman Bechtle said the board unanimously voted to not move forward with any of the museum proposals.

“This is the most spectacular site in the country,” Bechtle told reporters. “We simply do not believe any of the projects were right for this location.”

Since November of 2012, The Bridge Institute, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy’s Presidio Exchange, and filmmaker and Star Wars creator George Lucas’ personal pop art collection have all competed for a patch of uber-desirable real estate a stone’s throw from the Golden Gate Bridge.

The site is currently occupied by Sports Basement, whose planned move will be unaffected by the decision to reject the museum proposals, a spokesperson for the Presidio told the Guardian.

In January the three teams were made to re-submit their three proposals to the Presidio Trust, which cited Goldilocks reasons for not liking the various proposals. The Lucas Cultural Arts Museum was too big, the Presidio Exchange was too programmatically vague, and the Bridge Institute didn’t have enough of the green stuff (money).

But unlike Goldilocks, in the end the Presidio Trust did not find any porridge that was just right. However, it did offer to assist with finding alternative sites in the Presidio for the museums to find homes.

“There are a number of sites in the Presidio that are possible places to build,” said Presidio Trust Executive Director Craig Middleton. “We are really early in these conversations.”

The Lucas Cultural Arts Museum’s spokesperson, David Perry, said there are many cities vying for Lucas’ pop and cultural art museum.

“We’ve been getting requests to look at other sites for this museum, we’re going to look at those sites,” Perry said. We asked if he was referring to Chicago, where Lucas has expressed interest in building the museum before.

“I’ve heard all kinds of cities,” Perry said.

When we asked Perry how Lucas felt when he heard the news, he answered a bit oddly, if candidly.

“I spoke with George this morning,” he said.  “And as my grandmother used to say, if ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candies and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.”

Above: Hit “play” to hear Lucas Cultural Arts Museum spokesperson David Perry tell us how his grandmother would have reacted to the Presidio Trust’s decision. 

Okay then.

Notably, the Lucas proposal was endorsed by Mayor Ed Lee, tech venture captalist Ron Conway, and a host of other well-heeled and monied backers. In a letter to the Trust, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi publicly urged its members to hurry up on a decision, and to choose something that would bring in “a vibrant cross section of visitors to the Presidio, with particular attention to inner-city youth.”

We asked Becthle what influence, if any, opinions from powerful politicians had on the Trust’s ultimate decision.

“They’re very interested in California and the city,” she responded. “Sure I listen to [Sen. Dianne Feinstein], and to Nancy, but I think it was most important to do what was right with the park, and not to please one side or the other.”

Tenant battle brewing


Benito Santiago, 63, was born and raised in San Francisco. But now that he’s received an eviction notice from the apartment he’s lived in since 1977, he isn’t sure what the future holds.

“This is roots for me,” Santiago told us. “I have more affinity for San Francisco than the Philippines,” his family’s place of origin.

He works part-time with disabled youth enrolled in San Francisco public schools. “The idea that I built a rapport with these students here … to be put in a position where I wouldn’t be able to work with them, I’m a little saddened and depressed by it,” he said. “If I’m homeless, I can’t be taking care of these kids. I mean — it’s a worst-case scenario.”

He’s been exploring alternative housing options, and trying to stay positive. He says he’s even trying to “change the rate of vibration” of the real estate speculators seeking to oust him as part of his pre-dawn meditation and ritualistic movement practice, a routine he developed to mitigate the chronic pain he dealt with after being hit by an automobile when he was crossing the street in 1980.

“Hopefully, they can have some compassion,” he said.

Santiago is hoping to get a temporary extension to stave off his eviction, and he’s been looking into publicly subsidized below-market rate apartments. But rent for even the most affordable of those places would eat up 75 percent of his monthly income, he said. Unless he can find an affordable arrangement somewhere, he might end up having to leave the city.



Santiago has been a part of a growing movement underway in San Francisco to reform the Ellis Act and introduce meaningful legislation at the local level to protect the city’s renters.

In recent weeks, the San Francisco Anti Displacement Coalition, made up of a wide range of organizations including the San Francisco Tenants Union, has hosted a series of neighborhood tenant conventions to solicit ideas that will be boiled down at a citywide tenants’ gathering scheduled for Feb. 8. At that meeting, organizers plan to hash out a strategy and possibly solicit ideas for a ballot initiative.

The tenant conventions are happening on a parallel track with efforts to reform the Ellis Act, which allows landlords to remove apartments from the rental market and evict tenants.

“Our goal is to ban the use of the Ellis Act in certain circumstances,” explained Dean Preston of Tenants Together, a nonprofit focused on strengthening the rights of renters.

“More than half of Ellis Acts are performed by people who bought the properties within the past six months,” he told us. “Their whole purpose is to buy it and kick everyone out. It was supposed to be for long-term landlords to get out of the business” of being landlords, he added. Instead, “it’s being completely abused.”

Sen. Mark Leno is working with Mayor Ed Lee on a response that would seek to lessen the impact the Ellis Act has had in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano is spearheading a separate effort.

“At this time, he’s not really ready to say which avenue he’s taking” in terms of a legislative strategy, said Carlos Alcalá, Ammiano’s communications director. “Because that can rule out that avenue.”

Preston said he’s been through waves of evictions before, but the organizing now taking place has been especially effective at drawing attention to the issue. Oftentimes, “the speculators are not from within the city or even within the state,” he pointed out. “That has fueled a lot of activism and courage.”

For Santiago, the organizing has given him heart during a difficult time. “I’m hearing a lot of sad stories,” he said, “and I am not alone.”

State of the City: spin over substance


It was maddening to watch Mayor Ed Lee deliver his annual State of the City address on Jan. 17. This was pure politics, from the staged backdrop of housing construction at Hunters Point Shipyard to the use of “regular people” props to the slate of vague and contradictory promises he made.

“This place, the shipyard, links our proud past to an even more promising future,” was how Lee began his hour-plus, invite-only address.

Later, he touted the housing construction being done there by Lennar Urban as emblematic of both his promise to bring 30,000 new housing units online by 2020 — the cornerstone to what he called his “affordability agenda” — and the opposition to unfettered development that he is pledging to overcome.

“A great example is the place we’re standing right now. This took us too long,” Lee said after decrying the “easy slogans and scapegoating” by progressive activists who place demands on developers.

But that implication was bullshit. As we’ve reported, progressive and community activists have long encouraged Lennar Urban (which has a close relationship to Lee) to speed up development on this public land that it was given almost a decade ago, particularly the long-promised affordable housing, rather than waiting for the real estate market to heat up.

That was just one of many examples of misleading and unsupported claims in a speech that might have sounded good to the uninformed listener, but which greatly misrepresented the current realities and challenges in San Francisco.

For example, Lee called for greater investments in the public transit system while acknowledging that his proposal to ask voters this November to increase the vehicle license fee isn’t polling well. And yet even before that vote takes place, Lee wants to extend free Muni for youth and repeal the policy of charging for parking meters on Sundays without explaining how he’ll pay for that $10 million per year proposal.

Lee also glossed over the fact that he hasn’t provided funding for the SFMTA’s severely underfunded bicycle or pedestrian safety programs, yet he still said, “I support the goals of Vision Zero to eliminate traffic deaths in our city.”

Again, nice sentiment, but one disconnected from how he’s choosing to spend taxpayer money and use city resources. And if Lee can somehow achieve his huge new housing development push, Muni and other critical infrastructure will only be pushed to the breaking point faster.

Even with his call to increase the city’s minimum wage — something that “will lift thousands of people out of poverty” — he shied away from his previous suggestion that $15 per hour would be appropriate and said that he needed to consult with the business community first: “We’ll seek consensus around a significant minimum wage increase.”

