Gus Vardakastanis,
Gone Too Soon

 

Gus and his sons

My friend, Konstantinos “Gus” Vardakastanis, was killed in a horrible hit-and-run accident on Friday night, September 22.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “Vardakastanis was killed early Friday when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver while crossing a street in the city’s Bayview neighborhood, where he had gone to the San Francisco Produce Market to peruse and purchase goods for his stores. The 57 year-old owner of Haight Street Market, Noriega Produce, and Gus’s Community Market died at the scene of the collision, according to the San Francisco medical examiner.”

I met Gus because he always worked hard and was always at the store in the morning stocking the shelves. Over time, brief hellos turned into conversations. I will miss my friend Gus. He was a working man’s hero: A son, a husband, a father, a brother, and a grandfather. Rest in peace, Gus.”

A younger gus at the Haight Street Fair

Gus and his wife Georgia had immigrated from Greece in the early 1980’s. With the help of their two sons, Bobby and Dimitri, they worked hard every day and built the Haight Street Market into a neighborhood institution. Everyone on Haight Street loved Gus. He was widely considered to be a neighborhood character. He sometimes seemed unapproachable, but he had a heart of gold.

Gus would get-up every morning at 1:00 a.m. to buy the best fruit at the city produce center. He was crossing Jerrold Street at 2:12 a.m. when he was run down by a car traveling at excessive speed.

Jerrold Avenue is a busy thoroughfare that divides the two sides of the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market. Jerrold Street is dangerous for all of the people who work and do business there throughout the night.

The city had announced a $100 million development plan in 2012 that would reroute public traffic away from the market, but of course, that work has not yet happened.

I met Gus because he always worked hard and was always at the store in the morning stocking the shelves. Over time, brief hellos turned into conversations. I will miss my friend Gus. He was a working man’s hero: A son, a husband, a father, a brother, and a grandfather. Rest in peace, Gus.

Summary and Vision Zero Context

The goal of Vision Zero is zero traffic deaths, period. Too many people die on the streets of San Francisco each year. Every death in this report represents an indescribable loss suffered by the individual and their family, friends, classmates, co-workers, and community. The report summarizes traffic death patterns to inform Vision Zero monitoring and initiatives to save lives.

The overall number of traffic deaths in 2016 was 30, compared to 31 in 2015 and 2014. Pedestrians made up the largest number of deaths, comprising over 50% of all traffic fatalities. Over 40% of all traffic fatalities were suffered by seniors. The most frequent primary collision factors for fatalities included red light running, vehicle failure to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk, and speeding.

San Francisco’s number of traffic deaths has been relatively flat despite the increases in population that have occurred in the city over the last few years. This is in stark contrast to traffic collisions on a national level. Preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) points to the number of traffic deaths rising in other cities nationwide. Road deaths in the U.S. rose 8% in the first nine months of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015, driven by increases in pedestrian, bicyclist, and motorcyclist deaths. Regardless, any traffic fatality is unacceptable.

City agencies are supposed to be working diligently to improve the safety of our streets, taking a comprehensive approach that includes engineering, enforcement, education, policy and evaluation, requiring coordination across multiple city agencies.

So far, the coordination between city agencies has been poor. The bulb-outs built by the Department of Public Works (DPW) have made it extremely difficult for fire trucks to make turns at narrow intersections. The bulb outs are six inches high and new city firetrucks can only go over four-inch curbs.

If you ever wondered why city speedbumps have large cuts in them — which will allow cars to drive through the speedbump rather than having to slow down and go over the speedbump — understand that they were damaging city firetrucks.

Three years ago, the entrance to San Francisco General Hospital’s emergency room was on 23rd Street. The emergency vehicle entrance has now been moved to 22nd Street, in front of which a median has been installed, reducing access for emergency vehicles and patients in route to the emergency room. To reach the hospital entrance, vehicles must now make a U-turn on Potrero Street and drive the wrong way on Potrero.

Pedestrian deaths are rising at a rate of about 11% a year. The real problem is the lack of personal responsibility of both drivers and pedestrians. Everyone has heard of distracted drivers texting on their smart phones or driving under the influence, but few people think of distracted walkers, (smartphone zombies).

A smartphone zombie is a pedestrian who walks slowly and without attention to surroundings because they are focused upon their smartphone. This is now a significant safety hazard since distracted pedestrians cause accidents. Cities such as Chongqing and Antwerp have introduced special lanes for smartphone users to help direct and manage them.

In 2014, China had over five hundred million smartphone users and more than half of them have a phone addiction. In Chongqing, the government built a cellphone sidewalk, separating the phone users and the non-cell phone users. In Hong Kong, they are called dai tau juk (“the head-down tribe”).

A ban on pedestrians looking at mobile phones or texting while crossing the street will take effect in Hawaii’s largest city in late October, as Honolulu becomes the first major U.S. city to pass legislation aimed at reducing injuries and deaths from “distracted walking.”

The ban comes as cities around the world grapple with how to protect phone-obsessed “smartphone zombies” from injuring themselves by stepping into traffic or running into stationary objects. San Francisco has plenty of irresponsible, distracted walkers and drivers.

Starting October 25, Honolulu pedestrians can be fined between $15 and $99, depending on the number of times police catch them looking at a phone or tablet device as they cross the street, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell told reporters gathered near one of the city’s busiest downtown intersections on Thursday.

Who knows if San Francisco’s Vision Zero program can save pedestrians from themselves. The millions spent, the endless construction, the narrowing of car lanes, the bulb-outs, the added medians clogging the streets cannot save wandering pedestrians. Only vigilant car drivers can save these zombies from themselves as they carelessly place their lives in the hands of drivers.

I miss my friend Gus Vardakastanis and wish that we could have had just one more conversation, just one more laugh. Tomorrow night, September 28, I am going to attend Gus’ memorial service to say good-bye to a great, noble man who died far too soon, far too young.

George Wooding, President, Coalition For San Francisco Neighborhoods

October 2017

Smash & Grab: City's Streets Are Littered in Glass

Car smash-and-grab break-ins have reached epidemic proportions in San Francisco

During a recent citizen and police gathering in District 7, Park Station police captain John Sanford stated that "97% of the crime in D7 is due to car break-ins and 67% of those break-ins were to rental cars."

All too often, residents and visitors/tourists to San Francisco experience the disappointment of finding their car window smashed and valuables gone. In 2015, auto burglars in the City and County of San Francisco walked off with more than $19 million in stolen goods. The problem of stolen property and cars damaged by break-ins has become so common it is considered part of the cost of City life.

The City needs to take more effective action on stopping crime, and the first step is to provide the public data on handling individual crimes as well as neighborhood and citywide crime data …One critical activity we need help on is our Court Watch — watching trials on burglaries and a recent kidnapping — so the judges know we care."”

Unfortunately, auto burglary in San Francisco occurs more than 70 times a day, every day, across all neighborhoods, and to all kinds of people — especially to visitors driving rental cars. Thieves can recognize rental cars because of company decals and bar codes on windshields, bumpers, and side windows.

Car break-ins in San Francisco really took off shortly after state voters passed Proposition 47 on November 4, 2014. The purpose of Proposition 47 was to reduce California's population of prisoners who had been convicted of non-violent, low-level crimes. Additionally, crimes including many car break-ins that used to be felonies were reduced to misdemeanors.

While statewide evidence for a link between Prop. 47 and car break-ins may be mixed, the new state law created a perfect environment for car break-ins: more released criminals and misdemeanor charges for many car break-ins. Now, if someone breaks into your car and steals less than $950 they may be charged with a misdemeanor rather than a felony. Additionally, there must be an eyewitness to the crime or tangible evidence such as broken glass on a suspect's clothing. A misdemeanor charge may mean no more than a night in jail, particularly after first-time convictions. These "get out of jail for free" citations allow a perpetrator to be breaking into cars the next day.

The 2016 Grand Jury report, Auto Burglary in San Francisco, stated: "This report is based on an investigation conducted from June 2015 through March 2016 into the crime of auto burglary in the County of San Francisco. In the early phase of the research, we learned that the number of car break-ins in 2015 had reached a five-year high — 24,800 recorded incidences. Media sources indicate this is a 34 percent increase over the previous year and almost three times more than reported in 2011. We make a conservative estimate, based on 2015 SFPD data, that theft of property related to these crimes cost victims a minimum of $19 million. This estimate excludes the costs of repairs to vehicles and inconvenience to the victim.

"This conservative figure calculated from reported incidents only is based upon $1 for each report classified as a misdemeanor and $950 for each report classified as a second degree felony, where $950 is the lower limit for felony property theft. Thus, 20,280 [auto break-ins] X $950 = $19,266,000 minimum value of felony reports plus 4,546 X $1 = $4,546.00 minimum value of misdemeanor reports amounts to a total of $19,270,546."

In a related story, the New York Times reported, "Recent data from the F.B.I. show that San Francisco has the highest per-capita property crime rate of the nation's top 50 cities. About half the cases here are thefts from vehicles, smash-and-grabs …" Unfortunately, of the 24,800 reported incidents in San Francisco in 2015, only 484 (1.9%) arrests were made. Most large Cities have an arrest rate of over 14%. San Francisco has become the national Mecca for people who break into cars.

Drivers of rental cars are constantly targeted because smash-and-grab thieves know that they will often have luggage, high-technology equipment, and the most difficulty coming back to town to testify in court. Golden Gate Heights resident and co-founder Frank Noto states, "San Francisco has the highest rate of auto burglaries per capita of any major American city. Tourists and rental cars are an easy target, and from there burglars go on to the cars of neighborhood residents. If the pickings are good, they then go on to case out nearby residences and move on to home burglaries. We can take action to fight crime, and we will."

Another person unhappy with car break-ins is D7 Supervisor Norman Yee. Yee has had enough. He is working diligently with the local police to stop car break-ins for local residents, but he has also introduced an ordinance amending the Police Code to prohibit visible barcodes and advertising on rental cars rented in the City or at San Francisco International Airport.

Yee's rental car ordinance would remove any and all barcodes on all rental car windows; any identifying slogans used by the rental car company; any identifying mark used by the rental company; any address, phone number, e-mail address, website address, or other contact information used by the Rental Company; the words "rent" or "rental," or any variation thereof; and finally, any other advertisement for the rental company.

"I have heard one too many times the lasting negative impact car break-ins have on our neighborhoods and the dreadful impressions they leave on our tourists who are victimized when visiting our world-renowned city. Enough is enough. My legislation is a step forward to protect tourists and rental car consumers from being further targeted. It is a small step forward. Public safety requires a multi-pronged approach and I am willing to take decisive action on different strategies that will abate property crime," stated Supervisor Norman Yee.

Noto agrees with Yee, "Supervisor Yee's rental car legislation is just a small part of the answer. The City needs to take more effective action on stopping crime, and the first step is to provide the public data on handling individual crimes as well as neighborhood and citywide crime data. Because there's some truth to the saying, 'if you can't measure it, you can't improve it.' And we need to keep working with the SFPD, District Attorney, Public Defender, Courts, and Probation Departments to keep San Francisco safe. One critical activity we need help on is our Court Watch — watching trials on burglaries and a recent kidnapping — so the judges know we care. If neighbors want to help or join us, they can e-mail us at info@goldengateheights.org."

Not too surprisingly, rental car companies and the Teamsters union are opposed to Yee's rental car Ordinance.

According to the April 26, 2017 edition of Auto Rental News, Sharkey Laguna, a Board Member of the American Car Rental Association (ACRA) said, "As the owner, and often insurer, of tens of thousands of vehicles in San Francisco, no one is more interested in stopping car break-ins and theft than the car rental industry." Laguna is the owner of Bandago, a van rental company based in San Francisco, and a member of ACRA's board of directors. "If more signs, notices, and removing bar codes would significantly reduce break-ins, we would not wait for a law in order to take action.

"This legislation makes no sense: It blames the victim for tempting thieves, does nothing to prevent crime, and will over time cost the industry millions of dollars — costs which will ultimately be passed onto consumers in the form of higher rates," added Laguna. "Like burning your house down in order to prevent graffiti, the proposed cure is worse than the disease. It appears the answer to this problem simply lies in better policing [SF has an arrest rate of just 2.25%; the national average is 14%], not putting up more meaningless notices or making it harder to do business."

Finally, Mark Gleason, the Secretary/Treasurer for Teamster Union Number 665 takes a confusing stance against Yee's Proposition in a June 6, 2017 letter. "We understand that your proposed legislation would include elimination of barcodes used by rental car companies to track and inventory their fleets. Discussion with our members and rent-a-car operation's management make clear that this is not a feasible business practice. Implementation would create numerous fleet inventory mishaps. Security experts in the industry assert that the elimination of barcodes will increase auto theft. And independent research shows no correlation of break-ins, as it relates to barcode rental card, versus private autos."

It is understandable that Gleason is trying to keep his members happy, but please cite your research. It would be very easy for car rental companies to upgrade their less expensive stone-age barcodes with more expensive Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. RFID technology uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects. The tags contain electronically-stored information. These passive tags collect energy from nearby RFID interrogating radio waves. RFID chips costs are dropping rapidly and cost about $.50 per chip. RFID chips can also be placed out of sight. When rental cars adopt RFID due to insurance increases, Mr. Gleason's opinion will change.

Please support Supervisor Norman Yee's amendment to remove visible bar codes on car rentals.

George Wooding, Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods (CSFN). Feedback: wooding@westsideobserver.com

Frank Noto, Golden Gate Heights Neighborhood Association

September 2017

Park Department Math: 9 – 1 = 7 Drones

According to a recent 2016 Google survey the average American is filmed at least 50 times per day by Closed Circuit Security Cameras (CCSC).

Closed-circuit TV cameras are installed almost everywhere today, due to increasing security concerns, and because the price of equipment has fallen dramatically over the last several years. As a result, the average American consumer has their image recorded by dozens of cameras every day.

The sales of commercial drones will rise as high as 2.7 million (from 600,000) and the number of hobbyist drones will increase from 1.9 million to 4.3 million between now and 2020.”

Here is an example of a typical day, with a running total of 58 CCSC views, and the number of cameras likely present at each stop:

• 8:00 a.m.: 4 Cameras – Get a cup of coffee; 4 cameras in Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts

8:30 a.m.: 20 Cameras – School or office; cameras in parking lot and interior, you will be picked up at various angles.

• 12:15 p.m.: 10 Cameras – Stop at ATM before lunch for cash. Bank will have exterior cameras, ATM will have close-up camera

• 12:30 p.m.: 8 Cameras – Go get lunch; 4 cameras at lunch spot, plus easily 4 more at surrounding businesses

• 5:00 p.m.: 7 Cameras – Leave work, go to gym to work out. Camera at check-in desk, plus 6 to 8 in workout area

• 5:45 p.m.: 1 Camera – Stop to pick up dry cleaning. Camera at front register

• 6:00 p.m.: 6 Cameras – Stop for gas. Cameras at pumps and in store

• 6:15 p.m.: 2 Cameras – Quick car wash. Cameras at entry and in bay

• 7:00 p.m.: 4 Cameras – Pick up kids from game practice. Cameras in school parking lot or on building exterior

Add in traffic cameras and other city cameras in urban areas, and you will easily be picked up at most major traffic intersections and often simply walking down the street.

Weekends may be a different schedule, but a single trip to the mall or a large shopping plaza can easily add in hundreds of additional cameras, and an individual can regularly be caught by dozens of them.

Drones, the New Eyes and Ears in the Sky

Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are small aircraft that can fly by remote control without an onboard human operator. Drones usually cost less than $1,000.

They can be part of a system that includes a digital network and personnel on the ground, and can be equipped with high-powered cameras, or infrared devices that sense objects through walls, and with laser radar that can see through trees and foliage, the Congressional Research Service said in a 2013 report.

On April 1, 2014 Wisconsin State Representative Christine Taylor warned the citizenry about eyes in the sky and attacks on privacy by drones.

Taylor stated, "Drone technology now allows an individual to be recorded in their homes by drones as small as birds and immediately uploaded to the Internet."

California Senator Dianne Feinstein has introduced legislation called, The Drone Federalism Act that would give San Francisco and other local governments far greater authority over drones. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee plans to introduce a resolution Saturday, June 23rd at the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Miami to support Feinstein's bill.

Feinstein's legislation is aimed at dissuading the federal government from preempting any laws a city might enact, such as outlawing drones over parades.

A January 2016 study by Oxford University called the Hostile Use of Drones by Non–State Actors Against British Targets states, "There is no doubt that unmanned vehicles are here to stay and will have a considerable impact on society, both beneficial and detrimental. Although there is still a large gap between the capabilities of military and civilian drones, commercially available drones are giving hobbyists, companies and hostile groups access to capabilities previously only available to the military. Law enforcement agencies and policymakers are struggling to respond appropriately to this development. This report is a contribution to countering that threat."

Drone usage is currently controlled by the FAA. Local municipalities have limited say in drone oversight.

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) figures, there are currently 2.7 million drones in the United States. The FAA estimates that 7 million drones will be in use by 2020.

The sales of commercial drones will rise as high as 2.7 million (from 600,000) and the number of hobbyist drones will increase from 1.9 million to 4.3 million between now and 2020.

In San Francisco it is currently illegal for drones to fly through residential areas; however, it will be easy for drones equipped with cameras and listening devices to do so.

If you buy a new drone in the United States to fly non-commercially, you no longer have to register your drone with the Federal Aviation Administration, according to a decision issued by a federal court in Washington, D.C. on March 17, 2017.

The court ruled that the FAA's drone registration rules, which have been in place since 2015, were in violation of a law passed by Congress in 2012. That law, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, prohibited the FAA from passing any rules on the operation of model aircraft — in other words, rules that restrict how non-commercial hobbyist drone operators fly.

Drones are currently being sold with legal settings and no-fly zone area maps. According to a local Best Buy sales representative, "an experienced drone operator can easily circumvent these settings and reprogram the drone."

Under current FAA rules, a drone must be flown within the line of sight of the operator, less than 400 feet above the ground, during daylight conditions, inside uncontrolled airspace, and more than five miles away from any airport or other location with aviation activities.

I recently had a drone hover over my house in the Midtown Terrace neighborhood for over two minutes and I don't know why.

According to a June 24 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, "At least 78 drone flights were detected during the June 15 NBA championship parade in downtown Oakland, even though police tried to make the celebration a no-drone zone, according to San Francisco startup Dedrone, which was enlisted to track the devices."

Will Mayor Lee use drones flying above City Hall's rotunda to deliver his City budget to the Board of Supervisors?

The little known "San Francisco Committee on Information and Technology" just passed a series of rules which will dictate City drone guidelines. The committee has been working on these drone rules for over two years. Where has the Board of Supervisors been? Has there been any public transparency?

The CCSF CITY EMPLOYEE DRONE POLICY (DRAFT) states, This Drone Policy ("Policy") is intended to guide officers, employees, and contractors of participating departments with pre-approved drone programs. This Policy is subject to a one-year evaluation period. After the evaluation period, a Drone Oversight Committee composed of representatives from the Mayor's Office, the City Administrator, and Committee on Information and Technology COIT will review the drone programs of all participating departments and provide recommendations to COIT on revisions to this Policy, as necessary.

Five City departments will initially have the authority to use the devices: The Controller's Office, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Port Commission, Fire Department and Recreation and Park Department (RPD).

Has anybody asked why the Controller's Office would need to use drones? They want an aerial view of areas affected by disasters or emergencies. If an emergency requires squeezing the last dime out of citizens pockets, Controller Ben Rosenfield will be a great pilot.

The RPD has certainly played the "fool" in the drone regulation process. The 15-member Committee on Information and Technology began studying the drone issue in 2015, after one of the RPD's nine drones was stolen from a city vehicle after just one test flight.

Currently, the only City department with any drones is the RPD, which now has seven drones that have been grounded until the policy is adopted. Was drone number eight sold at a yard sale? Did it crash into Lake Merced, or into the side of McLaren Lodge?

A new provision that would have allowed RPD to fly drones to monitor large events was deleted altogether. A regulation that would have permitted the RPD to use drones for security purposes like "boundary patrols" of properties and assets was also eliminated. People's right to privacy is deemed more important than the RPD's right to compile private information.

Despite the RPD's efforts, the Committee on Information Technology's drone policy focuses on privacy rights, spelling out how any City agency or employee can use a drone even for seemingly benign flights like search-and-rescue missions or pier inspections.

If any department is destined to fail and abuse drone guidelines and privacy rights, it will be the Phil Ginsburg-led RPD. This is the RPD's drone mission:

- Construction Management: Inspection of SFRPD project sites for contract and environmental compliance. - Disaster Response & Recovery: Inspection of properties, facilities, and assets during and after disasters.
- Emergency Response: Park Rangers rapid response to emergencies on park land.
- Environmental Monitoring: Flora and fauna type and health, spills and leaks, erosion. - Inspections: Surveys and assessments of SFRPD properties, facilities, and assets.
- Mapping: Digital elevation models, land use maps, 3D models, contours.
- Marketing: Capture videos and still photographs.
- Search & Rescue: Reconnaissance and assist during an emergency, both for water and land operations.

The great thing about the RPD flying drones all over the City parks is now its administration will never have to leave the office.

Between the drones, closed-circuit TV cameras, social media, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) in cars, smart televisions, smart phones, computers, laptops and notebooks which allow navigation and transit monitoring, electronic credit cards and financial transaction monitoring systems, your entire day and your life can be reconstructed. There is no privacy left.

A great Google joke submitted one month ago by hellohibyee:

Google's Pizza

Hello? Gordon's pizza?

No, sir, it's Google's pizza.

So it's a wrong number?

No sir, Google bought it.

OK. Take my order please.

Well sir, you want the usual?

The usual? You know me?

According to our caller ID, in the last 12 times, you ordered pizza with cheeses, sausage, thick crust.

OK! This is it.

May I suggest to you this time ricotta, arugula with dry tomato?

What? I hate vegetables!

Your cholesterol is not good.

How do you know?

Through the subscribers guide. We have the result of your blood tests for the last 7 years.

Okay, but I do not want this pizza, I already take medicine …

You have not taken the medicine regularly. Four months ago, you only purchased a box with 30 tablets at Drug Sale Network.

I bought more from another drugstore.

It's not showing on your credit card.

I paid in cash.

But you did not withdraw that much cash according to your bank statement.

I have other sources of cash.

This is not showing as per you last tax form, unless you bought them from an undeclared income source.

WHAT THE HELL? Enough! I'm sick of Google, Facebook, Twitter, What's App. I'm going to an island without Internet, where there is no cell phone line and no one to spy on me!

I understand sir, but you need to renew your passport as it expired 5 weeks ago.

Beware of drones! They will soon fill the skies, and invade neighborhood privacy.

George Wooding, Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhood (CSFN)

July/August 2017

Housing "Supply and Demand" Isn't Working

The laws of "supply and demand" often don't work as intended — especially with San Francisco housing.In 2014, Mayor Ed Lee pledged to construct 30,000 new and rehabilitated homes throughout the City by 2020, with half available to low-, working-, and middle-income San Franciscans. According to the Mayor, San Francisco is well on track towards those goals. Other observers aren't so sure of the Mayor's press reports. Since announcing his Housing Plan in January 2014, over 17,100 units have been built or completely rehabilitated, with over 6,100 of those units permanently affordable to low- and moderate-income San Franciscans.

Obviously, 6,100 of the permanently affordable units built for low- and moderate-income households represents just 35.7% of the 17,100 units built since January 2014, not 50%, as basic math shows.

…across the five housing balance reports, Supervisor Tang's District 4 has consistently had negative balances ranging from 375.8% in Report 1, 189.4% in Report 2, 181.2% in Report 3, and 196.6% in Report 4. All were mostly driven by the failure to build new net affordable housing in D-4, remaining stagnant at just 10 net new affordable units …”

Over successive Housing Balance Reports issued by San Francisco's Planning Department, the amount of net new affordable housing has dropped from 30% of all new construction in the first ten-year report in July 2015 to just 22% in the fifth ten-year report issued just two years later in May 2017, an 8% decline in net new affordable housing.

Citywide, the 6,166 new affordable housing units, plus 1,838 acquisitions and rehabilitation of existing affordable units in the fifth report issued in May, totaled an increase of 8,004 affordable units citywide, but that was offset by the loss of 4,182 affordable units due to a variety of factors (including various types of evictions, Ellis Act conversions, and other reasons). That left a new gain of 3,822 affordable units. Adding in "entitled" or "permitted" units (those that have received permission or permits, but have not yet been built, and may never be built) resulted in a projected cumulative affordable housing balance of just 13.6% between units built and "entitled" units citywide, assuming the entitled units come to fruition.

But the data for District 7 during the same period for Report 5 was much worse. Although there were 99 net new affordable housing units built in D-7, we lost 220 affordable units, for a net loss of 121 affordable units, because D-7 had no new "entitled" affordable units and no affordable existing housing acquisitions. While the citywide affordable housing balance was 13.6%, the affordable housing balance in D-7 was a negative 19.1%, down from a negative balance of 35.3% in Report 4.

D-7 wasn't alone: There were an additional seven supervisorial districts that had negative housing balances, and only Districts 5, 6, and 10 had positive housing balances. The hardest hit districts were Supervisor Katy Tang's D-4 with a negative 197.2% balance, and District 1 with a 70.9% negative balance, offset by the gains in the three Districts with positive gains.

For that matter, across the five housing balance reports, Supervisor Tang's District 4 has consistently had negative balances ranging from 375.8% in Report 1, 189.4% in Report 2, 181.2% in Report 3, and 196.6% in Report 4. All were mostly driven by the failure to build new net affordable housing in D-4, remaining stagnant at just 10 net new affordable units over the past three housing balance reports, compounded by affordable housing units removed in D-4 that have fluctuated between 389 lost units in Report 2 to 437 lost units as of the most current Report 5 (including overlaps across reports). And Tang is the one brazenly pushing the alternative HOME-SF legislation, "inclusionary affordable housing" be damned?

With over half of the Mayor's 30,000 units built or rehabilitated in only three years, why is the cost of housing rising?

Mayor Lee and his housing allies at San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), the Housing Action Coalition (HAC), the San Francisco Renters Federation (BARF), and Yes In My Back Yard (YIMBY) all believe that by building more housing, the average price of a unit of housing will decrease in San Francisco. That has yet to trickle down to lower housing prices.

The Mayor and these pro-development groups receive funding from pro-development contributors, developers, and high-tech companies. Not surprisingly, the people who make donations get to help shape politician's opinions, and/or each organization's pro-development policies.

Watch how these connected groups work together to build more housing. SPUR, which likes to bill itself as a "think tank," writes a report on how San Francisco needs more housing. In 2013, SPUR's Director, Gabriel Metcalf, then wrote an article that stated that San Francisco needed to build 5,000 units of housing annually. HAC, a group founded by Metcalf, is a lobbyist for developers. Tim Colen, the former Executive Director of HAC, is now on the YIMBY Board of Directors. Last and least, BARF helped to found YIMBY.

