Open Letter to Al Casciato: Our Retirement Board Isn’t For Sale!

What Price for a Seat at the Table?

When a distinct group of people includes a subgroup consisting of 85% of the main group, shouldn’t the subgroup deserve fair, balanced representation — and a seat at the table? Why should this be any different for City employee retirees?

How much does it cost to buy a seat at the table on SF’s various Boards and Commissions? Consider the Employees’ Retirement System’s (SFERS) Board.


That Herb asks detailed, tough questions of SFERS’ investment staff and consultants about proposed investments shows he’s doing a great job at “due diligence” as a fiduciary to protect our Pension Fund’s investments. That doesn’t make him “disruptive,” as you allege.”

By reports, retired police captain Croce “Al” Casciato has bragged that the San Francisco Police Officer’s Association (POA) intends to donate $100,000 to elect him to SFERS’ Board. Al also reportedly bragged IFTPE Local 21 may contribute another $85,000 to his campaign, for a total of $185,000 to buy a seat that is essentially an unpaid position. Why?

Really, $185,000 for a seat at the table on our Pension Fund’s board? What’s in it for you Al, and what are your donors expecting in return? What’s in it for them?

An October 20 letter published in the POA’s November 2016 POA Journal, purportedly authored by 18 people affiliated with 13 labor unions, wrongly claims 24-year incumbent Herb Meiberger is suddenly unable to build strong working relationships with other SFERS Board members and SFERS’ staff. That claim is pure nonsense. Herb has served with distinction for 24 years collaboratively as a Board member.

Meiberger has watched the backs of Police and Fire retirees. Herb convinced five of the seven board members to sign a paid ballot argument in the Voter Guide to enhance safety officers’ retirement benefits in the 2002 San Francisco election.

Notably SFERS’ then-CommissionersJoe Driscoll (SFFD) and Al Casciato(SFPD) did not sign on to the 2002 ballot argument.

Shamefully, the October 20 letter included not one actual signature. Does anyone — other than the signatories — really believe that the 18 “co-signers” speak for all of the union members of each of the 13 labor organizations listed in the letter?

The claim Meiberger is unable to build strong working relationships is absurd. SFERS’ Commissioner Victor Makras (SFERS Board’s immediate past president) and Commissioner Leona Bridges (former Managing Director for Barclays Global Investors of SF) have endorsed Meiberger for re-election. If he was disruptive, why did Makras and Bridges, former SFERS Commissioner Peter Ashe, two charter members of Protect Our Benefits (POB), and five past presidents of IFTPE Local 21 all endorse Herb for re-election?

Al, your candidate statement in the Retired Employees newsletter wrongly asserts that “Our pension fund lost $1.5 billion last year.” That’s a Donald Trump-size lie! Audited reports presented during SFERS’ open meetings show our Pension Fund was valued at $20.4 billion on June 30, ’15. A preliminary valuation of our Fund as of June 30, ’16 estimates it was $19.9 billion, a loss of just $500 million, not the $1.5 billion loss you in your candidate statement.

Like most Plan members, I want a fiduciary who can report accurate data.

In fact, you supported creating DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Program) retirement enhancement for police officers in 2008, effectively allowing police officers to “double-dip” — collect both a City salary, and deposits into their retirement accounts simultaneously while still employed.

You subsequently enrolled in DROP, presumably before the program sunsetted on June 30, ’11. You retired in ’12.

The City Controller’s payroll database for Calendar Year 2012 shows you received $203,471 in “Other Pay” and you received $108,175 in “Regular Pay,” indicating “Total Pay” of $311,646 during the six months between January and June when you retired. Was that $203,471 in “Other Pay” from your double-dipping DROP account?

San Franciscans are indebted for your service as a police officer Al, not as a financial professional. We need someone with tangible, measurable financial skills. Meiberger holds two higher education degrees, one a B.A. in Mathematics and Chemistry and a second, M.B.A. in finance from the UC Berkeley. In addition, Herb earned the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation in 1987, which he has now held for 29 years. He’s a finance instructor at SF State, and taught CFA review courses. reports that you are a graduate of SF State, but didn’t list the degree that you earned. Bloomberg also reported you attended the FBI National Academy, but again didn’t list any degree or certificate you earned from the FBI. Google books reports that you earned a B.A. in Urban Studies in 1978 from SF State.

As well, you served as a SFERS Board member for 17 years. Mr. Meiberger has a total of 24 years as a SFERS Board member, and worked as an SFERS employee for 20 years, managing our Pension Fund’s bond and private equity portfolios.

That Herb asks detailed, tough questions of SFERS’ investment staff and consultants about proposed investments shows he’s doing a great job at “due diligence” as a fiduciary to protect our Pension Fund’s investments. That doesn’t make him “disruptive,” as you allege.

As a Commissioner, you rarely asked any meaningful financial questions from staff or consultants, rubber-stamping recommendations put before you. Perhaps that’s why our Fund lost $70 million in the failed Currency Overlay Hedge Fund investment you supported, and we lost $100 million in the Stable Value Fund in the Deferred Comp. plan.

Meeting minutes show no record that you have attended any of 56 full Board meetings in the four years since you resigned from the Board.

When SFERS’ Board proposed investing $3 billion of our Pension Fund in risky hedge funds on February 11, ’15 — with Commissioner Meiberger being the only “No” vote — you were AWOL.

Do I sleep better at night knowing that your 43 years of service as a San Francisco cop was invaluable? Yes.

Do I sleep better at night wondering about your financial qualifications to manage our $21 billion Pension Fund? The answer to that question is “No.”

If you win, all three of the elected seats will be monopolized by “Public Safety” officers (Police and Fire), and effectively will have a four-member majority on the seven-member Board. This would exclude the 85% of Miscellaneous members having representation.

City employees and retirees: Who do you want managing your Pension Fund? A second cop on SFERS’ Board, or a dedicated, certified investment professional like Herb?

We’re not for sale, Al. Haven’t we earned — or do we not deserve — balanced representation?

The full version of this article will be posted on the Westside Observer’s web site and at

Monette-Shaw is a Westside Observer columnist, and a retired SF City employee. He received a James Madison Freedom of Information Award in the “Advocacy” category from the Society of Professional Journalists–Northern California Chapter in 2012. He’s a member of the California First Amendment Coalition (FAC) and the ACLU. He can be contacted at

December 2016 / January 2017

New Problems With $310 Million Housing Bond

Justice Denied: Housing Delays

Since we're in the midst of the worst housing crisis in San Francisco's history, you'd think The City wouldn't waste a single day building urgently-needed affordable housing. Given the performance of the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD), you'd be wrong. MOHCD has been acting as if it can waste as many days as it pleases, people needing affordable housing be damned.

In my June 2016 Westside Observer article that covered the misleading 2015 ballot measure: the "$310 million Affordable Housing Bond." As I pointed out, the January 2016 meeting of the Citizens' General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee (CGOBOC) faced problems dragging information out of MOHCD.


MOHCD's housing construction delays involve justice denied. Just ask any San Franciscan forced out of The City due to the worst housing crisis in San Francisco's history.”

CGOBOC's subsequent July and October meetings illustrate bond problems have worsened.

Spending of $310 Million Bond

Over the 18-month period between January 2015 and July 28, 2016, planned uses of the Bond kept shifting, and actual spending may shift even more, particularly if cost overruns due to project "change orders" occur.

• "Top-Loss Catalyst Fund": As I reported in April 2015, the Mayor's Housing Work Group recommended in 2014 forming a public–private partnership "accelerator fund" to enable nonprofit developers to "act quickly and complete [sic; 'compete'] on the open market to purchase land for construction of affordable housing and buildings to be improved as permanently affordable units."

The term "top loss" refers to the liability structure in the mix of debt and equity in investment activities. Categories in a liability structure represent layers in the creditor hierarchy, with the top layer being the first to absorb a loss. Top loss instruments are the most expensive sources of funding

A longtime home for the elderly, Vincentian Villa, sold to a Los Angeles–based developer for $13.5 million last year. William Alden / Via BuzzFeed News

At some point the "Catalyst Fund" was removed from planned bond spending
"Middle-Income Housing Main Category": Both a "Middle-Income Rental Program" and a "Expiring Regulations Preservation" program existed as two subcategories within the "Middle-Income Housing" main category of planned bond uses in June 2015, July 2015, and January 2016.

Without warning to CGOBOC, on July 28, MOHCD presented an update eliminating both subcategories. Three new subcategories not previously listed suddenly appeared for "Middle-Income Teacher Housing," a "Middle-Income Buy-in Program," and "Middle-Income MOHCD Production" — without any descriptions.

Although we don't yet know what the new "Middle-Income MOHCD Production" and "Middle-Income Buy-In Program" subcategories will fund, we do know the "Middle-Income Buy-In Program" will receive $24 million of the $80 million portion of the "Middle-Income Housing" main category. Shockingly, MOHCD now admits portions of the $310 million bond will actually subsidize market-rate housing!

Stonewalling CGOBOC & Grand Jury

In March 2002 voters adopted Prop F, the "Citizen Oversight of Bond Expenditures Initiative," creating the CGOBOC to oversee General Obligation Bonds. It's not too surprising MOHCD has been stonewalling CGOBOC regarding the Affordable Housing Bond for a year. MOHCD has also stonewalled the Civil Grand Jury.

Change Orders: a Big Deal — or Deal Breakers

The issue of "change orders" is a big, big deal, and CGOBOC has had a lousy track record of examining change orders on all sorts of bond-funded projects.

"Change orders" are requests for changes introduced after construction plans and specifications are completed for a given project. Change orders include those: 1) Necessary to correct design errors; 2) Necessary to correct design omissions; 3) Resulting from unforeseen site conditions discovered during construction; 4) Involving owner-initiated requests to add, change, or delete scope to the project after design completion; 5) Necessary to comply with construction codes revised after completion of design; or 6) Issued to incorporate cost savings.

Consider the San Francisco Weekly's September 15 article, "5 Corrupt Ways to Influence San Francisco Politics." The fifth way involves — wait for it — none other than change orders! Even CGOBOC members must understand this. The Weekly's Max Cherny wrote, in part:

"One form of graft that is hard to track is the use of charge orders in large city projects to bleed cash from city coffers.

The mechanics are straightforward: A contractor bids on a contract with the city — say, to renovate public housing. The company then submits a 'change order' saying it needs a little more money to finish a part of the job. But corruption in change orders is hard to sniff out: The technical aspects of a job can be arcane, making the details and costs subjective.

One contractor who has done business with the city says change orders often amount to a sort of bait-and-switch."

The second concern with change orders is that to bring a project in on-time and on-budget, project managers cut "scope" of projects, chopping what will be delivered.

A third concern is neither the City nor DPW are involved in constructing the housing developed by this bond. Instead, developers awarded loans will perform the construction; it's unclear whether they will track change orders as closely as the City might.

Grand Jury: Funds to Housing Authority

The 2013–2014 Civil Grand Jury expressed concerns about diversion of Housing Trust Fund (HTF) revenues to the Housing Authority for repairs to public housing, and whether the diverted funds would be repaid to the HTF, to ensure MOHCD spends the HTF on new affordable housing promised to voters.

At CGOBOC's Oct. 3, 2016 meeting, MOHCD responded to a series of questions COGBOC members raised during previous meetings on Jan. 28 and July 28. CGOBOC member Larry Bush specifically questioned whether bond funds used for public housing repairs would be repaid.

HTF Loans to the Housing Authority

Although MOHCD's Annual Report for FY 2014–2015 doesn't list any Housing Authority loans repaid to the HTF, it isn't at all clear how much money has been diverted from the HTF to San Francisco's Housing Authority.

A record request response from the City Controller's Office shows that in 2014, MOHCD diverted $2.964 million from the HTF to the Housing Authority as "Loans Issued by the City." For Fiscal Years 2015, 2016, and 2017, the Controller's Office doesn't appear to have included all the necessary information. Additional research is necessary to untangle how much the Housing Authority was awarded in loans from the HTF.

What About Housing Authority Repayments to MOHCD?

We might just as well forget about any eventual repayments from the Housing Authority from either the $1.5 billion Housing Trust Fund, or the $310 million Affordable Housing Bond.

MOHCD's September 12 response to CGOBOC member questions about whether bond funds would be repaid for projects the City was obligated to fund, but had not, noted:

"Regarding repayment, as is typical for public lending on affordable housing projects, the bond funds will be issued as 'residual receipts' loans, which require borrowers to repay the loans in annual installments to the extent there is surplus cash flow after payment of operating expenses, reserves, and amortizing debt payments. … Because the public housing developments in receipt of bond financing will include Section 8 operating subsidies, we do expect annual residual receipts repayments to be made to MOHCD. …"

But that response contradicts what MOHCD told CGOBOC on January 28, 2016, when MOHCD's Kate Hartley claimed just the opposite when CGOBOC asked about loan repayment:

"… You have to structure those kind of loans as something called 'residual receipts.' And that means if there is … after you pay your operating expenses, if there are leftover funds, then a portion would go back to repay us. But we typically don't have an expectation of repayment [to us] over time …"

It's unknown whether MOHCD has checks and balances to verify whether loan recipients accurately report their operating expenses, or are padding operating expenses to escape making loan repayments.

Recent Lost Affordable Housing Everyone knows preservation of existing affordable housing stock is as important as constructing new housing.

St. Vincent De Paul, the non-profit owner of the subsidized senior housing Vincentian Villa in the Mission District, sold it to a for-profit developer in 2014. In August 2015, Buzzfeed News reported:

"The Vincentian Villa had been owned by the St. Vincent de Paul Society charity for 40 years, until it was sold to a Los Angeles–based developer for $13.5 million last year. The purchaser, GHC Housing Partners, agreed to extend a federal contract to keep about 60% of the building's units priced far below market rates. But it is now gradually renting out the rest as they become vacant — apartments so small they are called 'micro studios' — to tech workers paying around $2,000 a month for roughly 300 square feet of space."

GHC only re-applied for subsidies for 72 of Vincentian Villa's 124 units, converting 52 to market-rate units, some of which are reportedly being rented on Airbnb.