But Mayor Lee wants you to focus on his words more than his actions, including his identification with renters who “worry that speculators looking to make a buck in a hot market will force them out.”

Yet there’s little in his agenda to protect those vulnerable renters, except for his vague promise to try to do so, and to go lobby in Sacramento for reforms to the Ellis Act.

Lee also noted the “bone dry winter” we’re having and how, “It reminds us that the threat of climate change is real.” Yet none of the programs he mentions for addressing that challenge would be as effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions as the CleanPowerSF program that Lee and his appointees are blocking, while offering no other plan for building renewable energy capacity.

Far from trying to beef up local public sector resources that vulnerable populations increasingly need, Lee said, “Affordability is also about having a city government taxpayers can afford.”

Debunking SF Mag’s Ellis Act apologist article, point by point


Well, everyone’s got an opinion. And when it comes to San Francisco’s housing crisis, that’s doubly true.

San Francisco Magazine’s opinion though, amounts to a cry for help for (they say) the oft-demonized landlords from what they call the ever-overblown Ellis Act eviction crisis.

In his Tweet earlier today, San Francisco Magazine Editor-in-Chief Jon Steinberg said “We’re calling BS on San Francisco’s eviction crisis.” The article, by San Fran Mag Web Editor Scott Lucas, lays out a San Francisco that’s hard to recognize, one where evictions and rental increases aren’t displacing people in droves. At least, not enough to qualify as a “crisis.”

Sorry Jon, we’re calling BS on your article.

The Guardian reached out to Ted Gullicksen, executive director of the San Francisco Tenant’s Union and Erin McElroy, the head of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, to debunk some of the claims made in SF Magazine’s attempt to de-fang the threat of Ellis Act evictions. 

You can read the full article here, but we’ve reproduced lines from the piece and included responses from Gullicksen and McElroy addressing their points one by one. 

San Francisco Magazine The narrative was a straightforward one: Because the Bay Area has seen an influx of people—largely young, white, and working in tech—who need housing (and can pay for it), greedy landlords, many of them out-of-town speculators, are throwing longtime San Franciscans into the streets and turning the city over to gentrification. It looked cut-and-dried.

It’s not. In fact, Ellis Act evictions represent only a small proportion of the city’s total evictions—and they’re not even historically high to begin with. 

Ted Gullicksen That is incorrect on a couple levels. First off, it’s important to understand that the main way people are evicted these ways are via the Ellis Act followed by a buyout. The reason for that is that San Francisco passed strict condominium conversion prohibitions several years ago. If you do an Ellis, you generally are not going to be able to convert to condos ever. 

(You need to) include the Ellis threats… for every single Ellis Act eviction filed with the rent board, they’re where the speculators tried to get the tenants to bite… for every Ellis Act eviction, there are about five buyouts where Ellis Act was used as a club.

I come to that number by the number of people coming to the Tenants Union concerned about buyouts, and comparing those with the rent board’s numbers. Pretty consistently we see 33 percent of what the rent board sees. 

Erin McElroy California is the only state where the Ellis Act is utilized, it’s hard to say whether it’s historically high or not. We also see it’s being utilized by landlords repeatedly. It’s being used as a business model, not a way of going out of business which was its intended use in 1986. 

SFM In the 12-month period ending on February 28, 2013, the total number of Ellis Act evictions was 116—an almost twofold increase over the previous year, but a nearly 70 percent decrease since 2000, when such evictions hit an all-time high of 384. All told, the Ellis Act was behind less than 7 percent of the 1,716 total evictions in the city between February 2012 and February 2013. “Isn’t it far more likely,” asks Karen Chapple, a professor of city planning at UC Berkeley, “that more units are being lost [from the market] through Airbnb?”

TG That number, the 1,716 number, includes “for fault” evictions. If you just include no-fault evictions, Ellis Act evictions are the highest amounts. No-fault evictions are the ones we’re all talking about here. There are a number of rental units lost from the market and that’s a big problem, but the TIC and condominium conversions far surpass tourist conversions (like AirBNB).

EM First of all, for every Ellis Act being recorded, there is not a recording of the units evicted. While you can say there is a number of evictions, it doesn’t represent the units or people being displaced: it doesn’t record the number of people losing their homes.

What we’ve done through the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project is to match those petitions with the number of units. If you go to our website you can see the number of units lost since 1997 in each petition. While the city (of San Francisco) only recorded about 1,300 Ellis Act evictions since then, there have been at least 4,000 units lost. We don’t know how many people are in each unit. There could be between 1 and 6 people in each on average. 

SFM Laying the blame on nefarious Rich Uncle Pennybags types isn’t exactly right either. A recent report commissioned by Supervisor David Campos is clear on that point: The increase in Ellis Act evictions, it found, “occurred simultaneously with significant increases in San Francisco housing prices.” In other words, the problem isn’t speculators. It’s the market. 

TG The problem is indeed the speculators. Most of these buyouts are done by speculators, of the current Ellis Act evictions right now, most of the buyouts are done by one of twelve speculators. 

The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project showed that these real estate speculators form Limited Liability Corporations for each building. The Anti Eviction Mapping Project went through all these LLC’s and identified actual owners and compared them to Ellis Act evictions at the rent board. One person involved is doing six Ellis evictions right now. 

EM Speculators are taking advantage of the market. If there weren’t people to buy luxury condos, Ellis Act evictors wouldn’t buy up the units and turn them into condos. 

It’s one thing for a landlord to issue an Ellis Act one time because they’re done being a landlord, it’s another to see serial evictors use it over and over again through Limited Liability Corporations. Urban Green has 40 or so LLC’s, they’re using them all to push the Ellis Act. See our serial evictor chart and you’ll see 12 different people that use that serial evictor model. It’s a way for them to make money. 

SFM The city simply doesn’t have enough housing to keep up with job growth. And as real estate values rise, the incentive for a property owner to sell grows considerably. No villainy. Just economics.

TG The city is building a ton of housing, as anyone can tell you. The city, though, is building nothing but luxury condos. There’s plenty of housing, but nothing affordable.

EM If displacing long term residents and folks with disabilities and seniors is just economics, it’d be an argument against our economic system. The city offers services for trans folk, queer folk, people with HIV, all reasons people moved to San Francisco and it has a popular place in people’s imagination. Native San Franciscans are also not being valued. If that’s economics, San Francisco has lost its heart and its soul.

SFM Even if incremental changes happen, San Francisco’s affordability problem will likely continue almost unabated. Ellis Act evictions are, in Chapple’s words, not a cause of the housing crisis, but rather “a symptom. Fixing it is like using a Band-Aid for brain cancer.”

TG The Ellis Act is in fact a cause, because it’s taking thousands of units off the rent control market. When we’re losing more and more rent control units, supply dwindles and the rents go up. 

EM I would agree the Ellis Act isn’t the cause of the problem. The problem is it’s being utilized with other forms of evictions for landlords to take advantage of a political economy with the relationship between the city and tech. The problem is the relationship with the new tech class and the impunity it maintains through city government.

New, final Presidio museum proposals are in


The final round of project proposals for the Crissy Field Presidio site are in, and boy do they sure look… almost exactly the same as the last round. 

The Presidio Trust was fairly critical of each of the three finalists for the current site of the Sports Basement, which will soon lose its prime real estate. The Bridge Institute, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy’s Presidio Exchange, and Star Wars creator George Lucas’ personal pop art collection are all duking it out for a little patch of green (which is worth a lot of green) by the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Everyone in San Francisco has an opinion on who should win the spot: Mayor Ed Lee and tech venture capitalist Ron Conway want George Lucas’ museum to win (as do most tech folks with money), every environmental group out there wants the Presidio Exchange to get the space (including the Sierra Club), and the Chronicle’s design writer John King just wants Lucas to use the old Palace of Fine Arts site, dammit.