SPUR rewarded YIMBY and HAC with the following forum at SPUR's downtown headquarters on May 8:

"The Bay Area's housing shortage has led to a grassroots movement of millennials who say 'yes' to the building of high-density housing. In a conversation fueled by soaring real estate prices, by threats to the environment and by an increasingly homogeneous society, learn from three individuals on the front line about how they're leading the pro-housing movement. Co-presented by SPUR."

The three individuals who presented at the forum were, Laura Foote Clark from YIMBY Action, Kim-Mai Cutler from Initialized Capital, and Corey Smith from HAC. Admission was free for SPUR and HAC members, and $10 for non-members.

It sounds like non-millennials missed a good program.

Meanwhile, BARF is dedicated to suing people with different opinions than building for millennials. BARF's director, Sonya Trauss, says, on BARF's website:

"Last year we raised and spent or committed about $250,000. Last year's expenses were one full time employee (me, Sonja) and two lawsuits. Next year's expenses will be two full time employees (welcome aboard Brian Hanlon) and at least twice as many lawsuits. We made incredible progress this year, but we also let good lawsuits pass because we didn't have the resources to pursue them."

Although the Mayor's simplistic trickle-down housing plan of "build it and they will come" has been successful in building more units, the density program has failed to reduce unit prices. In fact, the program has made units smaller and increased the costs of housing units.

In San Francisco, when unit production goes up, unit prices will also go up for the following reasons: 1) New housing construction represents a small amount of total construction — approximately 18%; 2) In San Francisco, there is little land on which to build housing; and 3) A number of market rate units in San Francisco are being purchased by speculators and will primarily serve to house multi-millionaires, while lining the pockets of realtors, landlords, and developers, without any meaningful improvement in housing affordability.

"New development in the City may lower prices regionally even while it raises prices in a specific neighborhood. An increase in units in San Francisco may lead to lower costs in San Mateo and higher costs in the City."

William Fulton the author of Guide to California Planning wrote:

"The folks taking the cool jobs may not be uber-rich, but they have tons more money than everybody else, and so they drive prices out of sight. Build more market-rate housing, and you'll just accelerate the cycle – more smart kids will show up wanting to work for tech start-ups, and that means you'll have more tech start-ups, and pretty soon demand will rise faster than supply – in large part because you increased the supply."

There are better ways to solve the San Francisco housing crisis than simply building for the sake of density and extra property taxes for the City. A new program that helps senior citizens share extra space in their homes is called HomeMatch.

Homeowners will have an additional source of income and companionship. Both parties can agree to an exchange of services for reduced rent.

HomeMatch is a joint program of Northern California Presbyterian Homes and Services and Episcopal Senior Communities and is partially funded by the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development. It was conceived by San Francisco Supervisors, who sought to ease the housing shortage for students, teachers, nonprofit staff, health care workers, and other low- and moderate-income renters.

For more information on Homematch either email them at info@homematchsf.org or call them at 415 351-1000.

Homematch's services are free of charge to anyone who qualifies for the program. They provide interviews, applications, background screening, and assist with the housing agreement for all parties involved; mediation and referral services are available as needed.

Parties are matched based on compatible living styles, and have an opportunity to describe their ideal home arrangement, personal characteristics, and other factors regarding living with another person. Parties meet and decide if they are a good fit for each other.

District 7 has 16,930 (23.7%) people who are at least 60 years old, and 3,068 of them live alone.

District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee is very excited about the potential of HomeMatch to help the elderly and said:

"When I was growing up, family members took care of each other. My parents sacrificed so much to raise me and my four siblings, to make sure we had a roof over our heads, food on the table and a better future. That's why when my parents and aunt became older and less able to care for themselves, I wanted to return at least a fraction of the care they had given us. It was important for me to show my parents and my aunt the love, respect, and dignity they deserved in their old age. Though it was challenging at times — both emotionally and financially — to be their primary caregiver, I don't regret any of it. I am grateful for the years I spent caring for my parents and my aunt before they passed away, and hope that more family members will commit to caring for their own parents as they age.

Though I managed to care for my elderly parents, we could have used additional support, like in-home health care workers. Also, I understand that not everyone has the means to care for their aging parents, so that's why we need to support other programs such as HomeMatch SF."

According to the 2000–2010 San Francisco Housing census, there are 31,131 vacant housing units (8.3%) in San Francisco. The next census will be taken in 2020. With programs like HomeMatch, existing vacancies, and the units being built, everyone should have a place to live — but it will still be very expensive to live here, in part because housing "supply and demand" isn't working.

George Wooding, Coalition For San Francisco Neighborhoods

…across the five housing balance reports, Supervisor Tang's District 4 has consistently had negative balances ranging from 375.8% in Report 1, 189.4% in Report 2, 181.2% in Report 3, and 196.6% in Report 4. All were mostly driven by the failure to build new net affordable housing in D-4, remaining stagnant at just 10 net new affordable units …"

Tang’s Radical Housing Proposal

District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang is attempting to dramatically alter San Francisco’s zoning laws, planning amendment processes, and small businesses.

Tang’s proposed legislation, “HOME-SF,” radically up-zones the entire City by expanding zoning exceptions (even in RH-1 and RH-2 parcels) in combination with Urban Design Guidelines (UDGs), and by using a new “Form-based Density” that does not correlate a building’s square footage size to lot size.

City zoning is currently based on Floor Area Ratios (FARs) that allow building units based on their square footage.

By classifying two-unit buildings as middle-class family housing with no mention of square footage, Tang’s HOME-SF legislation may end-up allowing units as small as 400-square-foot, sardine can-sized housing for middle-class families. This will not be a great help to the middle class who want to stay in San Francisco with their families. Who wants to live in a sardine can with kids?

Like the fierce debate currently being waged in City Hall over revising voter-approved inclusionary housing percentages, Tang’s legislation also pits middle-income households against lower-income households.

This will not be a great help to the middle class who want to stay in San Francisco with their families. Who wants to live in a sardine can with kids?”

Reportedly, HOME-SF is an optional, voluntary program offering zoning incentives to housing builders and developers. As with Tang’s precursor legislation, HOME-SF’s biggest incentive is allowing up to two additional stories above current zoning limits to increase the overall number of housing units that can be built.

In late 2015, Tang, Mayor Ed Lee, and the Planning Department were badly defeated by concerned San Franciscans when they tried to sneak a developer-friendly planning ordinance proposal called the Affordable Bonus Housing Program (AHBP) through the Planning Commission during the Christmas Holidays.

AHBP moved very quickly after it was introduced by Mayor Lee and co-sponsor Supervisor Tang at the Planning Commission on September 24, 2015. Within three weeks, the Planning Commission was scheduled to approve General Plan amendments required for AHBP implementation. No one in the neighborhoods was ever asked to review this legislation, or to provide neighborhood input.

Tang and Mayor Lee believe that the more concessions given to developers, the more units, i.e., housing density, will be built. This half-baked, trickle-down theory will not work well, because as unit sizes become smaller and smaller, developers cannot make money building units for lower-income people, and higher-income people will eventually end up displacing the original lower-income people.

Tang’s legislation only mentions the number of units. There is no discussion about, or legislative language specifying, square footage. The public assumption is that a two-bedroom unit is a middle-income unit. Even Tang’s HOME-SF legislation considers two-bedroom housing to be middle-income family housing.

The 2015 AHBP program allowed affordable housing developers to select from a range of zoning exemption incentives in ABHP development projects. The incentives included: adding at least two stories in height; extending bulk; reducing setbacks, rear yards, exposure and common open space; expanding buildings to the property line; eliminating off-street loading areas; and severely cutting requirements for on-site parking to 50%.

AHBP was designed to reward developers by amending the City’s planning code to provide bonuses and zoning modifications to developers building ten or more units.

Tang and Mayor Lee’s 2015 AHBP program failed to be passed by the Planning Commission but was still sent to the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Transportation Committee (LUT-C) in 2016. After then-District 8 Supervisor and LUT-C member Scott Wiener stated that the Planning Commission was only an “advisory body,” the LUT-C adopted Tang’s flawed ABHP program so that it could be amended and brought back later before the committee at the “Call of the Chair” of LUT-C.

The cleverness of parking the AHBP legislation at the LUT-C was that Tang’s amended version, HOME-SF, and its amendments, did not have to be reviewed by the public. There was no public transparency and almost no new meetings.

It now seems certain that the LUT-C will vote on the amended version of AHBP, HOME-SF, sometime in May, and then forward the legislation to the Board of Supervisors for a final vote, again with almost no citizen or neighborhood involvement, despite Tang’s claims that public meetings were held in almost every district seeking feedback and comments on her new legislation. The last time the public reviewed a version of this legislation was almost two years ago.

Tang sits on the LUT-C and will pass her HOME-SF legislation without even the Planning Commission’s review. The Planning Commission can make suggestions, but Tang can do whatever she wants.

Deceptively, the amended version of AHBP has been renamed HOME-SF and is now being sold to the public as, “an opportunity for families to stay, grow, and succeed while maintaining our diverse workforce in San Francisco.”

The Planning Department stated, “This optional program is designed to incentivize building more family-friendly and affordable housing across San Francisco through zoning modifications.” This should be read as: “Higher profits for developers.”

Planning also stated, “HOME-SF includes a number of provisions to protect and grow local small businesses in our city’s many neighborhood commercial corridors.” No, No, No! Home-SF will destroy small San Francisco businesses, by the hundreds.

Merchants are not protected; there is no right of return or rent control for businesses.

San Francisco’s commercial corridors will become the prime target for HOME-SF development. With no rent control for businesses, and a promise to leave residential housing alone, HOME-SF will be aimed squarely at tearing down small businesses and rebuilding them as residential units with a business space at street level. Building lots can be linked up to 125 feet. The existing business will have to relocate during the rebuilding process, and if the business actually survives the demolition and rebuild of its original location the rent may be three to five times higher.

According to Fernando Marti, the Co-Director of the Coalition of Community Housing Organizations, “A first approach would be a ‘do-no-harm’ approach, protecting existing neighborhood-serving businesses, as the HOME-SF legislation (rightfully) was amended to protect existing tenants. The sites would be limited to those that did not contain in the five years prior to submittal of the application any neighborhood serving uses.”

A lot of small businesses will be forced out of business. Say goodbye to the character of your neighborhood.

Tang’s HOME-SF legislative solutions will not work to save small businesses. SF-HOME states, “The Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD), in coordination with the Office of Small Business, currently coordinate on referrals to and deployment of a range of services to small businesses including but not limited to: Small business consulting, lease negotiation assistance, small business loans, ADA Certified Access Specialists (CASp) inspection services, legacy business registry, façade improvement assistance, commercial corridor management, grants and assessments, relocation and broker services for production, distribution and repair (PDR) businesses, business permit assistance, and coordination with city agencies.” How will this legal jargon really save small businesses from being displaced?

Finally, Planning stated, “HOME-SF is designed to serve working class families.” This used to be true when AHBP was designed for 100% affordable housing. Tang and Mayor Lee have redesigned HOME-SF so that it will now be funding middle-class housing by reducing funding for lower-income housing.

As usual, poor people will get the shaft. It will be time for them to leave San Francisco, move to Antioch, and commute back to the City for a lousy $14.00 per hour job. Gentrification is wonderful — if you’re the person with the money.

HOME-SF creates affordable homes for families making $118,450 to $150,800 annually for a family of four. Tang’s legislation will increase the Average Median Income (AMI) to 110% of AMI ($118,450) for a family of four seeking to rent, and to 140% of AMI ($150,800) for four-person families seeking to purchase a home, based on the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development’s AMI guidelines for 2016.

Tang’s proposal clearly focuses on developing housing for higher incomes, another “incentive” developers love, since developers can choose to exclude developing housing for renters earning less than 110% of AMI and exclude families seeking to purchase who earn less than 140% of AMI. If you were a developer, which “customers” would you choose to help maximize your profits?

Prior versions of AHBP allowed a maximum of 100% of AMI for a family of four, which is now only $107,700 annually for a family of four in 2016.

The $118,450 to $150,800 per year earners are households for whom no public housing programs or subsidies currently exist, and who are generally unable to afford the high cost of housing in San Francisco. These are the people who will be targeted under HOME-SF:

30% of all new housing is required to be permanently affordable

All new housing includes units affordable to middle-income, working class families

40% of new units are required to include two or more bedrooms

No displacement of existing tenants

Tang simply dusted off her initial AHBP legislation, gave it a catchy new acronym (HOME-SF), and upped the AMI to increase developer profits.

It’s time to stop pitting middle-income households against lower-income households. Pitting one group of San Franciscans against another is not a San Francisco “value.” Contact the Board of Supervisors and encourage them to defeat Tang’s radical up-zoning of the entire City.

Wooding is President of the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods (CSFN); feedback: wooding@westsideobserver.com.

Why now? Why groundwater?

Note: the Westside Observer offered the SFPUC an opportunity to reply to last month's report by George Wooding and Chris Bowman

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) owns and operates Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System (Regional Water System). We deliver high-quality water to 2.6 million customers in the Bay Area, including approximately 800,000 residents and businesses here in San Francisco. On average 85% of our supply is sourced from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park, and the other 15% comes from 5 local reservoirs in the Bay Area. For the week of April 17th, approximately 55% of our supply was from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and 45% is from Bay Area reservoirs. Our blend of sources routinely changes in response to seasons, climate and operational needs.

On a typical day, the City of San Francisco – including our residents, businesses and visitors – relies on the six reservoirs in the Regional Water System for about 60 million gallons of drinking water. The San Francisco Groundwater Supply Project further diversifies that supply by supplementing our drinking water sources with high quality groundwater. The inclusion of groundwater is the best way to diversify our drinking water supply and is consistent with using the best water for its best and highest use.

Delivering high-quality water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is a basic necessity for public health. This constant supply is our top priority. Routine maintenance, climate change, higher snowpack elevations, earthquakes, droughts, security incidents, environmental regulations, population growth and other factors represent risks to water delivery today, tomorrow and decades into the future. Diversifying our water sources represents one of the most important steps we can take to plan for these risks to water delivery and make our water supply more reliable.

San Francisco already receives its drinking water from six great sources, we're now adding a 7th source, our own local groundwater. Groundwater – also known as well water – is a renewable source of naturally occurring water that is found in underground reservoirs called aquifers. Aquifers are replenished primarily by rainfall. For most of California, groundwater is an essential source of water: In fact 80% of Californians depend on it for all or part of their drinking water supply, and have been doing so safely for generations.

The Benefits of Groundwater

• Local: Our natural environment and our City face many unknowns in the future from possible drought, earthquake, climate change and other risks. A local water source gives us more control over the use and operation of our water supplies.

 • Sustainable: Groundwater is a renewable water source that is replenished through natural processes.

 • Reliable: Groundwater diversifies the City's water supply portfolio and makes us less vulnerable to disrupted services.

 • Responsible:  Groundwater pumping in San Francisco's Westside Basin is regularly monitored, its quality is tested, and will be managed to ensure we operate in a responsible and sustainable manner. This basin will provide high quality groundwater for generations to come.

• Smart: Two supplies are always smarter than one. In the event of a catastrophic emergency, we can rely on local groundwater to supplement San Francisco's drinking water supply.

• High Quality: Groundwater is a high quality water source that is naturally free from pathogens and low in turbidity, due to filtration through the aquifer's layers of sand, silt and clay.

San Francisco's groundwater is sourced from the Westside Basin aquifer, an underground reservoir extending 300 to 500 feet underground.  We have been monitoring this aquifer, for quality and sustainability, for over 10 years through a series of wells along the Great Highway, around Lake Merced, and other areas. This monitoring program will continue.

Groundwater is blended in small quantities with our Regional Water System supply at Sunset and Sutro reservoirs, before entering our distribution system. We will begin adding 1 million gallons per day (mgd) of groundwater, or about 3% of the reservoirs' contents, and over the next 4 years, increasing that amount to 4mgd, or up to 15% of the reservoirs' contents.

Sodium hypochlorite (chlorine) is added to the groundwater to maintain the required level of disinfectant in the City's distribution pipelines. Chlorine is already added for disinfection in our Regional Water System. Sodium hydroxide is added as needed to raise the pH of the blended water, as is done throughout the Regional Water System for corrosion control. The blending process itself provides additional water treatment.

The State Water Resources Control Board, Division of Drinking Water, (DDW) has established drinking water quality standards that we consistently surpass. For example, in the case of nitrate, the State Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for public health and safety is 45 milligrams per liter (mg/l), as nitrate. The nitrate level in the water we will distribute at full buildout of the groundwater program in 2020 will be about 10 times lower than the State's MCL. Our blended water will surpass federal and state MCLs for all other constituents.

The 10+ year implementation process for the groundwater project has included rigorous scientific study, hydrologic and geologic evaluations of the aquifer, water quality monitoring, and extensive community outreach, engagement and education. The DDW, San Francisco Planning Department and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors have all approved this project.

We recognize the challenge in accepting change, let alone in San Francisco's drinking water supply in which we all take pride. That's why we are working hard to make sure this small change in water supply sources produces positive results for all of our customers and stakeholders by ensuring a high quality, reliable and sustainable supply of water for generations to come.

Jeffrey Gilman is project manager of the San Francisco Groundwater Supply Project. He is a Certified Hydrogeologist and has over 40 years of experience in groundwater resources management.

May 2017

Carcinogenic “Blended Water” From Your Tap?

Neighbors who live in San Francisco’s west side, in the OMI, and in several other parts of the City should take a close look at the water that comes out of their taps.

Will the water look the same, smell the same, feel the same, and taste the same? Maybe “yes,” maybe “no.” Will the water be safe to drink, or will increased contaminants represent a health hazard to the general public, and those with weakened immunity?

… there is no need this year — or perhaps even through next year, if we have normal rainfall in 2017–2018 — to turn on the spigot quite yet of groundwater being ‘blended’ into our tap water supply. ”

Starting in the next couple of days, water from six wells from the Westside Groundwater Basin (Aquifer) will be “blended” with Hetch Hetchy water. The “blended” water will “serve” nearly 60% of San Francisco residents.

Initially, only 4% of the water serving those residents will be “blended” well water, but that percentage will increase to 15% by 2020 — roughly one part of well water for every five parts of Hetch Hetchy water.

Three of the six wells are located in Golden Gate Park, two in the Outer Sunset, and one on the east side of Lake Merced.1

Well water will be treated on-site with sodium hypochlorite (a disinfectant) and sodium hydroxide (to maintain pH levels), piped to the Sunset Reservoir where it will be treated again and blended with Hetch Hetchy Water, and then pumped to Sutro, Stanford Heights, and Summit Reservoirs for distribution.

All water customers in the City served by those four reservoirs — plus the Forest Knolls, Mt. Davidson, and La Grande water tanks — will receive “blended” water.

All water customers in the City served by the Merced Manor, University Mound, College Hill, Hunters Point, Potrero Heights, and Lombard Street Reservoirs, will continue to receive 100% Hetch Hetchy water.

Supervisorial Districts and neighborhoods that will receive “blended water” include:

All of District 7, except for the John Muir apartments and parts of Lakeshore Village, Sunset Heights, Twin Peaks, and Clarendon Heights;

The eastern two-thirds of District 4;

Most of District 1, except between Balboa and Fulton, Ocean Beach and 43rd Avenue, and north of Geary between 36th and 44th Avenues;

Most of District 11, except for Mission Terrace; and

Portions of Districts, 2, 5, and 8; a third of Districts 3 and 9; about 10% of District 10; and roughly a dozen blocks in District 6 will receive “blended” water.

Unfortunately, if you want to determine whether or not you are receiving “blended” water, you cannot do so using the “Groundwater Blend Distribution Areas” map provided by the SFPUC in its SF Groundwater Supply Project. The map is both inaccurate (in that it erroneously includes the Presidio as receiving “blended” water, but excludes the service area of the Stanford Heights Reservoir that will provide “blended” water), and because the map is insufficiently detailed (in that it doesn’t include a street grid).

One would think the SFPUC could provide notice to all landlords, property owners, and tenants as to whether or not they are receiving “blended” water, but they have chosen to not do so, nor do they have any plans to do so in the future.

Rather, one must contact the customer service office of the SFPUC — providing the staff with your name and address to get the information you need to determine whether or not you wish to continue to use tap water or buy bottled drinking water.

A bit of history, and why you should be concerned about the quality of “blended” water.

Since the 1930’s, San Francisco’s 862,000 residents, and nearly 1.8 million customers in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, have enjoyed high-quality water provided by the Hetch Hetchy System. Fully 85% of our water comes from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in the High Sierras, and another 15% from five Bay Area reservoirs.

In 2002, San Francisco voters approved a revenue bond measure to retrofit and upgrade the Hetch Hetchy system so that our residents would continue to enjoy a reliable supply of high-quality water. The project, which is now about 91% complete, will cost about $4.8 billion. Little did voters know then that the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) would spend $66 million to provide 60% of San Franciscans with lower–quality, so-called “blended” water starting this year.

The SFPUC justified its “groundwater supply project” on the basis of the on-going drought; fear of a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, that could cut off our water supply; and state legislation that required the City to find new sources of water to accommodate additional growth.

The Westside Groundwater Basin (Aquifer), from which San Francisco’s “blended” water will come, is between 400 feet and 700 feet deep. The aquifer is made up of sand, silt, and other permeable materials that can readily yield water to springs or wells. It is replenished by surface water or fresh water lakes, such as Lake Merced, which seeps into the ground. Also seeping into the ground are fertilizers (which produce nitrates), pesticides, herbicides used in our golf courses and parks, byproducts from artificial turf, and leakage from our waste-water system that is transported along Ocean Beach to the Southwest Water Treatment facility near the Zoo.

There are conflicting findings in reports from the SFPUC on the level of nitrates detected in the wells that will be part of the “blended” water system.

California sets the Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) for nitrates at 45.0 mg/L.

According to the SFPUC’s 2015 Annual Groundwater Monitoring Report (September 2016), the Elk Glen 2 (site of the Central Pump Station) had nitrate levels of between 48.9 mg/L and 55.0 mg/L from 2000–2005. The Merced Pump ST MW155, which is located at the site for the new Merced Lake well, had nitrate levels of 48.0 mg/L to 49.0 mg/L from 2005–2007. And the South Windmill well had nitrate levels of 64% to 72% of the MCL, between 28.9 mg/L and 32.4 mg/L from 2013–2015.

These levels are problematic, particularly in light of the cumulative effect from years of drinking water contaminated with nitrates.

According to nitrate expert Linda Daily Paulson, “… high levels of nitrate in the water can cause health problems. … Medical studies show nitrates in the drinking water are a particular problem for infants, especially those under the age of six months, notes the EPA. This can cause a condition known as methemoglobinemia, or ‘blue baby syndrome.’ Excess nitrates decrease the ability of blood to carry vital oxygen through the body. Additionally, drinking water with high levels of nitrates can also pose health problems to older adults.”

Dr. Ian Shaw, professor of toxicology at the University of Canterbury, states, “[T]here is a more sinister side to nitrate that is far less well understood and of uncertain impact on human populations. High nitrate doses are associated with some cancers. This is thought to be because nitrate is reduced to nitrite in the gut and nitrite reacts with specific food breakdown products (amines) to form highly-carcinogenic nitrosamines. This is a convoluted path to cancer, but is assuming greater importance as nitrate in food and drinking water slowly increases worldwide.”

The EPA (that the Donald Trump administration has proposed downsizing), and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes: “Well water is particularly liable to have high nitrate levels since improper well construction and location can contribute to excess nitrates in the water. … The most effective means of removing nitrate from drinking water supplies are ion exchange, reverse osmosis, and electrodialysis.”

Unfortunately, none of those means are being used by the SFPUC to remove nitrates from our groundwater.

Finally, one of the major reasons for the SFPUC initiating its “blended” water project was to make up for the drought conditions that started in 2011. The State of California is now officially out of the drought. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Station Precipitation Summary for California/Nevada RFC, as of March 25, 2017, 46 of 48 climate stations in California are above normal in rainfall for this time of the year, and 39 of the 48 stations have received more rainfall than they normally receive in an entire year. And that doesn’t even account for the largest snow pack in the Sierras since 1982–1983 that will translate into record run-offs this spring and summer.

The key point here is that there is no need this year — or perhaps even through next year, if we have normal rainfall in 2017–2018 — to turn on the spigot quite yet of groundwater being “blended” into our tap water supply.

According to a July 2016 report by San Francisco’s Budget and Legislative Analyst, over the next 45 years the number of seniors (aged 65+) in San Francisco will increase from 131,163 to 298,536 (a 128% increase).

Our elderly, along with the nearly one million residents of the City, shouldn’t face greater risk from nitrate carcinogens in “blended water”, nor should our children and young adults, who face the prospect of the cumulative effects of nitrates from decades of drinking tap water contaminated with nitrates.

Given the possible health risks due to high concentrations of nitrates in the City’s groundwater, would it not be prudent, since we have the time to do so, for the City to construct and institute a nitrates decontamination system, using either ion exchange, reverse osmosis, or electrodialysis, so that when we do need to augment our water supply from Hetch Hetchy using groundwater, the quality of our drinking water won’t be degraded?

Contact the Board of Supervisors and demand that it hold hearings to require that the SFPUC install nitrate decontamination systems in “blended water.” Tell the Board that it must require SFPUC to notify all property owners, landlords, and tenants whether they will be fed blended water containing un-decontaminated nitrates.

Your health — and cancer risk — may depend on the outcome of those hearings.

George Wooding, Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods (CSFN); he can be contacted at wooding@westsideobserver.com. Bowman is a Political Analyst.

1.

1) North Lake well — in the western part of Golden Gate Park, south of Fulton St., adjacent to Chain of Lakes Drive;

2) South Windmill Replacement well — in the western part of GG Park, north of Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive and west of the Murphy Windmill;

3) Central Pump Station well — located near Elk Glen just west of Crossover Drive near Overlook Drive;

4) West Sunset well — located at the W Sunset Playground at 40th and Quintara;

5) South Sunset well — located at the South Sunset Playground at 40th and Wawona; and

6) Lake Merced well — west of Lake Merced Boulevard, south of Harding Park and west of Brotherhood Way.

April 2017

Budget Democracy Comes to D-7

It's very important that District 7 (D7) residents take the time to vote for your favorite Participatory Budgeting (PB) project(s); voting takes place between March 17 and March 31. Projects selected will be funded from the Fiscal Year 2017–2018 budget shortly after July 1.

In-person voting will take place at the Ingleside Library at 1298 Ocean Avenue, and at the West Portal Library at 190 Lenox Way. The on-line link for voting is sfpbd.sfgov.org/d7/vote. (After March 17th)

Supervisor Yee was able obtain $550,000 for his PB and Cohen managed to receive $200,000 for hers. Yee was able to allocate $300,000 this year for PB General Projects, and an additional $250,000 for Pedestrian Safety Vision Zero Projects."