MOHCD reportedly signed off on the Vincentian Villa deal granting some sort of waiver to the developer because MOHCD was worried that all of the units could have been lost to market-rate units.

Among other observers, Eddie Stiel is a 25-year resident of the Mission District, who along with his wife have faced no-fault evictions as renters twice: Once when he was owner move-in evicted in 2004, and again when he and his wife faced Ellis Act eviction the following year! Mr. Stiel hopes MOHCD will discuss Vincentian Villa publicly. Stiel says:

"It's clear this issue deserves public attention, because without public discussion San Francisco will continue losing existing subsidized units during our current eviction, displacement, and affordability crisis. Lacking public knowledge and scrutiny limits options to preserve these subsidized units."

MOHCD's housing construction delays involve justice denied. Just ask any San Franciscan forced out of The City due to the worst housing crisis in San Francisco's history.

An expanded version of this article will be posted on the Westside Observer's web site. The full version will be available on

Monette-Shaw is a columnist for San Francisco's Westside Observer newspaper. He received a James Madison Freedom of Information Award in the "Advocacy" category from the Society of Professional Journalists–Northern California Chapter in 2012. He can be contacted at

November 2016

Voter's Beware: Don't Be Suckered

November Election Recommendations

With 42 local, regional, and state propositions, and a variety of elected officials' contests on the ballot, San Franciscans face a minefield casting votes on November 8.

I'm not telling you how to vote. Rather, these recommendations are to keep you from getting suckered at the ballot box.

Local Ballot Measures

A handful of the 25 local ballot measures deserve some discussion.

Prop. C: Loans to Finance Acquisition and Rehabilitation of Affordable Housing

Prop. C would amend uses of bonds voters approved in November 1992 to provide loans for the seismic safety and strengthening of unreinforced masonry buildings by expanding the program to finance permanent affordable housing to accommodate loans to at-risk multi-unit buildings to help maintain affordable housing for City residents. The City Controller says Prop. C would have a minimal impact on the cost of City government. Vote Yes!

Prop. D: Vacancy Appointments (on the Board of Supervisors)

Under America's "one person, one vote" system, it's totally undemocratic for residents in every City supervisorial district to allow the Mayor to appoint a permanent replacement Supervisor in the few times vacancies occur on the Board of Supervisors mid-term. Prop. D will require the City to hold a special election when there are vacancies on the Board of Supervisors, unless a regularly-scheduled election will be held within 180 days of the vacancy.

When a vacancy in California's legislature occurs, the Governor is required to call for, and schedule, a special election within 14 days to elect a replacement. When House of Representative vacancies occur, the U.S. Constitution requires any vacancy be filled by election, not appointment.

The Controller notes that during a typical four-year election cycle, there might be one additional special election for a seat on the Board of Supervisors. Based on Department of Elections' costs, the estimated expense would be just $340,000 to hold a special election. Out of a $9.7 billion City budget, that's a negligible amount. Don't be suckered: Vote Yes!

Prop. H: Public Advocate

Please see article "Support Housing Commission, Public Advocate" in September's Westside Observer, regarding creating an elected Public Advocate.

In addition to endorsements by the Coalition of San Francisco Neighborhoods (CSFN), the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, and San Francisco's Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC), other recent endorsements include San Francisco's League of Women Voters, San Francisco's Latino Democratic Club, eight other democratic clubs, the Green Party, the League of Pissed-Off Voters, several labor unions, State Senator Mark Leno, five current members of the Board of Supervisors, former Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, District Attorney George Gascón, former supervisor Bevan Dufty, DCCC chair Cindy Wu, and Tom O'Connor, president of Firefighters Local 798. Don't be suckered by Feinstein: Vote Yes!

Prop. I: Funding for Seniors and Adults with Disabilities (a.k.a., "Dignity Fund")

I am one of the few remaining advocates for Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF's) left standing in San Francisco. It pains me deeply to oppose Prop. I.

The proposed Dignity Fund is a Charter change sponsored by Supervisor Malia Cohen voters should roundly reject. The City Controller's voter guide statement acknowledges Prop. I is not in compliance with our voter-adopted city policy regarding set-asides; instead Prop. I would create yet another set-aside, reducing General Funds for other purposes.

Over the 11 years of the proposed period, it will require additional contributions above and beyond the baseline $38 million. In year two, an additional $6 million will push the allocation to $44 million, and will require an additional $3 million in each year for nine years thereafter, through FY 2026–2027 when the appropriation will reach $71 million annually. By FY 2026–2027 alone, the Dignity Fund will have been awarded a cumulative $575 million, but nobody knows for what it will be used.

Why weren't categories of spending by planned use identified prior to placing this measure on the ballot by conducting a "community needs assessment," which hasn't been done? Isn't this the cart before the horse?

The Controller's voter guide statement also notes that in FY 2015–2016, the City's general fund budget for these services was approximately $32 million. A follow-up records request to the Controller revealed that the proposed $38 million will probably supplant, not supplement, the Department of Aging and Adult Service's (DAAS) existing budget, but it is unclear whether DAAS's current $232.7 million budget (which grows to $249.4 million next year) will continue — in effect meaning the Dignity Fund may essentially end up being a supplement to DAAS' existing budget.

A reasonable question is, if the City already has existing funding streams for these services that would be supplanted, why is the Dignity Fund needed to replace (supplant) existing sources of funding?

To hedge its bets, the legal text of Prop I specifically prohibits expending any funds from the Dignity Fund on medical health services (other than "behavioral" or mental health support services), and also expressly prohibits expending any of the $575 million Dignity Fund on services provided by hospitals and long-term care institutions (particularly not long-term care skilled nursing facilities).

Over the past four fiscal years, the Department of Public Health has discharged at least 99 residents from Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center to out-of-county facilities, along with at least 132 patients from San Francisco General Hospital discharged out-of-county not admitted to LHH. That totals 231 out-of-county discharges over just four years.

The out-of-county patient dumping is due in part because the City eliminated 420 beds from the LHH replacement facility rebuild, and eliminated the proposed Assisted Living beds promised for LHH's campus. If the City can afford to set aside $575 million from the General Fund for the Dignity Fund, the City can well afford to either build the assisted living facility or LHH's now missing 420 skilled nursing beds for those who would prefer not being dumped out-of-county.

Don't be suckered by Supervisor Cohen: Vote No!

Prop. J: Funding for Homelessness and Transportation

The City Controller's voter guide statement acknowledges Prop. J is also not in compliance with the voter-adopted city policy regarding set-asides; instead Prop. J would create yet another set-aside, reducing General Funds for other purposes. And the budget set-aside over the life of this measure would cost a staggering $3.62 billion.

For the Homelessness part of this ballot measure, over the 25-year period of this Charter change through FY 2040–2041, $1.21 billion would be redirected from the General Fund to a new Homeless Housing and Services Fund.

For the Transportation part of this ballot measure, over the same 25-year period, $2.41 billion would either be redirected from the General Fund to a new Transportation Improvement Fund, or alternatively, the ballot measure authorizes the City to issue lease revenue bonds or lease financing arrangements for certain categories in the Transportation Improvement Fund, plus debt on the bonds.

Up to 32.9% of annual appropriations into the fund would be directed to street resurfacing, rather than actually being budgeted in the City budget.
Don't be suckered: Vote No!

Prop. K: General Sales Tax

Prop. K would increase the local sales tax rate by 0.75% (three-quarters of one percent) as of April 2017, for twenty-five years. The three-quarter cent tax is a general tax; proceeds would be deposited into the General Fund for any use.

This is a regressive tax that will hurt low-income and middle-income San Franciscans the hardest, and will likely drive more people to shop outside of the City limits, hurting San Francisco's small businesses.

Board President London Breed's September 2016 newsletter claims the sales tax measure "will bring in $12 million for homelessness programs." There's nothing in the Controller's voter guide statement, the legal text of Prop. K, or the Legislative Digest saying that any of the sales tax will carve out $12 million for homeless services and programs.

Worse, the City's current year "balanced" budget hinges on passage of the sales tax in November. If it fails, the City's budget will instantly become "unbalanced," with the City facing a huge hole of $37.5 million this year, and another $155.1 million hole next year. Don't be suckered: Vote No!

Prop. M: Housing and Development Commission

Please see article "Support Housing Commission, Public Advocate" in the September Westside Observer, regarding creating a commission having oversight of the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development.

In addition to endorsements in favor of "Prop. M" by CSFN, the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, San Francisco's Latino Democratic Club, and the DCCC, other recent endorsements include the San Francisco Community Land Trust, the San Francisco Council of Community Housing Organizations whose co-directors are housing experts Peter Cohen and Fernando Marti, former Mayor Art Agnos, former Supervisors Sophie Maxwell and Bevan Dufty, and D-1 Supervisorial candidate Sandra Lee Fewer. Don't be suckered: Vote Yes!

Prop. P: Competitive Bidding for Affordable Housing on City-Owned Property

The Association of Realtors spent more than $250,000 to pay for petition signatures to qualify Prop. P and Prop. U for the ballot. Developers and real-estate speculators are behind both measures. The City Controller's statement in the voter guide says that the proposed ordinance would require that the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) receive at least three bids or proposals, and accept the "best value" proposal (determined at the sole discretion of MOHCD), for any affordable housing project on City-owned property.

MOHCD is not to be trusted on any "sole discretion" basis unless and until a Housing Commission is created having oversight of MOHCD. Don't be suckered by the Association of Realtors: Vote No!

Prop. S: Allocation of Hotel Tax Funds (for Homeless Families and Arts)

Prop. S will dedicate a portion of the City's hotel tax revenue that is currently available for any public purpose to specific services that support the arts and homeless families. It's yet another budget set-aside that will reduce General Funds available for other purposes.

The City Controller's statement on Prop. S says it will have a significant impact on the cost of government. The Controller reports that the City's hotel tax revenue that is currently available for any public purpose would be shifted to specific services supporting the arts and homeless families, and as funds are shifted to other purposes, other City spending would have to be reduced or new revenues identified to maintain current service levels.

Budget allocations for public transit, youth services, libraries, and schools previously adopted by voters would be reduced by approximately $24 million in FY 2020–2021, and another $32 million would be shifted in FY 2020–2021 from the City's general fund discretionary budget. Losing $56 million involves big bucks.
Don't be suckered: Vote No!

Prop. U: Affordable Housing Requirements for Market-Rate Development Projects

The proponent of Prop. U is Thomas A. Hsieh. Both Tom Hsieh, Sr. and his son Thomas Hsieh, Jr. who is a member of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC), and a key ally of real estate lobbyists, have taken out paid arguments in the voter guide supporting Prop. U.

Prop. U was developed to help out real estate speculators in San Francisco, principally by increasing the maximum household income limit for on-site affordable rental housing units from 55% of area median income (AMI) to 110% of AMI. It allows landlords to double the rent on future and existing affordable housing units, encourages evictions for higher rents, and pits low-income against middle-income San Franciscans.

The City Controller's voter guide statement also indicates that increasing the household income limit for affordable rental housing units will probably result in increased rental income for property owners.

Prop. U's Official Opponents in the voter guide includes the San Francisco Council of Community Housing Organizations (housing experts Peter Cohen and Fernando Marti), CSFN, former City Attorney Louise Renne, former Supervisor Bevan Dufty, and many others. Don't be suckered by real estate lobbyists: Vote No!

Board of Supervisor Seats

District 7

Candidate-for-Supervisor Joel Engardio comically claimed during the recent West of Twin Peaks Central Council D-7 candidate debate and again in the San Francisco Examiner on September 18, '16 that San Francisco has "30,000 employees." He whined that we've added more employees since 2010. Engardio isn't telling you the whole truth.

The City may have 30,000 so-called "Full-Time Equivalents" (FTE's), but the City actually has 40,397 full- and part-time employees as of June 30, 2016 who are creatively "averaged" into FTE's. By converting 21,933 part-time employees,over half of all City employees, into the magical-thinking number of 12,179 FTE's, Engardio and the Chronicle essentially eliminated 9,754 part-timers who had been "averaged" into FTE status

If Engardio doesn't know the true number of City employees, why should D-7 residents elect him their Supervisor?

Although Engardio frets about the number of employees added since 2010, he won't publicly admit that 8,620 of the additional full and part-time employees added to the City's payroll were added under the watch of Mayor Ed "hiring binge" Lee, or that those additional employees represent fully 27.1% of the City's now 40,397 employee headcount. Alternatively, the 8,620 full- and part-time employees represent 6,414 additional FTE's added under Lee's watch. Why isn't candidate Engardio calling for a thorough audit of the number of employees or number of FTE's Mayor "Hiring-Binge "Lee has added to the City budget during his tenure since he assumed office?

Engardio also took out a paid argument in the voter guide supporting Prop. U, claiming we need to protect neighborhoods from the "pressures of the housing market." That's comical: It's his trickle-down theory of market-rate housing to allow landlords to double the rent on future and existing affordable housing units. Those who face the "pressures of the housing market" will be low-income, pitted against middle-income San Franciscans.

D-7 rejected Engardio in 2012 by an overwhelming majority; he came in fourth. Don't be suckered by Engardio: Vote for John Farrell, who understands the difference between FTE's and actual employees!

Well, these are my recommendations. You have a month to figure out how you'll vote for everything else on the jam-packed ballot.

An expanded version of this article will be posted on the Westside Observer's web site. The full version will be available on, along with a clip-and-save cheat sheet of all 25 local measures, and candidate races, to use casting your ballots.

Monette-Shaw is a columnist for San Francisco's Westside Observer newspaper. He received a James Madison Freedom of Information Award from the Society of Professional Journalists–Northern California Chapter in 2012. He can be contacted at

October 2016

Open Government: Two Crucial Ballot Measures

Support Housing Commission, Public Advocate

Whether you live in San Francisco's West Side, or elsewhere in the City, two "good government" measures on November's municipal ballot — one to create a Commission having oversight of both the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) and the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development (MOEWD), and one to create an elected Public Advocate — are crucial to open government in San Francisco. Both measures deserve your unqualified support.