The Presidio Trust, a presidentially appointed entity, has the final say. And what it said last time was this: give us new proposals.

The Lucas proposal was too big, and the Trust felt it needed to be “redesigned to be more compatible with the Presidio.” The Presidio Exchange, it said, struggled to find a theme programatically. It lacked focus. As for the Bridge Institute? The Trust was worried it didn’t have the money to build with at all. 

Now everyone is back with new plans, in force.

George Lucas responded to the critique that his museum was just too darn big:
“Relative to the issue of ‘ensuring the building’s compatibility with the Presidio’ we are submitting two new design concepts for your consideration that we believe address the issues of massing and height. We have worked diligently the past few weeks with our architects at Urban Design Group and other members of our team to develop a new design that we believe will meet the criteria outlined by the Trust while providing the best home for the collection and its diverse cultural and educational programs. We are submitting two designs for your consideration, with the intent that if the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum is chosen for the Crissy Field site, you will identify the design you would like to see further developed.”

So it’s the same beast, just you know, smaller.

The Presidio Exchange folks, on the other hand, decided that since their programs lacked clarity, they’d make a flow chart. It’s good to know that they strive for consistency.



The final conceptual image of the PDX.

And as for funding the Bridge Institute? It wants to put a member of the Presidio Trust to work helping it raise money.

“The trust and Trust Board would make its network of contacts available to the BRIDGE fundraising team, and assist in making positive contacts with those contacts as part of the fundraising efforts of the organization,” it wrote. In other words, Presidio Trust, help us raise the dough, please. Presidio Trust President Nancy Hellman Bechtle is wealthy, but there’s no telling if she’d tap her wealthy friends to help the Bridge Institute. 

“We appreciate the effort each team has made to further develop its proposal for the Mid-Crissy Field site,” Becthle said, in a press release. “In the weeks ahead we will evaluate the revised proposals, weigh the wide range of public comments, and make a decision that will stand the test of time. This is a remarkable opportunity for the Presidio and San Francisco and we look forward to the public’s continued engagement.”

Love the designs or hate them, the public’s last chance to comment will be at the Public Board  of Directors Meeting to be held on Monday, Jan. 27, 6:30 pm in Herbst at the Presidio.

You can read all the museum proposals for yourself, here.

And while you’re at it, check out our front page story covering the founding of the Presidio, and how that history shaped the museum proposals.


State of the City speech filled with unsupported promises


It was maddening to watch Mayor Ed Lee deliver his annual State of the City address this morning. This was pure politics, from the staged backdrop of housing construction at Hunters Point Shipyard to the use of “regular people” props to the slate of vague and contradictory promises he made.

“This place, the shipyard, links our proud past to an even more promising future,” was how Lee began his hour-plus, invite-only address.

Later, he touted the housing construction being done there by Lennar Urban as emblematic of both his promise to bring 30,000 new housing units online by 2020 — the cornerstone to what he called his “affordability agenda” — and the opposition to unfettered development that he is pledging to overcome.

“A great example is the place we’re standing right now. This took us too long,” Lee said after decrying the “easy slogans and scapegoating” by progressive activists who place demands on developers.

But that implication was complete bullshit. As we and others have reported, progressive and community activists have long encouraged Lennar Urban (which has a close relationship to Lee) to speed up development on this public land that it was given almost a decade ago, particularly the long-promised affordable housing, rather than waiting for the real estate market to heat up.

That was just one of many examples of misleading and unsupported claims in a speech that might have sounded good to the uninformed listener, but which greatly misrepresented the current realities and challenges in San Francisco.

For example, Lee called for greater investments in the public transit system while acknowledging that his proposal to ask voters this November to increase the vehicle license fee isn’t polling well. And yet even before that vote takes place, Lee wants to extend free Muni for youth and repeal the policy of charging for parking meters on Sundays without explaining how he’ll pay for that $10 million per year proposal.

“Nobody likes it, not parents, not our neighborhood businesses, not me,” Lee said of Sunday meters, ignoring a study last month by the San Francisco Muncipal Transportation Agency showing the program was working well and accomplishing its goals of increasing parking turnover near businesses and bringing in needed revenue.

Lee also glossed over the fact that he hasn’t provided funding for the SFMTA’s severely underfunded bicycle or pedestrian safety programs, yet he still said, “I support the goals of Vision Zero to eliminate traffic deaths in our city.”

Again, nice sentiment, but one that is totally disconnected from how he’s choosing to spend taxpayer money and use city resources. And if Lee can somehow achieve his huge new housing development push, Muni and other critical infrastructure will only be pushed to the breaking point faster.  

Lee acknowledges that many people are being left out of this city’s economic recovery and are being displaced. “Jobs and confidence are back, but our economic recovery has still left thousands behind,” he said, pledging that, “We must confront these challenges directly in the San Francisco way.”

And that “way” appears to be by making wishful statements without substantial support and then letting developers and venture capitalists — such as Ron Conway, the tech and mayoral funder seated in the second row — continue calling the shots.

Even with his call to increase the city’s minimum wage — something that “will lift thousands of people out of poverty” — he shied away from his previous suggestion that $15 per hour would be appropriate and said that he needed to consult with the business community first.

“We’ll seek consensus around a significant minimum wage increase,” he said, comparing it to the 2012 ballot measures that reformed the business tax and created an Affordable Housing Fund (the tradeoff for which was to actually reduce the on-site affordable housing requirements for developers).

But Mayor Lee wants you to focus on his words more than his actions, including his identication with renters who “worry that speculators looking to make a buck in a hot market will force them out.”

Yet there’s little in his agenda to protect those vulnerable renters, except for his vague promise to try to do so, and to go lobby in Sacramento for reforms to the Ellis Act. While in Sacramento, he says he’ll also somehow get help for City College of San Francisco, whose takeover by the state and usurpation of local control he supported.   

“City College is on the mend and already on the path to full recovery,” Lee said, an astoundingly out-of-touch statement that belies the school’s plummeting enrollment and the efforts by City Attorney Dennis Herrera and others to push back on the revocation of its accreditation.

Lee also had the audacity to note the “bone dry winter” we’re having and how, “It reminds us that the threat of climate change is real.” Yet none of the programs he mentions for addressing that challenge — green building standards, more electric vehicle infrastructure, the GoSolar program — would be as effective at reducing greenhouse gas emmisions as the CleanPowerSF program that Lee and his appointees are blocking, while offering no other plan for building renewable energy capacity.

Far from trying to beef up local public sector resources that vulnerable city residents increasingly need, or with doing environmental protection, Lee instead seemed to pledge more of the tax cutting that he’s used to subsidize the overheating local economy.

“Affordability is also about having a city government taxpayers can afford,” Lee said. “We must be sure we’re only investing in staffing and services we can afford over the long term.”

How that squares with his pledges to put more resources into public transit, affordable housing development, addressing climate change, and other urgent needs that Lee gives lip service to addressing is anybody’s guess.  

Confronting the speculators


A group of tenant advocates has upped the ante in the ongoing protest movement against San Francisco evictions, publicizing the names, photographs, property ownership, and corporate affiliations of a dozen landlords and speculators they’ve deemed “serial evictors.”

The Anti Eviction Mapping Project, a volunteer-led effort that snagged headlines last fall when it released data visualizations charting long-term displacement in San Francisco, released its Dirty Dozen list Jan. 10.