PB is a shining democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. It gives citizens power in setting budget priorities and allocations to community projects to be funded. The process involves: brainstorming project ideas, developing initial proposals, and selecting winning projects through D7 citizen voting.

Due to SF's financial cesspool of budget mismanagement, trickery, collusion, and deceit, PB offers a real chance for residents to determine how some tax dollars are actually spent.

D7 Supervisor Norman Yee, and to a lesser extent D-10 Supervisor Malia Cohen, are utilizing PB in their respective districts. PB eliminates the budget middleman — the City — and allows district residents to select and fund projects they want built through PB grants from the City Budget.

Supervisor Yee was able obtain $550,000 for his PB and Cohen managed to receive $200,000 for hers. Yee was able to allocate $300,000 this year for PB General Projects, and an additional $250,000 for Pedestrian Safety Vision Zero Projects.

"I came into office wanting to encourage civic engagement and participation by as many D7 residents as possible." Supervisor Yee said, "D7 has a rich history of community activism by some, but not the majority of, people. It was important to me that I heard from the diverse population that makes up D7 to build stronger connections between the neighbors. A Participatory Budgeting program offers such connections.

"Who better to decide on which projects are needed and what should be funded than D7 residents themselves? The participation occurs at different levels, from the nine members in the volunteer Neighborhood Council to residents submitting proposals, to all the residents who cast their votes to decide which projects receive funding.

"I have secured funding from our City for the program over the last four years. This year there is $550,000 available for D7 residents to make decisions on what projects they want to support. My hope is that more City residents will have an opportunity to experience participating in a participatory budgeting program."

Yee's Legislative Aide, Erica Maybaum, said,

"PB is an opportunity for residents to fully participate in decision-making and see direct outcomes from their involvement. It is inspiring to support leadership development and work with residents who love D7 and are passionate about building stronger and more connected neighborhoods."

Maybaum can be contacted at Erica.Maybaum@sfgov.org, or (415) 554-6517, for questions.

This year's PB was a very competitive process: 46 project proposals were submitted — the most ever — and 21 projects were selected. Proposals not selected either didn't fit the PB parameters (such as being one-time or an on-going project), the description was too vague, or the project wasn't ranked high enough by the Neighborhood Council.

The Neighborhood Council — nine volunteer residents from across D7 — met several times to decide process parameters and help with outreach, and then reviewed, ranked, and discussed all proposals. Proposal's meeting guidelines were averaged. Highest-ranking proposals were reviewed by City departments for feasibility and budget confirmation. Proposals selected were translated and placed on the ballot for D7 residents to vote on which projects receive funding.

A project must receive at least 300 votes to advance. Voters must be a 16-year-old and a D7 resident.

Don't forget to vote during the PB period!

Check out the Participatory Budget Projects.

George Wooding Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods; contact: wooding@westsideobserver.com

March 2017

Can You Afford to Live in San Francisco?

As San Francisco's general taxes, special taxes, property taxes, parcel taxes, and assorted fees rise to feed an insatiable City government budget appetite, seniors, middle-income families, low-income workers, and small businesses are being starved, forced to move out of the City.

Depending on your age and income, you may be among the next residents forced out of the City.

City budget overseer's — the Board of Supervisors and Mayor Ed Lee — have been derelict in their responsibilities to voters and City residents.

The voters did not approve Proposition K, a sales tax increase that would have paid for the increased spending, which is why this rebalancing plan is required.”

As I stated in my September article, Where Does The Money Go? "San Francisco's FY 2016–2017 fiscal budget just increased by $700 million, to $9.6 billion. A million here, a million there and now we're talking 'real' money. What's the difference in the City by the Bay? If passed, the City budget will have grown by 41% since FY 2010 –2011. San Francisco's annual budget is already larger than the budgets of 20 states."

Mayor Lee has been spending City money like a drunken sailor since he was appointed by the Board of Supervisors on January 11, 2011 to serve out the remainder of former Mayor Gavin Newsom's second term, and assumed his predecessor's final budget.

Lee's financial guidance was provided to him by high-tech companies, former San Francisco politicians, Rose Pak, and a sundry of other current professional politicians, lobbyists, developers, foreign entrepreneurs, and SPUR.

The people's job is to pay, not get in the way. Subsequently, advice from citizens has little value. If someone did ask an average citizen if it would be wise to increase the San Francisco budget by $700 million in one year — $58.33 million monthly — they probably would say "No."

People who live within their means typically don't run up their credit card bills an extra $25,000 a month. Why should City government run up an extra $58 million monthly?

Where's the Beef?

San Francisco revenue generation is constrained by requirements of California's 1997 Proposition 218 to generate new taxes.

In order to impose or increase a tax, local governments must comply with the following provisions:

• All general taxes must be approved by a simple (50%+1) majority vote of the people. General taxes go into the general fund.

• Elections for general taxes must be consolidated with a regularly-scheduled election for members of the local governing body, in our case for Board of Supervisors and other elected officials' elections.

• Any tax imposed for a specific purpose is a "special tax," even if its funds are placed into the community's General Fund. Proposition 218 defines a special benefit as a particular benefit to land and buildings, not a general benefit to the public or a general increase in property values. If a project or service would not provide such a special benefit.

The City has been trying to bypass Proposition 218 "special tax" requirements by passing (50%+1) general taxes, and then taking the money that goes into San Francisco's General Fund by earmarking the money as dedicated set-asides designated for a specific purpose.

In last November's general election, Mayor Lee and Supervisor Mark Farrell wanted to increase San Francisco's sales tax by using a general tax (50%+1) by passing Proposition K. Proposition K would have increased the City's sales taxes from 8.75% to 9.25%, and would have generated revenue of $150 million annually. Voters overwhelming voted "No" on Proposition K by 65.29% and the Proposition was roundly defeated.

A Sleight of Hand

The City creatively tried a sleight of hand: Supervisor Mark Farrell also tried to fund Proposition J, another (50%+1) budget set-aside last November tied to passage of the Mayor's General Fund sales tax which read, "Shall the City amend the Charter to create a Homeless Housing and Services Fund, which would provide services to the homeless including housing and Navigation Centers, programs to prevent homelessness and assistance in transitioning out of homelessness by allocating $50 million per year for 24 years, adjusted annually; and create a Transportation Improvement Fund, which would be used to improve the City's transportation network by allocating $101.6 million per year for 24 years, adjusted annually?"

Proposition J passed by 67.17% of the vote.

Please note that Farrell's Proposition J budget set-aside would have cost $151.6 million per year, while the Mayor's and Farrell's failed Prop K sales tax increase would have generated approximately $150 million annually.

Proposition J would have created a set-aside in the General Fund that would appropriate $101.6 million per year for transportation and another annual set-aside of $50 million for homelessness. Both propositions — "J" as a set-aside, and "K" as a sales tax — were for very "specific purposes" and should never have been placed on the ballot as General taxes.

Combined, they were effectively a tax dedicated to a specific purpose, but the pair of propositions were tied together in a way both could be snuck into law with a 50%+1 majority vote, instead of a two-thirds (66.6%) vote! Indeed, the Prop K sales tax increase was the second half of an end-run around the two-thirds voter requirement for taxes that go to named, specific purposes. The City knowingly violated Proposition 218 guidelines by trying to make both thresholds low enough to succeed in passing propositions J and K.

This is not the first time that Supervisor Farrell and the City have placed set-asides on the ballot that were contrary to Proposition 218 and other existing San Francisco laws.

The City's 2008 Proposition S made it a City policy that local ballot measures authorizing new set-asides or spending mandates must identify a new source of funding. It also made it City policy that the voters cannot approve a new set-aside with a cost-of-living adjustment or other annual increase of more than 2%. Additionally, according to the terms of Proposition S, any new or extended set-aside proposed in a local ballot measure must automatically expire 10 years after it goes into effect.

In the June 7, 2016 election, Farrell — a future mayoral candidate — helped pass Proposition B, a Charter amendment providing funding for parks, recreation, and open space. Proposition B — billed as a 50%+1 ballot measure — created a $4.5 billion, 30-year set-aside that was not attached to any revenue stream. The money comes straight out of San Francisco's General Fund, another violation of the City's Prop S set-aside law.

City Controller Ben Rosenfield noted regarding Proposition B, "This proposed amendment is not in compliance with a non-binding, voter-adopted City policy regarding set-asides. The policy seeks to limit set-asides which reduce General Fund dollars that could otherwise be allocated by the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors in the annual budget process."

Further, Rosenfield stated "Should the proposed Charter amendment be approved by the voters, in my opinion, it would have a significant impact on the cost of government."

Rosenfield also stated "The proposed amendment would create a new baseline funding requirement for parks, recreation, and open space that would grow over time. These funds are currently part of the City's General Fund discretionary revenues, available for any public purpose. As funds are shifted to meet the proposed baseline established in the amendment, other City spending would have to be reduced or new revenues identified to maintain current City service levels."

Fooling the Public?

The City continues to believe that it can financially fool the public via sleight-of-hand.

In a December 8, 2016 letter to President of the Board of Supervisors London Breed, Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee Supervisor Mark Farrell, and City Controller Ben Rosenfield, the Mayor stated, "As noted in my early termination letter for Proposition J dated November 10, 2016, I made the difficult decision to cancel the set-asides for homelessness and transportation that were included in my balanced budget on June 1, 2016. The voters did not approve Proposition K, a sales tax increase that would have paid for the increased spending, which is why this rebalancing plan is required."

The SFMTA will now only receive a $3 million increase annually, when it had originally asked for a $100 million annual increase.

The Mayor went on to state, "I want to thank you, Chair Farrell, for your leadership on this issue and helping establishing this new homeless department through the budget process this year."

The Mayor will now be trying to decrease the City budget by 3% in FY 2017–2018 and another 3% decrease in FY 2018–2019 through June 30, 2019. He should be trying to decrease the budget by over 10% annually, but can't due to drastic over-hiring of City employees and increased City employer-share of contributions to the City employees' pension fund.

While the Mayor claims there is a looming $431 million pension shortfall — over several upcoming decades — driven by pension increases, longer life expectancy of retired City employees, and lower-than-expected returns on pension portfolio investments that has the potential to increase City pension obligations, that's only part of the problem. He's totally ignoring the bloat in City government hiring caused during his tenure as Mayor. He needs to turn inward and examine truthfully his own culpability of year-in and year-out increases to the City's on-going payroll!

Patrick Monette-Shaw's article in this edition of the Westside Observer notes that of the $665.7 million annual payroll increase to the City budget since Lee took office, fully 79% ($525.2 million) is attributable to the additional 3,178 City employees who earn over $100,000 annually Mayor Lee has added to the City budget. Their pension costs are a large part of overall increased pension-related costs, but that pales in comparison to the payroll bloat of 6,414 additional full- and part-time employees Lee has added since becoming mayor.

Donald Trump, our new President, is threatening to cut federal funding to any city having a Sanctuary City policy to not aid federal immigration agents. San Francisco receives about $1 billion annually from the federal government. When push comes to shove, we'll see what happens to San Francisco's Sanctuary City policy, and whether the Mayor caves in to Donald Trump.

The good financial times for Mayor Lee and company may be coming to an end. As proven by Proposition K, San Francisco citizens are at a financial breaking point, and no longer want to fund a bloated, ineffective government. As Monette-Shaw notes, it is long past time Mayor Lee's hiring binge be fully audited.

The cost of San Francisco's infrastructure is causing people to leave the City because we are no longer receiving value for the high taxes that we pay.

San Francisco has to start working on reasonable budgets with ballot propositions that follow the letter of the law.

As Mayor Lee says, "It is important to underscore that we are not in the midst of a recession. We are not cutting services or laying employees off. We do, however, need to make responsible decisions and remain disciplined with our City's budget as we prepare for the expected yet uncertain changes at the federal level with new administration in Washington D.C."

San Francisco will have a $100 million budget deficit beginning in FY 2017–2018 set to begin July 1, 2017 and an additional $286 million budget deficit in FY 2018–2019 beginning July 1, 2018 — for a total of nearly $400 million. In the midst of plenty, these budget deficits are ridiculous.

The Mayor ended his Rebalancing Plan memo by saying, "Thank you to all the members of the Board of Supervisors, community groups, and departments that I heard from during this rebalancing process. Your input has been critical, and I am proud of the balanced and thoughtful approach we have taken that embraces true San Francisco values. We are always stronger when we stand as one, and I look forward to working with the current and new members of the Board of Supervisors in the coming months."

None are so blind as those who will not see. Is our Mayor the blindest of them all?

Will you be the next one forced to move out of San Francisco?

George Wooding Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods; contact: wooding@westsideobserver.com

February 2017

Westside Wins the Clean & Tidy War, but Watch Your Step

It’s official: Supervisorial District’s 7 and 4 have less human feces, hypodermic syringes, broken glass, graffiti, and homeless people than any other supervisorial districts in San Francisco. The Westside is not free of — but at least has fewer complaints than other supervisorial districts have — feces and syringe complaints. Indeed, District 7 saw a massive spike in the number of service calls involving human waste in the past year, so we need to keep watching where we step!

population has grown by nearly 8% since 2010, adding more than 60,000 residents to reach a total of 866,583 as of Jan ‘16. About 136,000 new jobs have been created in the City over the past five years — an increase of 24.8% between Dec’10 and ‘15, and more than 1,234,000 people fill San Francisco during daytime work hours.”

On October 25, the 2016 Street and Sidewalk Maintenance Standards Report (SSMS) report was issued. By law, the SSMS report must be issued every two years. Among other things, the report records the level of feces, broken glass, graffiti, and syringes by supervisorial district.

The City Services Auditor (CSA) charter amendment — created by Proposition C on the November 2003 ballot — requires that the Controller’s Office and Department of Public Works (DPW) develop and implement standards for street and sidewalk maintenance and that the CSA issue an annual report of the City’s performance under the standards. The current report provides an overview of the standards, highlights the results of evaluations and includes recommendations to improve work in these areas.

According to the 2015–16 report our, “population has grown by nearly 8% since 2010, adding more than 60,000 residents to reach a total of 866,583 as of Jan ‘16. About 136,000 new jobs have been created in the City over the past five years — an increase of 24.8% between Dec’10 and ‘15, and more than 1,234,000 people fill San Francisco during daytime work hours.”

Additionally, “This continued growth…places additional demands on the City’s service systems. Public service requests submitted to the City’s 3–1–1 Customer Service Center increased significantly in recent years, growing by 25% in FY 2015-16 and reaching an average of 34,480 requests per month. The City collected more than 24,000 tons of loose garbage and abandoned items in FY 2015-16, an increase of 7.8% over FY 2014-15, and more total weight than any year since FY 2009-10.”

Sadly, many of the areas in the City that have the highest amounts of complaints involving feces and hypodermic needles correlate directly with the highest amounts of homelessness. The San Francisco Homeless Point-In-Time Count (p. 2) shows that District 7 had only 19 homeless people in ‘13 and 29 homeless people in ‘15, while District 4 had 136 homeless people in ‘13 and only 7 homeless people in ‘15. In 2015, 6,686 homeless individuals were found to be living in the City, up slightly from 6,436 homeless people in 2013. District 7 and District 4 each had less than 1% of the total homeless population.

Human Waste: Watch your step in Supervisorial District 6! Data from 3–1–1 call reports shows service requests related to human waste increased across all Supervisorial Districts in San Francisco in FY 2015–16 at a rate well above the average growth in overall 3–1–1 use. District 6 had far more service requests related to human waste than any other district — three-times as many as the next highest count in District 9 — and nearly 30% more requests compared to FY 2014–15. This change appears to be driven mostly by additional reports along Market, south of 8th Street between Mission and Howard, and the area south of Hayes Valley between South Van Ness and the Central Freeway/Octavia.

Sadly, District 7 experienced a 67% increase in 3–1–1 service calls involving reports of human waste, surging from 90 reports in FY 2014–15 to 150 reports in FY 2015-16. Citywide, reports involving human waste soared 39% — 4,274 more reports — increasing from 11,058 in FY 2014–15 to 15,332 in FY 2015-16!

Needles: Citywide, 3–1–1 reports of hypodermic needles increased by 40% in FY 2015-16, reaching a total of 3,551 service requests, after monthly reports reached an all-time high of 396 in May 2016. That year-over-year increase is well above the average growth in overall 3–1–1 use. Internal counts of needles collected by DPPW “Hot Spot” crews also increased nearly 40% , from roughly 16,000 to 22,300.

There were fewer 3–1–1 reports of needles in District 7 and District 1, but those were offset by significant year-over-year increases in District 6, 9, and 10. Reports of needles were heavily concentrated in District 6 and 9, though nearby areas were also affected, including the Castro, Hayes Valley, Civic Center, and Potrero Hill neighborhoods. Several areas included exceptionally concentrated clusters of reports of needles between FY 2014–15 and 2015–16, particularly in District 6 that saw a 49% increase to 1,653 calls to 3–1–1, and in District 9 that saw a 45% increase to 752 calls. District 7 saw a 39% drop in the number of needles and syringes to just 14, from FY 2014–15. District 4 had a 58% increase, from 12 to 19. Citywide, there was a 41% increase, with an additional 1,024 calls (from 2,527 calls in between FY 2014–15 to 3,551 calls in FY 2015–16).

Broken Glass: Average 3–1–1 calls involving broken glass generally increased in FY 2015–16. However, reports of broken glass citywide increased by 24% in FY 2015–16, driven by large increases in District 3, 6, and 9. District 8 appeared to decrease slightly, reporting 206 instances in FY 2015–16 compared to 233.

Once again, District 7 and 4 have the lowest rates involving broken glass. Much of the broken glass comes auto break-ins.

The rampant looting of autos soared last year, with break-ins jumping 31% from 2014, nearly tripling since 2010, according to the Police Department —certain to inflame a growing debate.

The City took 25,899 reports of car break-ins in 2015, or more than 70 per day, in an epidemic centered in the downtown area that has left pavements littered with broken glass.

Graffiti: Up 21% citywide, with a particularly high jump (76%) in District 3, largely driven by a 170% increase in Chinatown. District 7 had a small, 14% decline in graffiti.

In a clever legal maneuver, the City Attorney’s Office is asking the Courts to allow it to sue for damages to pay for graffiti cleanup. It makes for some odd phrasing when the court complaint filing says, “Plaintiff is … the owner of real personal property in San Francisco, consisting of City Hall,” as if the single block City Hall sits on is the only area of the City experiencing the same problem the other 10 supervisorial districts face on a daily basis. One question for City Attorney Dennis Herrera is: Why weren’t those other neighborhoods included as plaintiffs in the City’s lawsuit and also allowed to sue for damages?

Homeowners in District 7 and District 4 are some of the luckiest people in San Francisco. Things can only get better if we keep maintaining our neighborhoods and are kind to one another.

Editor: Data in this article will be posted on the Westside Observer’s web site, along with links to the two City reports.

George Wooding, Coalition For San Francisco Neighborhoods; contact: wooding@westsideobserver.com>

December 2016/ January 2017

Midtown Terrace Rezoned to RH-1(D)

The Midtown Terrace Homeowners Association and District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee just defeated a deceptive rezoning maneuver initiated by District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener. Midtown Terrace has been rezoned as a RH-1(D) (Residential Housing, 1 Unit Detached) neighborhood!

RH-1 zoning allows in-law units — also known as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) — to be built in RH-1 zoned areas, but not in RH-1(D) zoned areas. Wiener’s amendment attempted creating a hybrid RH-1(D) neighborhood that allowed ADU’s in Midtown Terrace, if the neighborhood were rezoned to RH-1(D).

Introducing amendments to legislation shortly before hearings begin is nothing new to Wiener, as if he’s condemned to repeat history through forgetfulness.”

An ADU is an “additional, self-contained dwelling unit located within the same lot as an existing residential building.” They’re often located in converted garages or in backyards as a separate structure. It is estimated that there are anywhere between 30,000 and 40,000 ADU’s in San Francisco — all built without obtaining the required permits.

Midtown Terrace residents were only trying to amend their neighborhood’s current RH-1 (Residential Housing, 1 Unit) zoning to RH-1(D) (Residential Housing, 1 Unit Detached) zoning to preserve neighborhood lot lines.

SF Youth Guidance Center building in lower left. Twin Peaks on right, February 1959. - San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

Midtown Terrace meets all of the criteria for RH-1(D) zoning. There is only one dwelling per lot. The lot width is 33 feet, with a lot area of 4,000 square feet.

Fifteen minutes before the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Transportation (LUT) Committee hearing began on September 19, 2016 Wiener ambushed Supervisor Yee and Midtown Terrace neighbors by trying to amend the proposed RH-1(D) housing legislation.

A Snake Eats Its Own Tail

A slight digression to history: Introducing amendments to legislation shortly before hearings begin is nothing new to Wiener, as if he’s condemned to repeat history through forgetfulness.

During the Land Use Committee’s May 24, 2011 hearing, then-Supervisor David Chiu introduced 14 pages of amendments to the Parkmerced Development Agreement without notice on the meeting agenda of the amendments. Introducing the amendments during the hearing deprived Land Use Committee members, Parkmerced residents, and the general public of knowing the contents of the amendments. Although Land Use Committee member Eric Mar noted the amendments violated the Sunshine Ordinance because they weren’t noticed on the meeting’s agenda, he was outvoted by Supervisors Chiu, Wiener, and Malia Cohen. The amendments were approved without continuing the item to a future LUT hearing, and forwarded to the full Board.

As a result, the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force ruled September 27, 2011 on Sunshine Complaint 11048 that Supervisors Chiu, Wiener, and Cohen (but not Mar) had violated Sunshine Ordinance §67.7(b), and referred the complaint to the Ethics Commission for willful failure and official misconduct. Wiener wasn’t pleased at having been found engaging in official misconduct.

Wiener’s Midtown Terrace Fiasco

Back to the LUT hearing on September 19, 2016: Wiener was upset because 820 homes in Midtown Terrace were about to be “downsized.” Quirky but true, Wiener and the Planning Department believe that the lack of in-law units and/or ADU’s will reduce Midtown Terraces’ housing density. Thus, the false claim that Midtown Terrace would be “downsized.”

Apparently, Wiener forgot about not introducing amendments during a hearing! Wiener’s September 2016 amendment was nonsensical, because the Midtown Terrace rezoning was about building homes out to lot lines, not about building ADU’s. The rezoning of Midtown Terrace had absolutely nothing to do with ADU’s.

As Supervisor Yee stated, “The Midtown Terrace Home Owners Association worked for over a year on a community-driven process to correct the Planning Code. They went door-to-door, collected petitions, held a number of community meetings, and met with City staff multiple times before moving forward with the rezoning request. It was clear that the Planning Code was wrong and should be fixed, and I was so impressed by the level of engagement from the residents. That is why I was so disappointed when Supervisor Wiener and special interest groups decided to introduce an amendment at the eleventh hour to call for Midtown Terrace to be the only RH-1(D) area to allow in-law units.”

We were hoping for a 6–5 vote at the full Board, but were very surprised when the first reading vote was 9–1(one absent), with only Supervisor Weiner wanting an amendment to include ADU’s (Additional Dwelling Units) included in our neighborhood.”

Yee added, “There was no outreach or discussion. It was disrespectful to the neighborhood and to the process that we had undertaken. Ultimately, I urged my colleagues to reject the amendment and push our original proposal forward on behalf of Midtown Terrace residents. The residents asked us as City leaders to fix the zoning to reflect what exists now: Single residential detached homes. They never asked us to decide whether or not to legalize in-law units. Ultimately, the voices of the neighborhood prevailed.”

On April 8, 2014 former District 3 Supervisor David Chiu’s legislation “Legalization of Dwelling Units” was passed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors. His legislation amended the Planning and Building Codes to provide a process for granting legal status to existing accessory dwelling units constructed without the required permits, temporarily suspending the code enforcement process for units in the process of receiving legal status. Readers may recall my December 2013 Westside Observer article, “Here Come Da In-Laws” reporting on Chiu’s effort to rezone all San Francisco neighborhoods to legalize ADU’s.

The board voted 8–2 in April 2014 to let property owners voluntarily apply to legalize units built before January 1, 2013. The vote came after more than 90 minutes of debate and several attempts by D7 Supervisor Norman Yee to weaken then-Board President David Chiu’s legislation.

Yee, whose district includes Midtown Terrace, said “[Chiu’s] legislation unfairly gives property owners who have broken the law an opportunity to make more money and could have the unintended consequence of driving up rents and encouraging real estate speculation.”

Yee also asked to exempt areas of The City zoned solely for single-family homes, swaths largely in his district, and proposed making it a limited pilot project. Both of Yee’s amendments in 2014 failed.

The big secret? Citywide, ADU programs have been an absolute failure ever since!

On April 16, 2014 Supervisor Wiener passed legislation legalizing ADU’s in District 8, which includes the Castro and Noe Valley. Subsequently, Julie Christensen followed suit in 2015 for District 3, which includes Chinatown and North Beach. To date, no ADU’s have been built in either district.

According to Betty Lee, a permit technician for the Department of Building Inspection, only 61 homeowners have legalized their illegal ADU’s under Chui’s legislation. People aren’t stupid. Chiu wanted property owners to rebuild ADU’s to code, but not allow passing any of the costs on to tenants. Rented ADU’s may become rent controlled. Property taxes for Chui’s ADU’s could be charged at current rates.

Respecting Community Participation

Midtown Terrace resident Joe Humphreys states, “Preserving neighborhood character is a major goal of the Planning Code. The Midtown Terrace neighborhood is characterized by openness with modest-sized detached homes nestled into the contours of Twin Peaks. But it was mistakenly zoned for attached, rather than detached houses.”

Humphreys added, “With the recent trend of squeezing large houses onto relatively small lots, that zoning error posed a threat to maintaining the open character of Midtown Terrace. Homeowners undertook a year-long-plus effort of conversations, meetings, petition-gathering, and posting website information. Working with their homeowners’ association and district supervisor, they navigated the legislative process to correct the zoning error.”

Midtown residents Joyce Mordenti and James Pohl stated, “The character of Midtown Terrace — individual, detached homes with green belts, side yards, and trees — will be preserved with the zoning correction of our neighborhood.”

David McAdams, a Midtown Terrace project leader added, “Our group canvassed the neighborhood door to door over several months collecting hundreds of signatures in support of the rezone. We also raised the issue at numerous HOA-sponsored neighborhood events and publicized it via an informative presentation on the neighborhood’s website. Once we had amassed sufficient support, Supervisor Yee’s office assisted by drafting legislation to implement the rezone. The legislation was passed unanimously on August 11 at the Planning Commission on first hearing.”

