Eric Quezada

We stand with Carole Migden


OPINION As longtime fans of the Guardian and as allies in almost every fight, including the struggles for public power, affordable housing, people-focused land use policy, and clean and open government, we do not like finding ourselves on the opposite side of an issue as important as this year’s state Senate race. Respectfully, we must say that we believe the Guardian‘s failure to endorse Carole Migden in that race was a colossal mistake — not unlike the decision to endorse Angela Alioto over Tom Ammiano and Matt Gonzalez for mayor in 2003.

Both Leno and Migden are good votes in Sacramento. But the simple reality is that Carole Migden has been there for the local left in ways that make her the only choice for progressives willing to take on the establishment. Certainly Migden has made herself vulnerable to political attacks. Her failure to retain a professional treasurer for her campaign finance filings was clearly an error of judgment. But for us, none of this outweighs her incredible record of achievement in Sacramento or her far more reliable support of progressive candidates and causes in San Francisco.

Guardian readers should by now be familiar with Migden’s long record in Sacramento: the California Clean Water Act, saving the Headwaters Forest, community choice aggregation (CCA), a series of domestic partnership laws that have established a viable alternative to marriage in California while setting the stage for extending marriage rights to same-sex couples, a remarkable package of foster care reforms, and cosmetics safety legislation.

But it is Migden’s role locally that makes her so important to San Francisco progressives. Migden is the only candidate in the race who has been there for progressives in difficult political battles. As candidates for the Democratic County Central Committee, we are grateful that the Guardian endorsed our entire slate. But we wonder if the Guardian considered the fact that the vast majority (indeed, almost unanimous) of Hope Slate candidates are Migden supporters, because they are the leading progressive candidates to retain a progressive majority on the Board of Supervisors in November. It is not coincidental.

Few politicians who have risen as high in the establishment food chain as Carole Migden have done so retaining a willingness to fight for the underdog. Guardian readers should be familiar with the litany: she supported Aaron Peskin and Jake McGoldrick in 2000; reached out to Chris Daly soon thereafter and stood strongly with him against subsequent challenges; never, ever supported Gavin Newsom; attended the Progressive Convention; and financed progressive campaigns from the Affordable Housing Bond to Muni reform.

Migden is a scrappy street fighter who helps other scrappy street fighters. As one of the very first queers and one of the first women to take political power at these levels, she had to be. Someday progressive politics may not need scrappy street fighters (and someday maybe women will be better represented in public office) — but not yet.

We are proud to stand with Carole Migden, as she has stood with us. She is the candidate in this race who we can count on to fight when it really counts.

Bill Barnes, Chris Daly, Michael Goldstein, Robert Haaland, Joe Julian, Eric Mar, Rafael Mandelman, Eric Quezada, and Debra Walker

The writers are Hope Slate candidates for the DCCC.

Housing reform, now


OPINION The Board of Supervisors is poised to vote on a crucial charter amendment to set aside more than $30 million per year for new housing. Since the mayor is talking about a huge budget crisis and a lot of people may complain that more funding for affordable housing will make the flow of red ink worse, it’s important to understand what this issue is all about.

While many of us are aware of the exodus of working-class people, most San Franciscans are unaware that the city is in the final stages of the largest rezoning effort of the past 50 years. The Eastern Neighborhoods plans will set new land-use rules for the Mission District, eastern SoMa, Potrero, the Central Waterfront, and parts of Bayview.

Those areas are going to be opened up to vast new developments, including as many as 20,000 new housing units and tens of thousands of square feet of new commercial development. I can think of no greater opportunity — nor any greater potential disaster — than the Eastern Neighborhoods rezoning effort.

Opening up the Eastern Neighborhoods for new housing without a commitment from the city to provide more resources for affordable units will guarantee that the new neighborhoods will exclude working-class residents and exacerbate the affordable-housing crisis in San Francisco for years to come.