The project spotlights property owners who’ve moved to evict tenants under the Ellis Act, a controversial state law that allows landlords to oust tenants even if they aren’t in violation of lease terms. In practice, the Ellis Act tends to be waged against longtime residents with low monthly rental payments, frequently impacting elderly or low-income tenants who benefit from rent control.

The Anti Eviction Mapping Project’s list gets up close and personal, publishing details such as landlord’s cell phone numbers, home addresses, and histories of legal entanglement.

It’s an edgy use of public records that seems to raise a slew of questions about free speech, privacy, and the use of information sharing and public shaming as a protest tactic in the digital age.

Erin McElroy, a volunteer and lead organizer of the project, said the goal was to spotlight landlords “who are disproportionately impacting senior and disabled tenants,” and to raise public awareness about “people who are making millions at the expense of tenants.”

She added that there is a budding effort to push for Ellis Act reform in Sacramento, and noted that a goal of this project was to fuel that statewide effort by providing easily accessible information.

Among those individuals named on the Dirty Dozen list was David McCloskey of Urban Green Investments, a company that owns more than 15 San Francisco properties. Urban Green has been a frequent target of San Francisco housing activists, in part due to the company’s ongoing attempt to evict Mary Elizabeth Phillips, a Dolores Street tenant who will turn 98 in April.

Another landlord who made the list, Elba Borgen, has also attracted past attention from tenant activists due to her history of pursuing Ellis Act evictions at six different San Francisco properties. A tenant currently residing in a 10th Avenue property, where Borgen’s LLC has filed for eviction, is 90 years old and suffering from Alzheimer’s, according to an interview with her daughter Vivian Montesdeoca posted to the mapping project website.

The Bay Guardian‘s efforts to reach landlords who were spotlighted on the Dirty Dozen list were largely unsuccessful. We did manage to contact Tom Iveli, president of Norcal Ventures, who spoke briefly before excusing himself, saying he had to take another call. Iveli clearly wasn’t aware that he and his business partner Bob Sigmund had been singled out.

McElroy said the Dirty Dozen list was the product of an in-depth research project which entailed filtering through property records, San Francisco Rent Board data, and information gleaned from the website Corporation Wiki.

The Anti Eviction Mapping Project initiative has attracted around 15 volunteers and will be partnering with Stanford University students to produce an oral history project showcasing the narratives of San Francisco tenants facing eviction, McElroy said.

Some of the same activists involved in recent high-profile blockades of tech buses were also part of the Anti Eviction Mapping Project effort.

“We’re not, you know, anti-tech by any means,” said McElroy. “We’re anti- speculative real estate,” and wary of policies like the Ellis Act and city government’s tendency to give deep-pocketed corporations a free pass, regardless of the consequences.

“It’s that linkage that is kind of the crux of the issue,” she added.

What “Google bus” really means


EDITORIAL In recent years, “Google bus” has become a term that encompasses more than just the shuttles that one corporation uses to transport its workers from San Francisco down to the Silicon Valley. It has taken on a symbolic meaning representing the technology sector’s desire to shield itself from the infrastructure, values, and responsibilities that most citizens choose to share.

These are the very things that motivate many of us to live here, finding that community spirit in such a beautiful, world-class city. More than just the great restaurants and bars, its vistas and artistic offerings, San Francisco represents an experiment in modern urbanism and cultural development.

It is this collision and collusion of disparate yet public-spirited cultures that gave birth to the region’s great economic and social movements, from gay rights and environmentalism to groundbreaking academic research and the creation of the Internet economy.

The antithesis of this idea of creative collaboration is to consider San Francisco just 49 square miles of valuable real estate, to be used and developed as the highest bidder sees fit, as some tech titans seem to believe. It’s ironic that an industry based on creating online communities would place so little value on engaging with its physical community.

The proposed $1 per bus stop use, and $50 per docking that new exclusive Google ferry is paying, is a privatization of public space that barely covers the city’s costs. The tech industry should be doing much more just to counteract its negative impacts on the city’s economy, let alone actually being good corporate citizens of this region.

A new report called for by the Mayor’s Office says Muni needs a $10 billion investment over the next 15 years just to maintain current service levels. A big chunk of that should come from the wealthy corporations in our community through a downtown transit assessment district and higher fees on Silicon Valley companies that are using us as a bedroom community.

San Francisco writer Rebecca Solnit has been developing a critique of the Google bus since her initial shot last February in the London Review of Books, answering a subsequent techie/enviro criticism published in Grist with a Jan. 7 article in Guernica called “Resisting Monoculture.”

“And thus come the well-paid engineers to San Francisco, and thus go the longtime activists, idealists, artists, teachers, plumbers, all the less-well-paid people,” she writes, citing surveys that the buses allow Silicon Valley workers to live in San Francisco when they otherwise wouldn’t.

That’s the issue. The only thing green about Google buses are the piles of money their riders and their bosses are keeping from the city we all share. Segregated buses have never been a good idea, but if these companies insist on them, that should come with a higher price tag.


Article overlooks key findings and new academic research


By Corey Cook

I am writing in regard to Reed Nelson’s story “’Poll’ showing 73 percent approval for Mayor Lee was flawed.” As one of the two authors of the survey, I am deeply disappointed in the many insinuations in the article and the author’s cavalier abandonment of evidence or reason in order to make his politically expedient, but otherwise inane, point.

In fact, the author is so quick to dismiss the findings of the study, which is based upon accepted methodology, and which had nothing to do with mayoral approval scores, that he actually misses the entire thrust of the study – that voters in San Francisco are deeply ambivalent about the current environment, concerned about the affordability crisis, and not trusting of local government to come up with a solution.

You’d think the Bay Guardian might find that an interesting subject. Under a previous editor I have little doubt it would have. Instead, the author mind numbingly asserts that the mayor’s approval rate – a largely irrelevant number – is clearly overinflated and the survey must then be “bogus” (meaning fake or phony). While other scholars might find the popular characterization of their work as “fake” somewhat amusing. I do not.

The author relies on two main sources to claim that an on-line panel survey is “bogus”, the New York Times “style guide” and the “website publication” of Southeast Missouri State University Political Scientist Russell D. Renka, who is neither a survey researcher nor a political methodologist, and who does not seem to have published anything in this field (or even in political science based on his on-line vita), but who does seem to have a fairly robust home page that includes cute photos of his grandkids.

It’s not the kind of “source” that I would utilize to deride another academic’s work as “bogus”, and I could suggest some other (actual) publications to consider, including Harvard political scientist Stephen Ansolabehere’s peer reviewed article in Political Analysis titled “Does Survey Mode Still Matter?” from 2011 that compares national surveys fielded at the same time over the Internet (using an opt-in Internet panel), by telephone with live interviews (using a national RDD sample of landlines and cell phones), and by mail (using a national sample of residential addresses).

The authors of that study conclude that “comparing the findings from the modes to each other and the validated benchmarks, we demonstrate that a carefully executed opt-in Internet panel produces estimates that are as accurate as a telephone survey and that the two modes differ little in their estimates of other political indicators and their correlates.” But unfortunately that peer reviewed publication by a Harvard political scientist seems to contradict the simple assertion that a survey result the author doesn’t like must be phony.

Let me say that I don’t considered this issue “settled” in the scholarly community, but it is far from the case that serious on-line panel surveys ought to be derided as “bogus.” My preference would be to do a 1,200 person phone survey. If the Bay Guardian would like to commission such a survey, I would enjoy working with you on that project. But given the various cost limitations that preclude such a robust research design, this is not an altogether bad alternative.

That said, feel free to poke at the methodology and suggest that the numbers for Lee might not reflect that of the overall population because of the timing of the survey or because it was only conducted in English (though I’d disagree with you there – that likely holds down his numbers), or frankly just that surveys do often get it wrong. Even the best random sample is outside the margin of error one time out of 20 according to basic probability theory.