Prop. M: Housing and Development Commission Desperately Needed

As I have previously reported in the Westside Observer, there are a whole host of problems with MOHCD and the Mayor's housing policies.


…MOHCD's "sole discretion" would be replaced by a requirement that the Housing Commission hold open-to-the-public hearings to develop a five-year plan for affordable housing projects, creating greater transparency and accountability.”

With "Prop. C' in 2012, voters mistakenly approved handing MOHCD sole discretion over how it will spend the $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion allocated to the City's Housing Trust Fund (HTF) that will be diverted from the City's General Fund.

Documents prepared by MOHCD acknowledge it's overseeing nearly $3 billion in affordable housing funds. Currently, MOHCD has sole discretion over all spending allocation decisions, with scant oversight by the citizens of San Francisco.

Supervisor Mark Farrell's Nonsense

Supervisor Mark Farrell's August 9, 2016 San Francisco Examiner Op-Ed titled "New, costly 'Peskin Commission' is not the answer to the housing crisis," opposed creation of a Commission having oversight over MOHCD and OEWD, was a classic example of an ad hominem attack, in which Farrell wrongly attacked Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

First, Farrell's Op-Ed asserted the Housing Commission would be expensive, wrongly alleging the "City Controller found that the 'Peskin Commission' would come at a great cost. We're talking about millions of dollars — and the taxpayers will be left holding the bag," Farrell falsely claimed.

Farrell had to have been exaggerating. In response to a public records request, the City Controller provided two nearly identical documents on August 15, in which the Controller noted the increased cost to City government would be a negligible $210,000 annually (a mere 0.0022% of the City's $9.7 billion budget, far less than one-hundredth of one percent of the budget). Farrell appears to feel it's OK to issue blatant distortions in a major media news outlet.

Second, Farrell claimed a Housing Commission would slow down construction of new affordable housing. This is laughable, given MOHCD's own unnecessary delays. For instance, MOHCD admitted to the Citizens' General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee (CGOBOC) on July 28 that the first "tranche" (a "slice," or portion, of a multi-part bond series) planned for issuance in the second quarter of calendar year 2016 now won't be issued until the fourth quarter, possibly in November 2016, a full year after voters passed the bond.

Why is it taking MOHCD so long to issue the first bond tranche, and why is MOHCD's delay of no concern to Farrell?

Farrell ignores having a Housing and Development Commission develop and set MOHCD's housing polices might actually speed up affordable housing construction. And he ignores MOHCD's "sole discretion" would be replaced by a requirement that the Housing Commission hold open-to-the-public hearings to develop a five-year plan for affordable housing projects, creating greater transparency and accountability.

Olson Lee's Gravitas and Stonewalling Under "Sole Discretion"

At the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee meeting June 30, reported in the San Francisco Examiner, current MOHCD director Olson Lee expressed concern he would lose the "gravitas" (importance) of being a Department Head by having to report to a Commission, rather than reporting to the Mayor. Olson ignored that public officials in Washington and Sacramento routinely deal with San Francisco "department heads" who report to a Commission, such as Barbara Garcia at the Department of Public Health, LeeAnn Pelham at Ethics, and Joanne Hayes-White at the Fire Commission, among many others.

This isn't about Olson Lee's "gravitas" entitlement. It's about the policies he enacts or opposes, given he has carte blanche to develop planned affordable housing projects at MOHCD's sole discretion.

Take, for instance, Olson Lee's opposition to housing cooperatives being eligible to receive funding under MOHCD's Small Sites Acquisition program, despite both Mayor Lee's and the Planning Department's assertions housing co-ops are a definitive form of affordable housing. In many sections, San Francisco's 2014 Housing Element consistently calls for including "housing cooperatives" for support, and presumably, for funding.

Housing element law requires local governments to plan for their housing needs, by providing opportunities for housing development, rather than constraining opportunities. Why Olson Lee appears to want to constrain MOHCD's Small Sites Acquisition program from funding housing cooperatives isn't known.

On July 25, MOHCD responded to a records request saying that the "Middle-Income Buy-In Program" represents MOHCD's intention to include middle income units in a variety of mixed-income developments. "These funds will be disbursed as long-term loans, at below-market interest rates. Anticipated project types receiving the funds will include developments combining low-income and middle-income units; market-rate and middle-income units; and market-rate, middle-income, and low-income units. The goal is to combine the bond proceeds with the best available leveraged financing in order to maximize the production of middle-income units. Actual projects and per-unit loan amounts are still to be determined." At its July 28 meeting, CGOBOC hadn't been apprised of spending category changes "still to be determined."

How did we get to the point that MOHCD will be issuing long-term loans at below-market interest rates to build market-rate housing? Inexplicably, MOHCD is now proposing to build market-rate housing, another bait-and-switch.

Developers Masquerading as Housing Advocates

Peter Cohen and Fernando Marti — co-directors of San Francisco's Council of Community Housing Organizations (CCHO) — noted in their July 27, 2016 San Francisco Examiner Op-Ed, that "As long as developer front groups masquerading as 'housing advocates' and some politicians continue to chase after false solutions based on 1980's-era deregulation policies, they will fail to meet the increasingly dire housing needs of Californians."

There are reports that MOHCD has approved loans to "regular" (i.e., for-profit) developers, not just to non-profit developers. Community concerns about for-profit developers are real and widespread, and of legitimate concern.

George Wooding, president of the Coalition of San Francisco Neighborhoods (CSFN), says:

"San Franciscans must remember MOHCD is the 'black hole' of bad governance. The more 'bad' loans City Hall issues to private, for-profit developers, the more bad debt San Franciscans will end up assuming. Should developers abandon failing projects, the City will be responsible for covering costs, making MOHCD the "Fannie May and Freddie Mac" of our City."

Under Olson Lee's "leadership," MOHCD has preserved the status-quo of his own making. A Housing and Development Commission will go a long way toward providing greatly needed and increased oversight, and policy development guidance.

Wooding added:

"San Franciscans don't want Olson Lee determining behind closed doors the financial health of San Francisco. We deserve strong oversight, transparency, and accountability over MOHCD."

Endorsements for Prop. M

Endorsements supporting "Prop. M" include CSFN, the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, San Francisco's Latino Democratic Club, and San Francisco's Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC), among others. Please join them, and I: Vote "Yes" on "Prop. M"!

Prop. H: Public Advocate

Given decades of soft-corruption in San Francisco largely gone uncorrected, San Franciscans deserve to have an elected Public Advocate to champion reforms. It's time San Francisco joins New York City, Portland, and Seattle in creating a Public Advocate. New York saved $170 million alone in 2015 by investigating city contracts.


… the Public Advocate will investigate … misuse of City funds by officers or employees, the use of City equipment or time for personal purposes, and other improper activities by City government officers and employees.”

Supervisor David Campos, "Prop. H's" principal author says:

"This measure is about making San Francisco government more accountable, transparent and accessible. In New York and other jurisdictions, the Public Advocate saved tens of millions of dollars and the same should happen in San Francisco."

San Francisco city departments have been run too long without sufficient public accountability, seeking to preserve the status quo. "City Hall family" members and former San Francisco mayors want to keep it that way. "Prop H" will restore checks and balances at City Hall.

San Francisco doesn't have a central office responsible for overseeing how City departments interact with the public, or for reviewing administration of City agency programs. Under "Prop. H," a Public Advocate will receive, investigate, and attempt to resolve complaints concerning City services and programs.

Although members of the Board of Supervisors have legislative aides, those aides are principally focused on developing district-level and citywide legislation, and other policymaking work. They aren't focused on addressing constituent concerns in their respective districts. The Board's legislative aides have next to no authority to perform investigations of programs and services.

The Public Advocate will perform both constituent services and investigations of City programs and services, including the distribution and mix of programs and services throughout the City, effectiveness of public information and service complaints about City agencies, and responsiveness of City agencies. The Public Advocate will review the management and employment practices of City officers and departments that promote or impede effective and efficient operation of City government, and will review the City's contracting procedures. And the Public Advocate will conduct performance audits of City departments, services, and programs. Currently, none of this work is routinely, or consistently, performed.

The Public Advocate may introduce legislation at the Board of Supervisors regarding matters within the Advocate's jurisdiction.

Additionally, the Public Advocate will investigate expanded whistleblower complaints. Currently, the City Controller receives and investigates whistleblower complaints concerning: The misuse of City funds by officers or employees, the use of City equipment or time for personal purposes, and other improper activities by City government officers and employees.

"Prop. H" expands the whistleblower program by giving the Public Advocate authority to investigate complaints concerning: Incorrect, unreasonable, or unfair decisions or rulings of City officers or agencies; inconsistent enforcement, or failure to enforce, laws, rules, or regulations; poor or inadequate service delivery or treatment; poor communication, including unreasonably long response or wait times and unreasonable response delays; and inequitable or inefficient provision of City services.

The Public Advocate will assess progress of City departments in developing effective customer service plans. Finally, "Prop. H" will rename the Office of Citizens' Complaints to the "Department of Police Accountability" (DPA). The Police Commission will recommend nominees for the Director of the DPA to the Public Advocate, subject to Board of Supervisors confirmation, rather than being a mayoral appointee.

While some argue we have an Ethics Commission, they ignore that Ethics' principal mandates are to investigate campaign finance-related violations and a limited amount of government conduct violations. Ethics doesn't investigate issues the Public Advocate will address, nor does it go to bat for the myriad of concerns raised by citizens. Clearly, "Prop. H" is a good government measure. The Public Advocate will be a long-overdue independent watchdog!

Endorsements for "Prop. H"

Endorsements in favor of "Prop. H" include CSFN, the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, and the DCCC, among others. Please join them, and I, by voting "Yes" on "Prop. H."

Monette-Shaw is a columnist for San Francisco's Westside Observer newspaper. He received a James Madison Freedom of Information Award from the Society of Professional Journalists–Northern California Chapter in 2012. He can be contacted at monette-shaw@westsideobserver.

Editor's Note: An expanded version of this article is available on

September 2016

Update on Civil Grand Jury Whistleblower Report

Bullying Costs Soar to $41.6 Million

Imagine being a public employee who lacks basic First Amendment protections to use free speech on matters of “public concern” guaranteed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Thirteen years after voters passed Prop “C” in 2003 requiring the Board of Supervisors to enact adequate protections to curtail retaliation against City employees who file complaints involving improper government activity and matters of public concern, progress has inched forward over the past year — but just barely.

During the past year there’s been more “collateral damage” to City employees who faced bullying in one form or another in a whole host of prohibited personnel practices already proscribed by law.


Combining all cases since 2007, the City Attorney has settled 259 lawsuits totaling $16.8 million in settlement awards, plus $22.3 million in City Attorney time and expenses, plus $2.5 million awarded by the Board of Supervisors for back pay or other awards, bringing the costs across the past nine years to a staggering $41.6 million, with now 63 lawsuits still pending, which will likely fuel additional costs!”

Since 2007, the costs of bullying San Francisco City employees has soared to $41.6 million, but that’s counting only those employees fortunate enough to afford filing lawsuits against the City. That $41.6 million could have been better spent solving a myriad of problems facing the City.

Costs of Retaliation Against City Employees Keeps Soaring

In May 2013, the Westside Observer carried my first article on the high costs of retaliation and bullying of City employees. In July 2015, I wrote an update on the subject in “Retaliators Keep Their City Jobs” for the Observer.

Dr. Derek Kerr — a former Senior Physician Specialist at Laguna Honda Hospital for over 20 years wrongfully terminated for his exposé of the raid of the hospital’s patient gift fund used for staff perks instead — first placed a records request with the City Attorney’s Office in October 2012 for records involving lawsuit settlements for a host of prohibited personnel practices. The first 103 cases involved $9.6 million in lawsuit settlements, and another $7.7 million for the costs of City Attorney time and expenses trying to stop the lawsuits.

The lawsuit settlement amounts paid by the City Attorney do not include back pay awards or other amounts not processed through the City Attorney. Checking Board of Supervisor’s agendas, six of the 103 settlement received a total of an additional $1.4 million, ostensibly for back pay or other awards, bringing the total to $18.8 million for the first 103 cases that I reported on in 2013.

In my July 2015 article, the initial 103 cases settled prior to October 24, 2012 had climbed between October 2012 and May 2015 by an additional 123 cases to 226 cases that had been settled, plus 66 cases that then remained pending.

On May 29 of this year, I placed another records request for updated data on lawsuits settled between October 2012 and May 29, 2016. The number of cases settled in that period surged from 123 to 159, involving $7.2 million in settlements awarded, and a whopping $14.6 million costs in City Attorney time and expenses, for a total of $21.8 million, plus an additional $1 million awarded by the Board of Supervisors for back pay or other awards, pushing the total since October 2012 to $22.8 million, above and beyond the first 103 lawsuits.

Combining all cases since 2007, the City Attorney has settled 259 lawsuits totaling $16.8 million in settlement awards, plus $22.3 million in City Attorney time and expenses, plus $2.5 million awarded by the Board of Supervisors for back pay or other awards, bringing the costs across the past nine years to a staggering $41.6 million, with now 63 lawsuits still pending, which will likely fuel additional costs!

That there’s been 322 such lawsuits filed in the past nine years, shows the City clearly has a problem on its hands in not avoiding costs for 27 various categories of already-prohibited personnel practices on the law books.

Table 1 below shows that four of the 27 categories — Racial Discrimination, Disability Discrimination, Wrongful Termination, and “Other-Actions by Employees Against the City” — have accounted for 67% ($27.8 million) of the total costs for the 259 cases settled to date, including $8.6 million involving Racial Discrimination (40 cases), $6.6 million involving Disability Discrimination (46 cases), $6.4 million involving Wrongful Termination (41 cases), and $6.3 million involving Other Actions (45 cases).

Together they total 172 — 66.4%, fully two-thirds — of the 259 cases settled to date, but there are another 41 pending cases spread across these four categories that will push the combined total to 213 of the 322 cases filed to date between January 2007 and May 29, 2016.