McAdams continued, “It was then heard by the Land Use Committee, which forwarded it to the full Board of Supervisors, without a recommendation regarding approval. Despite considerable discussion regarding the affects of the rezone on ADU’s, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the legislation. We are grateful to Supervisor Yee’s office for his support, and we are thrilled to have successfully corrected Midtown Terrace’s zoning. RH-1(D) zoning is appropriate to the existing character of our neighborhood, and will protect that character for many years to come.”

Midtown Terrace President Rick Johnson said, “When the time came and the legislation was introduced by Supervisor Yee, many of us spoke at the Board’s Land Use Committee. The legislation passed 3–0. We were hoping for a 6–5 vote at the full Board, but were very surprised when the first reading vote was 9–1 (one absent), with only Supervisor Weiner wanting an amendment to include ADU’s (Additional Dwelling Units) included in our neighborhood. It would be the only RH-1(D) neighborhood with such a restriction.”

Johnson observed, “First, we were shocked at the 9–1 vote, and then when Supervisor Weiner’s amendment was defeated, the legislation finally passed on second reading on October 14, 2016 by a vote of 11–0. To say that we were thrilled is an understatement. The Board of Supervisors comments about respecting community participation indicated that was paramount in their decision.” The tireless work of Roger Ritter, president of the West of Twin Peaks Central Council, on behalf of Midtown Terrace’s rezoning should also be noted. Ritter was there when the neighborhood needed him!”

Many attempts were made to contact Supervisor Wiener for comment for this article. Wiener failed to respond. Ultimately Wiener voted for Midtown Terrace’s rezoning to RH-1(D) and against his own amendment. Apparently, eating snake tails isn’t so tasty.

Congratulations to Midtown Terrace, a RH-1(D) neighborhood that now has the zoning ability to protect its neighborhood lot lines!

George Wooding, Midtown Terrace Home Owners Association; contact: wooding@westsideobserver.com

November 2016

Chopping Down George Washington

Grant Wood • Parson Weems Fable • Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, TX

 

Some things are so idiotic that when you hear about them you have to shake your head in disbelief.

On September 4, Matt Haney, president of the San Francisco Board of Education for the San Francisco United School District (SFUSD), posted on Facebook and Twitter a controversial proposal to change the names of schools named after slave owners in our City, including George Washington High School.

According to the September 6 San Francisco Examiner, Haney stated, "Maya Angelou went to George Washington High School in San Francisco. But she was kicked out because she became pregnant, an experience she writes about in her autobiography 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.' I think we should rename the school after her."

George Washington, the "Father of our country," had a cherry tree, while Haney "the arbitrator of political correctness," needs a fig leaf.”

The SFUSD has at least four schools named after historical figures: George Washington High School, Jefferson Elementary School, Monroe Elementary School, and Francis Scott Key Elementary School, each of whom owned slaves.

The reactions against Haney's posts were swift, and so negative that he had to reset his social media settings to "private." Haney also received physical threats.

George Washington, the "Father of our country," had a cherry tree, while Haney "the arbitrator of political correctness," needs a fig leaf.

Apparently, Haney wants to remove the names of dead white men who owned slaves, or had problematic histories, regardless of their historical stature.

While Haney is busy chopping down historical names, he might want to consider taking an axe to the names of 241 townships in the U.S.; the state of Washington; the city named Washington, DC; seven mountains; eight streams; 10 lakes; 33 counties; nine colleges (including Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky; George Washington University in Washington, D.C.; Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania; Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri; and Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia); the George Washington Bridge, crossing the Hudson River; Washington Square Park, New York City; Washington Square Park, San Francisco; and the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Washington, D.C.

In Haney's politically correct, albeit myopic, world view perhaps we should take an axe and chop down the Washington Monument on the National Mall — among the capitol's most-visited monuments — simply because it looks too phallic.

Taking Haney's political correctness to the next logical step, should San Francisco rename Washington Street to erase George's name from our thoroughfares? Should we also rename Polk Street and the Polk Gulch area, since it was named after the United States' 11th president, James K. Polk, who also owned slaves?

There are 188 K – 12th grade schools around the nation that are named after President Washington. Will Haney go on a nationwide rant to rename them all?

Since Haney is a 33–year-old, living, white male, he might want to check his own lineage over the last 300 years to see if it would be appropriate for him to stay on the school board.

Haney's remarks are another "only in San Francisco moment" where political correctness is rewarded more than running schools and teaching students. Perhaps Haney should receive a "participation" award, since there are no winners or losers in this pathetic drama, only participants.

The President of the SFUSD's School Board's narrow focus on historical facts also begs the seminal question: What are our public school children being taught? Which "politically correct" criteria will Haney use to change school names?

History professors know that both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were opposed to the concept of slavery. Maybe it is time for Haney go back to school to learn some history.

On the other hand, who knows what revisionist history SFUSD schools are already teaching our children. Perhaps in the SFUSD system, George Washington was already being painted as only an evil slave owner who rode around on his horse whipping his slaves. Maybe two plus two does equal five, because close enough is good enough in San Francisco public schools.

Does Haney plan to use his axe to excise from history books the story of Washington chopping down a cherry tree?

As the myth has it, when confronted by his father about a damaged cherry tree, six-year old George Washington said "I cannot tell a lie, I did cut it with my hatchet." It's a story about the value of honesty that parents have used for generations to teach morality to school children. As one scholar said, "The cherry tree myth has endured for more than two hundred years probably because we like the story, which has become an important part of Americans' cultural heritage."

Is it time to put a "politically correct" message like "get rid of your car" on the one-dollar bill (Washington did not own a car)? Make the Washington Monument a symbol of love, and maybe we can even erase or replace George Washington's face on Mt. Rushmore.

Matt Haney is running for re-election to the School Board in the November 8 election. Please do not vote for him. San Franciscans and their children do not need his myopic brand of political correctness. They need a good education.

William R. Whitmer, nicknamed "Mr. Bill" by parents and colleagues, an early childhood teacher, principal, and union member for 44 years states, "San Francisco's Board of Education is a failed institution. The term 'World Class School District' is a joke, given that San Francisco schools compared almost equal to Mississippi School Districts for the bottom educational rank in the United States."

Whitmer further states, "Being elected to the Board of Education is a proven path toward a political future in San Francisco. Few Board members know much about education. When elected, they don't do their duty. I only know of one Board member that returns calls or e-mails. The Board members are out of touch with daily life in the schools. Principals warn staff and polish a school site before a Board member's arrival."

Whitmer's point of view may help explain Haney's pomposity.

The November 8 general election will feature Proposition A, the school bond. Unlike other bonds which need 66.6% of the vote to pass, San Francisco school bonds need to be approved by only 55% of voters. The School District can add bonds to the ballot whenever they want to, and aren't accountable to the City or to anyone else.

Although the Proposition A bond will cost $744,250 million and $1.2 billion with interest payments, the Proposition A bond will probably pass easily. The district says it will spend a majority of the bond funds — approximately $409 million — on building construction and renovations.

Every property in San Francisco will pay an annual property tax of $25.00 per one-hundred-thousand in assessed value —approximately $250 per year. Due to assessments, some years citizens will pay over $300 annually.

The potential changes besides basic maintenance will be $100 million to move the Ruth Azawa School of the Arts to Van Ness Avenue, and to build two new high schools in unnamed locations in Mission Bay and the Bayview. Here's a revolutionary idea for Haney to mull over with his cherry tree hatchet: Rather than renaming George Washington High School, why not name one of the two new schools after Maya Angelou?

Bond funding will also be used to pay the salaries of employees that are involved with the bond.

All of this bond money will be issued by the current Board of Education. The Board will determine how this money will be spent, where it will be spent, and what it will be spent on. The bond resolution is signed off by Board of Education Matt Haney.

Please vote "Yes" on the school bond. And since I can't tell a lie: Vote a big "No" for Matt Haney.

George Wooding, Midtown Terrace Home Owners Association, contact: wooding@westsideobserver.com

October 2016

D-7 Supervisorial Candidate Questionnaire

Choose Your D-7 Board of Supervisors Favorite

This may be a sneaky way to choose your new District 7 Supervisor. The Westside Observer conducted a similar blind survey four years ago, which was an eye-opener for many of our readers.

Despite your current candidate preferences — between candidates Norman Yee (our incumbent Supervisor), Benjamin Matranga, Mike Young, Joel Engardio, or John Farrell — this survey may cause you to select another District 7 candidate instead of your current favorite.

All of the District 7 Board of Supervisor candidates were asked identical questions. Responses to each question were limited to a maximum of 60 words. Candidates were not allowed to answer questions in a way that would allow readers to guess who they were.

No candidate's answer was edited or changed in any way, unless they inadvertently identified who they were. Only two responses by one candidate were edited to remove identifying information. Each candidate was assigned an alphabetical letter (A to E). The candidates keep the same letter throughout the questionnaire.

At the end of the questionnaire, you will be asked to pick your preferred candidate by selecting in order the alphabetical letter(s) of candidate responses that you liked the most.

Responses to Questionnaire

1. How will you reduce the increasing amount of crime in District 7 without increasing the cost of police protection?

A. Build a stronger relationship between police and residents via community forums, neighborhood watch groups, businesses, and schools. Promote education on crime prevention and safety. Utilize existing programs to support police and provide them with the equipment and training needed to do their jo B. Increase police patrolling. Offenders (especially high risk and repeat criminals) must be taken off the streets.

B. Increased and better police presence in the neighborhoods and for SFPD to prioritize beat patrol for officers. Would encourage a stronger relationship between police officers and business owners and residents. I would form a taskforce consisting of individuals from police personnel to community members and policy makers to create a police staffing plan for the future based on best practices.

C. When property crime is up, more police protection is worth the cost. Let's make sure we have enough police officers on patrol and look to other areas of the budget to make cuts. Years of low crime justified less police presence on the west side, but now it's time to prioritize the level of protection District 7 needs and deserves.

D. Demand the District Attorney prosecute crimes as felonies instead of misdemeanors when the option is available. Vehicle burglaries are less common in Daly City since Daly City prosecutes and punishes these crimes as felonies whereas San Francisco prefers to prosecute them as misdemeanors. We can and should do better.

E. Public safety is my top priority. I will fight to ensure San Francisco hires enough police officers to stop this neighborhood crime wave. I will fight to ensure that our officers have the right tools, training and equipment they need, including Tasers. I am proud to have worked with and earned the support of our City's public safety workers---Police Officers and Fire Fighters.

2. The San Francisco Natural Areas Program (NAP) plans on cutting thousands of non-native trees in the City and replacing them with native trees — mostly saplings. What are your thoughts on this?

A. I am against it. Over time our native trees have adapted alongside non-native ones and cutting them down now will affect the current ecosystem and its habitat. This is an unnecessary expense that wastes funds that could be otherwise used to provide essential City services and programs such as affordable housing, transportation, and family issues.

B. The NAP sets a very dangerous precedent for San Francisco and I am deeply concerned with the clear cutting of trees. We need a plan that removes dead and dying trees to keep our residents safe. This plan is a clear example of a long process that doesn't reflect the feedback that was received and results in very problematic recommendations.

C. If a tree is in danger of falling, cut it down. But NAP doesn't make sense. At what point in time is "native" defined? Go back far enough and everything was sand. It's also irresponsible to spend money on an evolutionary experiment in our parks when we have failing playgrounds. Recreation for people and pets should be the priority in city parks.

D. When practicable, we should live according to our environment's natural demands rather than work against it. A SLOW, gradual replacement of non-native species will preserve our city's aesthetics as we congruently return to our environment's natural state. Remember that, the 1991 Oakland Hills firestorm was exacerbated by non-native, Eucalyptus trees whose oils fed the inferno that destroyed 3,000 homes.

E. I would like to learn more about the current state of the ecological health in our significant natural areas. Funding for important environmental stewardship must be provided to protect and preserve our parks. As our population grows, the uses of these facilities becomes much more frequent and we must ensure that all users benefit from our parks system.

3. How do you intend to increase affordable housing and middle-income housing in District 7?

A. I will identity overlooked revenue sources, hold City departments accountable, cut waste, and allocate funds to build housing. Support increasing height limits in commercial districts to build more affordable and middle-income housing. Allow legalization of in-law units, as long as they are up to code. Many already exist and provide housing without changing neighborhood aesthetics. Support expediting the permit/appeals process.

B. I don't believe in a one­size fits all approach to affordable housing. I want to see a significant investment in our down payment assistance loan program for first time home buyers allowing young families to get support from the city when purchasing a home. I strongly support at least 50% affordable and middle­income housing for the Balboa Reservoir housing development.

C. We can preserve single-family neighborhoods while helping families stay in San Francisco. With community input, let's build middle-income housing above retail stores along Muni lines. The new homeowners will revitalize commercial districts by demanding more amenities and we'll create housing for our kids. Seniors looking to downsize can consider an elevator building nearby and stay in the neighborhood they call home.

D. Before we build new housing at Stonestown and Balboa Reservoir, we need an honest conversation about the limits of affordable housing mandates without government subsidies. Private financing can only fund so much before going out of business; we would have to commit government resources to meet the remaining demand for affordable and middle-income housing.

E. My friends I grew up with can no longer afford to raise their families in the City where they were born. The basic bargain used to be that if you worked hard, your children and their children could look forward to a better life based on hard work and opportunity. Today, that compact is threatened by the increasing cost of living and lack of responsiveness at City Hall.

4. What are your top transportation priorities for District 7?

A. Safety, efficiency, and planning for future growth.
Immediately address high injury corridors. Support Vision Zero. Design our streets to better support its traffic (including pedestrian and bicyclists) in a more efficient and safer way. Modernize MUNI, improve reliability, and ensure there are enough vehicles to support the system. Support the undergrounding of the M line and the Ocean Ave Corridor.

B. We need better service. We need more frequency on our bus lines. More reliable vehicle on those same routes. When changes are proposed we need clear and meaningful community involvement. We need to end the war on cars waged by the SFMT A. Finally we need better paratransit services which a lot of our resident use.

C. We must underground the M-line from West Portal to Daly City BART. This will serve new housing at Parkmerced and SFSU with more capacity (four-car instead of two-car trains). We'll have a real, end-to-end subway all the way downtown for a faster commute. This will solve the St. Francis Circle traffic tangle with above-ground trains and improve 19th Ave. congestion.

D. Crossing the metro tracks on 19th, West Portal, and Ocean is a risky adventure for pedestrians and cars. We should underground the metro and free up precious street space to accommodate more pedestrian-friendly thoroughfares and encourage slower vehicular traffi C. Maximize the use of refuge islands, raised surfaces, and traffic calming techniques.

E. I have worked directly to take on the City's transportation challenges and will prioritize pedestrian safety and improve MUNI reliability. At City Hall, I cut red tape and delivered more than 13 miles of street safety improvements on time and under budget. I will fight to make MUNI safer, cleaner and more reliable and reduce traffic congestion.

5. How would you handle District 7's coyote problem?

A. I will support providing necessary funds to the SF Animal Care and Control for their training in handling of this problem as well as educating residents in prevention and safety, and for purchasing hazing instruments needed to condition coyotes to fear people and minimize conflict.

B. The city needs to work with neighborhoods and neighbors to address the problem. The current "leave it alone" mentality is simply unacceptable. People need better information and better options to deal with coyotes. The city needs to work with neighbors to address their concerns and do a much better job at tracking and monitoring coyotes.

C. Just trapping and killing coyotes in District 7 won't work when more will trot over the Golden Gate Bridge from Marin County. We must give San Francisco Animal Care and Control the resources it needs to collaborate with counterpart agencies in other counties to find a scientifically informed, humane and sustainable solution to keep the entire Bay Area safe.

D. I favor "the harder right over the easier wrong". We must re-instill the fear of humans into coyotes by teaching neighbors "hazing" techniques: making loud noises and waving arms when encountering coyotes. This has worked in Denver, Vancouver, and Los Angeles. Killing coyotes is costly, dangerous, and studies show that coyote populations usually bounce back even after aggressive killing campaigns.

E. My campaign has knocked on over 10,000 doors and held nearly 20 house parties all across District 7 listening to neighborhood concerns. I have heard from numerous neighbors regarding an increase in coyote activity including very serious concerns about coyote incidents near our elementary schools. I support funding the Department of Animal Care & Control to have the expertise to fully and appropriately address this issue. This is not currently happening.

6. What are your top three (3) City budget priorities?

A. 1) Identify current revenue sources that have not been addressed. Review revenue practices to ensure all revenue sources are identified. 2) Hold City departments accountable, streamline and cut unnecessary expenditures. 3) Prioritize essential services and programs. Ensure vital City needs are met. Audit non-profit agencies and City contracts to ensure services are provided and necessary.

B. Public Safety, Pedestrian Safety and a fair share for District 7. We need more resource for SFPd. We need more investment to make our streets safer for pedestrians. We need to ensure that District 7 gets its fair share of resource for important capital improvements like sewers and road re-pavement and important programs like child-care and senior centers.

C. The biggest budget threats are the salaries of too many city employees (nearly 30,000!), unfunded liabilities that will balloon and a reliance on "set-asides" that limit accountability. At $9.6 billion, the budget has doubled since 2004. Nothing is twice as good. We need to investigate how our money is being spent, measure for results and only pay for what works.

D. 1) Police: by 2018 we will lose 400 police officers to early retirement. Current academy classes will produce only 200 more officers – we need more classes! 2) Housing: help hard working families avoid low-income status by creating more middle-income housing; this is good for our city's stability; 3) City government hiring freeze until we sort out the swollen city budget.

E. My top three budget priorities are public safety, addressing quality of life concerns, and funding vital services like road repaving, tree maintenance, and graffiti removal. The Board of Supervisors recently passed the largest budget in our City's history — $9.6 billion — yet it is not balanced and relies on tax increases to fund basic services. I will use my experience in finance to root out waste, fraud and abuse to ensure that real fiscal discipline and accountability is prioritized at City Hall.

Heard enough? Please pick your preferred candidate by selecting in order the alphabetical letter(s) of candidate responses that you liked the most. Then compare your preferred responses to the legend of names of D-7 candidates and their corresponding alphabetical letter revealed below after the July/August story.

George Wooding, Westside resident and President, Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods. Feedback: wooding@westsideobserver.com

September 2016

Where Does The Money Go?

Don't vote for "50% plus one" revenue measures or taxes, since the City almost never uses the money collected for the intended purposes.

San Franciscans have to become aware of the difference between ballot measures that are designated to specific projects, versus 50% plus one ballot measures that don't have anything to do with what the ballot proponent promises the public.

Fifty-percent plus one ballot measures are usually used for projects and programs that either failed to be passed as legislation at the Board of Supervisors (BOS), or are so unpopular with the public that they could not attain the two-thirds votes necessary to become either a designated revenue bond or law at the ballot box.”

All, some, or none of the revenue generated by a 50% plus one ballot measures may be used for the cause for which the money was supposed to be used, because the revenue generated goes straight into the General Fund, where it can be used to fund almost anything, and often is.

A designated bond or tax measure needs to receive 66.7% (two-thirds) of the vote to pass. Financial instruments such as bonds and taxes have to be linked to a specific City project. For example, the June 7 Proposition A ballot measure was a $350 million General Obligation Bond measure strictly dedicated for paying specifically for seismic strengthening and betterment of critical community health facilities, mental health facilities, and emergency response facilities.

Fifty-percent plus one ballot measures are usually used for projects and programs that either failed to be passed as legislation at the Board of Supervisors (BOS), or are so unpopular with the public that they could not attain the two-thirds votes necessary to become either a designated revenue bond or law at the ballot box.

The recently passed Proposition B — a Charter amendment designed by District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell, Chairperson of the BOS Budget and Finance Committee, with the help of Phil Ginsburg, General Manager of the Recreation and Parks Department (RPD) — is a great example of how a 50% plus one proposition misrepresented its purpose to the publi C.

Voters were told that RPD has over one billion dollars in deferred maintenance that needed to be fixed. Deferred maintenance is the practice of postponing maintenance activities, such as repairs on both real property, e.g. infrastructure, and personal property, e.g. machinery, in order to save costs, to meet current budget funding levels, or to realign available budget monies.

On Monday, September 28, 2015, District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell spoke before the West of Twin Peaks Central Council and stated, "I am here to talk about a measure to increase funding for our Recreation and Parks system. As a born-and-raised San Franciscan, I spent my summers playing in my neighborhood park. For me, this is very personal. I use our parks as a father now. As our City budget has grown, the Re C. and Parks funding has been stagnant. Our City has been 'densifying.' Our City may grow to as much as a million [residents]. Our parks are being used more heavily than ever. More trash, more wear and tear. Ninety-nine percent of Re C. and Parks' maintenance response is emergency [maintenance]. Less than 1% is preventive maintenance. I am working with the Mayor's office to add $3 million a year to increase funding for these important public institutions."

Under Farrell's 50% plus one Charter amendment, all mention of park maintenance was deliberately deleted and eliminated, so there's no guarantee the deferred maintenance backlog will be addressed with the increased revenue.

Farrell further stated, "I am not a fan of set asides. But when I was shown the statistics about Re C. and Park and see how comparatively the RPD has been hampered as the City budget has grown, it was an alarm bell for how important this is. We pass bonds for new projects but we don't have the budget to maintain them. I'm not a big fan of set-asides. But this is a small growth, only $3 million a year, and there is a lot of accountability built into the proposal. This seems worthwhile."

The passage of Proposition B means that Mark Farrell has now created a $4.5 billion budgetary set-aside over the life of the ballot measure for RPD, one of the largest set-asides in San Francisco history. It is, most certainly, not a "small" amount of money, unless you're a venture capitalist like Farrell, or Ron Conway, or RPD Commissioner Mark Buell, a real estate investor.

Two-thirds of the General fund is used for human and health services. While the RPD budget grows fat on set-asides and fees, City health services may start to shrink, since something will have to give.

The Proposition B budgetary set-aside is simply a baseline funding requirement that directs General Funds be dedicated annually to the RPD in fixed amounts. The RPD set-aside guarantees that the agency will always have available funding and be allowed to issue revenue bonds without public oversight. The RPD also gets to geographically pick and choose where its money will be spent. It is almost certain that the parks surrounding Mark Farrell's neighborhood will be well taken care of, having greased the squeaky wheel.

In the upcoming November election, Mayor Lee is about to dump the mother of all 50% plus one ballot measures on San Franciscans.

San Francisco's FY 2016–2017 fiscal budget just increased by $700 million, to $9.6 billion. A million here, a million there and now we're talking "real" money. What's the difference in the City by the Bay? If passed, the City budget will have grown by 41% since 2010 - 2011. San Francisco's annual budget is already larger than the budgets of 20 states.

The proposed City budget is also based on a sales tax increase from 8.75% to 9.50%. Ignoring for a moment the risky nature of starting out a new fiscal year budget on hoped-for, but not guaranteed, future revenue, the three-quarter percent increase is actually an 8.6% percent net increase. The increase is regressive and will disproportionately hurt low- and middle-income families, and seniors living on fixed incomes, even as San Francisco is facing a massive increase in the number of elderly. As income inequality has surged in San Francisco in recent years, the sales tax increase will contribute to the inequality by shifting the tax burden. Based on San Francisco's median income, each faces an increase of approximately $211 annually in increased sales taxes.

Any sales tax increase will also hurt small businesses disproportionately, as shoppers flock to jurisdictions outside our City limits to save money on sales taxes. You can almost write this on a rock in Golden Gate Park: The proposed sales tax increase is a bad idea, especially for San Francisco's small businesses.

On February 10, 2016 our City Controller released a FY 2015–2016 Six-Month Budget Status Report that shows although $172.9 million had been budgeted for sales tax revenue for the current fiscal year, only $157.9 million had been received, a $15 million shortfall, which may have been due to shoppers fleeing outside the City to save money, or simply less discretionary income to shop at all. An 8.6% increase of the sales tax to 9.5% might yield an additional $14.8 million in sales taxes based on the hoped-for $172.9 million, but not if shoppers go elsewhere, or don't shop at all.

The sales tax increase that will be voted on in the upcoming November election will need just 50% plus one voter approval. The tax will supposedly fund public transportation and homeless services. Nobody is saying what will happen to Mayor Lee's proposed budget if the sales tax measure fails to be passed.

Some of this money will actually go to public transportation and homeless services, but where will the rest go?

Simple math shows each San Franciscan should have received approximately $10,700 in annual benefits. Where does the money go?

These are supposed to be the most prosperous times in our history, yet the City has a projected budget deficit of $86 million for FY 2016–2017 and a $161 million deficit for FY 2017–2018. The combined $244 million deficit is worrisome. The sales tax increase won't help much.

The City's Humpty Dumpty budget is predicated on taxes that may, or may not, pass and an unsustainable rate of growth. Watch out for the upcoming fiscal disaster.

Under the two-year budget proposal submitted by Mayor Lee on Tuesday, May 31 there are no cuts to any City services.

The City's workforce will grow from approximately 30,000 employees to 30,750 employees — a 4.1% increase in employees. But those are fudged numbers that combine several part-time employees into a single "full-time equivalent" known as "FTE's," City Hall's favorite method of disguising the true number of City employees. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2015 the City actually had 39,122 full- and part-time employees. A 4.1% increase of City employees in FY 2016–2017 may potentially add another 1,600 warm bodies to the payroll, pushing the City to 40,722 employees — but that's not including an as-yet unknown number of full- and part-time employees added between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016.

Adding another 1,600 full- and part-time employees to the 5,139 full- and part-time additional employees hired between 2011 and June 2015 during Mayor Lee's tenure would push the total to 6,739 new hires, without counting how many more employees he added during the past fiscal year. Why did or does City government need nearly 7,000 more City employees? How sustainable will those 7,000 jobs be, come another economic meltdown?

Most of the new employees will not even be able to afford to live inside the City, given the $3,600 per month rent for a one-bedroom apartment.

Home prices are skyrocketing as potential buyers are competing with developers and speculators. The property tax on a $1 million house is $18,000 annually, plus parcel taxes, and increasing water revenue bonds.

Perhaps the best example of designated bonds versus a 50% plus one ballot measure is the 2014 sugar-sweetened beverage tax. The 2014 Ordinance, Proposition E, was placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors. It imposed "a tax of two cents per ounce on the distribution of sugar-sweetened beverages, to fund City-operated programs and City grants for active recreation and improving food access, health, and nutrition, and to fund San Francisco Unified School District physical education, after school physical activity, health, or nutritional programs, and school lunch and other nutritional programs."

Proposition E received 55.59% "Yes" votes, but did not reach the designated ballot measure level of 66.7% to pass. It failed, rejected by voters.

Now, Supervisor Malia Cohen will be introducing a 50% plus one measure that will impose a tax of one cent per ounce for sugar-sweetened beverages. All of the taxes collected will go into the City's General Fund.

All San Franciscans are cheated by 50% plus one ballot measures, since no one knows exactly where or how their tax money is being spent. Additionally, it becomes easier to place the City tax burden on homeowners, since more transient renters are moving into the City in ever greater numbers. Vote "No" on 50% plus one revenue measures.