But the other thing I’d like to draw your attention to is that you’ve missed the entire point of the survey. Why do you focus on mayoral approval when it’s a survey about attitudes towards affordability and tech? In fact the article notes that “(i)nterestingly, the USF “poll” also found that 86 percent of respondants (sic) said that lack of affordability was a major issue in the city, while 49.6 percent of that same group considered housing developers to be most at fault for the astronomical real estate prices.” So apparently that part of the survey wasn’t bogus.

Here were our four findings:

* San Franciscans are of two minds: a clear majority of respondents say the city is going in the right direction, yet affordability is seen as a significant, and newly exacerbated problem.

* Most respondents see the tech boom as most strongly helping tech executives and workers. Though there is little sense that respondents and their families benefit from the tech boom, a clear majority say that tech is also good for other white collar workers and the city overall.

* The public strongly supports the idea that the city government ought to enact policies to preserve affordability but were skeptical of public officials’ ability to deal with these issues.

* Despite these concerns, there was little interest in making it harder for tech companies to come to San Francisco. For now, keeping the economy strong appears to be the priority, and we expect that feelings about the economy will likely stave off a substantial political “backlash” at least at the present time.

While Ed Lee has high approval scores, they are tepid – much more “good” than “excellent”. And those numbers erode on affordability, what the voters regard as the city’s most important issue. And we found that people don’t articulate a high degree of trust in mayor in dealing with affordability. Yes, they trust him more than they do others (like developers, or the Board of Supervisors), but not much. This survey help me understand what happened on the 8 Washington vote. Voters like the mayor, as they do Newsom incidentally, but don’t buy their argument that the development would address housing affordability. His popularity didn’t have coattails on this issue.

It strikes me as a real missed opportunity for your journalists to trash the poll, based on really flimsy grounds, rather than address it’s important, and yes, ambivalent findings.



Corey Cook, Ph.D.

“Poll” showing 73 percent approval for Mayor Lee was flawed


There was a poll conducted in late November by the University of San Francisco, the results of which were released in conjunction with the San Francisco Chronicle, claiming that 73 percent of San Franciscans approve of Mayor Ed Lee’s performance.

It didn’t take long for Lee’s supporters to begin touting the figure as fact; soon after the poll appeared on on Dec. 9, the results wallpapered the comment section of the Guardian’s website as the answer to any criticism of Mayor Lee, his policies, or the city’s eviction and gentrification crises. 

After all, it was a big number that seems to suggest widespread support. But closer analysis shows this “online poll” wasn’t really a credible poll, and that number is almost certainly way over-inflated. [Editor’s update 1/13: The authors of this survey contest the conclusions of this article, and we have changed the word “bogus” in the original headline to “flawed.” The issue of the reliability of opt-in online surveys is an evolving one, so while we stand by our conclusions in this article that the 73 percent approval figure is misleading and difficult to support, we urge you to read Professor Corey Cook’s response here and our discussion of this issue in this week’s Guardian.]

The problems with the USF “poll” are numerous, but the most glaring of those issues has to do with its lack of random selection. According to the New York Times Style Guide, a poll holds value in what’s called a “probability sample,” or the notion that it represents the beliefs of the larger citizenry.

The USF poll registered responses from 553 San Franciscans. That number itself isn’t the issue, or it wouldn’t be if those 553 individuals were procured through a random process. But they weren’t, and it wasn’t even close.

The survey participants were obtained via an “opt-in” list that, according to David Latterman — a USF professor, co-conductor of the poll, and downtown-friendly political consultant — meaning that anyone who participated in this particular poll had previously stated they were willing to participate in a poll. This phenomenon is known as self-selecting.

“We work with a rather large national firm and they have a whole series of opt-in panels,” Latterman told the Guardian. “So they’ve got lists of thousands of people who have basically said, ‘Yes, we’ll take a poll.’ And the blasts go out to these groups of people.”

That means that even prior to conducting the poll, results had already been tailored toward a certain set of citizens and away from anything that could be classified as “random.” And even the Chronicle acknowledged in the small type that “Poll respondents were more likely to be homeowners,” further narrowing the field down to one-third of city residents, and generally its most affuent third.

Even if pollsters could match the demographics of the polled with the “true demographics” as Latterman called them, it still wouldn’t address the issue of self-selection. But that’s not all: The list of “opt-in” participants, which was acquired through a third party vendor, according to Latterman, only contained English-speaking registered voters. And anyone contacted was contacted via email, another red flag in the world of accurate of polling data.

Interestingly, the USF “poll” also found that 86 percent of respondants said that lack of affordability was a major issue in the city, while 49.6 percent of that same group considered housing developers to be most at fault for the astronomical real estate prices. So, to recap: This poll, touted by many people as gospel in the comment section of this site, found that while the City is totally unaffordable, the man in charge of the City is barely culpable for that situation, and he remains incredibly popular.

According to the NYT Style Guide, “Any survey that relies on the ability and/or availability of respondents to access the Web and choose whether to participate is not representative and therefore not reliable.” 

Uh oh. 

Russell D. Renka, professor of Political Science at Southeast Missouri State, conveyed far stronger feelings on the matter in his paper “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Public Opinion Polling,” saying that a self-selected sample “trashes the principle of random selection… A proper medical experiment never permits someone to choose whether to receive a medication rather than the placebo.”

Strike two.

He then writes, “Any self-selected sample is basically worthless as a source of information about the population beyond itself.”

Strike three.

So then why were such frowned-upon methods used in this poll?

Latterman attributes the tactics to many things, but mostly to the rapidly changing technological landscape of San Francisco, coupled with the high costs of alternative methods and a large renters market. 

“San Francisco is a more difficult model,” Latterman said. “So Internet polling has to get better, because phone polling has gotten really expensive.”

But even if Internet polling needs to improve, it is still important to prominently note that in original source material, lest you give folks the wrong ideas. Or even just misinformed ones. Unless what you’re trying to present is less about polling that trying to sell San Franciscans on the idea that Mayor Lee enjoys widespread support.





A look back: The “Candlestick Swindle” in ’68


San Francisco spent this week saying goodbye to its beloved foggy stadium, Candlestick Park. Amidst the farewells, the Guardian spotted a post from sports blog Deadspin, which reprinted one of our articles from 1968  titled, “Before We Build Another Stadium… The Candlestick Swindle.” 

When we saw the post, we started thumbing through our archives looking for the article. Though Deadspin said it was from 1972, we found it in Vol. 2, Issue no. 10, May 14, 1968, it’s a down and dirty tale of intimidation, bypassing voters through dummy corporations, profiteering, and racism. Candlestick has a colorful history, to say the least. 

The author, Burton H. Wolfe (Burton, not “Mr. Wolfe,” he wrote via email), gave us permission to re-publish it in full here. Just for fun, we’re also embedding the original issue as a PDF, which can be download and printed. Looking through the issue, it’s heartening (and disheartening) how much, and how little, changes.


The Candlestick Swindle

It all began early in 1953. Mayor Elmer Robinson’s administration—and local businessmen—decided to import big league baseball for San Francisco’s economic and recreational benefit. A downtown stadium was adequate for San Francisco’s AAA minor league club, the Seals, but not for major league fare.

Hence, Robinson asked the Board of Supervisors to approve a $5 million bond proposition to construct a new stadium. Among the supervisors in approval: George Christopher, soon to become mayor; Gene McAteer, headed for the state senate; Francis McCarty, a future judge; Harold Dobbs, restaurateur and budding Republican candidate for mayor, and John Jay Ferdon, future district attorney.