Of interest, of the $27.8 million in total costs for the four categories, the City Attorney Office’s (CAO) costs for time and expenses total $15.4 million — 69.1% — of the $22.3 million in CAO costs trying to stop all 259 cases settled to date, and $12.4 million was awarded to employees in these four categories — 64.5% — of the $19.3 million in total settlement awards (combining the CAO awards and Board of Supervisor awards).

Table 1 shows the cumulative total of lawsuits filed between 2007 and 2016, sorted by descending Total Amount.

Table 1: Prohibited Personnel Practice Lawsuits, 2007 – 2016, Filed by City Employees Against the City of San Francisco


Of some concern is that many of the lawsuits filed by City employees are apparently classified by the CAO as a given type of complaint, but Superior Court records show the case to be something entirely different.

Of the 322 lawsuits filed since 2007, only one involved a claim of First Amendment claim, in a lawsuit filed by a City employee, Andrew Cohen v. Gavin Newsom et al., a case that was transferred from San Francisco Superior Court to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California at the City’s request.

Although the City Attorney’s Office had logged the case as involving a First Amendment lawsuit, the Superior Court web site showed that it was a Civil Rights lawsuit involving approximately 18 officers of the San Francisco Police Department over the “Cops Gone Wild” video scandal in 2005 who had alleged “Racial Discrimination,” not “Civil Rights” or the “First Amendment.” The 18 officers asserted that everyone on the video was suspended, except Asian American SFPD officers. Why the City Attorney had not initially recorded it as a Racial Discrimination case, instead of a First Amendment case, isn’t known.

Cohen’s case was dismissed in District Court in Newsom’s favor. That means that to date, there has been not one actual First Amendment retaliation lawsuit filed by City employees against the City, in part because San Francisco’s Campaign and Government Conduct Code §4.115(a) does not currently contain anti-retaliation protections for City employees who exercise their First Amendment free speech rights.

In addition to Andrew Cohen v. Gavin Newsom et al. lawsuit, there are other cases that appear to have been misclassified by the CAO.

A second example is the still-pending lawsuit Shirley Moore vs. San Francisco General Hospital, (CGC-12-524344), the CAO categorized it as a “6099 Other-Actions by Employees Against City” case, but the initial lawsuit filed in Superior Court alleged 10 factors, including Racial Discrimination, Harassment Based on Race, Constructive Discharge, Retaliation, and Harassment Based on Disability, along with five other causes.

A third example is in the Christine McGuire vs. City and County of San Francisco lawsuit (CGC-11-511007), which the CAO categorized as a “6080 Disability Discrimination” case, but Superior Court records shows it to be a “Wrongful Discharge” lawsuit.

A fourth example is the lawsuit Abel Gonzalez vs. Department of Public Health (Court Case 481-910) that the CAO had categorized as a “6070 General Harassment (Emp against City)” case, but Superior Court records also show it to be another “Wrongful Discharge” lawsuit.

A fifth example is the lawsuit Teresa Yeung vs. City and County of San Francisco, et al. — actually against the Mayor’s Office of Community Development — (CGC-07-465400) that the CAO had categorized as a “6080 Disability Discrimination” case, but Superior Court records also show it to be another “Wrongful Discharge” lawsuit.

Between 41 cases settled to date, and 9 more still pending, the number of wrongful termination cases since 2007 totals 50 cases.

Of the $6.4 million paid to date to settle wrongful termination cases, fully $2.7 million of it — 42.1% — is attributed to just two of the 41 cases (Dr. Derek Kerr’s lawsuit against the Department of Public Health at $1.2 million between settlements and City Attorney fees, and Kelly O’Haire’s lawsuit against the Police Department at $1.5 million).

Of the nine pending wrongful termination lawsuits, Joanne Hoeper’s case against the City Attorney’s Office and City Attorney Dennis Herrera will more than likely be another million-and-a-half-dollars gone up in smoke.

Fifty wrongful termination lawsuits involve a lot of careers and lives damaged after being wrongfully fired, and suggests much of it may be likely due to retaliation by managers and City department heads who think they can get away with firing employees wrongfully.

However, because of the potential misclassification of lawsuits by the CAO, we may not have an accurate count of the total number of wrongful discharge and wrongful termination lawsuits filed by City employees.

It’s clear from the 322 lawsuits filed to date that you can only push people so far before they start fighting back, a concept apparently lost on senior City managers, department heads, and the City Attorney’s Office.

Majority of Lawsuits Filed By Employees in Just Five City Departments

An analysis of data provided by the City Attorney’s Office suggests that five City Departments are responsible for a goodly chunk of the prohibited personnel practice lawsuits, suggesting employees in those Departments know how to lawyer-up, particularly those in San Francisco’s Police Department.

Public records requests to date have not previously requested which City Departments the lawsuits were filed against. But matching up employee names from five separate fiscal years of City Controller payroll data uncovered significant details. Of the 322 lawsuits filed to date — including pending cases — payroll records showed 237 of the cases could be matched to employee names to track which City Department they had worked for; the remaining 85 cases were researched on the Superior Court’s case information web site to determine City Department.

Table 2 shows that of the 259 lawsuits settled between 2007 and 2016, 221 were matched to payroll records or court records to determine the corresponding City Department. The 221 accounted for fully $39.8 million — 95.6% — of the total $41.6 million in lawsuit costs. The remaining 38 of the 259 settled cases that could not be matched to a corresponding City Department accounted for $1.6 million — 4.4% — of total settlement costs.

Table 2: Prohibited Personnel Practice Lawsuits, 2007 – 2016, Filed by City Employees, by City Department

Of the 259 cases settled, 133 — 51.4% — were filed by employees in just five City Departments: The San Francisco Police Department, the Department of Public Health, the Municipal Transportation Agency, the Sheriff’s Department, and the San Francisco Fire Department in descending order, at a combined cost of $28 million — two-thirds, or actually, 67.5% — of the total $41.6 million in combined costs between 2007 and 2016.

Some of the employee’s who filed lawsuits that were not identified by payroll records were not found on the Superior Court web site, including some that are blocked from public access viewing, for whatever reason, and are listed in Table 2 as “Unknown City Department,” “Lawsuit Not Found” or “Not Available,” or the City Department wasn’t named.

Digging in My Toes: A Closer Look at the Police Department

Because the 33 lawsuits filed by Police Department employees represented just 12.7% of the total 259 cases settled to date — but consumed fully 29.8% of the total costs — the Police Department deserves a closer look. [Note: It is beyond the scope of this report to analyze the type of cases filed by employees in each of the 39 City Departments.]

Table 3: Prohibited Personnel Practice Lawsuits, 2007 – 2016, Filed by City Employees, Police Department Only

Clearly, the City Attorney’s Office fought tooth-and-nail — spending nearly $3 million — to fight the “Other Actions by Employees Against the City” category, which accounted for well over one-third of the $12.4 million in total costs.

But what’s more shocking is that the “Racial Discrimination” lawsuits resulted in the highest amount of City Attorney settlement awards (at $1.7 million), and although they represented just 15.2% of the lawsuits, those cases gobbled a quarter — 24.6% — of the total costs to settle the 33 cases filed by SFPD employees settled to date, with “Sexual Discrimination,” “Disability Discrimination,” and “Wrongful Termination” not far behind.

This suggests not only that SFPD has a problem with racial and homophobic bias against members of the public, they have the same problem internally with its own employees.

The five “Racial Discrimination” lawsuits in the Police Department are not an outlier, since Table 1 shows that the 40 “Racial Discrimination” lawsuits Citywide cost a total of $8.6 million, and is the number one cause of lawsuits filed by City employees. Sadly, data isn’t available showing which ethnicities are being targeted for “Racial Discrimination.”

All of this suggests that this is precisely why the City’s Whistleblower Protection Ordinance needs to be amended, as the Civil Grand Jury recommended over a year ago.

[Note: A Word on the Methodology: The lawsuit data in this report does not include unlitigated claims that were not included in responses from the City Attorney’s Office to public records requests. For instance, on April 3, 2014, the Board of Supervisors approved a settlement of an unlitigated claim filed by Dr. Rajiv Bhatia against the City and County of San Francisco for $155,000. Dr. Bhatia had formerly been the Director of Occupational and Environmental Health for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, but was forced out by DPH’s current Director of Public Health Barbara Garcia. It is not known how many other disputes between City employees and their supervisors have resulted in additional unlitigated claim settlement costs related to bullying of City employees.

Efforts to Strengthen the Whistleblower Protection Ordinance

As I wrote in July 2015, on June 8, 2015 San Francisco’s 2014–2015 Civil Grand Jury released its report “San Francisco’s Whistleblower Protection Ordinance Is in Need of Change,” dated May 2015. The Grand Jury’s report was a damning indictment of City Hall’s failure to adequately strengthen whistleblower protections for City employees since directed to by voters in 2013 — now 13 years ago.

The Grand Jury noted that since 1989, the scope of San Francisco’s whistleblower protection laws had narrowed, providing weaker protections for City employees than for state and federal government employees. That narrowing, or shrinkage, of protections for City employees who blow the whistle had been no accident, but was driven by the “powers who be” who have tried valiantly to silence City employees for years.

Following the Grand Jury’s report, our Ethics Commission held two hearings (on January 20 and February 24, 2016) and forwarded recommendations to the Board of Supervisors to amend the Whistleblower Protection Ordinance (WPO).

Board president London Breed finally introduced legislation on June 14 to amend the WPO, as the Grand Jury and Ethics Commission recommended, which legislation will be heard by the Board’s Rules Committee in late July or after the Board’s recess in August. Breed’s amendments address most of the recommendations made by the Friends of Ethics, which the Ethics Commission had incorporated, including:

Greater specificity on whistleblower complaints filed by City employees and City contractors, adding protections against retaliation for City contractors.

Authority for the Ethics Commission to order reversal of wrongful retaliatory actions.

The ability to sanction City officials and contractors who retaliate (including a provision to permit civil lawsuits against specifically-named employees who engage in retaliation).

Requirements that reports of action taken by City Departments action or inaction with explanations be filed after a referral.

Greater confidentiality protections for whistleblowers.

Whistleblower complaints can be filed without being required to be in writing.

Increasing civil penalties for City officers and employees who violate §4.115(a) of the WPO from $5,000 to $10,000, for which they may be personally liable in court proceedings.

President Breed should be thanked for introducing amendments to strengthen the WPO. However, Friends of Ethics is working to have additional recommendations incorporated into the legislation’s amendments.

Unfortunately, a glaring omission remains:

As I have written in the past, Federal Judge Claudia Wilken had noted in her September 6, 2012 Court Order keeping Dr. Kerr’s wrongful termination lawsuit alive, that San Francisco’s Campaign and Government Conduct Code §4.115(a) does not contain anti-retaliation protections for City employees who exercise their First Amendment free speech rights to speak out on matters of public concern, despite U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have consistently upheld that federal, state, and municipal employees absolutely have those First Amendment rights when it comes to issues of public concern.

The elephant in the room is this: Wilken had also noted in her Court Order that San Francisco’s current Sunshine Ordinance explicitly states in §67.22(d) that City employees absolutely are guaranteed these First Amendment protections when they speak on matters of public concern, which appears to have unfortunately escaped the attention of the 2014–2015 Civil Grand Jury, who mentioned nothing of this issue in its June 2015 report. The Sunshine Ordinance currently reads:

Sec. 67.22. Release of Oral Public Information.

“(d) Public employees shall not be discouraged from or disciplined for the expression of their personal opinions on any matter of public concern while not on duty, so long as the opinion (1) is not represented as that of the department and does not misrepresent the department position; and (2) does not disrupt coworker relations, impair discipline or control by superiors, erode a close working relationship premised on personal loyalty and confidentiality, interfere with the employee’ performance of his or her duties or obstruct the routine operation of the office in a manner that outweighs the employee’s interests in expressing that opinion. In adopting this subdivision, the Board of Supervisors intends merely to restate and affirm court decisions recognizing the First Amendment rights enjoyed by public employees. Nothing in this section shall be construed to provide rights to City employees beyond those recognized by courts, now or in the future, under the First Amendment, or to create any new private cause of action or defense to disciplinary action.”
[Emphasis added]

Those protections need to be explicitly duplicated in Campaign and Government Conduct Code §4.115(a).

I have repeatedly testified to the Ethics Commission that this disconnect must be fixed, so that all 39,122 current full- and part-time City employees are finally afforded this anti-retaliation protection, but in the right City ordinance. I’ll continue to do so before the Board of Supervisors.

Retaliation “Tone” Set at the Top

As I noted in July 2015, D. Jan Duffy — an expert witness Kelly O’Haire’s wrongful termination lawsuit against the Police Department — is correct in indicating that Mayor Lee had both a duty to ensure retaliation against whistleblowers is detected and remedied, and that organizations should set the tone from the top on down that retaliation is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. Unfortunately, all along Mayor Lee has also failed to set the appropriate tone regarding amendments to the Whistleblower Protection Ordinance.

I also noted in July 2015 that the WPO needs to have a provision added specifying that any manager in every City department found to have engaged in retaliation will face immediate suspension, and in instances where a harmed individual prevails in civil court, the manager(s) responsible for wrongful termination should themselves face immediate termination.

Unfortunately, the amendments advanced by Supervisor Breed do not fully incorporate a key provision recommended by Friends of Ethics, which had suggested specific penalties for City employees who wrongly retaliate against other City employees, such as a minimum two-week suspension without pay. Breed’s amendments do allow for administrative actions to be taken and a report on what was done, which is a step in the right direction to hold individuals accountable for their wrongful actions.

Breed’s amendments don’t go far enough, because there won’t be a uniform policy that applies to every Department citywide, which may likely result in disparate outcomes for those who wrongly face retaliation, since administrative actions may wildly vary across City departments.

City employees deserve to have the First Amendment anti-retaliation protections on matters of public concern replicated and enshrined in the WPO, in addition to being in the Sunshine Ordinance. Anything less will be inadequate.

If the Whistleblower Protection Ordinance is fully amended and enhanced, it may well help reduce the amount of lawsuits filed against the City by City employees who wrongly face retaliation.