Ask yourself: "Where does the money go?" Supervisor Farrell, as Chair of the BOS Budget and Finance Committee may know. But it's not likely he'll tell you where it goes.

George Wooding, Midtown Terrace Homeowners

July 2016

Legend of D-7 Supervisorial Candidates

A. John Farrell

B. Norman Yee (Incumbent, D-7 Supervisor)

C. Joel Engardio

D. Mike Young

E. Benjamin Matranga


Make City College Free

District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim is a fierce advocate for saving City College of San Francisco (CCSF). Prior to her election to the Board of Supervisors, Kim served as member, and then president, of the San Francisco Board of Education. Kim is an expert at rehabilitating schools that have problems.

Kim has developed a "Free For Students CCSF Proposal" to help fix the damage caused by CCSF's own bad management of the college, the worse management of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) in California, and the State of Californi A. The ACCJC placed CCSF on "Show Cause," the most severe sanction that can be imposed on an institution short of revoking its accreditation.

For years, CCSF lived on the revenue financials generated by 80,000 to 90,000 students … because of the college's excellent reputation for teaching, student services, job skills, adult education, and/or transfer opportunities to the UC's, CSU's, and other colleges and universities."

In 2014, decisions made by the ACCJC led to a takeover of CCSF and imposition of a special State of California trustee with dictatorial powers over all of CCSF's 11 college sites throughout the City. The appointment of the lone State of California trustee turned out to be a disaster for admissions and faculty.

For years, CCSF lived on the revenue financials generated by 80,000 to 90,000 students, many of whom were immigrants and/or came to CCSF because of the college's excellent reputation for teaching, student services, job skills, adult education, and/or transfer opportunities to the UC's, CSU's, and other colleges and universities.

Most of CCSF's 11 sites are in poor condition, and face serious maintenance and building problems. There is little money, if any, for repair and maintenance. A majority of the properties are owned by City College, and were needed and supported by the 80,000 to 90,000 students. With a drop of 60,000 to 70,000 students over the last decade, 11 sites may no longer be needed

Worse yet, some CCSF sites could be sold to developers.

The fear of lost accreditation by the State had a huge impact on CCSF's enrollment. In 2012 total enrollment was 19,289. In 2013 total enrollment was only 15,288. By February 2016, 32,966 students were attending CCSF — 9,711 full-time students and 23,255 part-time students.

They … attend CCSF as one of the last affordable opportunities to attain higher education, or finish earning a degree, or obtain needed certification for upwards job mobility and opportunities”

Supervisor Kim is proposing placing on the November ballot a measure entitled the "Mansion Tax" that will increase the transfer tax in San Francisco by one-quarter of one percent for all property sales, commercial or residential, valued at $5 million and over, and creating an entirely new bracket of 3% for property sales valued at $25 million and over. This is projected to generate approximately $29 million annually in new General Fund dollars.

Kim's "Robin Hood approach" of taking funds from the wealthy and giving them to CCSF students will work. It is contingent upon new General Fund dollars being generated at a level sufficient to cover the estimated $12.9 million cost of funding CCSF students, with sources such as the City's transfer tax being priority sources of funding.v

Kim's plan would eliminate enrollment fees for all San Francisco residents and workers who work at least half-time in San Francisco. Additionally, her plan would help students whose fees are already covered by financial aid. These students will be eligible for up to $1,000 in grants for educational expenses such as textbooks, transportation, and childcare.

CCSF enrollment currently also includes a $17 Health Fee ($34 per year) and an optional Student Activities Fee ($5/semester, $10/year). These fees could be covered in this proposal as eligible uses for the up to $1,000 in educational support funds for low-income students whose enrollment fees are covered by alternative federal and/or state financial aid.

Kim's proposal will have a major impact on increasing CCSF enrollment since it will support current California Community College enrollment fees ("tuition"). For-credit courses are $46 per unit; students attending full-time for a year (two semesters at 12 units per semester) pay $1,104 annually.

CCSF's 2015-16 Student Expense Budget, or Cost of Attendance report, found that students spend approximately $3,033 per year for education-related costs, not including childcare or room and board: $1,700 for books and supplies, $1,300 for transportation, to be determined for childcare. For these low-income students, educational support up to $1,000 per year would eliminate the need for them to choose between buying food and buying textbooks, or between paying rent and paying transit and childcare costs, to allow them to physically reach and attend classes.

"Many of our low-income commun
-ities have been decimated by the exploding cost of living and housing. They have been displaced out of San Francisco but they still commute to work here and attend CCSF as one of the last affordable opportunities to attain higher education, or finish earning a degree, or obtain needed certification for upwards job mobility and opportunities," Kim says.

Programs that guarantee free college tuition for residents of a community or state are a proven and powerful tool to simultaneously improve high school and college performance among all income and ethnic groups. When young students learn that their educational aspirations need not be limited by the financial circumstances of their family, their desire to succeed increases and the institutions that support them also step up their game to assure student success. 

States across the country such as Oregon, Tennessee, and Minnesota, and local efforts in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and 11 other states have all started programs for students to have free access to community colleges.

CCSF Trustee John Rizzo states, "We [CCSF] have no significant management problems since the elected Board of Trustees was put back in power starting last year. (We regained complete control this past January.) The current financial audit had no findings, which is the first time this has happened since I've been on the Board."

Rizzo added, "The recent Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) report give the college a clean bill of health. When they came to give an oral version of their report at a Board meeting last month, they said 'CCSF implements effective fiscal controls and systems,' and 'CCSF has adopted prudent fiscal policies and practices'."

Rizzo further states, "Jane's plan should work if it is adopted as written. It would add some extra cost at CCSF in terms of processing, but we believe it will make up for it by increasing enrollment. But if the Board of Supervisors were to change the measure by adding extra requirements, it would raise those costs and make it more complicated for the students." 

Supervisor Kim's CCSF proposal not only has administrative support, but also has support from the CCSF union — the American Federation of Teachers, ATF Local 2121. Union president Timothy Killikelly states, "We believe Jane Kim's proposal for a free community college for City College of San Francisco will create more educational opportunities for all San Franciscans. We enthusiastically support this ide A."

Even democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders recognized Kim's expertise in college management and funding by endorsing her candidacy for District 11 State Senator. According to a May 25th Chronicle article, "The pair connected (Sanders and Kim) over the issue of free community college for all, which Jane has worked for."

CCSF is a local treasure that cannot be allowed to be dismantled. Although the road has sometime been rocky for CCSF, think of the past, present, and future educational benefits this college has brought to San Francisco. Please support CCSF by supporting and adopting Supervisor Kim's "Mansion Tax" leading up to the November election.

George Wooding, Midtown Terrace Homeowner's Association

June 2016

Proposition B: A Bad Set-Aside

Vote No on Proposition B, a Charter amendment providing funding for parks, recreation, and open space.

This Charter amendment was designed by District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell, Chairperson of the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee, with the help of Phil Ginsberg, General Manager of the Recreation and Parks Department (RPD).

Let’s review Proposition B’s $4,568.6 Billion set-aside budget.

…there are between $1 billion and $1.7 billion in deferred maintenance in the parks, yet the word “maintenance” has been deleted from the legal text of Prop. B. No one knows on which projects the Proposition money will be spent, or how it will be spent.”

The Proposition B set-aside of a General Fund appropriation baseline amount of thirty years X $64.0 million equals $1,920.0 billion. Plus a fixed annual “Baseline Appropriation increase of $3 Million for ten years attached to a twenty year baseline of $30 million that ends in 2046 for a total of $765.0 million. An Increase in “baseline appropriations” due to annual growth in the discretionary revenues after 2026 [assuming 2% annual growth] equals $449.6 million. An Open space Fund set-aside of $1,434.0 billion from 2016 to 2046.

Proposition B will take approximately $4.5 billion out of the discretionary portion of the City’s General Fund over the next 30 years. City voters will have no control over this set-aside for 30 years.

The RPD’s set-aside is terrible financial policy. In 2008, City voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition S, a policy that disallowed any set-aside of City revenues unless the set-aside identifies a new funding source, includes limits on annual increases, and automatically expires after 10 years.

The San Francisco Chronicle recommended an emphatic “NO” on Proposition B in its April 21 editorial. Embarrassingly for Ginsberg, the Chronicle Editorial Board stated, “It’s flatly disingenuous for those glossy Prop. B mailers to assure voters in underlined letters that the parks funding would come ‘without raising taxes.’ They should have added the clause: ‘we hope’.”

In other words, RPD is lying to the publi C. RPD intends to take its 30-year set-aside funds directly from the General Fund. Over two-thirds of the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s budget comes from the General Fund, so City Supervisors would have to choose between either helping a sick, homeless child, or hiring a new RPD employee for $200,000 a year. While the sick kid languishes, the RPD employee would probably be soliciting additional funds from Park donors.

City Controller Ben Rosenfield stated “This proposed amendment is not in compliance with a non-binding, voter-adopted City policy regarding set-asides. The policy seeks to limit set-asides which reduce General Fund dollars that could otherwise be allocated by the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors in the annual budget process.”

Further, Rosenfield stated “Should the proposed Charter amendment be approved by the voters, in my opinion, it would have a significant impact on the cost of government.”

Rosenfield also stated “The proposed amendment would create a new baseline funding requirement for parks, recreation, and open space that would grow over time. These funds are currently part of the City’s General Fund discretionary revenues, available for any public purpose. As funds are shifted to meet the proposed baseline established in the amendment, other City spending would have to be reduced or new revenues identified to maintain current City service levels.”

Proposition B doesn’t delineate on which projects the Open Space funds will be spent. The Proposition claims that there are between $1 billion and $1.7 billion in deferred maintenance in the parks, yet the word “maintenance” has been deleted from the legal text of Prop. B. No one knows on which projects the Proposition money will be spent, or how it will be spent. Citizens will not know where or how RPD will spend this money.

Financial managers, like Ginsberg, typically publish a list of projects they would like to accomplish in their bond measures. This isn’t the case with Proposition B. Ginsberg hasn’t provided a list of proposed projects, which will make it all but impossible for anyone to monitor how the increased funding is eventually spent.

Additionally, upon recommendation of the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors may authorize the issuance of revenue bonds or other evidences of indebtedness, or the incurrence of other obligations, secured by the Park, Recreation and Open Space Fund for acquisition, construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation and/or improvement of real property and/or facilities and for the purchase of equipment. The public has no control, or oversight, over any of these revenue bonds, or any other forms of indebtedness, such as Certificates of Participation.

Other than accepting awards for privatizing RPD assets, and charging the public more fees to use our own City recreation and parks facilities, Ginsberg has been a poor manager. Why did Mark Farrell — a bright and capable Supervisor — ever sponsor this financial mess?

RPD has already been turned into a fund-raising organization. RPD employees are paid to attract event sponsors, donations, and fees. The Open Space portion generated approximately 26% annually.The General Fund provided the RPD with an additional 36% annually and the Earned Revenue Fund generated 38% annually.

The Earned Revenue Fund consists of revenue from parking garages, paid parking, concessions, citywide rentals, permits, facility rentals, stadiums, golf courses, marinas, and other sources.

The Earned Revenue Fund is growing rapidly and is not part of Ginsberg’s Charter amendment. A quick analysis shows that the revenue generated from park privatization generates the largest part of the RPD Budget.

Where is the responsibility and good governance in the Proposition B set-aside? Budget set-asides are the simplest financial tool the City can use. Each year the City automatically places more and more revenue into set-asides.

Proposition B is really an indictment of the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors (BOS) and Ginsberg. If they want to grow the RPD’s budget, they should increase the RPD’s budget. The RPD and BOS need to work harder and do their jobs.. They don’t need to create another set-aside.

Ginsberg’s Proposition B even excludes the BOS from active budget oversight. “Following [RPD] commission approval, the Department shall submit the Capital expenditure plan to the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors shall consider and by resolution express its approval or disapproval of the Plan, but may not modify the plan.”

People need to understand that the seven RPD Commissioners and Ginsberg are all appointed by the Mayor. As much as Proposition B advocates claim Proposition B has oversight, nobody in the community will really know what the RPD is doing with this set-aside money.

Citizen budget advocate and RPD expert Nancy Wuerfel states “So, without a prescription in the Charter of what these funds MUST PAY FOR, we are handing over great gobs of cash without benefit of requiring work be done on an annual basis which should then OFFSET THE NEED for more General Obligation Bonds to do what could have been done without expensive bonds. Or the need to sell off the future value of the Open Space fund in revenue bonds to get money for projects nobody even knows are being funded with Open Space funds, because leveraging the OSF is just not visible to anyone, much less understandable. It is like signing a marriage contract today for your infant daughter to a wealthy man for some fast cash now — was this really the best use of your daughter’s future?”

Controller Rosenfield has stated “approximately 40% of the General Fund is already earmarked or locked in some way by voter initiative.” The higher the level of set-asides in the General Fund, the less the BOS has to do.

Magnanimously, Proposition B also states, “The City shall implement its efforts to increase revenues in a manner consistent with the City’s policy of charging City residents a lower fee than that charged nonresidents for the use and enjoyment of Department property.” First of all, it is the citizens of San Francisco’s property and there was a time when our open space and parks were free. Thank you Phil Ginsberg for letting San Franciscans pay less than tourists for the property on which we are already paying taxes.

Denis Mosgofian, the District 5 representative on the Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Advisory Committee, speaking to Supervisor Farrell on November 4, 2015 said “Here’s the problem I have: In reading through language like this you’re supporting it, you’re pitching it, and when we’re listening we’re all park supporters and we all want to believe that what’s being proposed is going to serve. Except that what you originally proposed made a lot of sense, but what I’m looking at here doesn’t provide that kind of specificity, so I went back and I looked up the language of the 1975 Open Space Fund, which specified up to 40% should be dedicated to maintenance. It specified a number of other particular expenditures, directives, and then in 1988 and 2000 it still had some of that specificity. By the time you get down to this piece of legislation it doesn’t have that specificity, so given that — and given that instead of having a very robust support for the park system, it’s gone way down to $3 million — to me it looks like a bait-and-switch.”

Ginsberg’s “The sky is falling” routine is getting stale. If Proposition B passes, people are going to start wondering why they will need to pass an upcoming capital improvement bond measure for RPD in 2018. I expect to hear voters saying, “Didn’t we just give RPD a 30-year set-aside in 2016?”

George Wooding, Midtown Terrace Homeowners Association

May 2016

Do Sex and Math Add Up?

Superintendent Richard Carranza recommended distributing of condoms to middle school kids

The San Francisco Board of Education (SFUSD) School Board has unanimously approved (7– 0) a resolution to expand its Condom Availability Program to include all middle school students in the SFUSD District, according to Chief Communications Officer Gentle Blythe.

The proposal to expand the program was recommended Tuesday night, February 23rd, in San Francisco where the school board was deciding whether to give condoms to middle-school kids.

Good or bad, people will not forget about the Middle School condom issue when voting for the SFUSD bond.”

Many parents attending the packed meeting were angry and carried signs that read "Sex and Math Don't add up."

Even SFUSD Director of Safety and Wellness, Kevin Gogin, accidently went off message when he stated to a KRON reporter, "Well we know that the law allows childre…young … young members of society to access condoms."

One unidentified high school girl on the KRON television broadcast said that she was opposed to the idea of giving middle school kids condoms as the program will start having kids thinking about sex at an earlier age.

Superintendent Richard Carranza recommended at the January 12th school board meeting that the district's middle schools distribute condoms to students as young as 11 years old, whether or not their parents want them to have access to condoms.

The SFUSD Middle School condom proposal has been contentious. Some parents are mad as hell, while other parents are happy that the SFUSD has proposed to distribute condoms to Middle School students with no notification to parents.

Strategically, this was a very bad year to introduce the condom program. The SFUSD is going to try and pass a $300 million Bond in November to help create an arts center at three buildings owned by the school district within the block of 135 Van Ness Avenue and 170 Fell Street.

There will be linkage between how voters feel about the Middle School condom project and how they vote on the SFUSD bond. Interestingly, school bonds only require 55% of the vote to pass, not the usual two-thirds (66.7%).

Older voters, transient younger voters, and the presidential election will all impact who votes. Good or bad, people will not forget about the Middle School condom issue when voting for the SFUSD bond.

According to the SFUSD own figures, the percentage of Middle School students who ever had sexual intercourse dropped from 13.4% in 1997 to 5.2% in 2015.

SFUSD studies also show that 61.5% of middle school students having sexual intercourse are already using condoms.

Kevin Gogin, SFUSD Director of Safety and Wellness states that the Youth Risk Behavior Survey "is a random and anonymous survey. While it captures a snapshot of the health and risk factors of San Francisco youth, it does not allow us to find one exact reason or cause for why there might be changes in results over time."

Further, "There have been significant changes in middle schools since the first survey administration in 1992 that include having school district nurses and social workers on sites, greater efforts in implementing HIV/STI education, and comprehensive sexual health education, in addition to implementing comprehensive health education. All of these factors may have influenced the drop in number."

Carranza's proposal was supposed to be discussed at a February 1 curriculum and program committee meeting, but was postponed until February 23rd to accommodate families who were celebrating the Lunar New Year.

In addition to supplying condoms at middle schools, the district wants to update the language of the policy to clarify that parents cannot opt their kids out of the condom distribution program. That would bring the policy into compliance with state law, which allows a minor to consent to medical care related to preventing or treating a pregnancy.

According to Family Code 6925, minors may participate in a Condom Availability Program (CAP) without parental permission. However, in an attempt to partner with parents, (SFUSD) Student, Family, and Community Support Department notifies all families of incoming high school students about the program through the Student and Parent/Guardian Handbook. This seems like a very weak partnership.

On-site CAP coordinators assist with logistics such as liaison with site staff, SHPD staff, and health care professionals. They collect data and ensure that the policy is correctly implemented.

District health care professionals partnered with each school provide counseling, sexuality and abstinence education, referral service, data collection, and condom availability. Condoms are made available through the Department of Public Health, HIV Prevention section.

Kevin Gogin adds, "After discussions with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and School Health Programs staff, we [SFUSD] decided to expand the condom availability program into the middle schools in San Francisco Unified District."

"For students who decide to access the program by making an appointment with a school district nurse or school social worker, it will be a helpful resource for a student to determine whether sexual activity is the right choice, and if so, how to proceed safely."

Verbal and/or written information shall be available to all students obtaining condoms which stresses that abstinence is the only 100% effective method of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections and which does not condone or in any way encourage sexual activity among or with minors. Students will receive additional information as appropriate and necessary regarding the proper use of condoms and their effectiveness. Youth friendly clinic information is also included with the condom.

School Board Commissioner Jill Wynns states, "We had included an "opt-out" provision for parents in our condom availability policy, but state law has been changed disallowing any opt-out. Recently we have had to explain thisto parents after the fact. It is important that we update our policy to comply with the law."

Wynn agrees with Gogin and states, "Our goal is to keep students safe, healthy, and ready to learn. San Francisco has high incidences of sexual transmitted infections among youth: A program where students can speak with a health care provider to determine whether the student should engage in sexual activity. If so, resources, referrals, and prevention can be available to the student.

Finally, Wynns states, "This is a good idea [proposal]. We know that more information and access to pregnancy prevention actually contributes to fewer sexually active teens and fewer teen pregnancies. I have heard experts in the field express the reasoning behind it in this way, 'Condoms are health products and should be ubiquitous like soap and paper towels.'"

In summation, one can only ask, "What is the real purpose of schools?"

George Wooding, Midtown Terrace Homeowners Association.

March 2016

Kill the Affordable Housing Bonus Plan

It’s time for the City and the neighborhoods to kill the Planning Department’s Affordable Housing Bonus Plan (AHBP) and start over with citizen involvement.

Don’t be fooled by the term “affordable housing.” AHBP was designed by pro-development forces to gain housing concessions for developers. The program tries to improve on a State plan that has existed since 1979.

Many of these smaller affordable units will be so small that you will be able to make breakfast while you go to the bathroom, taking multi-tasking to a new level.”

 

For over a year, the Planning Department, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD), the Mayor, developers and their lobbyists, housing activists, the Housing Action Committee (HAC), Supervisor Katy Tang, and the City’s development-friendly “think tank,” SPUR, worked together behind closed doors to develop a plan that would allow San Francisco to build 6,000 more affordable housing units than current State law allows.

No San Francisco citizens were ever invited to these planning meetings, nor were San Franciscans told about this project — because the neighborhoods were considered to be unorganized, have limited funding, and limited knowledge of the future our City’s growth and planning. Being deemed too politically weak, dumb, unorganized, and poor, neighborhood interaction was considered irrelevant, trivial, and unnecessary.

MOHCD and the Planning Department tried quietly to navigate approval of the AHBP legislation through the Planning Commission during the holiday season. Fortunately, a group of vigilant neighbors were able to force a continuance review of AHBP until January 28 at the Planning Commission.

As regular San Franciscans become aware of the AHBP legislation, many hate it.

On October 29, 2015 Supervisor Katy Tang held a public meeting regarding AHBP. She faced 160 mostly angry and confused District 4 residents. After hearing numerous complaints about increased building heights and bulk increases on major neighborhood streets, Tang promised to have planning meetings in all 11 supervisorial districts. At this time, the additional neighborhood outreach projects have not been completed.

“We are in no rush to pass this legislation,” Tang said.

Tang repeatedly said that San Francisco must act to form a local density program due to a 2013 court decision in Napa on affordable density housing. Tang is wrong, since the Napa case isn’t relevant to San Francisco.

At the January 12th District 7 neighborhood planning meeting, Supervisor, Norman Yee disagreed with Tang and stated, “I don’t believe we should do away with 50 years of extensive planning and zoning work,” he added, winning a round of applause. “We need to do better, I cannot support this [AHBP] proposal as it is currently drafted,” he said.

AHBP is the biggest change in San Francisco zoning in the last 36 years. It’s a developer-friendly program designed to provide cost-savings and zoning incentives for developers to build more on-site affordable housing units in lieu of paying inclusionary housing development fees to the City, and in lieu of building the affordable units off-site.

Citizen input concerning projects and citizen appeals will be severely limited, and the Planning Department’s role over project reviews will be diminished. The City will no longer perform Environmental Impact Reviews (EIRs) as it currently does, claiming that all AHBP projects will initially be approved under the authority of the 2014 Housing Element EIR.

The Planning Department determined no supplemental or subsequent environmental review will be required for any individual AHBP projects, claiming AHBP is “an implementing program” of the 2014 Housing Element. Planning claims environmental effects of the AHBP have been adequately identified and analyzed under CEQA in the 2004 and 2009 Housing Element FEIR, and any proposed new projects would not result in any new or more severe environmental impacts than were identified in the FEIR.

AHBP moved very quickly after it was introduced by Mayor Ed Lee and co-sponsor Supervisor Tang at the Planning Commission on September 24, 2015. Within three weeks, the Planning Commission was scheduled to approve the required General Plan amendments required for AHBP implementation.

That changed after members of the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods (CSFN) and other aware citizens urged Planning Commissioners to wait until the important AHBP Design Guidelines were available for public review and highlighted the need for better public outreach and public review.

Kiersten Dischinger, the Planning Department’s liaison, states that there are approximately 35,000 San Francisco sites that will be impacted, but only 240 of these sites are the “soft sites” that the City hopes to build on. A soft site can be open space, a gas station, or a building that has a large amount of frontage that is open and not supported.

What Planning never revealed is that the developer can build affordable housing anywhere on the 35,000 sites; the whole concept of building on only soft sites is a ruse. Also, there is no cap on the number of buildings that can be built, or how much density can be placed in a given building.

Additionally, parcels in residential housing RH-1 (one unit) and residential housing RH-2 (up to three units) are currently not eligible for the State Analyzed and Local AHBP Programs.

To gain concessions, developers must tear down an existing site and build a minimum of 10 new, on-site units. At least three (30%) of the units must be affordable for the developer to qualify for the AHBP program. This sounds great, but if the existing building already had three or more livable dwellings, the City gives the developer concessions without additional on-site affordable housing benefits.

The additional heights and bulk changes throughout the City will homogenize the city. Twenty years from now, “character of neighborhood” will have little meaning

AHBP concessions to developers will include: adding two to three stories above existing height requirements; the size and bulk of the building can be increased; parking requirements will be reduced; and, a ten percent open space requirement will be added, all in the absence of any project-specific environmental reviews. The developer can receive up to three of these concessions. It is thought conditional-use hearings will vanish for many AHBP projects.

There are so many things wrong with AHBP that the City should stop trying to amend this sinking ship.

Neighborhood businesses will now be targeted for demolition. As buildings throughout the City are torn down to make room for affordable housing units, the businesses that occupy these units will have to either relocate or go out of business due to high rents.

What will happen to rent-controlled or normal housing units? Originally, AHBP was going to tear down buildings with rent-controlled units, but citizens became so angry that Supervisor London Breed proposed an amendment that would study rent-controlled units until January 1, 2017.

One of the criticisms against the program is that it would displace current residents. This deserves analysis. Supervisor Breed’s proposed amendment (supported by Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Katy Tang, the AHBP legislation’s sponsors) prohibits demolishing, removing, or converting any rent-controlled units until the Planning Department completes a study of the relationship between this program and the City’s rent-controlled and affordable housing stock.

The Breed amendment only covers two of the four AHBP programs. It does not cover the 100% affordable housing component or the State individual plan. The state law does require replacement of rent control units with means-tested units for both its 100% program and its “regular” program. Some would consider that to be a pretty big gap.

The State Density Bonus Law does not prohibit the demolition of rent controlled units but requires that any rent- controlled units lost as part of a project using the State law must be replaced with affordable units one for one in the project

The Planning Department never considers the rising cost of the property to developers nor the impact of inflation throughout the building process.

Per the amendment, the Planning Commission will have to recommend subsequent modifications to the Board of Supervisors by January 1, 2017. There have been some complaints that the proposed amendment is not permanent, and yet the prohibition on sites with rent-controlled units would remain in place indefinitely, unless the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors approve changes to the program in January 2017.

The AHBP program does not have a minimum building threshold, so get ready for some large projects as properties that are side-by-side and will be combined into giant housing units.

Other than the definition of 220-square-foot micro-units, San Francisco has no minimum size requirements for dwelling units. An on-site affordable housing unit must be larger than a micro-unit. Two-bedroom units must be consistent in size with the size of single units. Many of these smaller affordable units will be so small that you will be able to make breakfast while you go to the bathroom, taking multi-tasking to a new level.

Worse yet, how many people will be sharing your unit with you?

Finally, is this a good plan for San Francisco? The foundation of the City’s AHBP plan is based on an obscure report written by Siefel Consulting with the help of SPUR and HA C. The project team chose only three prototypical sites out of the 12 prototypes that were physically evaluated to represent three distinct and likely outcomes of the program under alternative building types, height, and tenure. The City’s whole AHBP program is based on the financial study of only three housing units.