In July of that same year, 1953, a local multi-millionaire contractor named Charles Harney purchased 65 acres of land at Candlestick Point from the city of San Francisco for $2,100 an acre.

Next year, a band of publicists headed by Curley Grieve, S.F. Examiner sports editor, beat the drums and called the natives to pass this bond issue proposition:

To incur a bonded indebtedness in the sum of $5 million for the acquisition, construction and completion of buildings, lands and other works and properties to be used for baseball, football, other sports, dramatic productions and other lawful uses as a recreation center.

Major league baseball, they proclaimed, would bring untold wealth to the city for a mere $5 million, a price that would be returned many times. After voters approved this in November, 1954, the search began for a site. If there were any doubts the stadium would cost more than $5 million, they were dispelled in a personal meeting between Robinson’s successor, Mayor Christopher, and the owner of the New York Giants, Horace Stoneham.

In April, 1957, Christopher and McCarty flew to New York to talk Stoneham into bringing the Giants to San Francisco. The Giants were losing money in New York, and scouting the country for a new home base.

To prove San Francisco’s support for professional baseball, Christopher waved the $5 million stadium bond issue at Stoneham. According to testimony reported by the 1968 grand jury investigation, Stoneham replied contemptuously:

Any figure other than 10 or 11 million dollars shouldn’t even be discussed because there would be no possibility or probability of a major club moving to that particular community.

Back in San Francisco, Christopher reported the need for more money to other city leaders and businessmen. Since the proposition suddenly to double the original bond issue might run into trouble with the voters, they decided to create a non-profit corporation called Stadium, Inc., as a legal arm of the city.

Bypassing the Voters

Operating through this dummy corporation, the Christopher administration could bypass the voters to raise more money.

Harney and two of his employees were selected as the first board of directors of Stadium, Inc. Christopher told Harney that he would be the contractor to build the new stadium, and his 41 acres of Candlestick land would be the heart of the 77-acre location.

In 1957, Harney sold back 41 acres of the parcel he had purchased from the city in 1953 at $2,100 an acre. The 1957 price the city paid to Harney for its own former land was $65,853 an acre. That’s a crisp total of $2.7 million.

The city’s Real Estate Department approved the deal even though other land adjacent to Harney’s was bought at about the same time for just $6,540 an acre. Harney made a profit of $2.6 million on the four-year land ownership switch.

Not so, Christopher and Harney later contended. Harney had graded and filled the land, and so naturally he was paid for his improvements. One fact raised doubts about that explanation: a $7 million fee awarded to Harney to construct the new stadium included $2 million for stadium construction, $2 million for grading and filling and $2.7 million for real estate.

Had it not been for the creation of Stadium, Inc., the Christopher administration would have been required to hold open, competitive bidding for the contract, and voters would have seen the price tags.

By operating through Stadium, Inc., Christopher was able to evade the city charter and arrange the contract in a privately negotiated deal.

Through the same apparatus, his administration was able to float another $5.5 million bond issue without voter approval. The interest rate on these bonds was set at 5% whereas the interest on the original $5 million bond issue was only 2.4%, a difference that would eventually cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Evading an Investigation

In February, 1958, Harney and his employees were removed from the board of Stadium, Inc., after, as the grand jury report later pointed out, “Three influential men then were substituted to represent the city’s interest—Alan K. Brown, W.P. Fuller Brawne and Frederic P. Whitman.”

The maneuver came too late to prevent Henry E. North from instigating a Grand Jury investigation into the strange transactions.

North, like Christopher, was a Republican and a conservative member of the San Francisco business community. Until his retirement, at 70, he had been executive vice-president of one of the largest property owners in the city: the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. He had a strong sense of civic duty, however, and the Candlestick Park deal smelled to him of garbage.

The report North issued, as the result of the Grand Jury investigation, was potential dynamite. It showed that, shortly before the city purchased Harney’s land at $65,853 an acre, adjacent pieces of tideland were sold by the city for less that $4,000 an acre. It did not make sense that Harney’s land, partly under water, should have brought $61,000 more from city coffers.

On Dec. 2, 1958, the San Francisco Chronicle carried partial coverage of the Grand Jury report. On page 5, the year Harney purchased the city land was stated as 1933 rather than 1953. Of course, the 20-year difference would provide a reason for the tremendous increase in value, because the initial purchase price would have been at depression levels.

Undoubtedly, it was a typographical error. And no doubt it was by unintentional omission that other salient features of the Grand Jury report were omitted altogether and never printed by the Chronicle or any other major newspaper.

North charged that all bond issues negotiated by Stadium, Inc. were illegal evasions of the city charter. Bond payments had to be made from city funds, not the dummy nonprofit corporation, and so the whole deal amounted to legal subterfuge; a way to make taxpayers foot the bill without letting them vote on it.

The report, drafted by North and signed by 18 other citizens, estimated annual payments on the bonds of $990,000 for the first 15 years of the debt period. Against that, the city was to draw $225,000 a year in rent from the Giants and $225,000 a year from advertising and parking revenues, leaving a balance of $640,000 to be paid annually from taxes or city funds. It was estimated that the city could make up the balance by commanding the juicy television rights; instead, Christopher arranged for rights to go exclusively to the Giants.

Altogether, it was a marvelous deal for the Giants. In their last New York season, attendance at the Polo Grounds plummeted to 684,000. The club had gone broke and it was almost impossible to give away its stock. After the Giants first season in San Francisco in 1958, attendance tripled over its last year in New York, and their stock soared to $1,000 a share. In terms of revenue, the increase in gate receipts alone meant $3 million the first year.

While the Giants were reaping enormous profits at taxpayers expense, City Hall and the local newspapers were trying to make it appear that San Francisco, too, was earning money. The News-Call Bulletin, the now defunct Hearst paper, once stated that when all returns are in, the season just ended (1960) will have yielded the city about $530,000. The fact was that the sole revenue to the city was $50,000 received to maintain buildings and grounds.

The other Hearst paper, the Examiner, stated, on the other hand: City Hall officials said $375,000 of the revenue figure will be used to pay the annual cost of the city’s $5 million bond issue. The Chronicle published this figure: Of the remaining $527,000, the first $375,000 must go toward payment of the city’s $5 million stadium bond issue.

The fact was that all revenues from the ball park and its parking lot had to be used to pay off the $5.5 million worth of bonds issued by Stadium, Inc., with the exception of the $50,000 maintenance income. The other $5 million worth, issued by the city, had to be paid off through real and personal or property taxes collected by the city.

The result: a projected loss, not profit, of $640,000 the city must pay from taxes or other general city revenues (according to the Grand Jury report), and a loss this year of at least $360,000 (according to figures supplied to The Guardian by the city controller’s office and Mike Barrett, the Bank of America executive who handles Stadium, Inc.’s trustee account.)

Some annual loss on Candlestick Park will continue until 1993, when the stadium will finally be free of debt and owned completely by the city—unless, it is torn down before then or reconstructed, which will add more debt.

There was another interesting development at Candlestick: Stevens California Enterprises, which got the food and beverage concession at the ball park, bought all its milk until two seasons ago from Christopher’s milk company, Christopher Dairy Farms. The Borden Co. now has the lucrative contract.

Even though City Hall and the newspapers were misstating facts about the Candlestick story, San Francisco restaurateurs, hotel owners and shopkeepers at least began to realize that they were not making any money from the ball park, as promised by the ballyhooers. Only the Giants, Harney, and Christopher were making money. The Giants were attracting few additional tourists to San Francisco, and area fans who journeyed to isolated Candlestick Point, several miles away, did not stop to patronize downtown establishments. Some downtown business men were angry, and if North’s crusade were given time and publicity, they might cause an uncomfortable controversy.