The savings could be in the millions of dollars, and should be pursued, if for no other reason than for the potential cost savings.

Monette-Shaw is a columnist for San Francisco’s Westside Observer newspaper. He received a James Madison Freedom of Information Award from the Society of Professional Journalists–Northern California Chapter in 2012. He can be contacted at monette-shaw@westsideobserver.

Notes on the Data

Throughout this article, data presented was for the 103 lawsuits that were settled between January 1, 2007 to October 24, 2012 (a 5-year, 10-month period) vs. the 156 cases settled between October 25, 2012 and May 29, 2016, (a 4-year, 2-month period), irrespective of the date the lawsuits were actually filed. The surge in cases settled — from 103 to 156 — represents a 51.5% net increase in settlements concluded, comparing an almost six-year period to just over a four-year period.

There’s some telling data involved:

Number of Lawsuits Filed Per Year

Table A-1: Prohibited Personnel Practice Lawsuits Filed, 2007 – 2016, By Calendar Year

Table A-1 shows that of the 103 lawsuits settled, many of them were first filed as far back as 1999. While the number of cases filed after January 1, 2007 outpaced cases filed after October 25, 2012, the key trend is the number of lawsuits filed during Mayor Ed Lee’s tenure after he took office in January 2011. The growth from 121 lawsuits filed between 1999 and 2010 — over a 12-year period — to 154 cases filed in the 5.5-year period since January 2011 represents a 27.3% net increase in cases filed during Lee’s tenure, which is significant precisely because this involves a 12-year period vs. a 5.5-year period. Lawsuits filed under Lee’s “watch” are definitely going up!

Sadly, data provided by the City Attorney’s Office failed to include the dates on which 47 — 14.6% — of the 322 lawsuits were filed, suggesting rotten recordkeeping by the CAO.

What About the Size-of-a-City-Department “Denominator”?

A reasonable person might suspect that the City Departments having the largest number of employees might result in more lawsuits being filed. But the correlation between size of a City Department and the number of prohibited personnel practice lawsuits filed appears to be a weak and tenuous correlation:

Table A-2: Prohibited Personnel Practice Lawsuits, 2007 – 2016, By Size of Department

For instance:

The Police Department ranked #4 in the number of employees (2,979), but ranked #3 in the number of lawsuits filed (41), and ranked #1 in the total costs of lawsuits ($12.4 million).

The Department of Public Health ranked #1 in the number of employees (8,886), ranked #1 in the number of lawsuits filed (51), but ranked #2 in the total costs of lawsuits ($5.5 million).

MUNI ranked #2 in the number of employees (6,087), ranked #2 in the number of lawsuits filed (48), but ranked #3 in the total costs of lawsuits ($4.6 million).

From there, the correlations grow weaker:

The Human Services Agency ranked #3 in the number of employees (3,183) employees, but ranked #7 in the number of lawsuits filed.

The Recreation and Park Department ranked #5 in the number of employees (2,364), but ranked #8 in the number of lawsuits filed.

The Airport Commission ranked #6 in the number of employees (1,808), but ranked #16 in the number of lawsuits filed.

The Fire Department ranked #7 in the number of employees (1,621), but ranked #9 in the number of lawsuits filed.

The Department of Public Works ranked #8 in the number of employees (1,441), but ranked #6 in the number of lawsuits filed.

The Sheriff’s Department ranked #9 in the number of employees (1,023), but ranked #5 in the number of lawsuits filed.

And going from there, the ranking of settlement awards from the CAO, ranking of settlement awards from the Board of Supervisors, and ranking of City Attorney time and expenses trying to stop the lawsuits are all over the map.

July 2016

Drunken Sailor City Hall Spending: Another Bait-and-Switch?

graphicNovember's Affordable Housing Bond Snookered Voters

As I wrote in May's Westside Observer, voters were snookered on last November's $310 million housing bond measure: Only recently has the City finally admitted that fully 20% of that bond — possibly up to $62 million, or a smaller $20 million chunk — is being set aside for housing for the homeless, something voters were never informed about prior to the November 2015 election. More on this, below.


In other words, the City knew last November that the $310 million was an insufficient amount, and were planning on issuing additional COP's to make up the gap. And for all we know, they may issue even more COP's for affordable housing, or for housing the homeless, in the near future.”

Add in the $20 million for homeless shelters in the June 2016 bond, and we're up to $42 million to $82 million in bond financing plus interest for homeless projects, as in "when pigs fly." That $82 million is on top of the Mayor's first-year budget for the new Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing under newly-appointed department head Jeff Kositsky, who fittingly has a tattoo on his right calf featuring a flying pig and who sports matching socks featuring flying pigs. The department Kositsky will head launches July 1, and will have an annual budget of approximately $165 million and a staff of 110.

And shortly after last November's election, legislation started circulating at City Hall to issue up to $95 million in Certificates of Participation (COP's) for Affordable Housing Projects above and beyond the $310 million Affordable Housing bond measure voters had just approved. The COP's are planning for a Rental Assistance Demonstration Project (RAD), but it is not yet known how many of the units to be constructed or acquired, if any, will be earmarked and set aside for housing the homeless.

In other words, the City knew last November that the $310 million was an insufficient amount, and were planning on issuing additional COP's to make up the gap. And for all we know, they may issue even more COP's for affordable housing, or for housing the homeless, in the near future.

Drunken Sailor's $1.5 Billion in New Debt Since November

As I also wrote last month, between last November's $310 million Affordable Housing bond measure and June's $350 million Public Health and Safety bond measure that voters will probably pass, taxpayers are footing $1.13 billion in principal and interest for two bonds. Add in the two COP's nearing approval — the housing RAD project and the Animal Care and Control project — that total another $323.3 million, and we're up to a combined $1.45 billion in principal and interest debt service in a short seven-month period since last November for just four additional projects.

Clearly, City Hall's drunken sailors have been on a spending spree.

Laguna Honda Hospital Mortgaged to the Max

In May 2009 I reported in "Mortgaging Laguna Honda Hospital's Future" that the City was leveraging the "residual rental value" of Laguna Honda Hospital's (LHH) property to issue a COP as long-term debt for doing street improvement projects, and had issued another COP to help pay for the cost overruns of building the new LHH replacement facilities.

I noted in 2009 that the City had issued the two COP's based on LHH having $575 million in market value. Fast forward seven years to 2016, and the City has already issued a second COP for streets improvement and is poised to issue in the next month a fourth COP for the Affordable Housing RAD program, as reported by the City Controller's Office. In addition to the 1999 bond to rebuild LHH, there will be four COP's "leveraged" against LHH, totalling a combined $981.6 million in principal and interest.


Given LHH's $575 million market value, reasonable people are concerned that the nearly $1 billion in long-term debt financing already leveraged against LHH's property market value is precariously out of sync, and alarming. Should the City default for any reason on the COP's, the lease holders could theoretically seize the very assests — the entire hospital — to guarantee repayment of this excess leveraging. And there's no guarantee that the Animal Care and Control Facility COP's that will be issued by November 2016 will not also name LHH as the lease "asset," since the City is cagily claiming that they don't currently know which City asset will be "leveraged" for the Animal Care COP's.

I'm not buying it that the City has simply no idea in advance (now) of which City asset it will use to secure the lease financing to issue $110 million in principal and interest debt service for the Animal Care facility! And the $1 billion in "mortgages" already leveraged against LHH is dangerous.

Oversight of the November Housing Bond's Rocky Start

In the midst of the worst affordable housing crisis in San Francisco's recent memory, you might think the City would be responding to the crisis expeditiously. You'd be wrong, since meaningful oversight is noticeably absent, despite the fact that last November's voter guide indicated in Section 4-A (Bond Accountability Measures, Oversight) on page 156 that the Citiens' General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee (CGOBOC) would conduct reviews of bond spending. Typically, bond measures are required to report to CGOBOC on a quarterly basis.

Where's the Regular CGOBOC Meetings and the Bond Web Site?

Since the bond measure was passed, just one CGOBOC meeting was held on January 28, 2016 to hear a status update from the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) on progress on spending the bond.

Readers may recall that the Civil Grand Jury was highly critical of MOHCD when the 2013–2014 Civil Grand Jury released a report in June 2014 that was a damning indictment of the lack of transparency at MOHCD, which I reported on in an article in May 2015.

The inaugural hearing regarding the November 2015 bond held on January 28 was pathetic, as neither MOHCD nor CGOBOC had thought ahead about what sort of reporting requirements — evaluative "metrics" to report and evaluate various and diverse categories within the bond — would be applied to the Affordable Housing Bond measure to report project progress. The reporting metrics still haven't been developed by May 23, 2016.

At the January CGOBOC meeting, MOHCD's Ms. Hartley provided CGOBOC members and members of the public with copies of an 11-page undated report titled "2015 $310 Million Affordable Housing General Obligation Bond Report" containing an "Executive Summary," and also presented a 15-page undated PowerPoint presentation titled "San Francisco 2015 Affordable Housing General Obligation Bond: Assessing Our Needs."

The minutes of CGOBOC's January 28, 2016 meeting reveal the extensive discussion and CGOBOC member questions that occurred regarding reporting "metrics" of the data points CGOBOC expects MOHCD to utilize in reporting progress on the bond were largely omitted from the minutes, reduced to a single sentence, although the minutes do report a handful of goals MOHCD hopes to accomplish. Clearly goals and metrics are not the same thing. How's that for censorhip?

In response to a records request placed on May 19 for all correspondence between MOHCD and CGOBOC agreeing on what reporting metrics will be used in future MOHCD presentations to CGOBOC, and the actual metrics and reporting formats that have been developed and adopted, the Controller's Office responded on May 23 saying only that it was "working on your [records] request and will respond with any relevant records as soon as possible" [emphasis added]. In other words, four months following CGOBOC's January meeting, and six months following passage of the bond last November, the City hasn't finished developing which metrics will be used to assess performance on this bond.

The legal text for the bond measure in last November's voter guide also states in Section 4-B on page 157 that "the City shall create and maintain a Web page outlining and describing the bond program, progress, and activity updates."

On May 16, I submitted a records request to the City Controller's Office seeking information about the web site that should have been set up by now.

When asked for the web site address and which City department is responsible for creating and maintaining it — both relatively innocuous questions — the Controller's Office initially responded by invoking Sunshine Ordinance §67.25(b), citing a need for a 10-day delay in which to respond.

When I replied the same date to the Controller that I was prepared to file a complaint with the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force alleging the Controller was wrongly and falsely abusing §67.25(b) for such a simple records request, the Controller quickly changed his tune, saying on May 18:

"In response to your information request, no bonds have been issued to date under Proposition A ($310 million Affordable Housing Bond); we anticipate approval of the first sale under Proposition A in Fall 2016. Accordingly, the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development is working on the website and it is expected to be launched in concert with the first sale under the authorization."

There is absolutely no reason for MOHCD to take an entire year between passage of the Bond in November 2015 and issuing the first bonds possibly as late as November 2016 to finally get around to creating the web site promised in the voter guide. And there seems to be no reason why it is taking MOHCD an entire year to get around to issuing the bond instrument RFP and rapidly moving along construction of affordable housing before more San Franciscans are displaced out-of-county.

So it appears that even before MOHCD will eventually get around to issuing the bond instruments, the City will more than likely first issue the $95 million in Affordable Housing COP's before then, apparently because the City can issue COP's far more quickly than bond instruments.

The 20% to Homeless Housing Set-Aside Snickeroo

A partial verbatin transcript of CGOBOC's Janury 28 meeting is very troubling.

Foremost, CGOBOC's January 28 meeting minutes also omitted any mention of comments CGOBOC members made regarding setting aside 20% of the bond — probably at least $20 million, and potentially up to $62 million — for housing-for-the-homelessness programs.

The Executive Summary Hartley distributed on January 28 showed on page 9 that MOHCD's housing programs serve "vulnerable" San Francisco residents, defining vulnerable populations as 1) Low-income working families, 2) Veterans, 3) Homeless individuals and familes, 4) Seniors, 5) Disabled individuals, and 6) transitional-aged youth. But Hartley's PowerPoint presentation on January 28 listed only four of the six catgories (# 1, 2, 4, and 5), omitting homeless people and transitional-aged youth.

What's more, the legal text of Prop A in the November 2015 voter guide also stipulated on page 157 that the bond measure would put the question to voters whether the bond should prioritize "vulnerable" populations as including folks "such as" working familieis, veterans, seniors and disabled persons, but didn't mention homeless people or "transitional youth" in the legal text as being "vulnerable populations."

Leading up to November's election, it is thought none of MOHCD's other documents had included homeless people in the definition of "vulnerable" San Franciscans.

Indeed, CGOBOC's January 28 meeting minutes list the same four vulnerable populations Hartley listed in her PowerPoint presentation, and the minutes also omitted any mention of homeless people or transitional youth in the definition of "vulnerable."

Worse, the verbatim transcript notes that Hartley and MOHCD were hoping to issue the first "tranche" (a French term meaning "slice" of several issues (portions) of the bond to be released in successively numbered series) in the first or second quarter of calendar year 2016, in part because MOHCD wanted to "get out there as soon as possible" on opportunities in the Mission District for site acquistion.

It now appears from records requests to the City Controller that the first "tranche" of the bonds won't be issued until "the Fall" of 2016. The Controller failed to specify whether that means not until the third or fourth quarter, as if there is no urgency to issuing the first portion of the bonds, whether or not it will involve letting a good deal in the Mission go.

There's more bad news in the verbatim transcript: First, MOHCD has no expectations that loans it makes to non-profit housing developers — probably the vast majority of loans for the four main categories in the $310 million bond, with the exception of the DALP and Teacher Next Door loans — will ever be repaid, because the loans are structured as "residual receipts," meaning after the developers pay their operating expenses, if there are any "leftover" funds, then a portion may go back to repay MOHCD. But, typically MOHCD has no expectation of loan repayments over time.

Second, one CGOBOC member wondered whether MOHCD had made the "right" allocation decisions to each of the four main categories in the first place. I smell trouble.