The City’s brightest minds are not that bright. No one at City hall ever questions the supply-side argument that San Francisco can only drive down housing prices by building more housing, and reducing scarcity. According to a 2015 economic study, “Building Cities for People,” written by Joel Kotkin, higher density housing is far more expensive to build—-a high rise over five stories costs three times as much as a garden apartment.”

“Even higher construction costs are reported in the San Francisco Bay Area, where townhome developments can cost up to double that of detached houses per square foot to build (excluding land costs), and units in high rise condominium buildings can cost up to 7.5 times as much,” Kotkin says.

There is little profit for developers to build the AHBP buildings. This is why the City is giving huge subsidies to developers and asking the citizens who already live here to pay massive amounts to subsidize the developers’ infrastructure costs.

It is no coincidence that both San Francisco and Manhattan are the two densest cities in America and both have the least affordable housing in Americ A.

Let’s kill the AHBP before it turns San Francisco into a homogenized, sanitized building plan that destroys our local neighborhoods and businesses, over-densifies our City, and hands developers carte blanche over our City.

George Wooding, Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods

February 2016

 

Mayor Ed Lee: Kicks the Can Down the Road

Welcome to San Francisco in the year 2020. Mayor Lee has finally been termed out and is watching the new Mayor sweat the infrastructure problems Lee created building 30,000 housing units in six years. The new Mayor will quickly become the fall guy for the collapse of San Francisco’s infrastructure.

San Francisco had built 1,500 housing units annually during the previous two decades, but Lee began adding 5,000 units annually during the six years beginning in 2014 — 30,000 units total.

Once upon a time, San Francisco’s entire infrastructure (water, sewage, roads, general maintenance) was funded by the City’s general fund. As City employee salaries grew higher and the number of City employees increased, San Francisco started deferring infrastructure payments to pay for its City employees.

There is deferred city maintenance everywhere! San Francisco’s infrastructure cannot support the 30,000 dwellings that Mayor Lee is trying to build over the next five years. City Government is just kicking the can down the road.”

Due to inadequate annual funding of capital improvements, and deferred maintenance, City politicians have allowed public works to deteriorate. The City is now forced to pass bond measures to pay for basic, routine infrastructure. The San Francisco PUC (SFPUC) utilizes revenue bonds — meaning the SFPUC pays for bonds by raising customer rates.

City officials have allowed San Francisco’s infrastructure crisis to roll forward year after year. It’s relatively easy for Mayor Lee to defer maintenance because the consequences are not apparent for many years. His failure to have publicly-available information on the condition and cost of deferred maintenance hides the problem. There is little public clamor and few advocates for increased spending on the City’s capital needs.

The 30,000 units that the mayor will build cannot be supported by the City’s current infrastructure.

Additionally, capital improvement bonds are a horrible way to finance deferred maintenance. Bond measures allocate 30% to 50% for deferred maintenance projects. In other words, property taxpayers are paying for deferred maintenance with 30 years of interest payments. The interest on these bond projects almost doubles the cost of each project.

Almost all of these capital improvement projects could have been addressed through regular annual appropriations; instead they are neglected and the money goes to City salaries.

Nearly one in three (12,504) of San Francisco’s 39,122 City employees earned $100,000 or more in total pay in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2015 — a number that has been growing steadily for the past decade — and averaged $141,703 in total pay. These salary amounts do not include the costs of often-generous City fringe benefits, including health care and pensions.

In November 2014, San Francisco voters passed Proposition K, a non-binding, “declaration of policy” which allowed the City to help construct or rehabilitate at least 30,000 homes or more by 2020. Policy declarations are non-binding because Mayors and City Supervisors are not bound to budget for them. Prop. K was also both redundant and unneeded because Lee had already unilaterally declared it to be official City policy in his January 2014 State-of-the-City speech.

The City’s deferred infrastructure cannot handle the massive growth Mayor Lee proposed, and little of the new property taxes generated by the 30,000 units will be used to fund neighborhood infrastructure improvements.

San Franciscans will smell the first whiff of a broken sewer line as they wait for a bus that is averaging five miles per hour. The MUNI bus is new, but cannot go faster than the traffi C. When the bus does come 20 minutes late, it is full and trapped behind a Google bus, and you’ll have to walk into the street to board.

The SFMTA will need at least $10 billion by 2030 just to maintain and possibly increase its service by up to 20% (very optimistic and very doubtful). By its own estimates, SFMTA will still have a $3.3 billion shortfall by 2030. SFMTA bonds, taxes, general fund set-asides, vehicle license fees, increased ridership fares, parking meter rates, and traffic ticket citations have not been able to, and can’t, support SFMTA’s operations.

Without cars, the SFMTA would lose over 30% of its annual revenue. The SFMTA cannot afford to get rid of cars or it would go broke, rapidly.

According to a City transportation report, “Without investing in transportation infrastructure, San Francisco will have more than 600,000 vehicles added to its streets every day by 2040, which is more traffic than all the vehicles traveling each day on the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge combined. Caltrain ridership has grown by 60% in the last decade. Ridership on Muni is projected to increase by 300,000 trips per day (or 43%) by 2040. Significant design measures need to be implemented to make it safer for cyclists and pedestrians to navigate San Francisco’s heavily-trafficked streets.”

Commercial shuttle “Google buses” will soon have upwards of 1.2 million shuttle buses stopping in Muni red zones, since SFMTA’s Board approved making the shuttle program permanent but creatively exempted the program from a full Environment Impact Review (EIR).

There is no more parking throughout the City and the asphalt/slurry on the roads is deteriorating to its lowest usable level ever. City roads used to be excellent and were rated at a pavement and road condition of 75 (good) in 1989. By 2009, due to 20 years of deferred maintenance, San Francisco roads declined to a pavement condition of 64 (bad).

Terrible road conditions forced San Franciscans to pass the $368 million 2009 Safe Streets and Road Repair Bond. The road repair was underfunded by approximately $230 million and only $209 million — just 56.8% of the $368 million bond — went to street resurfacing and reconstruction. Ironically, after the bond money will be spent through 2018, San Francisco road ratings will only reach a pavement and road condition of 67.

Bicyclists are finding It harder and harder to run stoplights or stop signs. The 8% who are cyclists are being hailed as environmental crusaders; however, the fast, young cyclists hate car drivers, pedestrians, and out-of-shape, old, or pregnant cyclists who block their lanes.

How funny: Once-unique neighborhood corridors have been homogenized. The natural character of each neighborhood and their individual businesses are disappearing. Every SF transit corridor has begun to look the same: Surrounding buildings are taller, with a much higher population density. Remember, a transit corridor is considered to be 250 feet wide on both sides of the street.

The architectural design of these new buildings ranges from utilitarian to mediocre, at best. Dwelling sizes have been decreased and garages have been removed to cram in more people per square foot.

Drought or no drought, we already have the lowest water consumption in California at 41.6 gallons per resident per day, yet water rates are sky rocketing. More people will lead to lower water-per-person consumption, but higher water rates.

San Francisco’s sewer system is over 100 years old, and several component parts of the infrastructure were constructed in the 1800’s. The sewer infrastructure is failing and in need of significant repair. Sewer conditions threaten public health.

The SFPUC’s Sewer System Improvement Program (SSIP) — another huge maintenance deferment — is the SFPUC’s wastewater capital improvement program that includes multiple projects to improve the existing system.

Routine repairs are no longer sufficient to keep pace with San Francisco’s aging and seismically vulnerable sewer infrastructure. It is important to invest now in larger capital improvements to avoid more costly emergency repairs, potential regulatory fines, and greater impacts on our communities. The longer upgrades are delayed, the more expensive they become. Another clear case of deferred maintenance.

The SSIP is the culmination of several years of wastewater system planning efforts, public meetings, and SFPUC Commission workshops to develop proposed improvements to deferred maintenance of SF’s sewage system. The SSIP is expected to cost billions. The first phase is expected to cost $2.78 billion, alone.

If you have gray hair and don’t own your own home, you may also be disappearing — since City-backed developers need to convert your rental apartment into a condominium to make a profit. The Planning Department needs to charge developers higher permit fees to maintain its budget, and the City needs more density to generate more property taxes.

The more dwellings that can be demolished, rebuilt, or increased in density, the more income will be generated by the City. San Franciscans that stay in place in their own homes pay much less in property taxes than new owners.

Mayor Lee and the Board of Supervisors have just financially linked housing prices to residential units.

City government amended the Planning Code so that developers who build residential structures of 20 or more units throughout the City will have to pay an extra $7.74 per square foot, per unit.

The City’s old Transit Development Impact Fee (TDIF) applied to only commercial developments and PDR (production, design, and repair) facilities. Heretofore, the TDIF fees only came from downtown commercial developers.

The new TSF transit funding is an open door for financial misuse and abuse. TSF funds should be used for transit maintenance and repair only. However, the new TSF funds a complete streets component, enhancement and expansion of bicycle facilities, as well as pedestrian and other streetscape infrastructure to accommodate growth. The TSF is also responsible for maintaining the existing amount of sidewalk space per pedestrian.

This is why there are so many well-paid City employees and so much deferred maintenance

By charging residential housing developers a transportation fee, the City will collect an additional 40% more in transportation fees annually.

San Francisco’s new TSF fee/tax will increase the price of larger residential projects by 2% to 3% per unit. The City hopes to increase transportation fee collection by $480 million over the next 30 years.

The City will add 190,000 jobs and 100,000 homes by 2040, according to the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), but without improving public transit, traffic in the City could increase by 40%.

Other than as a source of revenue, cars have become the City’s lowest priority.

The City set the TSF fee/tax by estimating how much development impacts transit in terms of cost, roughly $31 per square foot, then balanced it with the results of a fiscal feasibility study that looked at what level fees would discourage development.

According to the TSF Financial Feasibility Report, the average residential base cost per square foot should be $6.19; however, the City chose to increase TSF residential taxes by 125% to a tax of $7.74 per square foot.

A brand new 750-square-foot, two-bedroom condominium just became $5,805.00 more expensive, but comes with a bus that is late, full, broken, or never comes.

Look around you: There is deferred city maintenance everywhere! Our infrastructure cannot support the 30,000 dwellings that Mayor Lee is trying to build over the next five years. City Government is just kicking the can down the road.

Wooding is a board member of the Midtown Terrace Homeowners Association.

December 2015

Coyotes or Pets?

Coyote in Golden Gate Park Photo: Calvin Cardinas
Coyotes are small, brownish, wild dogs, basically. They run with their non-bushy tails held down. Photo: Calvin Cardinas

San Franciscan’s don’t love coyotes, they love their pets.

As our small, seven-square-mile City grows more compact, humans and pets are forced to live in ever closer proximity to a burgeoning population of coyotes.

As coyotes become acclimated to humans, their bold behavior has led to the death of a dog named Buster, whose owner says he was killed by coyotes near the Pine Lake area of Stern Grove two weeks ago. A month earlier, another owner says he was surrounded by five coyotes before they attacked his Bichon named Eddie. All of this has dog and cat owners in the area nervous and asking what to do.

We feel responsible for not having him on a leash but he usually walks right next to us. We are heartbroken and don’t want anyone else to go through this.”

The SF Rec and Park Department (RPD) has little to offer pet owners. It has built a small barrier to keep dogs from chasing coyotes up a hill. This same barrier will not keep coyotes out of Stern Grove. The RPD has also ordered wildlife-proof trash cans in hopes of teaching coyotes not to associate food with parks. The coyotes live in the parks and will not be fooled. Last, the RPD has posted warning signs in Stern Grove.

Coyotes do not have state protection, but hunting is not allowed in City parks, and City policy specifies co-existence with wildlife. Certainly the Stern Grove coyotes should be relocated for their own benefit. If their predation of cats and dogs goes unpunished, the coyotes’ behavior will certainly become more aggressive.

The City’s lack of policies on coyotes is ridiculous and calculated. No matter how many pets are killed or attacked, it is completely the pet owners’ fault/responsibility for not being vigilant. It is solely up to the pet owner to modify the coyote’s behavior.

It goes unsaid, but most convenient for the RPD, California Department of Fish and Game (CDFW), and Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), that all three departments really don’t want dogs running off-leash. In fact, they would prefer to not even have dogs on public property. All three agencies appear to want the coyotes more than they want the dogs.

Sally Stephens, the Chair of San Francisco Dog Owners Group (SFDOG) explains,

“There is a huge demand for off-leash access in San Francisco. Given the threats to the legal off-leash dog play areas (DPAs) -- the GGNRA wants to cut access to 90% of current areas, RPD’s Natural Areas Program will cut access in city parks by 15% -- losing any legal off-leash space because of coyotes is not acceptable. But it may not be necessary because we can co-exist.”

Sadly, a September 24 Facebook post by Peggy Lo reported:

“Today, we lost our seven pound Malti-poo, Buster. We were at Stern Grove and a Coyote was waiting for him behind a tree approximately 20 feet above the walking path across from the lake. Buster heard a noise, and began to run up the hill and then we heard him squeal. My husband (Johnny Lo) chased the Coyote who had the dog in his mouth. A second Coyote appeared. Johnny searched for two hours but couldn’t find our Buster.”

Sarah Lo continued:

“We feel responsible for not having him on a leash but he usually walks right next to us. We are heartbroken and don’t want anyone else to go through this. The coyotes are getting too comfortable and are so close to the path, it might not have mattered if Buster was on a leash. We will contact Fish and Game tomorrow but it seems futile since the City, and Park and Rec, don’t have any will to relocate the animals or exterminate them, if necessary.”

A group called Project Coyote has started giving seminars to pet owners called “Coyote Hazing Field Training.” Instructor Gina Farr gives the following advice: Make eye contact with the coyote, keep your dog on a leash, wave your arms over your head, continue to shout “go away coyote,” carry a noisemaker, and advance on the coyote.

Project Coyote’s objective is to modify pet owners’ behavior so that they can co-exist with coyotes.

Sara Roma, another dog owner was recently quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“We’re now at the point where it isn’t going to help to say ‘Go away coyote.’ I am not convinced that given what has already taken place that calling on park users to haze the coyotes will necessarily give us a definitive solution.”

Suzanne Dumont, a local resident and dog owner who attended an October 22nd meeting on coyotes commented:

“Children’s safety and the well-used BBQ pits at Stern Grove right near a coyote den were never discussed by the RPD representatives, who seemed not to have done their homework. Much to the frustration of those attending the meeting, a RPD manager told the crowd it was illegal to haze coyotes in city parks, oblivious to the Rec & Park sponsored Hazing Training that took place at Stern Grove just a few weeks ago.

The City, RPD, and California Fish and Wildlife Department (CDFW) have no plan for the growing coyote problem. CDFW spokesman Kevin Hugman states:

“It’s not a coyote problem. It’s a people problem, and … dogs and cats are going to be taken. We have calls all the time of dogs taken right off their leash. It’s going to happen, so you have to be the best dog owner you can be.”

The coyotes that live among us have become domesticated and do not fear people. With no predators and no restrictions on their behavior, coyotes are free to do whatever they want, without any punishment.

In San Francisco, if a dog attacks another animal, health code Section41.5(ii) sets out the process:

“In the event that a biting dog causes severe injuries to a person or other animal the Director of Public Health may recommend that such dog be declared a menace to the public health and safety and he shall so inform the District Attorney by a written complaint. The District Attorney shall then bring said written complaint to the Municipal Court for a finding that the dog is a menace to the public health and safety. If the Court finds the dog to be a menace to the public health and safety, the owner thereof shall be subject to the provisions of paragraph (c) of this Section, and upon order of the Court, the Animal Control Officer or a Police Officer shall impound, hold, and humanely destroy the dog in accordance with the procedures of paragraph (c) of this Section.”

Why are dogs who attack dogs, cats, and people considered a menace, and coyotes are not?

For the politically-correct citizens of San Francisco, the thought of punishing a coyote for its behavior is too harsh. We cannot stand the thought of hurting a “wild animal,” yet many of us think nothing of walking by a homeless person, Starbucks in hand.

Certainly the Stern Grove coyotes should be relocated for their own benefit. If their predation of cats and dogs goes unpunished, the coyotes’ behavior will certainly become more aggressive and they will become overpopulated.

The coyote is a medium-sized member of the dog family that includes wolves and foxes. With pointed ears, a slender muzzle, and a drooping bushy tail, the coyote often resembles a German shepherd or collie. Coyotes are usually a grayish brown with reddish tinges behind the ears and around the face, but coloration can vary from a silver-gray to black. The tail usually has a black tip. Eyes are yellow, rather than brown like many domestic dogs. Most adult coyotes weigh between 25 and 35 pounds, with a few larger animals weighing up to 42 pounds.

Although coyotes are predators, they are also opportunistic feeders and shift their diets to take advantage of the most available prey. Coyotes are generally scavengers and predators of small prey, but occasionally shift to large prey. They prefer small rodents, and human garbage. Interestingly, about 25% of their diet consists of fruit.

San Francisco’s coyote population — estimated to be between 100 and 200 coyotes — are no more wild animals than San Francisco’s raccoons are wild. These animals are living in residential areas and have adapted to surviving in them. The next time your garbage can is knocked over by a “wild raccoon,” think about what a raccoon in the woods would be eating.

San Francisco’s coyote problem began in 2007. Coyotes started colonizing the Presidio. The coyote population has spread rapidly throughout City’s open spaces. DNA testing on some of the original coyotes in the City showed that they came from Marin County. With no known predators and ample amounts of food, the coyote population in San Francisco appears to be growing rapidly.

There have been only two fatal coyote attacks recorded in modern history: In 1981, a three-year-old girl in Southern California died of injuries sustained from a coyote attack, and most recently in 2009, a 19-year-old female was fatally attacked by a group of eastern coyotes while hiking alone in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scoti A.

According to a recent report on coyote diseases developed by the Urban Coyote Ecology and Management Research Team in Cook County, Illinois:

“Wildlife disease is of great importance to the health and safety of humans and domestic animals because 73% of emerging and re-emerging pathogens are known to be zoonotic (transmitted from animals to people). There is increasing evidence suggesting that urbanization and resultant land-use changes contribute to the emergence of wildlife diseases through multiple mechanisms, with consequences for human and pet health.”

Through serological testing (using blood to identify disease), the Cook County Coyote Project looked primarily for the presence of these diseases in the coyote population: Canine parvo, canine distemper, toxoplasmosis, Lyme, and Leptospirosis. These diseases are important to study because they can affect people or pets. While these diseases may occur in fairly high rates in coyotes, they are rarely transmitted to people or pets because of low pathogen survival rates in the environment, or because the coyote may be a “dead-end” host. Coyotes are also known carriers of mange, heartworm, and rabies.

The Cook County Urban Coyote Research Team study located accounts of 142 coyote attack incidents, resulting in 159 human victims. These attacks took place over a wide geographic area, including 14 states in the U.S. and four provinces in Canad A. Most attacks, however, occurred in the western U.S., with almost half of the attacks occurring in California and another large portion (14%) occurring in Arizon A.

San Francisco’s coyote population is getting out of hand. It is time for citizens to contact their district Board of Supervisors representative to develop a workable plan to protect people and their pets from coyotes.

George Wooding, Midtown Terrace Homeowners Association

November 2015

Density Crowds the City

Sometimes togetherness isn’t better

Under San Francisco’s current and proposed planning guidelines, building density now trumps height zoning or character of neighborhoods.

“Density” is the new altar at which the Mayor, Board of Supervisors, developers, Chamber of Commerce, and co-opted City think tanks like SPUR, now pray. All of these groups pay little attention to what the impacted neighborhoods think about their plans to build height or density housing as they see fit, while ignoring neighborhood input. These groups also need the money, profit, donations, and political contributions that continued development generates.

There are currently over 20,000 vacancies. Prop C was supposed to be used over 20 years to build up to 30,000 units. Mayor Lee is trying to build 30,000 units in five years. When the housing bubble bursts, the City will be overbuilt.”

City zoning changes and property use changes are routinely ignored or changed. Witness The Chronicle’s gigantic Mission and Fifth project (5M), one of the largest City building projects ever, that was just turned into a “special use” district. This means almost no standard planning rules will apply to the project.

“By fast-tracking the 5M project through the planning process through Special Ordinances that exempt this site from established Area Plans, the City is negating the hard work of all those involved in the community planning process by granting exceptions, variances, and privileges through the creation of a Special Use District and implementation of a Development Agreement,” Gerry Crowley, SF Neighborhood Network founder said. “Dismissing the impact of major up-zoning on vulnerable neighboring communities adjacent to 5th and Mission Street threatens community planning and responsible development in every neighborhood throughout San Francisco.”

Several City development projects have routinely received height exemptions through spot zoning variances, such as 1481 Post Street and 75 Howard.

The Planning Commission is a seven-member board controlled by the Mayor. Four of the commissioners are directly appointed by the Mayor and give the appearance of having no independent free will on large planning decisions. Citizens wait hours to testify for two minutes at the Planning Commission on issues that have long ago been decided by the Mayor.

The Mayor’s office — telling the Planning Department what to do — has proposed the adoption of a State law called the “Density Bonus Program” that will increase developers size and bulk limitations if they add affordable housing to new or existing buildings/housing.

Affordable housing is designated as “below market rate.” The federal government, the City and non-profit housing organizations underwrite the development and leasing of affordable housing throughout San Francisco.

The new density bonus program wouldn’t apply to zoning districts that only allow single-family (RH-1) or three-unit development (RH-2) on lots. Major exceptions to this rule include streets along transit corridors, like Geary, Judah and West Portal Avenue.

Impacted neighborhoods will watch developers add two floors of supposedly affordable housing to their neighbors’ homes. When housing costs $800,000 and the family of four moving in has an income of $120,000 per year the house is really for moderate-income people. Moderate-income people need help with housing as well.

Can developers who build the density be trusted to use the bonus building capacity favors correctly? How can we be sure that a City with such a checkered past on building oversight will do a good job measuring square footage? Time will tell.

The one great thing about the Bonus Density Program is that it will force the City to better use its inclusionary housing program. Planning Code Se C. 415 or the Inclusionary Affordable Housing Program, requires residential developments with 10 or more units to pay an Affordable Housing Fee. Project sponsors may apply for an alternative to the fee in the form of providing 12% of their units on-site or 20% of their units off-site as affordable to low-to moderate-income households.

Once the City receives the inclusionary housing money no one really knows what happens with the funds that the Mayor’s Office of Housing (MOHCD) will receive. For example, the 75 Howard Street project paid $9.8 million to the City so that they could build 133 luxury-housing units and no affordable housing. Where is the money going?

In 2012, voters passed Prop C creating an enormous housing slush fund and the State decided to shut down redevelopment agencies. The City will transfer over $1.5 billion from the General Fund to the MOHCD over the next 20 years. But rather than placing redevelopment funds into the General Fund, the City created the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) with MOHCD’s “sole discretion” over how the fund will be expended. What happened to that money?

There are currently over 20,000 vacancies. Prop C was supposed to be used over 20 years to build up to 30,000 units. Mayor Lee is trying to build 30,000 units in five years. When the housing bubble bursts, the City will be overbuilt.

We need more equally dispersed affordable housing. Building density isn’t the answer. We need to be concerned about quality of life and living space.

Marsha Maloof, the President of the Bayview Hill Neighborhood Association, thinks concentrating low-income and affordable housing does not work.

“When you concentrate all affordable housing in one area you get uninspired housing that turns into raggedy housing over time. Not to mention, making the average household income levels of the surrounding area unattractive to retail and many other businesses.

“San Francisco is on the right track with mandating and incentivizing development to include a reasonable number of low-income and affordable units. However, to allow developments to shift this requirement from the building site to alternate locations is not good for residents, neighborhoods, or the economic development of the City.”

Maloof concludes, “Let’s not allow the ‘NIMBY’ attitude or developer greed to replace good common sense.”

The Census Bureau reports SF’s population grew 4.6 % from 2010 to 2014. At current projected growth rates, it will grow by 5.6% from 2010 to 2015. Interestingly, 53.8% of the growth is from single, white people. 41.2% of these Caucasians live alone (elderly people and young people). There are 2.31 people living in the average household in 386,564 housing units.

Single people, not families, are fueling our rapid growth from 805,195 in 2010 to an estimated 852,469 in 2014.

New young residents with money have driven up housing prices and contribute to the displacement of longtime San Franciscans, gentrification of neighborhoods, and housing density development.

The SF rental market continued to be the most expensive in the country, reaching an all-time high of $3,530 for a 1-bedroom apartment. While prices in New York City remained largely flat at $3,000, last month SF increased 1.5% per month and 3.3% over the last quarter.

Mayor Lee’s density policies sound great until you have to live in a 288 to 1,200-square-foot apartment, or pay one-half of your salary to live with two other people. You had to sell your car, the last two buses were late, and both were full.

Many single people who recently came to the City will leave when their jobs disappear, they start a family, or simply get tired of living like a hamster in their overpriced, shared apartments. At the moment there is still a housing crisis in San Francisco.

In June 2014, our Board of Supervisors approved two significant pieces of legislation that support accessory dwelling units (ADUs), also known as “in-law” or secondary units. The first, introduced by Supervisor Chiu and passed in 2014 enables existing illegal units to be legalized. The second, introduced by Supervisor Wiener allowed construction of new accessory dwellings in his district.

Chui’s legislation has been an absolute failure because the cost of renting secondary units too high. Once rented, it became a rent-controlled unit.

In March, Sunset Supervisor Katy Tang, asked the City Attorney to craft a law to legalize backyard cottages in single-family zones. According to the Examiner, The Sunset has “many homes that have large backyards that could accommodate” additional dwelling units, Tang said.

No more backyards in the Sunset…Tang was appointed by Mayor Lee.

Just recently, the Supervisors expanded in-law units in Weiner’s District and tossed in Supervisor Julie Christensen’s District 3.

In November 2014, citizens passed Proposition K, to 1) Address the current housing affordability crisis; and 2) Support production of 30,000 units of new housing —one-third of those affordable to low- and moderate-income households.

This Policy has been the platform for several bad planning decisions. Please note, that 90% of the Planning Department’s revenue comes from developer fees. Between the money donated to local politicians by developers and the Planning Department’s development fees, developers and their lobbyists have become have become the new “kings” of San Francisco.

Perhaps it is time to apply the proposed “Density Bonus Program” to the City Hall building, the Planning Department building, and the SPUR office building. Each structure could use an additional two stories of luxury condominiums. The Planning Department would have no problem changing each structure’s zoning requirements. Gentrification and changes to “character of neighborhood” should not be a problem, nor should changing the affordable condominiums into luxury condominiums.

George Wooding was recently elected president of the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods

October 2015

Supervisor Norman Yee Surprises Supporters on Police Staffing

Why did District seven Supervisor Norman Yee, heretofore a staunch supporter of the police, vote against increasing a depleted San Francisco police force?