Christopher sent emissaries to North, but he would not be wooed or pressured from his stand. To the contrary, he made even more vigorous attacks on Christopher and the ball park deal. The lives of future generations had been mortgaged by this shoddy piece of business, he maintained. Christopher was diverting city funds from various departments: $1.4 million from street improvement bonds, $1.2 million from state gasoline taxes given to the city for road improvements, $1.5 million from sewer bonds for services to the Giants ball park.

A Hidden Payoff?

Already the cost was $15 million, and it might exceed $20 million when various exits, entrances, widened access streets and the like were built to handle the anticipated large crowds. Privately, North informed civic and business leaders that there was an underhanded payoff in the deal, and he intended to expose it.

Christopher reacted viscerally to North’s charges. With newspapermen present, he asserted North was drunk, incoherent, and fixable. The description was published in the newspapers.

North went to Nate Cohn, one of the foremost criminal lawyers in California, and they filed a $2 million libel suit against Christopher. In a pre-trial hearing, Christopher’s attorney filed a thick brief with 45 motions for dismissal of the suit, hoping to tie up the case inextricably. In just an hour and a half, Superior Court judge Preston Devine threw out all 45 motions, indicating clearly that Cohn and North had a good case.

Breaking Down North

Christopher’s friends in the business community went to work on North. The publisher of one of the three daily newspapers, North told me, called on him and said, “Henry, why don’t you play ball? You’re giving the city a bad name, stirring things up like this.”

At the Pacific Union Club across the street from the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill, where North was already in disfavor for bringing Jewish guests despite the no-Jews-allowed policy, fellow Republican business executives started a snub-North routine. One day, for example, an old business friend greeted North:

“Say, Henry, I see in the papers there’s some fellow named Henry North filing a suit against the mayor and stirring things up. Must be another Henry North in this town, huh?”

“No, that’s me,” North told him.

“Is that so?” the old friend said. He turned his back on North and never spoke to him again.

I talked to North several times during the siege because I was publishing articles about Candlestick Park in my magazine, The Californian (now defunct). In those days he was full of fight, willing to take on City Hall and the entire business establishment even if it meant losing every friend he had. He promised to tell me the names of the men involved in the payoff, and he excoriated Christopher.

“You know what I call men like George Christopher? Black Republicans. Men who never did anything in their lives for the good of the common people. They’ve never realized that this country as a whole is no better off than the great masses of its people.”

The Fateful Fifth

Then they went to work on his wife. Unlike Henry, she was not involved in politics and her life revolved around her friends and social affairs. Her friends snubbed her and she no longer received invitations. She cried, she pleaded, she begged Henry to call off the ball park investigation and the lawsuit, when that did not move him, she threatened him with divorce. Henry began hitting the bottle.

On June 2, 1960, shortly after I published a detailed article by Lewis Lindsay called “The Giants Ball Park: A $15 Million Swindle,” the press broke the story that North had buried the hatchet with Christopher. In its first edition, the Chronicle correctly reported that North and Christopher had drunk a fifth and a half of Scotch together at Christopher’s home, and praised each other for publication. “He’s a great mayor,” North said—and agreed that legal entanglements were finished. The Chronicle dropped mention of the Scotch in later editions that went to most of its readers.

Cohn was outraged. “We had this suit won,” he told me. “North assured me he was going through with this no matter what happened. But they got to him through his wife, the poor old bastard. You see how they do things in this city? It’s so goddamned rotten you can’t believe it.”

When I called on North again, I found a complete transformation in his appearance. The look of a peppery fighter with ruddy cheeks had given way to a physical wreck; a baggy-eyed, tired, meek looking man weighed down by defeat.

The saddest part of the story was that his wife divorced him anyway. Not long afterward, North died of a heart attack. Harney died in December, 1962.

With North out of the way, with the daily newspapers blacking out the most important parts of the Candlestick Park story, with The Californian reaching only a few thousand citizens, it looked as though the scandal would never be investigated. In an effort to stir up something, I personally appeared before the Finance Committee of the Board of Supervisors and urged their help. One committee member, Al Zirpoli, had said before that he would favor an investigation.

No committee member challenged any facts I presented. When I finished, John Jay Ferdon, Committee Chairman, said only that he would not favor an investigation. He did not say why. (Six years later, when he had become District Attorney, he told me I was right about Candlestick.) Zirpoli, later to become a federal judge and the judge to hear draft resistance cases, said, “I agree with what Mr. Ferdon says.” He suggested, “If there is wrongdoing, your best course of action is a taxpayers’ suit.”

I went looking for wealthy liberals to finance a taxpayers suit, but none were in season. Cohn would have taken the suit if I could have found somebody to pay him for his time. All that he could do now was take me to business friends and introduce me.

The typical reaction came from Sam Cohen, owner of a plush restaurant on Maiden Lane said:

“Sorry, Burton, I can’t get involved. Do you know what Christopher can do to me with his power at City Hall? A Health Department inspector can find something wrong with this restaurant any time he wants. A door is too narrow, my stove does not meet regulations, anything to run me out of business. That’s how they do it. You can’t fight them.”

Since nobody in the city would fight, I asked Sen. Estes Kefauver, chairman of the Antitrust and Monopoly Sub-Committee of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, to investigate. He replied: “As interesting as a study of how the San Francisco ball park deal took place would be, I do not conclude that it is a matter that should be gone into on the federal level. I think that it is entirely a local or state matter, and that the Subcommittee would perhaps be criticized if it moved into this area.”

Now Another Ballpark

Here we are eight years later, with a Candlestick Park that enrages so many people that a new mayor, Joe Alioto, wants to scrap it for a new stadium. His announced philosophy is that great public projects should not be waylaid just because all of the people aren’t getting enough spaghetti and zucchini. And no doubt many San Franciscans believe that a ball park is a great public project, greater than a school, housing complex or a modern transportation system. That attitude could be the most tragic part of this story.


Candy crush


YEAR IN NIGHTLIFE The drink of the year was the Chinese Mai Tai at Lipo Lounge. It’s $9, but it’s huge and you only need one. Or maybe a half, if you want to remember your pants. Oh, just drink the whole thing.

It was another supersweet, neon-bright yet sonically sophisticated year of clubbing and dance music, full of ups, downs, and twirl-arounds. Celebrated rave cave 222 Hyde and Hayes Valley drag outpost Marlena’s closed (boooo). But Mighty and 1015 got mindblowing new sound systems, Monarch and DNA Lounge expanded, Project One inherited 222’s speakers, Public Works and F8 doubled-down on adventurous bookings, and ambitious venues Audio Discotech and Beaux opened (and are still finding their footing). And we got a new dance music record store, RS94109, and rising dark techno star, Vereker.

As far as music goes: we’ve managed to fend off the worst of pop-EDM, while welcoming the drum ‘n bass and big-room ’90s sound comeback with open underground arms. (Also, there is an actual underground!) San Francisco’s still a major destination for techno up-and-comers — and even though you may stumble across some clueless tech-bros sporting 2k7-wear or novelty rasta wigs on our finer dance floors, give them a hug and hope they improve! It’s all good.

>>Read Emily Savage’s take on the YEAR IN MUSIC 2013 

Before I get into some of my favorite 2013 things, let’s tip a hat to two legends we lost this year: Scott Hardkiss and Cheb i Sabbah. Between them, they brought a whole world’s worth of music to our dance floors and spanned generations. Dancing forever in their honor.