In the Mission and many other districts, despite the cry for more affordable housing, the city has not prioritized housing for working-class San Franciscans. We hear a lot of talk from city hall, but in reality most of the new housing that gets built is far too expensive for most residents. This is a huge crisis — and the charter amendment will finally give affordable housing its rightful attention from the city.

We can’t accept a plan that relies only on the market to produce and fund some affordable housing. We’ve seen what that means: for more than seven years, while the community has waited for the Eastern Neighborhoods plans to be completed, housing for the wealthy has been built and housing for everyone else has been an afterthought. The Board of Supervisors has set an ambitious goal — 60 percent of all new housing should be below market rate — but the Planning Department and the Mayor’s Office of Housing have failed to produce a comprehensive strategy to meet that target.

So despite the budget crisis, the timing of the Affordable Housing Charter Amendment could not be any better. A measure that designates a significant amount of money every year for housing for working-class San Franciscans can finally bring accountability and a commitment from the city to build and retain affordable housing and plan for inclusive new neighborhoods.

We can’t sit idly by while the disparities widen between rich and poor, whites and people of color — or we will wake up 15 years from now and see the result, the continued exodus of working-class families and other lower-income communities. San Francisco is the only city I know of whose Latino population is stagnant and whose African American population is declining. The time to act is now. The Board of Supervisors should approve the Affordable Housing Charter Amendment, making it one of the key issues in 2008 for San Franciscan progressives.

Eric Quezada

Eric Quezada is the executive director of Dolores Street Community Services and a candidate for District 9 supervisor.

The straight story on the armory


The sale of the former National Guard armory on Mission Street has caused a flurry of concern about the plans for the site of the new owner and developer, Most of the columns and editorials in the San Francisco Chronicle, Examiner, and have been reactionary and politically opportunistic. It has given the cheerleaders of runaway market-rate development a new reason to knock affordable housing advocates in general and the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition in particular.

For the past six years, MAC, with the participation of hundreds of Mission District residents, has been developing a vision for the neighborhood, called the People’s Plan, which confronts the gentrification pressures of new development and sets out policies for a healthy, sustainable community. Our approach is not that of knee-jerk NIMBYs mindlessly opposing any proposed change in our community. We are in favor of affordable housing, good-paying jobs for immigrants and working-class families, and sustainable economic development.

However, immediately after the story broke, writers such as Ken Garcia blamed MAC for directly causing the sale to what other papers are calling a “porn production company.” It’s true that MAC has opposed the previous three development proposals, but the developers themselves, responding to the ups and downs of the market, ultimately dropped the projects for financial reasons. Here’s a brief review:

In 2000 a multimedia office complex proposal was approved by the Planning Department and later dropped. The armory was then going to be a server farm. The server farm was approved by the Planning Department again (contrary to what Garcia has written), but the company went under. A local financier retained control and proposed an outlandish and financially risky housing proposal.

The luxury housing proposal went into the planning process, and an environmental review had begun, but instead, the owner sold the site to

MAC didn’t know the owner was secretly negotiating the sale of the armory. Had the financiers been honest with the community, perhaps the city or some other entity could have come forward and put the armory to better use. But at this point, the sale of the armory is complete, and there’s no further process necessary for the new owners to set up shop. That means it’s difficult for the community or city to stop the proposed use.

Now the community finds itself responding to this purchase and to opportunists who are taking advantage of this situation to use the current plan as a wedge issue to attack MAC and other affordable housing activists who have had concerns about high-end market-rate housing development in the Mission. The Mission is both the heart of the Latino community in San Francisco and home to other communities. For a healthy and sustainable community, a measuring stick for a development project is whether it will lead to displacement of residents and community-serving businesses and contribute to gentrification.

MAC will continue to fight for equitable development through the People’s Plan and the Mission rezoning process and will continue to challenge all projects that have the potential to negatively impact our community. *

Eric Quezada and Nick Pagoulatos

Eric Quezada and Nick Pagoulatos are Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition activists.