Representing District seven, San Francisco’s most conservative District, Yee did the unthinkable—he voted against adding more police classes. Yee is now paying the price as many of his District Seven supporters are angry with him.

A simple non-binding Board of Supervisors resolution regarding new police staffing levels suddenly became a battleground over how many police officers are needed to effectively stop crime in San Francisco.

San Francisco will have a hard time affording the expected increase in police officers’ salaries, benefits, housing credits, equipment, and jails. Remember that the city’s budget and revenue is at an all time high.”

Presented on Tuesday, June 23rd, Resolution (150628) is the first step in establishing a Board of Supervisors policy that police staffing levels be adjusted to account for population and neighborhood growth, including adjusting the definition of “minimum staffing” upward by several hundred officers. The term “minimum staffing” is open ended and not defined.

The resolution became contentious and passed on a 6–5 vote. Supervisors Wiener, Farrrell, Cohen, Tang, Christensen and Breed voted “yes” to pass the resolution and Yee, Avalos, Campos, Mar and Kim voted “No.”

Yee has already passed city budgets which have allowed eight police academy classes to graduate. He has always stated the need for more police, but still people are mad because he did not support a poorly-written, non-binding resolution.

The current number of sworn full duty officers in the City is 1,730, down from 1,951 in 2010.

The City Charter as adopted in 1994 defines full staffing as 1,971 officers. Yet, that number is now outdated, since San Francisco has grown significantly since 1994 – from 742,000 to 841,000, an increase of 13.3%.

How may police officers should we hire before the city starts over-hiring?

The June Board of Supervisors “police hiring resolution” could lead to the city hiring at least 283 more police officers, at a cost of more than $40 million a year—in addition to the 241 new police who are already in the mayor’s existing budget.

San Francisco will have a hard time affording the expected increase in police officers’ salaries, benefits, housing credits, equipment, and jails. Remember that the city’s budget and revenue is at an all time high. Five years ago, San Francisco had a $500 million deficit and was delaying police salary increases and trying to restructure police pension payments.

There is no doubt that more police officers will reduce crime—we love the police, so why all of the fuss?

Hiring more police may not actually lead to a significant reduction in crime. Ratios, such as officers-per-thousand population, are totally inappropriate as a basis for staffing decisions.

Our current police force should allow citizens to take over police desk jobs. San Francisco should reduce the number of sworn officers (sheriffs) that work with prisoners and events and have them work with the police. This will allow more police on the streets.

According to Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi “Our jails are half empty.” Of the four open jail sites, three in the South of Market neighborhood of San Francisco and one in San Bruno, there’s space for a total of 2,450 inmates. Only 1,246 or 51-percent of jail capacity is currently being used.

According to the Chronicle, “At issue is a six-month pilot program — which ended in January — that saw sheriff’s deputies take over duties from police officers who transported arrested subjects from police stations to jail.” Mirkirimi further stated, “this program allowed police officers more time to do their jobs.” In light of that, he questioned the call by city Supervisors Scott Wiener and Malia Cohen to spend millions of dollars to build up the police force to match the city’s growing population, saying the effort was incomplete without considering other ways to free up officers.

There is no legislative mandate as to what these new police would be doing or where in the city they would be serving. There is no legislative prioritization, just a blind adherence to bureaucratic number calculations.

San Francisco definitely needs more police because California has created its own crime wave.

Due to court orders, California has quietly released approximately 10,000 of its lower level criminals to reduce prison overcrowding over the last six months. More non-violent prisoners will continue to be released.

Additionally, the passage of 2014’s Proposition 47, “The Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative,” has changed the sentencing of felonies to misdemeanors.

Many crimes that were previously “arrestable” as a felony will now only be “citable” as a misdemeanor. This means that miscreants may not be booked into jail but rather given a citation (similar to a traffic ticket) with a court date to appear, and released in the field. They will not be held pending trial.

Such felony crimes that are now misdemeanors include: Commercial burglary (theft under $950)
• Forgery and bad checks (under $950 value)
• Theft of most firearms
• Theft of a vehicle (under $950 value)
• Possession of stolen property (under $950 value)
• Possession of heroin, cocaine, illegal prescriptions, concentrated cannabis, and methamphetamine.

San Francisco’s rate of larceny and thefts per 100,000 inhabitants has jumped 27%. Burglary rates rose 10%, and the rate of motor vehicle thefts and break-ins is rapidly approaching a 10% increase.

Do you feel as safe as you did five years ago?

Please read Yee’s press release and call his office for more information. He is simply asking to review police hiring policy practices before approving a poorly written, bureaucratic hiring policy that is only tied to San Francisco’s population.

George Wooding, Midtown Terrace Homeowners Asso C.

Read Supervisor Norman Yee’s Press Release

Read WOTPCC's Letter to Supervisor Yee

July/August 2015

Ready for West Portal’s Traffic Armegeddon?

Big Infrastructure changes to West Portal Avenue’s water, sewage, road paving coupled with the closure of the Twin Peaks tunnel will have a dramatic impact on the West portal area for the next 18 months.

The Department of Public Work’s (DPW) Water main and Road Project are scheduled to begin on April 2015 and end in August. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agencies’ (SFMTA) Blue Light Emergency Telephone project and and the Tunnel Radio Replacement project will both begin in July of 2015 and end in January.

Finally, the (SFMTA’s) Twin Peaks Tunnel Rebuild will start in January 2016 and end in August.

Inside the tunnel
Inside the Twin Peaks Tunnel from SFMTA’s Tunnel Inspection Report 2009

West Portal Ave Water Main, Sewer and Paving Project

Many may remember the broken, 60 year old, 16 inch water-main located at 15th Avenue and Wawona that broke apart, creating a flood that damaged 23 homes in the surrounding neighborhood. After that the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) had to set-up a field office in 2011 in the West Portal neighborhood.

Despite the age and deterioration to the tunnel, the City has never performed any seismic retrofits to the Twin Peaks Tunnel.”

The current West Portal road work will be performed in several phases over a 16-month duration. Work to be performed includes:

• water main installation on West Portal Ave.

• sewer main work on West Portal Ave between 14th Ave and 15th Ave at the intersection of West Portal Ave and Ulloa St

• bulb-out installations on West Portal Ave at Vicente

• new curb ramps along the project limits

• paving two parking lots within the project limits

• repaving along muni tracks

• roadway resurfacing on West Portal Ave

Street parking will not always be available on blocks during construction work hours which are 9am-4pm, Monday-Friday and 8am-4pm on weekends. Other anticipated problems will be a high level of noise, Dust and traffic congestion.

“Nobody wants to have the street in front of their business torn up, but this is infrastructure and it needs to be done. It seems like the construction crew is doing their best to keep the project moving quickly which is great because it mitigates our lost business. We had to close our door, which is usually open, to keep out the dirt and noise and our sales declined from 20%-30% on those days. Luckily, most of our customers realized it wasn’t that inconvenient to shop on West Portal,” said Matt Rogers, owner of Papenhausen Hardware, located at 32 West Portal Ave. inside the tunnel

Elliot Wagner, The owner of Dimitra’s Skin Care & MediSpa, 324 West Portal Ave. said “There seems to a giant disconnect between what the DPW led businesses to believe would be a very orderly progression of work that would be done one block at a time vs what is currently taking place. Other than the overall dates of Apr 2015 - July 2015, West Portal businesses really didn’t get specific dates of when each segment of the project would be done. I guess the DPW are independently doing some of the pieces of the project, like replacing the water lines that run on my side of West Portal right now. Currently, they have posted No Parking signs, running from April 13th –May 4th & some from April 24th – April 27th.”

“For many businesses, construction noise is a disaster (imagine getting a relaxing massage or facial, and suddenly you are blasted away by the extreme racket of jack hammers). There is a high possibility that the DPW could put me out of business. At several of the WPA meetings, I asked that the really noisy work be done from 7-10 am, before most businesses open. Businesses were told by the contractor ‘our concerns would be taken under advisement.’ It seems the parking and use of construction equipment was the DPW’s primary objective.”

“The Construction Management team is sensitive to the needs of the community and is actively working with the merchants and residents to ensure project success by including them in the partnering process and construction meetings both before and during construction,” Najim Dadasi, the DPW Public Affairs Officer said.

“Some of the issues we have been able to mitigate are the parking challenges. We agreed to leave open both public parking lots at Ulloa and Claremont and West Portal and 14th Ave during construction. We will pave these lots at the end of the project. Additionally the contractor will only work on one side of the street at a time, utilizing only the space that is needed within their immediate work-zone so as not to further impact merchants.more inside the tunnel

“We have also committed to providing a half-block area within each active block for deliveries. Representatives from both the merchant and resident groups are valued members of our team and provide us instant feedback on the day to day construction triumphs and woes. We are committed to making these roadway, infrastructure and safety improvements for the people that use West Portal.” 

The Twin Peaks Tunnel Construction

SFMTA will be replacing all of the tracks inside Twin Peaks Tunnel. The Tunnel runs between Castro and West Portal MUNI stations. A number of retrofits to the inside of the tunnel will also take place during the track replacement to avoid future shutdowns.

Despite the age and deterioration to the tunnel, the City has never performed any seismic retrofits to the Twin Peaks Tunnel. A 2009 report, put out by the SFMTA’s Capital Programs and Construction Division, asserts that the Twin Peaks Tunnel is in relatively good condition.

According to Kelley McCoy, Public Information Officer, “…three lines travel through this tunnel several times a day, serving over 80,000 customers daily. To keep the system running safely and reliably, we need to replace the aging track system, repair parts of the tunnel walls and ceiling, and make seismic improvements.

“The current tunnel infrastructure is about 40 years old and is nearing the end of its usefulness.

“The seismic improvements to the unused Eureka Valley Station will not only improve the safety of the tunnel, but the neighborhoods above it. The last time the tracks were replaced was 1975. In the nearly one hundred years the tracks were replaced twice. The total cost? $47 million.

“Any information about the bus shuttles, including the temporary stops and route, will be posted to the project website when it becomes available.”

Twin Peaks Tunnel New tracks between West Portal and Castro stations will ensure that MUNI trains run safely and reliably through the tunnel. This will also lift the current speed restriction in the tunnel and allow trains to move faster.

Blue Light Emergency Telephone The existing emergency phones will be upgraded and new phones added throughout the MUNI subway. These phones are crucial for contacting emergency services in a crisis, such as a natural disaster or medical emergency.

According to Jay Lu, Public Relations Officer, “(the Blue Light) Emergency Telephone and Radio System were last installed in the 70’s. The current systems are old and outdated. The new Blue Light phones and radio system are equipped with state-of-the-art technology to modernize MUNI and the reliability of our communications system. Upgrading the Blue Light Emergency Telephones will improve the MUNI emergency response system. Replacing 90 old phones with 181 new ones will make it easier and more accessible for MUNI customers in emergency situations. The upgraded system will be effective in dealing with unplanned emergencies, such as a natural disaster or a medical emergency.”

The Blue Light Emergency Telephone and Radio Replacement Projects (From West Portal Station to Embarcadero Station) will cause MUNI to shut down on weeknights 7 days/week (9:00 pm to start of regular am train service) in July 2015 to January 2016.

Twin Peaks Tunnel Track Replacement Tentative schedule: Shutdown on weekends (late pm Fridays to start of regular train service Monday morning) in winter 2016 to late spring or summer.

Radio Replacement: As part of a system-wide upgrade to MUNI communications, SFMTA is upgrading the radio system. This will improve communications on all MUNI vehicles, provide American Disabilities Act (ADA) passenger travel information, and improve service disruptions.

Tunnel repairs have had a history of neighborhood problems. While most of the work is taking place inside the tunnel, construction crews have to haul gravel, rails, and other materials in from either end. It creates a continuous level of construction sounds that include the beeping of trucks and earthmovers backing up, dump trucks depositing gravel, and the grating noise of rails being dragged. The movements of large gravel and rail dumps create high pitched noise and large amounts of dust.

When the Sunset tunnel for the N Judah was being refurbished, the noise level at night was so loud that residents could not sleep. After 51 residents signed a petition regarding the Sunset project had to be shut down for two months.

According to the SFMTA, many of the problems created from the Sunset tunnel rebuild will be mitigated by 1) gravel removal which will be done at both the Castro street and West Portal entrances; 2) gravel ballast will be delivered to the job site only between 6am – 10pm Friday and Saturday; 3) new truck back-up alarms will lower noise levels; and 4) using electric-powered equipment, rather than diesel-powered equipment, whenever possible.

There will be two staging areas needed for the project. The area on Junipero Serra from Ocean Avenue to Sloat Blvd. will be used to hold all the new rail and gravel to go into the tunnel. The second staging area will hold the old materials until it can be discarded.

The West Portal parking lot will most likely be used as a staging area as fewer trucks will be needed to carry debris from the tunnel to the lot.

The Twin Peaks Tunnel rebuild and the water main and sewage project are inconvenient, let’s hope they do a good jo B.

George Wooding, Westside Observer

May 2015

Last Twin Peaks Gas Station EndangeredTwin Peaks Gas Station

The San Francisco Real Estate Department may be about to push the Twin Peaks Petroleum gas station out of business by not negotiating the station’s new lease in good faith. The gas station has been located on the corner of Portola and Woodside Avenue for over 60 Years. This piece of property is located on Department of Public Health (DPH) property. The gas station was originally leased to Mobil Oil and then transferred to British Petroleum . The station as been managed/owned for over 30 years by Nancy and Michael Ghari B.

I don’t think we would have had so many negotiation problems with the Department of Real Estate if we were a big oil company with all of their lobbyists and attorneys.”

It’s not often when a neighborhood business becomes an institution. It’s even rarer when a gas station captures the hearts of surrounding neighborhoods.

After all, gas stations can be noisy, odiferous, and obtrusive. They are designed more for convenience than neighborhood appeal.

Besides being one of the last surviving independent gas stations in San Francisco, this gas station is the last gas station servicing the Twin Peaks neighborhoods for over one to three miles in any direction.Twin Peaks Gas Station

On average, the station’s price per gallon of gas is approximately ten cents lower than chain gas stations. Beyond consumer convenience, these lower prices help to keep chain gas station prices lower due to competition.

According to station owner Michael Gharib, “We have been great caretakers of Twin Peaks Petroleum for over 30 years and have always treated the City land as if it were our own.

“When I first set out as a service station owner 30-plus years ago, it was all about the word ‘service.’ We may have modernized and streamlined over the years, but that is still one past aspect of the industry that I hold close and that is to provide the best service to my customers — many of whom are my neighbors and my friends.

“Thirty years ago there were at least eight other service stations in the immediate are A. Now it’s just me. And if I were forced out by the City, the surrounding neighborhoods including Upper Market, Midtown Terrace, Glen Park, Diamond Heights, Miraloma, Forest Hills, and Forest Knolls to name just a few, would have no service or gas facilities anywhere from one to three miles!

“When we went ‘independent’ in 1994, we chose a name and logo that reflected the neighborhood, and colors that blended in with the surroundings. This was all thought out and planned because we are part of the surrounding communities and wanted to honor that connection.

“I don’t think we would have had so many negotiation problems with the Department of Real Estate if we were a big oil company with all of their lobbyists and attorneys.”

Twin Peaks Petroleum’s Good Intentions Are Punished by the City’s Real Estate Department

The City’s Real Estate Department’s standard 20-year lease with Twin Peaks Petroleum expired in July 2014. In anticipation of this lease expiration, the Gharib’s began renegotiating a new lease in 2012.

By June 2013, Twin Peaks Petroleum and the City Real Estate Department had negotiated a new lease allowing the station to plan and operate for another 15 years.

In July 2013, the station received a notice from the Department of Public Health (DPH) that the station site was officially deemed clean. Twin Peaks Petroleum had removed a leaky waste oil tank, cleaned the surrounding soil, and monitored the surrounding area for contaminants for over 20 years.

The station’s “clean” land was now worth much more than if the Gharibs had kept the land contaminated. Suddenly, the City shortened the length of lease terms. Insurance deposits rose from $10,000 to $100,000, and station demolition time frames went from 18 months to 6 months. After two years of negotiations the Gharibs were placed on a month-to-month lease.

On March 23, 2015 the Department of Real Estate finally sent the Gharibs a lease that allows them to remain an additional five years. Twin Peaks Petroleum was offered a five-year term with a five-year option period, with mutual termination rights upon six months’ advance written notice. This basically means that the Gharibs will be allowed to remain for an additional five-year period if they sign the lease.

With only a five-year lease, Twin Peaks Petroleum will not be able to recoup the cost of repairs, permits, or basic station maintenance. The gas station will become a run-down broken mess.

One of Mayor Lee’s major goals is to build 6,000 housing units per year for the next five years in the City. Some of this housing, such as the proposed Balboa Reservoir housing project, will be built on leased City property.

Would 30 condominiums built on an old gas station site overlooking the Youth Guidance Center be worth more than a 65-year-old gas station? The City’s answer would be “Yes” while the neighborhood’s answer would be a resounding “No.”

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “Since the economic recovery started in 2010, housing developers have initiated projects that would replace 23 gas stations across the city, including five on four blocks of Upper Market Street, four on Valencia Street, two on Sixth Street and two on South Van Ness.”

Along with 13 sites of former gas stations that have already been developed or are under construction, by 2017 the City will have 40 percent fewer service stations than existed a decade earlier, according to City records.

Current gas station users and neighborhood groups are already angry with what the City’s Real Estate Department is doing on public property without any consultations or concerns about how neighborhood groups and residents feel about the removal of their gas station.

The West of Twin Peaks Central Council (WTPCC) and its 20-member neighborhood group voted unanimously to help save this gas station. Ironically, one of the reasons the WTPCC was formed in 1936 was to prevent the continued building of gas stations on the west side of town. Several neighborhood groups and residents are also planning to send letters to city hall. A sampling of neighborhood resident letters are shown below:

“I am a long-term Forest Knolls resident. In the past few years, I have watched more and more gas/service stations move out of our are A. Not only do I rely on Twin Peaks Gas for the purchase of gasoline, I depend on the station for servicing and emergency repairs of my vehicle. As a senior, I will find it very inconvenient to drive around looking for a gas station. Also as more stations close their businesses in our area, the existing gas stations are impacted with long lines and waits.”

— Norma Bell, Forest Knolls

“We wish to send this email in strong support of the Twin Peaks Auto Care Business on Portol A. We have lived in the neighborhood for 32 years. The Twin Peaks Auto Care Business provides an extremely valuable service to the many neighborhoods surrounding its central location. It is on a busy transit corridor and is also located in a commercial district, and is rarely, if ever, without a bustling business and parade of vehicles and customers who need their service. It provides to this area of San Francisco fuel at fair-market pricing and a reputable, reliable auto mechanic shop. This business has been an asset to those of us who live on the west side of the City. On another level Twin Peaks Auto Care provides employment and a living to workers who are supporting their families. That, alone, is an outcome of great importance and value.”

— Victor and Anne Pagan, Midtown Terrace Residents

“I cannot imagine Twin Peaks Auto Care being gone and having to drive further out of the City to get gas. This would be a devastating loss.”

— Kathy Saelor, Miraloma Park

“Why on earth would they even think of closing down this station? It’s proving that with all the other stations closed down Twin Peaks is the only station left serving that area and beyond. This is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. I think the local so-called administrators should remove their heads out of their asses and allow Twin Peaks to continue on with the excellent service they have been giving.”

— Sam Adams, Forest Knolls

If you and or your neighborhood group want to send letters to City Hall to help save the Twin Peaks Petroleum gas station, please contact the following people:

Barbar A.garcia@sfdph.org

john.updike@sfgov.org

norman.yee@sfgov.org

mattias.mormino@sfgov.org

Claudine.venegas@sfgov.org

Claudi A.gorham@sfgov.org

Naomi.kelly@sfgov.org

Steve.kawa@sfgov.org

George Wooding, Midtown Terrace Homeowners Association

April 2015

Played for a FoolMayor Ed Lee

Funding is the name of the game for San Francisco’s ambitious Department of Environment (SFE) which is now maneuvering to get the Mayor to allow the agency to draw funds directly from the City’s already over-committed discretionary General Fund.

The SFE currently is a City enterprise agency. This means that it has to be financially self-sufficient, generating its own revenue without subsidies from the General Fund. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the San Francisco International Airport, and the Port of San Francisco are all enterprise agencies.

If SFE becomes a “General Fund department” and annually takes a cut from the City’s shrinking discretionary money, other City agencies such as the libraries, Recreation and Park, Human Services Agency, Public Health, Children Youth and Families, plus several more departments will start to receive less annual funding. The City services that people depend on will foot the bill to pay for SFE.

SFE grew from its creation in the revised 1995 City Charter with a budget of $281,000 in 1997 to presently a $20 million operation. It employs over 100 people and occupies a rented 24,400 sq ft space at 1455 Market Street

Unlike other City enterprise agencies, the SFE is empire building, and refuses to cut back on employees, expenses or projects even though its revenue does not cover its costs. The result is currently a budget shortfall and SFE wants a City bail out.

SF Environment’s Financial Mismanagement

Financial mismanagement was revealed at the January 27th Commission on the Environment meeting to approve the 2015-2016 SFE budget. The budget was sent to the Commission with funding gaps in salaries and unfunded obligations for employees’ benefits, referred to as “structural problems.” There was no discussion of hiring freezes, layoffs or cutting programs to balance the budget.

During the meeting, the Commissioners did discuss various strategies for enticing the Mayor to make SFE a “General Fund Department” to backfill the gaps. Then they approved the budget, even though it was unbalanced. The Charter requires Commission approval before a budget is submitted to the Mayor.

To understand the department’s mismanagement, one needs to know that SFE grew from its creation in the revised 1995 City Charter with a budget of $281,000 in 1997 to presently a $20 million operation. It employs over 100 people and occupies a rented 24,400 sq ft space at 1455 Market Street in order to house everyone.

SFE gets 46% ($9,389,000) of its revenue from grants. This is an enormous amount of their budget that varies from year to year. The funding that many staff rely on is not guaranteed. Also, many grants do not pay for all the staff benefits the City affords its employees, so these costs are shifted to other funding sources by bending the rules.

Frequently, grants do not pay for indirect costs. These indirect costs include such things as the $756,000 that SFE pays annually for rent, with a remodeling loan financed at 8%. There are other administrative expenses that bring the total to $4 million a year. When grants do not pay for indirect costs, they must be absorbed by other funding sources.

Now those other funding sources cannot sustain underwriting all the grants, so it’s City Hall to the rescue.

The culture of SFE has not reflected a desire to be a fiscally responsible enterprise department with a sound business plan. Why would they be any better at managing money if they were a General Fund Department? There is no oversight by anybody, including City Hall.

SFE could curtail some financing problems by stopping the practice of hiring long term costly City employees with short term grant funding. For example, last July SFE got the Mayor’s approval to convert four staff from temporary employees to permanent status with all the benefits that includes. Now SFE is advertising for another new permanent employee in the salary range of $84,000 - $102,000, knowing this adds to ITS deficit.

Grants can be used to hire independent contractors without City benefits to perform SFE’s work, instead of hiring employees with benefits. When the grant money ends, so does the need to pay somebody. Problem solved.

The rest of the $20 million budget comes from other City departments who contribute 9% ($1,752,000) to SFE in the form of work orders, and from the Solid Waste Management Program (SWMP) for 45% ($9,323,000). The SWMP money is a fee added to the residential garbage rates renegotiated whenever the Recology rates are periodically increased. SFE tells Recology how much money to collect on behalf of the City, and this sum is then part of the rates. The Refuse Rate Board always approves whatever SFE asks.

The Plan To Fool The Mayor

At the same January 27th meeting where the budget was approved, the Commission heard a presentation by a Mayor’s Budget Office staff member on the Controller’s 5 year financial plan to the year 2020. It projects a shortfall of $15.9 million for next year’s budget, and that expenditures are continuing to grow faster than revenue. Because the 5 year plan is presenting a “recession scenario,” the city proposes to curb growth and increase revenues.

The Commissioners heard these words of warning, ignored them, and decided that now is the ideal time to get on the City’s gravy train, before the financial picture gets any worse. Then they discussed various strategies for convincing the Mayor to make SFE a General Fund Department. Since the Mayor referred to SFE programs in his recent State of the City speech, they decided he could be manipulated into providing funds for them.

Previously, at the Operations Committee meeting on January 21st, Commissioners talked about ideas for getting the General Funds:

1. Commissioners discussed the need for more funds and how to get their expensive City Attorney fees paid with City money. They assume that becoming a General Fund Department with just “a dollar” allocation will automatically provide SFE with a large budget appropriation to pay these fees. This is a primary reason for pursuing General Funds.

Commission President Arce: “We have to get General Fund [money] period. Why? It solves the City Attorney problem. If we get $1 we get an allocation. Right? So we have to win. We have to get in there [into the General Fund budget].”

2. Commissioners discussed what would be the best way to justify and sell to the Mayor a request for General Fund money. Would it be by asking for either “discretionary” funding to pay for expenses, or for a to-be-determined “program component”, or both reasons?

Commission President Arce: “We can work hard on this to make it happen. And that’s what we’re here for as Commissioners, to work all kinds of little angles and stuff.” - including fooling the Mayor.

3. Commissioners discussed how to make their SFE budget proposal look better, “create a buzz,” and be more appealing to the Mayor by parroting back the ideas from his recent State of the City speech.

Commission President Arce: “We just say the exact same words. We just copy and paste from the shared prosperity agenda [from the Mayor’s speech] and put it into our proposal for General Fund [money]. We’ll get it. Period.”

At the January 27th meeting, Director Deborah Raphael reported that she had already had discussions with Kate Howard, Director of the Mayor’s Budget Office, about the importance of General Fund money for SFE and thanked the office for their support in this effort. Clearly, this idea is now being discussed behind closed doors on the second floor of City Hall.

It is important to note that the Commission made no effort to get any public opinion on this controversial decision to cease being an enterprise department. The topic was never on any Commission agend A. This is exactly the kind of issue that the Sunshine Ordinance intended to keep in front of the public at all times with full disclosure. That did not happen.

Conclusion

SFE has been left to its own devices and is now out of control. They want funding from the taxpayers as well as from the ratepayers with no oversight.

The City needs to audit SFE’s fiscal practices and business plan long before considering giving them any taxpayer money, and to decide what procedural changes need to be made. Detailed financial oversight from the City is definitely required for all of SFE’s funding sources.

SFE needs to balance the books and live within its revenue restrictions. It should not be rewarded with general funds to cover up poor management of grants.

SFE should hire independent contractors on grants, rather than City employees.

SFE should faithfully apply the Commission-approved Guidelines for Use of the funds from the Solid Waste Management Program, with periodic City audits of the expenditures for compliance.

New activities should not be accepted without the underwriting to finance them. If necessary, other City departments can take on programs SFE has trouble funding.