Sadly, the next CGOBOC meeting at which MOHCD will present an update on the status of spending on the $310 million bond has been delayed to Thursday, July 28, 2016. Apparently, there is no haste at City Hall to ensure expeditious oversight and accountability of the Affordable Housing Bond measure, leaving voters snookered, again.

Whatever Happened to the Tobacco Settlement Revenue Account?

Back in 1996, then Board of Supervisors president Angela Alioto authored legislation to sue Big Tobacco, won her lawsuit, and succeeded in creating the Tobacco Settlement Revenue (TSR) account, which former City Attorney Louise Renne tried to claim credit for having been responsible, which I debunked in an article in July 2010.


Future TSR revenue projections not only shrank by 30 years, but also shrank by $743,685,039 from data previously provided this author in July 2010. In response to a records request about the 30-year period, the Controller's lame partial response on May 23 was that projections now only go "through 2030 due to the fact that the City does not have debt outstanding past 2030," which of course is complete nonsense, since the November 2015 Prop A Affordable Housing bond incurs City debt through at least the year 2039, and more nonsensical because the City had previously reported projected revenue through 2060”

A comparative analysis of four Excel files of TSR earned as principal and interest provided by the City Controller's Office since December 2007 reveals contradictory information. In the first file in December 2007 then-City Controller Ed Harrington indicated $149.4 million had been received in the TSR account by then, and the City projected it would earn an additional $790 million through the year 2060, for a combined total of $939.4 million.

In an updated file on July 9, 2010, the Controller indicated $203.8 million had been received through June 2010, and projected an additional $950.5 million but only through the year 2045, for a combined total of $1.115 billion. For unexplained reasons, projected earnings were shortened by 15 years through just 2045.

Another updated file on April 20, 2016 reported actual TSR's received to date had climbed to $303 million, and lowered the projected revenue for future years to just $206.8 million, reducing the projected revenue to just through the year 2030, for a combined total of just $509.8 million, not the $1.115 billion.

Future TSR revenue projections not only shrank by 30 years, but also shrank by $743,685,039 from data previously provided this author in July 2010. In response to a records request about the 30-year period, the Controller's lame partial response on May 23 was that projections now only go "through 2030 due to the fact that the City does not have debt outstanding past 2030," which of course is complete nonsense, since the November 2015 Prop A Affordable Housing bond incurs City debt through at least the year 2039, and more nonsensical because the City had previously reported projected revenue through 2060.

Incredibly Shrinking Interest Earned on the TSR Account

Back in 2007, former City Controller Ed Harrington provided information on the TSR's, and indicated that as of December 2007, the City had already earned $32.387 million in interest on the TSR revenue received. On July 9, 2010, Nadia Feeser, the Controller's Acting Budget Manager, provided an Excel file showing that interest earned on the TSR's as of June 30, 2010 had surged over a three-year period to a total of $40.9 million in interest earned.

So imagine my surprise when I received a file from the Controller's Office on April 20, 2016 showing that the interest earned to date on the TSR account had plummeted to just $14.5 million, representing a loss of $28.2 million in interest earned that had been reported in July 2010. What happened to the previously reported interest of $40.9 million? Couldn't those hundreds of millions have been used towards funding the June 2016 Public Health Facilities bond measure?

The Controller's May 23 lame response invoked another 10-day extension to provide an explanation of why there's a gap of $28.2 million in interest already earned to date that had been previously reported.

Other TSR Anomalies

First, on May 4, the Controller's Office finally provided another Excel file prepared by Hiu Ching "Cherie" Wan, an accountant for the Controller, showing TSR expenditures from revenue received, which appears to contradict other public records from the City Controller. A modified version of that file shows that the TSR account has received $319.968 million through April 24, which is exactly $17 million more than the $302.968 million in revenue the control reported to me on April 20 as TSR revenue through June 30, 2016. How can the Controller's Office be off by $17 million across the two files provided to me just days apart?

The Controller's May 23 partial response to the records request claimed that the difference between the two files is because the March 20 file did not include the $17 million in TSR revenues deposited into the Tobacco and Education Prevention Fund. In fact, whether that $17 million was deposited directly into the TSR account or directly into the Education Fund, the fact remains it is nonetheless revenue earned from the Tobacco Settlement lawsuit, and common sense says it should be recorded as revenue earned from the TSR lawsuit, regardless of which sub-fund it is deposited into.

Second, between TSR revenues and actual expenditures for both the LHH Project, and the debt service on the General Obligation Bond to rebuild LHH, the City has expended $74.5 million less from revenues it received for these two purposes. Shouldn't revenue earmarked for specific purposes actually be spent on them?

And finally, Ms. Wan's file shows that the Controller transferred $52.95 million from the TSR account to the General Fund for the Department of Public Health, possibly for DPH's operating expenses rather than for capital construction expenses, and has expended another $3 million for the City's "Community Living Fund" (CLF). Most observers had believed the CLF allocations were supposed to come from annual appropriations from the General Fund, not from the TSR account.

Between the two expenditures, the Controller appears to have diverted $56 million from the TSR fund for what should have been General Fund appropriations, and that $56 million could also have been used towards funding the June 2016 Public Health Facilities bond measure.


As I have previously written, now more than ever San Franciscans deserve to have a Charter amendment creating a Board or a Commission having oversight over MOHCD. Until that happens, we'll still be getting screwy reporting about, and screwy spending of, scarce Affordable Housing funds, snookering voters even more.

An expanded version of this article is available on

Monette-Shaw is a columnist for San Francisco's Westside Observer newspaper. He received a James Madison Freedom of Information Award from the Society of Professional Journalists–Northern California Chapter in 2012. He can be contacted at monette-shaw@westsideobserver.

June 2016

Voter’s Beware: You Get What You Vote For

June 2016 Election Recommendations

[Editor: Recommendations in this article are those of the author, not those of the Westside Observer.]

Several readers asked me to provide recommendations for San Francisco’s June 7, 2016 election. My recommendations are based on reading 87 pages of the five City ballot measure’s legal-language texts, Controller’s statements, Legislative Analyst digests, and other documents, along with media reporting. For what it’s worth, here goes.

Local Ballot Measures

Prop “A”: Public Health and Safety Bond Measure

A San Francisco Examiner article on January 31, 2016 indicated $54 million to build a new Animal Care and Control facility initially included in June’s $350 million Public Health and Safety bond was removed in a sudden and unprecedented change of plans. The Examiner reported the $54 million would be used to “modernize homeless shelters and clinics that deal with mental health,” instead. It was unprecedented, in part, because the change was made just two days before the bond measure was to be discussed during a Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee meeting, and in part because typical long-term planning of the timing and composition of bond measures was thrown out the window at the last moment, perhaps along with the baby and the bathwater.

The plot to remove the facility was aided and abetted by — get this — the Board of Supervisors current president, London Breed. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on January 26:

“The money that would have gone to the animal facility will now be split among three initiatives: $20 million for the Department of Public Health to modernize local clinics, including providing mental health services; $20 million for modernizing and transforming homeless shelters; and $14 million for neighborhood fire stations.”

I’m not buying it!

Unfortunately, the legal text of Prop. “A” states that $20 million will be spent for upgrading homeless shelters, but qualifies it by saying a portion of the $20 million may be to “acquire and construct homeless services sites” — not just homeless shelters themselves. Great: Bond funding for more City office “sites.”

Worse, the legal text contains no mention of a $20 million set aside for health clinics modernization. Instead, the clinics modernization are included in the upgrade of other facilities on SFGH’s campus, opening the door that if there are cost overruns or “unforeseen site condition” problems (a recurring issue on bond-funded projects) on the SFGH campus that $20 million may never be used for the clinics modernization, since the legal text doesn’t explicitly set aside the second $20 million, as reported by the Chronicle.

Similarly, there’s no mention in the legal text of $14 million actually being earmarked for neighborhood fire stations; instead the fire stations are rolled up into a $58 allocation to construct a Fire Department ambulance and paramedic deployment facility. Should that deployment facility need the full $58 million — whether or not due to cost overruns or “unforeseen site condition” problems — there may be no remaining funds to improve neighborhood fire stations.

Just $272 million of the bond will be used for upgrading of facilities on SFGH’s campus.

Breed is expected to support the Board of Supervisors in issuing by the stroke of its pen $59.5 million as early as May 25 in another debt instrument that does not require voter approval — so-called Certificates of Participation (COPs) — to fund replacing the Animal Care facility (the COPs Ordinance has already been introduced, and is on track to be approved in early June). COPs also require interest payments, so in addition to the $350 million in principal and the projected $254 million in interest for a total of $604 million for the June 7 bond, taxpayers — via the General Fund — will foot the $59.5 million of principal on the COPs plus an estimated $50.5 million in interest, for a total of $110 million for the COP’s.

So instead of $604 million for the principal and interest on just the $350 million bond, we’re up to at least $714 million by adding in the $110 million in principal and interest for the Animal Control COP’s.

No explanation has been provided why costs for the Animal Shelter have surged from $54 million to $59.5 million, in less than three months.

The January 26 Chronicle article also reported Breed told the City’s Capital Planning Committee “Fifty-four million is a lot of money to spend on any facility,” and Breed also criticized the City for “pouring money down the drain” on projects she said are too big and sometimes unnecessary. How’s that for chutzpah?

Perhaps Breed is more comfortable pouring $110 million down the drain for the Animal Control facility — with the stroke of her COP’s pen, no voters required — rather than the $54 million for it that she helped strip from the bond measure.

Voters were snookered on last November’s $310 million housing bond measure: Only recently has the City finally admitted that fully 20% of that bond — $62 million — is being set aside for housing for the homeless, something voters were never informed about prior to the November 2015 election. [Editor: More on this bait-and-switch in next month’s Westside Observer.] Add in the $20 million for homeless shelters in the June bond, and we’re up to $82 million in bond financing plus interest for homeless projects.

In addition to November’s bond, the City recently introduced a separate COP for an affordable housing Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) project that features $83.4 million in principal plus a staggering $129.8 million in interest —155.6% in interest on the principal — for a total of an additional $213.2 million in COP debt service without voter approval. It is not yet known how much of the Rental Assistance COP’s will also be used to house the homeless.

Between November’s $310 million Affordable Housing bond measure and June’s $350 million Public Health and Safety bond measure, taxpayers are footing $1.13 billion in principal and interest for two bonds. Add the two COP’s nearing approval — the housing RAD project and the Animal Care and Control project — that total another $323.3 million, and we’re up to a combined $1.45 billion in principal and interest debt service in a short seven-month period for four projects, not all of which may be capital improvement projects.

I’m tired of being snookered by City Hall. I’m voting “No” on Prop. “A.” You should, too.

Prop “B”: Park, Recreation and Open Space Fund (City Charter Amendment)

Prop. “B” is a bald attempt to increase the Rec and Park Department’s annual budget by $30 million over a 10-year period above its current $67 million annual budget, and also extend the Open Space fund for an additional 15 years. There’s no specificity on what the Open Space set-aside and baseline budget increases will, or shall, be used for.

It’s another slush fund for the Rec and Park Department to spend on whatever they want, with no ability for San Franciscans to weigh in on the use of the increased funds. Everyone wants the best for our parks, and wants resolution of the $1.6 billion in deferred parks maintenance. But there’s no guarantee Prop “B” will solve the deferred maintenance backlog or fix spending of Rec and Park’s annual baseline General Fund allocation. No new funds to this Open Space Fund or to Rec and Park’s annual budget, until we’re told beforehand how the additional funds will be spent!

Prop. “B” will extend the Open Space Fund set-aside and baseline appropriation by 15 years from the current 30-year term to 45 years, and expire at the end of fiscal year 2045-2046. Prop. “B” appears to eliminate the Board of Supervisors power to adopt, reject, or modify any Strategic and Capital Expenditure Plans adopted by the Rec and Parks Department, including its Open Space Fund.

Importantly, the City Controller’s statement assessing Prop “B” notes the Open Space set-aside is not in compliance with a voter-adopted City policy regarding “set asides” that reduce General Fund dollars that could otherwise be allocated to other priorities.

The conservative San Francisco Chronicle carried an editorial on April 21 titled “Good cause, bad policy,” in which it recommended voting “No” on Prop. “B.”

Join the San Francisco Coalition of Neighborhoods, and Open Space Fund community watchdog extraordinaire Nancy Wuerfel, and I in opposing Prop. “B.” Vote No!

Prop “C”: Affordable Housing Requirements (City Charter Amendment)

In November 2012, voters passed the then-Prop. “C” to create the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) to increase funding for housing development. Over the 30-year life of the HTF, the City’s General Fund will contribute $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion to the HTF, not all of which is dedicated to “affordable housing.”

But the 2012 HTF ballot measure contained a “poison pill” — more politely, a “drafting error” — that voters may not have been clearly aware of. The poison pill was a gift to real estate speculators and developers, and involved reducing the on-site affordable “inclusionary” housing requirement by 20% — from 15% to 12% — a change that was incorporated into the City Charter, so that developers and speculators could increase their profits. The 2012 measure prohibited the City from adopting any new land use legislation or administrative regulations to require increasing the amount of “inclusionary housing,” and was enshrined in the City Charter.

The first Housing Balance Report dated July 7, 2015 (required following legislation introduced by Supervisor Jane Kim that was passed) showed the ten-year Citywide Cumulative Housing Balance — the ratio of “affordable” to “market-rate” housing built — was just 21%; the second Report, dated September 4, 2015 showed the Cumulative Balance had dropped to 15%, and the new third Report shows it is now 18%, although Peter Cohen and Fernando Marti, Co-Directors of the Council on Community Housing Organizations, reported in their April 7 Op-Ed in the San Francisco Examiner that the net new affordable housing is down to 13%.

The first two Housing Balance reports in July and September 2015 reported the Projected Housing Balance — projects in the development pipeline — was 11%, and the third report in March 2016 reported the Projected Balance is now 15%.

Between the second and third Housing Balance reports, the number of new housing units produced for moderate income households saw a 28.4% net decline, from 1,550 in September 2015 to just 1,120 affordable units in the March 2016.