Hip-hop got so good in 2013, the Year that Twerking Ate the Internet. Trap sounds and molly pops seemed to invigorate the East Bay scene: E-40 dropped a zillion slaps, while Iamsu! and Sage the Gemini (who can totally get it, hellieu) swerved onto the national scene. Buffed-up SF legends Latyrx dropped a nifty disc after two decades. In the bigtime, Kanye bought up every edgy electronic producer he could to impress Pitchfork, while Danny Brown and Kendrick Lamar recontextualized essential ’90s rap tropes — gangsta and concept albums, respectively, but in a party way.

Unfortunately, another ’90s rap trope, tired homophobia, was also revived, with Eminem and Tyler, the Creator fumbling bigtime. This time, however, there was such a huge and thriving queer hip-hop party scene that we could look right past all that lazy ish. Queer rap broke big in 2012 when eye-catching artists blended witch-dark sounds, quantum vogue moves, and afro-surreal poetry with R&B licks, broken bass boost, and neon-bright performance art.

That scene deepened and brightened this year — here, at super parties like Swagger Like Us, 120 Minutes, Fix Yr Hair, and House of Babes and unstoppable homegrown talent like Micahtron, Double Duchess, and even cameo appearances by classic homohop babes Deep Dickollective — proving that spitting flames can still burn down the disco. And queer-rap resistance even grabbed the national spotlight when Daddie$ Pla$tic‘s electro-anarchic “Google Google Apps Apps” went viral.



The Honey Soundsystem crew ended its Sunday night parties at the top of its game with a huge blowout — surprise marriage proposal, performance by fabled ’80s singer Jorge Socarras, and slew of unannounced guest DJs included. Honey was an ostensibly gay club, but that might have just been a feint to pack the floor with hairdressers. While it never ceased brazenly shoving its raw homosexuality in the oft-frigid techno scene’s face, its influence went way beyond the queer sphere. For five years, it was our best weekly in terms of musical guests (Wednesdays’ fantastic Housepitality almost ties it on that score), bringing in a mind-blowing roster of international underground players.

But Honey Sundays were more. Will there ever be a party ballsy enough to take as a month-long theme the skyrocketing real estate market, condo-mapping its venue and printing “luxury house” brochures? Or base the décor of one of its biggest parties around a collection of putrid haters’ comments? What promoters, nowadays, even bother to actually design and print challenging works of art as posters and flyers, or truly transform their venues? (DJ Bus Station John, still our gold standard, is the only one I can think of.)

Fortunately, Honey parties will continue, just not weekly. But SF is full of such amazingly talented crews, both well-established (As You Like It, No Way Back, Sunset, Lights Down Low, Icee Hot, Opel, Pink Mammoth) and burgeoning (Isis, Face, Modular, Mighty Real, Trap City, Odyssey). My wish for 2014 is that many of these really invest themselves in building a whole vibe for their parties, top to bottom, instead of just relying on groovy headliners, online promotions, and audience goodwill. As the changing city chases out its artists and loses its edge, we need entire worlds of freakiness to escape into and call our own.



>> Nebakaneza, “Expansion Project, Vols. 1-11

What does our most forward-thinking dubstep DJ do when dubstep’s no longer an option? He deepens his crates, cycling through 12 months-worth of excellent mixes, themed by genres like yacht rock and classic soul, to rediscover his bass roots while transforming his sound into something even more thrilling.

>> Swedish House Mafia, Bill Graham Center, Feb. 16

I finally get it! All you need is a $1 million light rig, 40,000 glowsticks, an indoor fireworks show, and an arena full of half-naked teens. This EDM stuff is actually kind of fun.

>> The Disclosure Effect

Disclosure’s Grammy-nominated debut Settle (Cherrytree) will nest atop most critic’s dance picks this year, and rightly so: the young Lawrence Brothers brought lovely, 2-step-fueled house back into headphones and charts worldwide. But if it also brings more attention to breezy sonic relatives like Bondax, AlunaGeorge, Joe Hertz, the Majestic Casual roster, and the hundreds of bedroom producers who suddenly switched from making EDM and dubstep to deeper house sounds, then so much the better.

>> Deafheaven, Sunbather (Deathwish, Inc.)

Shoegaze plus death metal equals an arctic beauty and burning mystery that transcends even My Bloody Valentine’s wonderful, self-released mbv and, when listened to alongside this year’s icy electronic-ish masterworks like Tim Hecker’s Virgins (Paper Bag Records) and the Haxan Cloak’s Excavations (Tri Angle) — or more emotive ones like Chance of Rain (Hyperdub) by Laurel Halo, Psychic (Matador) by Darkside, or Engravings (Tri Angle) by Forest Swords — makes strange sense of a near future.

Steve Reich, “Music for 18 Musicians,” SF Contemporary Music Players, Jan. 28

The fact that there was a near-riot to get into a performance this hypnotic, hyper-complex 50-minute 1974 piece by minimalist icon Reich attests to SF’s ravenous appetite for “contemporary classical.” That the audience sat in stunned silence a full two minutes after the piece concluded before exploding with applause attests to the excellence of our local players. (And while we’re on “classical,” kudos, too, to the SF Opera’s summer production of Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte” — three fantastic hours of the most ravishing singing I’ve ever heard.

>> Patrick Cowley, School Daze 2 x LP (Dark Entries)

The instant Internet popularity of Montag’s trippy “Porn Archives Lo-Fi Mix” earlier this year should have tipped off the coming re-evaluation of porn soundtracks as electronic artworks. But when members of Honey Soundsystem released this two-disc compilation of fascinating, atmospheric early tracks by local electronic wizard Patrick Cowley (1950-1982) used in ’80s gay porn flicks, it became a critical sensation.

>> Regis, As You Like It and Public Works, July 26

Here’s a question: Do you need to actually be at a party to enjoy it? I was out of town when this joint went down. But after witnessing my feeds blow up and listening obsessively to the Soundcloud set, later posted to Youtube, it feels like I was there when the young Brit freaked everyone out with a hard, deep techno set. No FOMO, baby.

>> Throwback monthly, Mighty

I may be fascinatingly elderly, but all the young kids flocked to the ’90s big-room house sound revival this year. This party, a SF reunion brimming with new faces, classic tracks, and legends at the decks, is like Universe plus cool straight people, or maybe the End Up in the East Bay.

>> Jay Tripwire

I fell deep(er) in love with so many DJs this year: Guy Gerber, Kyle Hall, Osunlade, J.Phlip, Greg Wilson, Catz ‘n Dogz, South London Ordnance, Finnebassen, 0Phase, MK, Vakula, Robert Hood, Huerco S., Kastle, Psychemagik, Jeff Mills, Keep Schtum, Stretford Dogs Club — but this revered Canadian DJ’s DJ always sets my (vinyl!) standard, especially with this year’s banging techno DJ Mag and expansive Electronic Groove (best deep house buildup of the year on that one, imho) mixes.

>> Divoli S’vere, Ckuntinomksz Vols. 1-3

Vogue beats continued to come into, er, vogue harder than ever this year, their flashy attitude and underground authenticity influencing musicmakers, like our own up-and-coming Soo Wavey label. Young NYCer Divoli, however, gives you real quantum fishiness to gag on all day — and goes waaay above your wig, hunty. These three volumes of lightning-made bedroom beats might be overload, but take us into some incredible sonic landscapes, beyond the balls.

>> Mexico

Forget Miami, Playa del Carmen is the new Ibiza of North America — with all the tech house festivals, bare white flesh, and urbanizing displacement (and opportunity) that entails. And Mexico’s tech scene, like its economy recently, is coming on strong with players like Rebolledo and White Visitation. But the best nightlife sound in the world still comes from Plaza Garibaldi at 3am in Mexico City, when dozens of spangled mariachi bands play all at once for your attention. Pure musical bliss.