SFE needs a viable fund raising plan to endow the department, and then needs to implement it.

The Commission on the Environment needs to agendize all fiscal matters according to the Sunshine Ordinance. Major financial decisions are discussed without being clearly publicized in violation of the Ordinance and Brown Act, and without inviting an informed public to comment. Financial matters need full disclosure and transparency.

The Mayor needs to immediately fill two vacancies on the Commission on the Environment with people who have experience in overseeing multimillion dollar business operations and have a working knowledge of fund raising and grants.

Nancy Wuerfel, a government fiscal analyst, served as a member of the Park, Recreation Open Space Advisory Committee (PROSAC) for 9 years as an appointee of 3 District 4 Supervisors, George Wooding is a Westside Observer Investigative Reporter.

March 2015

Where Can Homeless Shelters Be Placed in San Francisco?homeless person sleeping on bench

Few citizens know this, but all of San Francisco’s Residential Housing with two attached units (RH-2) can be converted into a homeless shelter by the Planning Department.

While the City claims it does not significantly add to the capacity of homeless shelters, there is already a severe shortage of facilities.

Cruel as it sounds, most neighborhoods will not want a homeless shelter in their neighborhood due to the potential for problems with homeless residents and their friends who visit.

Consequently, San Francisco was inundated by mentally-ill patients. Many of these patients currently reside in local prisons. Many additional mentally-ill patients currently reside in the San Francisco community trapped between homelessness and shelters. The mental health problem is exacerbated by San Francisco’s inability to provide medication to mental health patients on a regular basis."

Last November 25, Mayor Ed Lee proposed an ordinance that would change the definition of homeless shelters. The Mayor’s proposal was adopted by the Planning Commission on December 18 and will be heard before the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee in late February.

The proposed ordinance would amend the Planning Code to define what a “Homeless Shelter” is and to establish zoning, open space, and parking policies for this use in compliance with California Government Code requirements. It would also amend the Administrative Code to require contracts between the City and shelter operators to contain operational standards.

The Planning Code currently does not include a definition for homeless shelters.

Planning is stating that the new ordinance will be almost identical to the old homeless shelter ordinance, minus some changes in the regulations for tourist hotels.

The legislation will supposedly allow consistency in reviewing homeless shelter applications per the Planning Code. It would:

• Create a definition for homeless shelters in the Planning Code, reflecting the current implications of this type of use in the neighborhood based on the more current trends of shelter operation.

• Allow this use as a right in certain zoning districts, and with conditional approval in some other districts, reflecting the group housing zoning controls.

• Exempt homeless shelters from open space, car, and bicycle parking, as well as impact-fee requirements. More people can be placed in a RH-2 residence if there are no cars or bikes located in the facility.

According to the 2013 Homeless Count Report, 7,350 homeless people live in San Francisco, including sheltered and unsheltered persons, as well as unaccompanied children and transition-age youth. Of these, approximately 59% were unsheltered (about 4,200 people).

Current occupants of homeless shelters include people with disabilities, families, the elderly, transient individuals, and people who have mental illnesses.

City planner Kamia Haddadan explains the new homeless ordinance by stating, “Currently, homeless shelters are allowed in many zoning districts.” Where and how they are permitted depends on if they are categorized as a Tourist Hotel or Group Housing, which is determined by the Zoning Administrator on a case–by-case basis. Homeless shelters are categorized as Group Housing when the length-of-stay is a week or more. If the length-of-stay is less than that, it is considered a Tourist Hotel. The majority of homeless shelters permitted to date have been categorized as Group Housing, which is allowed in most zoning districts including RH-2 with Conditional Use (CU) authorization.

Haddadan further states, “The proposed legislation would not change these controls, but it would create a separate use category for homeless shelters so that each proposal would not need a Zoning Administrator Interpretation to determine the appropriate use category. Also, the City’s policy towards homelessness is to primarily provide permanent housing for the homeless population. While homeless shelters are necessary, the City’s primary focus will still be on finding permanent housing for homeless individuals and families.”

The proposed Ordinance would clarify the zoning controls to streamline the review process for any potential future homeless shelters applications across the City.

If the City’s CU process were utilized, and the Planning Department wanted to place a homeless shelter in your neighborhood, they would need a Planning Commission hearing in order to determine if the proposed use is necessary, or desirable, to the neighborhood, and whether it may potentially have a negative impact on the surrounding neighborhood.

All owners within 300 feet of proposed new homeless shelters will receive notification of the hearing. The assigned planner will gather comments and concerns from the neighborhood during the notification period. Neighborhood support or opposition will be reflected in a staff report presented at the Planning Commission hearing, complete with the Planning Department’s recommendation for approval or disapproval of the CU.

District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, who helped to introduce the homeless shelter ordinance stated, “San Francisco has been at the forefront of helping the mentally disabled, but the City has been unable to adequately address mental illness problems.”

Nearly one-third of people who are homeless have mental illnesses. With the appropriate treatment, care and support, they could live successful, productive lives in the community. Unfortunately, most people who are homeless lack access to the services they need.

The number of acute-care psychiatric beds in San Francisco are rapidly being downsized in both the public and private sectors. Lengths of stay in acute-care psychiatric units are dropping. Unfortunately, inpatient psychiatric facilities lose money.

California became the national leader in aggressively moving patients from state and county hospitals into the community. By the time Ronald Reagan assumed the governorship in 1967, California had already deinstitutionalized more than half of its state hospital patients. That same year, California passed the landmark Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act, which virtually abolished involuntary hospitalization except in extreme cases. Thus, by the early 1970’s by the time Ronald Reagan assumed the governorship in 1967, California had already deinstitutionalized more than half of its state hospital patients and, bypassing LPS, had made it very difficult to get patients back into a hospital if they relapsed and needed additional care. Ironically, President Reagan was shot in 1986 by John Hinkley, Jr., who was later found to be not guilty by reason of insanity.

The financial burden of mentally ill patient treatments quickly fell squarely on the cities and counties in Californi A.

Consequently, San Francisco was inundated by mentally-ill patients. Many of these patients currently reside in local prisons. Many additional mentally-ill patients currently reside in the San Francisco community trapped between homelessness and shelters. The mental health problem is exacerbated by San Francisco’s inability to provide medication to mental health patients on a regular basis.

In 1985, San Francisco voters approved a proposition authorizing $26 million in bonds to construct a 147-bed psychiatric facility, the Mental Health Rehabilitation Facility (MHRF), on the grounds of San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH) to keep psychiatric patients in county. Eleven years later, the “MHRF” opened in 1996. By 2003, when the City was facing a huge deficit, DPH proposed closing the MHRF. A “Blue Ribbon Committee” eventually split the three-story building into multiple uses, and today, the MHRF operates only 24 psychiatric beds. Many of its patients were discharged out-of-county.

The bond measure was actually passed in November 1987. The voter handbook said 185 beds — not 147 — would be built for a “mental health skilled nursing facility,” and that the measure would end up costing $39.7 million, including interest on the bonds. It took 11 years before the MHRF was built and opened in 1996. Sadly, the MHRF has all but closed, converted to other mixed uses.

Chronic homelessness is now a way of life in San Francisco. We cannot neglect these people, but we need to understand why so many mentally ill patients are living on the streets of San Francisco. Homeless shelters can be a good way to help the mentally ill remain in the community.

The question is, as always, where should the mentally ill, transients and poor families live in San Francisco? The neighborhoods with RH-2 housing should carefully consider the impacts of homeless shelters they add in their communities.

George Wooding, Midtown Terrace Homeowners Association

February 2015

 

End of the Road for Residential Neighborhoods

Last year, Supervisor David Chiu rezoned the City’s residential housing stock by making secondary units legal throughout the entire City. His legislation was so bureaucratic and ridiculous that only seven residents have signed-up.

This year, on October 21, the Board of Supervisors voted 7 to 4 to help Chiu pass the Airbnb legislation that caused 1) Every residential house in the City to be rezoned as commercial property, 2) Has no effective enforcement, 3) Is purposely vague, and 4) Allows Airbnb to skip paying at least $25 million in back taxes owed to the City.

Meanwhile, New York City leaders are prosecuting the Airbnb people who are renting out their homes illegally.

The Planning Commission is set to adopt the new “Article 2” code change at their November 20th meeting. It is a 462 page umbrella article for residential lots. Changes will allow a myriad of non-resdential (e.g. institutional, public utilities, et C.) uses to be allowed without hearings in all residential areas”

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman just issued a report claiming up to 72 percent of Airbnb lodging reservations in New York are illegally booked.

New York is taking a different path than San Francisco. Schneiderman says as his investigation continues, he’s teaming up with local authorities to step up enforcement against what he calls illegal hotels.

San Francisco’s local politicians — Chiu, Wiener, Tang, Breed, Cohen, and Kim — capitulated to Airbnb’s money and local political influence, while NewYork’s politicians chose to fight Airbn B.

Conversely, District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee showed real backbone by standing up against the commercial rezoning of residential neighborhoods zoning. Yee states, “I don’t believe in the one size fits all approach that this [Airbnb} legislation takes in legalizing short term rentals, we have zoning laws and allow certain uses in specific areas for very good reasons. I cannot support rezoning of the entire city and redefining residential use that this legislation attempts.”

Chiu does not care one whit what his Airbnb legislation has done to the character of San Francisco neighborhoods. His true goal is to beat David Campos in California’s District 17 Assembly race with the help of Airbnb’s money.

According to Joe Eskanazi, a reporter from the San Francisco Weekly, “An independent expenditure committee called “San Franciscans to Hold Campos Accountable” has, to date, poured some $600,000 into torpedoing Assembly candidate David Campos, Chiu’s opponent in the forthcoming election. Half a million dollars of that comes from early Airbnb investor Reid Hoffman, $49,900 comes from early Airbnb investor Ron Conway, and $49,000 comes from Conway’s wife, Gayle.”

Chiu’s campaign manager, Nicole Derse, is a partner in the consulting firm 50 + 1 Strategies. This same firm was also hired by Airbnb to recruit people who rent out their homes to lobby Supervisors to support a bill friendly to Airbn B.

Both Derse and Chiu claim that 50 + 1 Strategies has a “firewall” between his election campaign and Airbn B. 50 + 1 Strategies only has ten employees.

Interestingly, Supervisor Malia Cohen, the deciding vote on many of Airbnb’s contentious 6 to 5 amendment votes is also represented by 50 + 1 Strategies. A quick perusal of contributions reveals several thousand dollars worth of donations to Cohen from Airbnb interests.

Cohen voted not to collect the $25 million in back taxes owed by Airbnb to the City because, “the information on Airbnb is devoid of accurate information and is really politically motivated.” She is obviously not paying any attention to City Treasurer Jose Cisneros.

Winning her District 10 Supervisorial seat with only 4,321 votes, Cohen is a great example of the limitations of rank-choice-voting.

Last but not least, Airbnb investor Ron Conway is one of Mayor Lee’s biggest financial supporters. Conway is well known in the technology sector for his early investing in Google, Facebook and Twitter, Conway had similarly spotted early potential in Lee as a malleable candidate for mayor. Conway formed an independent expenditure committee to support Lee’s election to a four-year term. He pitched in $150,000 of his own money, and the group raised $670,000. Run Ed Run.

Mayor Lee signed Chiu’s Airbnb legislation into law on October 27th while anti-Airbnb protestors demonstrated on the front steps of city hall and discussed lawsuits. Earlier, Mayor Lee had endorsed David Chiu on October 22nd to be the District 17 Assembly representative—-no one cared.

Chiu’s Airbnb legislation will now be facing a ballot initiative according to Doug Engmann, the former head of the planning commission. Engmann’s anti-Airbnb group has already collected 15,761 signatures, likely enough to ensure the 9,700 valid signatures required to appear on the ballot. Engmann also stated that “anti-Airbnb volunteers may continue to collect signatures through May, 2015.”

Enough said.

Dianne Feinstein Hates What Airbnb Will Do To The Neighborhoods

California Senator Dianne Feinstein stated, “The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is poised to approve legislation that would legalize short-term stays in private homes that are negotiated through a number of online reservation systems.”

This [Airbnb] is a shortsighted action that would destroy the integrity of zoning throughout San Francisco, allowing commercial and hotel use in residential areas throughout the City. The board compounded this poor decision by rejecting a number of commonsense amendments that would have vastly improved the legislation.

Feinstein continues, “As a former nine-year member of the Board of Supervisors and nine-year mayor, I know firsthand the merits of strong zoning laws. They protect residential areas so they can support families and be free of commercial activities that are not related to neighborhood needs.”

“This home-sharing legislation blurs those lines and provides for residential housing to be leased out for hotel use. As such, those of us who value the residential character of our neighborhoods and are invested in the city’s quality of life will see all of this washed away by a blanket commercialization of our neighborhoods.”

Feinstein is right.

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown stated in his October 26th Chronicle column, “that Senator Diane Feinstein tells me that if Mayor Ed Lee signs the Board of Supervisors’ legislation legalizing Airbnb-style rentals, she’ll support an effort to overturn it at the ballot.”

Brown further states, “It would be one heck of a fight for Lee to face when he is up for re-election next year, but Feinstein is serious in her belief that the proliferation of short-term rentals in the City will destroy the neighborhoods.”

Thanks to the new Airbnb legislation, homes will now cost more as families compete with developers and business people looking to convert existing residential units into Airbnb units. Bye-bye new families with children, tenants, and old people.

Even the high-tech workers pushing for the gentrification of lower income neighborhoods will suffer sticker shock, since the average monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment is $2,873 and $3,859 for a two bedroom apartment. In July 2009, the monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment was $1,416 and $1,840 for a two bedroom apartment.

Also, thanks to new planning rules many of the new apartments will only be 500 to 700 square feet. Some units are now being built as small as 288 square feet.

People used to aspire to live in the expensive house at the top of the hill. Now, they covet the affordable homes in the low-income housing areas. As lower income parts of town are being “gentrified,” lower-income people and the businesses who serve their neighborhoods are being pushed out by wealthier people ordering short, tall, grande, and venti coffees.

Why would a landlord rent/lease to a tenant for $4,000 a month, when they could make $6,000 per month by using Airbnb?

More planning changes may be coming to the residential neighborhoods.

Chui’s Airbnb legislation has run roughshod over the San Francisco Planning Department’s recommendations for Airbnb’s planning amendments and will now create new changes to Planning’s Article 2.

The Planning Department has created/combined a 462-page rewrite of Planning Code Article 2 for residential housing. Planning did excellent work and claims that there are no substantive changes to the residential housing planning code, but there will be many unintended consequences to combining housing rules and definitions.

Questions on the Article 2 can be answered by planner Aaron Starr at (415) 558-6362 and/or by e-mail at Aaron.Starr@sfgov.org

The Planning Commission is set to adopt the new “Article 2” code changes at its November 20 meeting. It is a 462-page umbrella article for residentival lots. Changes will allow a myriad of non-residential (e.g., institutional, public utilities, et C.) uses to be allowed without hearings in all residential areas.

A new “use characteristic” category will be created to allow the sea change for residential lots. Height limits may change based on topography. Rear yards shrinking to 15 feet or precious housing being automatically being turned into dormitory housing? Since the Board of Supervisors passed Airbnb (hotel-like use) for residential areas, who’ll be your next neighbor?

David Chiu’s Airbnb legislation has made a mockery of the City’s planning processes demonstrating a system where politicians who were elected to represent the voters are representing billionaires to further their own self interest.

George Wooding, Midtown Terrace Homeowners Association

November 2014

Supervisor Chiu: Rezone Residential Housing to Commercial Housing

Strike two for Board of Supervisors president David Chiu.

Chiu and his downtown allies are once again trying to pass legislation to rezone all of San Francisco.

Many homeowners will remember that Chiu rezoned the entire city in a poorly written and ineffective legislative attempt to regulate secondary housing units. Thanks to Chiu, San Francisco’s in-law units became legalized throughout the City last April.

Property owners and tenants alike have to understand how Supervisor David Chiu’s weak Airbnb legislation will reduce housing, hurt San Francisco’s hotel industry, displace hotel worker jobs, and impact neighborhoods in the long-term.

Neighborhoods that did not want legalized secondary units were not listened to and are being forced to relinquish their neighborhood character by adding density, permanent rent controlled units, increased traffic, less parking, higher building permit fees, larger housing footprints, and the destruction of neighborhood association bylaws.

Chiu’s pending legislation to “Regulate Short term Rentals and Protect Residential Housing” — otherwise known as Airbnb legislation — would regulate a resident’s ability to rent their principal place of housing on a short-term basis. Currently, residential apartments cannot be rented for fewer than 30 days under San Francisco’s Administrative and Planning Codes.

Chiu’s new legislation is weak and designed to favor the wealthy Internet companies that rent housing to tourists — not to favor San Francisco neighborhoods, or to preserve housing and rental stock.

Chiu took over a year to develop his Airbnb legislation by working with tenant organizations, developers, and tourist rental groups such as Airbn B. Chiu ignored the neighborhoods’ input when he developed his secondary unit legislation and it looks like he will again be ignoring the neighborhoods with his Airbnb legislation.

Why can’t David Chiu let the neighborhoods decide what is best for each individual neighborhood, housing type, or zone?

“The proposed Airbnb legislation would rezone the entire city from residential zoning to commercial zoning in one fell swoop,” said John Bardis, former President of the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods and former San Francisco Supervisor. “We hear complaints from almost every neighborhood about the detrimental effects of short-term rentals on the quality of life of tenants and residents,” Bardis adds.

When Chiu passed his secondary unit legislation, he was supposedly trying to create two-unit homes throughout the City. Now, his Airbnb legislation could fill those units with tourists.

The Airbnb trend has led to evictions, lease violations, and landlord-tenant disputes. Neighbors are concerned about security linked to ever-changing overnight visitors. Policymakers say San Francisco’s tight housing market will be pressured more if units are held back for tourist stays.

Supervisor David Campos, Chiu’s opponent in the November race for the Assembly District 17, has documented lobbying reports showing 61 contacts between representatives of Airbnb — including former City Hall insiders David Owen and Alex Tourk — and Chiu’s office.

The Tail That Wags the Dog

How much of Chiu’s Airbnb legislation was influenced by Ron Conway, the billionaire high-tech investor who is a partial owner of Airbnb? Not only is Conway Mayor Lee’s biggest financial backer, he is heavily involved in Chiu’s District 17 Assembly race.

In mid-May Reid Hoffman — another billionaire who invests in Airbnb — announced a $200,000 donation against David Campos to an independent expenditure group called the Committee to Hold David Campos Accountable, a group whose only other named donor is Gayle Conway, wife of tech investor Ron Conway.

Filings with the California Secretary of State confirm Gayle Conway also donated $49,000 to the independent expenditure fund. As the District 17 Assembly race between Chiu and Campos narrows, the Committee to Hold David Campos Accountable has started mailing out hit pieces against David Campos.

Chiu’s politically compromised version of Airbnb legislation has led a group of concerned citizens to try and place the “City and County of San Francisco Ordinance Regulating Illegal Use of Housing for Tourist Accommodations” on the November ballot.

This new proposal is much tougher than the Airbnb legislation proposed by Supervisor Chiu.

Although San Francisco is facing its most severe housing shortage in more than 100 years, an increasing number of apartments, condominiums, houses, and portions thereof are offered and advertised as short-term rentals on websites such as Airbnb and VRBO. In recent months, the number of such listings has exceeded 9,000. These listings contribute greatly to the disappearance of affordable housing in San Francisco.

A single-day sample commissioned by the San Francisco Chronicle showed 4,798 rental listings posted by Airbnb, the biggest online source. Chiu’s proposed legislation would legalize casual rentals, require payment of a 14 percent bed tax, and limit the number of nights that can be rented. In April, Airbnb pledged to collect the bed tax to meet criticism here and in other cities.

Chiu’s pending Airbnb legislation would regulate a resident’s ability to rent his housing. Whereas Chiu’s legislation would legalize short-term rentals citywide, a ballot initiative gathering signatures to qualify for the November ballot will restrict temporary, short-term rentals only in neighborhoods currently zoned as commercial districts. The ballot measure was initiated by former San Francisco Planning Commissioner Doug Engmann, housing advocate Calvin Welch, and public relations executive Dale Carlson.

“It is a backdoor rezoning of every residential neighborhood in San Francisco, and it undermines years of housing advocacy work in San Francisco and shows an arrogant disregard of established land use procedure,” said well known housing advocate Calvin Welch.

Among other things, the proposed ballot measure will prohibit four types of residential units from being offered as short-term rental:

• Any unit that has received affordable housing funds from any state, local, or federal agency, including down payment loan assistance;

• Any unit that has been the subject of an Ellis Act eviction (where the owner takes the unit out of the rental market);

• Any in-law unit; and

• Any affordable housing unit.

Property owners and tenants alike have to understand how Supervisor David Chiu’s weak Airbnb legislation will reduce housing, hurt San Francisco’s hotel industry, displace hotel worker jobs, and impact neighborhoods in the long-term.

Chiu fooled the neighborhoods once with his citywide secondary unit housing legislation and now he is on the verge of rezoning the entire city from residential to commercial zoning.

Does David Chiu represent a couple of billionaires, or the people of San Francisco? Voters — whether homeowners or renters — must decide two key issues at the ballot box: First, whether to allow Chiu’s Airbnb legislative ordinance regulating short-term rentals to stand unchallenged, or to support the Engmann-Welch-Carlson ballot measure to reign in Chiu’s wild rezoning of the entire City.

And second, whether to elect Chiu or Campos to become the next Assemblyperson for District 17.

To the extent the November 2013 defeat of the 8 Washington development project and the June 2014 victory requiring voter approval of height-limit exemptions along the waterfront were both referendums against decisions approved by the Board of Supervisors, the November 2014 ballot measure to overturn Chiu’s Airbnb legislation will be another referendum against Chiu himself. Is Chiu really who you want representing San Francisco in the State Assembly?

Please support the signature gathering process for the “San Francisco Ordinance Regulating Illegal Use of Housing for Tourist Accommodations.”

George Wooding, Midtown Terrace Homeowners Association

July 2014

Measure A

This is a $400,000,000 bond ordinance.

San Francisco is proposing a $400 million Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response Bond (ESER 2014) for the June 2014 ballot. The purpose of ESER 2014 is to fund repairs and improvements that will allow San Francisco to more quickly and effectively respond to a major earthquake or disaster.

ESER 2014 builds on the Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response Bonds approved by 79% of San Francisco voters in 2010. ESER 2010 funded critical seismic upgrades to the City's deteriorating emergency and first response infrastructure.

ESER 2014 continues the $412 million investment of ESER 2010, the first phase of essential improvements to the City's public safety facilities.

The 2014 ESER bond was put on the ballot by a unanimous vote of the Board of Supervisors and approved by the mayor. ESER needs a two-thirds majority (66.7%) vote to pass, and authorizes landlords a pass-through to renters for 50% of the increase in the real property taxes attributable to the cost of repayment of the bonds.

For all of this bond's faults, the 2014 ESER bond is vital to the future of San Francisco's well-being.”

The 2014 ESER bond money will be spent as follows: neighborhood fire stations, $85 million (21.2%); emergency firefighting water system, $55 million (13.7%); district police stations and infrastructure, $30 million (7.5%); motorcycle police and crime lab, $65 million (41.2%); and a medical examiner facility, $65 million, (16.2%).

This bond is a classic example of politicians bundling projects that are vital with less popular projects that need to be funded. The motorcycle police, the crime lab, and the medical examiner facility are all located in the seismically-deficient Hall of Justice located at 850 Bryant St.

The 2014 ESER bonds purpose is being touted "to fund repairs that will more quickly allow responses to disasters and earthquakes." The motorcycle police could be located at police stations throughout the city. Both the crime lab and the medical examiner facility have nothing to do with allowing faster responses for earthquakes or other disasters and do not belong in the bond.

Further, the city is not telling the public where all of the $400 million bond money will be spent.
All five parts of the bond deliberately do not require any type of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review. By not designating where the bond money will be spent on the neighborhood fire stations, emergency firefighting water system, CEQA is avoided and the public is being asked to spend money blindly.

As the 2014 ESER legislation states, the Board of Supervisors finds that the "bond proposal as it relates to funds for facilities and infrastructure is not subject to CEQA because as the establishment of a government financing mechanism that does not involve any commitment to specific projects to be constructed with the funds, it is not a project as defined by CEQA and the CEQA guidelines."

For all of this bond's faults, the 2014 ESER bond is vital to the future of San Francisco's well-being. This bond will not be the last seismic bond that San Franciscans see. Seismic preparedness is inevitable and protecting the public safety is paramount. We highly recommend that the neighborhoods endorse this bond.

June 2014

Vote Yes on Proposition B–Waterfront Height-Limit Initiative in San Francisco

Initiative: Shall the city be prevented from allowing any development on port property to exceed the height limits in effect as of January 1, 2014, unless the City's voters have approved a height limit increase?

A record-breaking petition drive by a coalition of environmental and community groups collected 21,000 signatures to place Proposition B on the June 3 ballot — more than twice the required 9,702 signatures — in just three weeks. The Coalition for San Francisco neighborhoods (CSFN) is a major ballot proponent for measure B.

Our waterfront is a place that needs careful and attentive stewardship, and if that means letting citizens be a more active part of the political process over its future, then that's a good result.”

Measure B was deemed necessary by citizens throughout San Francisco after City politicians, the Port Authority and the Planning Commission continually chose development projects that were beneficial for the wealthy and detrimental to average San Franciscans. Wealthy developers have been allowed to skirt existing planning regulations by receiving special zoning assessments, paid exemptions, and spot zoning.

The Port of San Francisco is more than $1.5 billion in debt and has desperately been trying to pay off this debt by building/planning large developments on Port lands; both the Port and the City will receive extra fees/taxes for every approved development.

City Controller Ben Rosenfield has issued the following statement on the fiscal impact of proposition B: "Should the proposed measure be approved by the voters, in my opinion, it would in and of itself, have no direct impact on the costs of government."

We are urging voters to stand behind the new Prop. B. Our waterfront is a place that needs careful and attentive stewardship, and if that means letting citizens be a more active part of the political process over its future, then that's a good result.

Proposition B's opponents claim that the passage of Proposition B will jeopardize San Francisco's vacant Port land and Eastern shore line. Opponents of Prop. B say development projects that the City has supported will now never be completed. Additionally, opponents allege that critical funding to rebuild crumbling waterfront piers and seawalls will eventually disappear. Opponents also believe that there will be less housing and fewer jobs.

Proposition B takes away the blank check given to developers to build luxury condos and high-rise hotels without regard for traffic, neighborhoods, or the long-term health of our waterfront environment. It gives voters the ability to hold developers accountable for the waterfront that we all deserve.

Please vote "Yes" on proposition B.

George Wooding,Midtown Terrace Homeowners Association

June 2014

 

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