Planning Code §303(q)(6) requires that if the cumulative housing balance falls below 30% in any given quarter, the City shall consider contributing additional funds to the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development to fund development of new affordable units, in order to maintain the cumulative housing balance at or above the 30% threshold.

The new Prop “C” in June 2016 would remove the City Charter prohibition, will return the inclusionary housing percentage back to 15%, and will allow the Board of Supervisors to adjust the inclusionary housing percentages by Ordinance in the future, rather than having to ask voters to weigh in on the issue again.

Vote Yes!

Prop “D”: Office of Citizen Complaints Investigations (Initiative Ordinance)

Prop. “D” simply requires the Office of Citizen Complaints (OCC) to investigate all incidents in the City in which a police officer fires a gun killing or injuring someone, even if nobody files a complaint, and requires Police Department officers and employees to cooperate with OCC investigations of such shootings.

This is a common-sense reform that should be supported, even if it might require the OCC to hire additional investigators to handle any increase in investigations.

As I reported in “Mayor’s Hiring Binge vs. Retiree Pensions” in the Westside Observer last March, during the four-and-a-half short years of Mayor Ed Lee’s tenure, he added 5,139 full- and part-time employees to the City’s payroll at an increased cost of $567.1 million — slightly over a half-billion dollars. And that’s not including fringe benefits and increased pension costs for the additional 5,139 City employees.

Prop. “D’s” City Controller voter guide statement notes that the salary and fringe benefits for hiring one OCC investigator is a paltry $140,000, and the OCC’s budget for Fiscal Year 2015–2016 was a mere $5 million. The Controller rightly notes that should Proposition “D” be passed by voters, it would have a “minimal effect” on the cost of City government.

For a ballot measure with minimal cost and many large benefits of greater Police Department oversight, it’s well worth it. Please join me in voting “Yes.

Prop “E”: Paid Sick Leave (Initiative Ordinance)

No recommendation.

District Measure “AA”: San Francisco Bay Clean Water, Pollution Prevention, and Habitat Restoration

This measure will levy a parcel tax of $12 annually in each of the next 20 years for each parcel in the nine-county Bay Area. Over the life of the measure, each parcel owner would contribute a total of $240 towards clean water, pollution prevention, and habitat restoration in the San Francisco Bay Area. The measure says it will raise $25 million annually, and presumably over the 20-year period, will generate a half-billion dollars for a variety of projects.

For the sake of our environment, $12 a year — $1 per month — seems like a bargain to me for owners of these parcel’s, and a small price to pay. Even though I rent, I’d gladly give my landlord the $12 a year. Vote “Yes.”

California State Senator

The State Senator contest between two sitting members of the Board of Supervisors — Jane Kim and Scott Wiener — to replace termed-out State Senator Mark Leno should be a no-brainer: Vote for Jane Kim.

Ultra-moderate Scott Wiener has, among other legislative issues, been a complete disaster on housing issues and re-zoning of large swaths of San Francisco. Wiener’s housing philosophy appears to be “build lots of market rate housing at all costs, and let ‘affordable housing’ trickle down to the masses of citizens.” Given the glut of market-rate housing, and the paucity of affordable housing built in the past 10 years in San Francisco, it’s painfully obvious Wiener’s trickle-down theory isn’t trickling down quite so well.

Jane Kim, on the other hand, has a very strong record on a whole host of legislative issues too long to wade into this article, including taking the lead on sponsoring legislation to require San Francisco’s Planning Department to submit a Housing Balance Report twice annually to the Board of Supervisors.

The most recent Housing Balance Report issued on March 31 shows that although 22,531 units were actually built between first quarter 2006 and fourth quarter 2015, and another 11,140 are considered either “entitled” to be built or have received permits (but have not actually been built, some of which may potentially never be built) for a total of 33,671 potential new units, only 5,934 of the units are considered to be “affordable” (although 10,052 affordable units were built, a total of 4,118 units were removed from the affordable housing stock, including to condo conversions, demolition, Ellis Act evictions, and owner move-in evictions). The end result is that only 17.6% — 5,934 — of the units built during the past decade, or are in the construction pipeline, are considered to be “affordable.”

That’s hardly “trickle-down” in San Francisco, which has added 140,000 new jobs and 50,000 new residents just since 2009. Kim is to be commended for trying to identify the problem of trickle-down housing economics that aren’t working.

At the Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee hearing on April 18, Wiener wrongly accused Supervisor Kim and Supervisor Peskin in a public hearing of having engaged in a “backroom deal,” regarding a mere 200 units involving “grandfathering” (a.k.a. “grandparenting”) of inclusionary affordable housing units for projects in the pipeline. Wiener’s body language during that hearing illustrated just how petulant he becomes at times, a trait not worthy of anybody seeking election to the State Senate.

Wiener’s tizzy about grandfathering just 200 units being unfair to his real estate and developer campaign contributors was comical, at best.

Electing Kim to the Senate would provide a needed balance to San Francisco Assemblyman David Chiu in the State Assembly. Conversely, Wiener in the Senate and Chiu in the Assembly is a recipe for disaster for a really long time. Vote for Kim!

DCCC Recommendations

The race for 24 seats on San Francisco’s Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC) is very intense. I recommend most of the 21 candidates endorsed by the San Francisco Bay Guardian, which released a special web page devoted to its June 2016 election recommendations.

However, since State Senator John Burton declared he is running for the DCCC in the 17th Assembly District after the Guardian published its endorsements, if you feel strongly about electing Burton to the DCCC you’ll need to decide which of the other 14 candidates the Guardian recommended to eliminate.

The list below shows I recommend voting for Senator Burton, and not voting for Bevan Dufty. In my book, Mr. Dufty’s role in getting Ed Lee appointed as the “interim” Mayor was, and is, unforgiveable.

When the Board of Supervisors voted for an Interim Mayor for a one-year term to replace Mayor Gavin Newsom, Dufty initially cast no votes for anybody during the first two rounds of voting. Dufty then asked for a recess, and during the recess, Dufty suddenly met with Gavin Newsom in the Mayor’s suite in City Hall Room 200, more than likely making a deal with The Gavin for a City Hall job when Dufty was termed out. When the Board resumed from recess, everyone was shocked when Dufty suddenly backed appointing Ed Lee as interim mayor.

Dufty has often been characterized as “flip-flopping” his votes as a former Supervisor, when not characterized as being “fickle.” Dufty is widely seen as a politician at their worst, or alternatively as being “Machiavellian” — using clever lies and tricks in order to get or achieve something, or someone marked by conduct involving cunning, duplicity, or bad faith.

In my book, Dufty’s betrayal led directly to Mayor Lee’s failed housing and economic policies during Lee’s almost five-year tenure that has driven too many San Franciscans out-of-county. Dufty shouldn’t be rewarded for this subterfuge by election to a seat on the DCCC.

17th Assembly District (East Side)

There are 14 seats up for the DCCC on the East Side. Vote for these candidates:

Alysabeth Alexander, Tom Ammiano, John Burton (instead of Dufty), David Campos, Petra DeJesus, Jon Golinger, Prathima Gupta, Frances Hsieh, Jane Kim, Rafael Mandelman, Sophie Maxwell, Aaron Peskin, Leroy Wade Woods, and Cindy Wu.

Do not vote for Joshua Arce, London Breed, Bevan Dufty, Shaun Haines, Alix Rosenthal, or Scott Wiener for a seat on the DCCC’s 17th Assembly District. They’re all bad apples, for various reasons.

19th Assembly District (West Side)

There are 10 seats for the DCCC on the West Side. Only seven met the Bay Guardian’s endorsement criteria, who I also recommend. Vote for:

Brigitte Davila, Sandra Lee Fewer, Hene Kelly, Leah LaCroix, Eric Mar, Myrna Melgar, and Norman Yee.

Do not vote for Joel Engardio, Mark Farrell, or Mary Jung for a seat on the DCCC’s 19th Assembly District. They’re also bad apples, also for various reasons.

Superior Court Judge

There are three candidates running for San Francisco Superior Court Judge: Sigrid Irias, Victor Hwang, and
Paul Henderson.

Henderson has claimed it’s important that an African American who is gay be elected to the bench. Hwang, an Asian candidate, is clearly more qualified than Henderson.

The ultra “moderate” Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club has endorsed Henderson.

Mr. Henderson is currently the Mayor’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Public Safety. Imagine, for example, a lawsuit being filed in Superior Court against the City, and the case is assigned to a “Judge” Henderson. I’m not at all convinced Paul would maintain any semblance of “independence” in judging the merits of such a lawsuit, and I’m very concerned he would, by default, support the City in such a lawsuit, rather than remaining impartial.

As an emissary from the Mayor’s Office at various City Hall events, Henderson makes a great emcee. I’m not convinced having emcee skills is the best qualification to become a judge.

Another example: Were a lawsuit to be filed against the City in Superior Court by a City employee wrongfully terminated for any number of prohibited personnel practices — discrimination based on age, gender, race, or other prohibited actions — I don’t have much faith in a Judge Henderson remaining impartial.

As another example, were a lawsuit filed in Superior Court against the City involving violations of San Francisco’s open government Sunshine Ordinance, violations of the Brown Act, or violations California’s Public Records Act, I have no optimism a Judge Henderson would remain impartial.

Reportedly, two years ago Henderson sought to be appointed to a judicial vacancy by Governor Brown. But reportedly, Henderson hasn’t heard from the governor’s office. If Governor Moonbeam hasn’t been keen on appointing Henderson to a vacancy, I’m concerned. Supervisor David Campos, a gay man who attended Harvard Law School, has endorsed Hwang, as have other elected City officials.

If none of the three candidates win 50% + 1 in the June primary, the top two candidates will be forced into a run-off election in November. That’s why it’s really important to not vote for Henderson, so further debates on the qualifications to become a Superior Court judge can continue.

From my perspective, the more important issue is not a candidate’s race, sexual orientation, or political connections, but their legal experience. Hwang has two decades of courtroom experience under his belt, which Henderson does not. Hwang clearly is the most qualified candidate; vote for him. Hwang’s campaign motto is “Experience Matters.” It should, and does!

Democratic Presidential Primary

This should be a no-brainer: Despite former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s and feminist Gloria Steinem’s recent claims there will be a special place in hell for women (and Democrats) who don’t vote for Hillary, I’m going out on a limb, since my inner-woman and inner-child keep whispering in my ear to vote for Bernie Sanders, even if that means: “Hell, here I come,” Madeleine Albright’s and Gloria Steinem’s ridiculous claims notwithstanding.

Hillary Clinton’s “negatives” are way too high, and may well turn out a deciding factor in handing the Republican Party the Presidency for four to eight years, or longer, if Clinton is chosen the Democratic nominee.

Hillary’s, and her husband Bill’s, legacy include disasters such as the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy (subsequently abandoned by the military); the horrible DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), in which the Clinton’s failed to support legal marriage of gays and lesbians (eventually struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court); NAFTA (the North America Free Trade Act), which ended up gutting the U.S. job market and outsourcing of untold millions of jobs to other countries; and most egregiously, the Clinton’s support for eliminating Glass-Steagall, which allowed the deregulation of Wall Street that lead directly to the great economic meltdown of 2008–2009.

Glass-Steagall refers to the entire U.S. Banking Act of 1933, which incorporated the Glass–Steagall Act of 1932. It was enacted as an emergency response to the failure of nearly 5,000 banks during the Great Depression. The Banking Act of 1935 clarified the 1933 legislation. Glass-Steagall was intended to separate commercial and investment banking, and prohibited commercial banks from engaging in the investment business. It did so for almost seven decades.

But after 66 years, both of the Clinton’s thought they knew best when Glass-Steagall was repealed in 1999 by the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLBA) and signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton, one of Bill’s stupidest acts while president. It took just nine years after Clinton signed GLBA into law for the great 2008 financial meltdown to occur.

Many media journalists believe, and have documented, the 2009 financial crisis might not have happened at all but for the 1999 repeal of Glass-Steagall. U.S. News and World report carried an article on August 27, 2012 written by — get this — New York City hedge fund manager James Richards, author of a book titled “Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis.”

Richards noted that the oldest propaganda technique is to repeat a lie emphatically and often until it is taken for the truth, and noted that big bank boosters and analysts who should know better are repeating the falsehood that repeal of Glass-Steagall had nothing to do with the Panic of 2008.

From my perspective, Hillary and Bill should both know better, but both of the Clinton’s keep repeating the same falsehood that repeal of Glass-Steagall was good for the country. The “Bill-and-Hill show” clearly know how to use propaganda to their economic advantage.

Mr. Richards asserted that “if there is any hope of avoiding another meltdown, it’s critical to understand why [the] Glass-Steagall repeal helped to cause the crisis. Without a return to something like Glass-Steagall, another greater catastrophe is just a matter of time,” he noted.

Hillary continues to oppose re-instating provisions of Glass-Steagall, in part because she doesn’t want to lose her political contributions and speaking engagement fees from Wall Street bankers and speculators. For this reason alone, my recommendation is to cast your vote for Bernie! Otherwise, it is extremely unlikely that the U.S. Supreme Court Citizen’s United decision will ever be overturned, particularly not under a President Hillary.

Then there’s the problem of stigmatizing people HIV/AIDS. According to blogger Michael Petrelis, Hillary’s presidential campaign web site claims she believes HIV/AIDS should be de-stigmatized. Her web site’s AIDS page says she will:

“Reform outdated and stigmatizing HIV criminalization laws. Discrimination should never be enshrined in our laws. Hillary will work with advocates, HIV and AIDS organizations, Congress, and other stakeholders to review and reform outdated and stigmatizing federal HIV criminalization laws—and will call on states to do the same.”

While Hillary now claims discrimination shouldn’t be enshrined in our laws, that’s exactly what her hubby, Bill, did.

In 1989, as Governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton signed into law two of the nation’s toughest HIV transmission criminalization statutes. Since then, Petrelis reports 50 people have been imprisoned in Arkansas for HIV transmission, 29 of whom have been released from prison while the other 21 languish in prison. Nineteen of the 50 received sentences of greater than 20 years, and two (both African American men) received life sentences. Of the 50, 24 were African American’s, 24 white, one was Hispanic, and one was Native American Indian.

Hillary has done nothing to date to have these sentences commuted. Petrelis wrote:

“Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton needs to address why she apparently said and did nothing to prevent these laws from being signed, nor called for their reform until last month and what she’ll do during campaign to address repealing HIV exposure laws and releasing folks convicted of violations.”

All of those convicted of HIV transmission in Arkansas deserve a second look at their convictions.

Although Petrelis placed an FOIA request to discover how many HIV positive individuals have been charged with HIV exposure violations since November 1989, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has stupidly refused to respond to the FOIA request, saying Arkansas FOIA law only applies to Arkansas citizens residing within the state, and records will be released only to Arkansas citizens.

Petrelis has found an Arkansas citizen to place the same request, so we’ll see if Ms. Rutledge coughs up the prosecution data during the past 27 years.

Prez Hillary and “First Gentleman” Bill? You’re kidding me, right? Give this pair of propaganda specialists more a “matter of time” to engineer another Wall Street disaster? I don’t trust either of them!

I’m casting my vote for Bernie, and you should, too, whether or not hell may be involved.

Republican Presidential Primary

I’d like to offer sympathy to the Republican Party for its field of three pathetic candidates, who all appear to be unqualified to be Commander-in-Chief. Republicans are on their own here, since for the past eight years of the Obama Administration, the Republican Party has devolved into the “Party of No” and has become largely irrelevant. What were they thinking?

Well, these are my recommendations. You have a month to figure out how you’ll vote.

Monette-Shaw is a columnist for San Francisco’s Westside Observer newspaper. He received a James Madison Freedom of Information Award from the Society of Professional Journalists–Northern California Chapter in 2012. He can be contacted at monette-shaw@westsideobserver.

May 2016

Laguna Honda's "Mission Statement" Changed, Again!

Appalling Shortage of Skilled Nursing Beds

After decades of planning, how can city officials say that there are no beds for elderly and disabled San Franciscans, saying there are not enough skilled nursing facility (SNF), board and care, and post-acute care beds?

A new report from the Department of Public Health (DPH) — "Framing San Francisco's Post-Acute Care Shortage" — calls for yet more planning, since previous planning has been meaningless.


Healthcare providers can't do post-discharge patient follow-up to check on patient outcomes without knowing where patients are...”

The Westside Observer has covered the loss of our skilled nursing beds — and the utter lack of planning for SNF care — in a series of articles over the past seven years, including "Laguna Honda Hospital: Pot-bellies vs. Beds" (July 2009)", "Who's Dumping Grandma?" (June 2013), "The Big Squeeze: Dys-Integration of 'Old Friends'," (July 2014), and "Detrimental Skilled Nursing Cuts" (June 2015). Other articles going back to 2004 also touched on the loss of SNF beds.

Despite our previous reporting the situation has y grown worse over the past seven years, since we now appear to be facing a 1,745-bed SNF shortage 14 years from now in 2030.

How did we get to this point?

Media Coverage of New Report

To its credit, the Examiner's article in February by Joshua Sabatini discussing the "Post-Acute Care Shortage" report presented to the Health Commission. Unfortunately, it failed to place the story in perspective on a variety of levels.

First Sabatini quoted Sneha Patil, a Health Program Planner in DPH's Office of Policy and Planning, "San Francisco is at risk for an inadequate supply of skilled nursing beds in the future" to inform the Health Commission. But Sabatini missed the context — the commission had previously been warned that the shortage of SNF beds constituted an unmet need for skilled nursing care in the City.

It's not just that there is an inadequate supply to meet demand. It's that the demand isn't being met after years of inadequate and poor planning. How long before the Health Commission "gets"it?

Second, Sabatini reports that "health officials are attempting" to reverse the lack of beds by "working with hospital officials and other health care service providers." There is no evidence whatsoever, that efforts have been made to increase beds, by DPH, or other providers, or that any efforts have been successful, or even exist.

Third, Health Commissioner David Pating, MD — a psychiatrist and Chief of Addiction Medicine at Kaiser Medical Center (appointed by Mayor Ed Lee to the Health Commission in 2014) — appears unaware of the severe SNF bed shortage looming long before he was appointed.

Sabatini quoted Pating that the city had "a gap here that is looking to be solved." The SNF-bed "gap" has been brewing looking to be solved for a decade.

Further, Commissioner Pating said: "It's just not clear to me if we are going to need 500, or 1,000 [additional SNF beds] — whatever the number that we are going to have — [whether we are going to have] enough room in The City to build these number of beds."

Does he know the City owns 62 acres at Laguna Honda Hospital with plenty of room to build more SNF beds (in fact, another 420 SNF beds that had been planned, were eliminated, due to the cost overruns of the new facility)? There would be no additional cost to acquire property to build out more SNF beds.

This isn't about a 500-bed, or a 1,000-bed, shortage. It's almost double that, at a 1,745-bed shortage.

Even worse, Pating said: "I hope we will consider out-of-city [i.e., out-of-county] and maybe even multicounty [discharge placement] options."

More out-of-county patient dumping, including elderly and disabled who need long-term skilled nursing care? Pating also informed Sabtini that hospital officials have difficulty in placing patients in sub-acute care beds. "There are a handful of facilities in the greater Bay Area. But some discharge planners have reported having to send patients as far as L.A. county due to a lack of beds in the Bay Area."

Fourth, Sabatini reported that Abbie Yant, St. Francis Memorial Hospital's Vice President for Mission, Advocacy and Community Health, said that the new report "represents the first time The City is addressing post-acute care at large." Yant continued "We need to protect what we now have. The problem is here today. We do have some urgency around that."

It's a refreshing admission that this is the first time the City addressed post-acute care needs, over 20 years into the crisis!

If we "need to protect what we now have," why did Yant advocate on behalf of St. Mary's to close its SNF beds in 2015? Since her appointment in January 2011 to the Mayor's Long-Term Care Coordinating Council (LTCCC ), she allowed the closure of 90 SNF beds between St. Francis, CPMC, and St. Mary's.

LHH's "Mission" Changed Again

Just before the Health Commission debated the new report on the critical shortage of skilled nursing care beds to care for a quickly increasing population of elderly residents, a Health Commission subcommittee called the Laguna Honda Hospital Joint Conference Committee (LHH-JCC) quietly changed Laguna Honda's mission statement from providing long-term care to "post-acute" services.

It's not a mere shift in semantics.

It allows LHH and DPH to determine which post-acute care services it offers, and it may allow the hospital to say, "Our mission isn't to provide long-term skilled nursing care, so we're not going to admit you and you should go shop elsewhere, even if it means out-of-county placement."

LHH's new mission statement changed from caring for long-and short-term care patients to becoming a "leader in post-acute care." And completely absent from the January 2016 revised mission statement is any mention of long-term care or rehabilitation services, both of which have now been completely excised.

Out-of-County, Out of Mind

Discharged to Out of County Chart
*San Francisco residents discharged from SFGH but not admitted to Laguna Honda Hospital.
** Although DPH's SF GetCare database likely has discharge destination data prior to FY 12-13, the City refuses to provide it

Pating's hope to increase out-of-county and multi-county patient-dumping placements to deal with our so-called "post-acute care challenge" is very troubling, given DPH's own data.

DPH has stalled disclosure for over two years on the aggregate number of out-of-county discharges from LHH, and only in the past month has it provided limited data. DPH and the Department of Aging and Adult Services have shared the SF GetCare database for years, which tracks the discharge destination of patients from LHH and SFGH, or patients who were "diverted" via a court-ordered Diversion and Community Integration Program.

Healthcare providers can't do post-discharge patient follow-up to check on patient outcomes without knowing where patients are, and how to contact them.

Table 1 above shows at least 85 patients from LHH have been discharged out-of-county in the past three-and-a-half fiscal years, alone but DPH may be withholding release of the data. It also shows that, in the same period, SFGH discharged another 76 San Franciscans to out-of-county facilities, bringing the total to 161.

LHH and SFGH operate only 1,172 beds of the estimated 5,483 total beds citywide, but no data is available on the number of out-of-county discharges made in the past three-and-a-half years in the remaining 4,311 citywide beds. Why DPH didn't collect and report complete discharge data for all our hospitals and SNF facilities illustrates it's a flawed analysis that obscures the severity of SNF needs."

On October 2015, 11 people were on LHH's wait list for long-term care, and 100 people were on SF's Jewish Home wait list. The report that also noted that of our ten acute-care hospitals surveyed, including SFGH, approximately 67 patients were waiting to be placed in a SNF.

"For now, out-of-county SNF placement is and will continue to be a reality for San Francisco residents due to limited bed availability, [limited] community-living alternatives, and higher care costs in San Francisco," the report states.

Health Commissioner Cecila Chung, asked if "San Francisco provides assistance to individuals re-entering the City after leaving [being discharged from] their out-of-county placements."

No one provided a direct answer to Commissioner Chung's question. Since many patients dumped out-of-county for short-term skilled nursing care or rehabilitation may indeed want to return to our City, and not be permanently disenfranchised and displaced out-of-county.

Chung's question was astute, in part, because neither the City nor the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) has a preference priority in place for people discharged out-of-county to be eligible for either public-housing, or so-called "affordable housing" to gain access to priority placement and return to San Francisco.

Once they're discharged out-of-county, they are out of mind and essentially handed a one-way ticket elsewhere, expected to never return.

An expanded version of this article is available on

Monette-Shaw is a Westside Observer columnist. He received a James Madison Freedom of Information Award from the Society of Professional Journalists–Northern California Chapter in 2012. He can be contacted at monette-shaw@westsideobserver.

April 2016

Mayor Ed’s Hiring Binge

Once again, retired City employees are wrongly being blamed for Mayor Ed Lee’s looming budget deficit. The Mayor has quietly been on a hiring binge since taking office in January 2011, but seeks help from his media shills to obscure his budget failures by blaming retirees.

Yet again, San Francisco Chronicle gossip columnists Matier and Ross have rushed to Lee’s rescue, using yet more Chronicle spin control.

On December 7, 2015, Matier and Ross reported that “nearly half” of a projected $99 million deficit for Fiscal Year 2016–2017 starting July 1, 2016 “can be chalked up to skyrocketing pension costs.” But Matier and Ross noted that just $42 million is attributable to increased pension costs, which represents only 42.2% — not “nearly half” — of the projected deficit. While Matier and Ross railed against retirees, they neglected a basic duty of journalists to report facts fully, since they didn’t bother reporting other causes of the remaining $57 million projected deficit.


This is Ed Lee’s own doing, not the fault of City retiree’s living longer, despite the misinformation Matier and Ross used to whip up hysteria about increasing pension costs for City retirees...”

Fast forward a month to January 5, when the San Francisco Examiner reported Mayor Lee has requested that City departments cut spending by 1.5% to cover the $100 million deficit for FY 2016–2017, and cut an additional 1.5% in their FY 2017–2018 budgets. The Mayor’s budget instructions claim that the two-year 3% budget cuts are necessary and are “roughly equivalent to the citywide impact of the increased pension costs in each of the next two fiscal years.”

For its part, the Examiner rightly noted that there are other factors driving the budget deficit, including voter-adopted baselines and set-asides, along with projected increases in citywide operating costs, and other factors, which appeared to have been of no interest to Matier and Ross as they rushed to bash City retirees.

Mayor’s Hell-Bent Hiring Binge

Mayor Lee initially took office at the half-way point during FY 2010–2011 when his tenure began on January 11, 2011. During the five years he has held office, he added 5,386 new of City employees across 41 City departments, according to the City Controller’s fiscal year payroll databases, but offset that by eliminating 246 other City jobs across 11 other City departments.

The net change under Lee’s administration is he has added 5,139 full- and part-time employees to the City’s payroll at an increased cost of $567.1 million. And that’s not including fringe benefits and increased pension costs.

As Table 1 illustrates, the 5,139 additional City employees represents a 15.1% increase in headcount and a 22.2% increase to the amount of the payroll during Lee’s tenure. What changed in City government requiring so many more City employees?

Fattening the City Budget and Payroll

When Ed Lee became mayor on January 11, 2011 in the middle of FY 10–11, the City’s total budget as adopted was $6.56 billion. Within just four-and-a-half years, by FY 14–15 the City’s total budget skyrocketed to $8.58 billion, a net change of $2.2 billion — a staggering 30.8% increase.

Nearly 83% — 4,259 of 5,139 — of the increased staffing, and almost two-thirds of the associated salary cost increases, occurred in just seven City departments as shown in Table 2.

Rise in the “Fat Cat” $100,000+ Salary Club

Mayor Lee has clearly been on a hiring binge for City employees earning over $100,000 annually since assuming office.

Interestingly, Figure 1 illustrates that Mayor Lee added 3,127 employees earning over $100,000 to the City’s payroll between FY 10–11 and FY 14–15 at an increased cost of $510.2 million annually.

Why did the City need an additional 1,290 employees earning between $100,000 and $149,999 at an increased cost of $162.7 million? Why did the City need an additional 1,265 employees earning between $150,000 and $199,999 at an increased cost of $220.9 million? For that matter, why did the City need an additional 559 employees earning over $200,000 annually at an increased cost of $126.6 million? What do taxpayers gain with this bloat?

More troubling Table 7 below illustrates salary inequities that have worsened under Mayor Lee. Pay inequity between those earning less than $100,000 annually and those earning over $100,000 annually has dramatically worsened. Table 7 illustrates there has been a 33.3% increase in the number of employees earning over $100,000 between FY 10–11 and FY14–15, along with a 40.4% increase to the City payroll.

The average annual salary for those earning less than $100,000 dropped to $48,715 in FY 14–15 while those earning over $100,000 had average salaries of almost $100,000 more, at $141,704. Can Mayor Lee spell i-n-e-q-u-i-t-y?

Table 7 also shows the inequities for those earning less than $50,000 annually. There was a 16.9% increase — 1,754 — of such employees between FY 10–11 and FY 14–15, but their average salaries plunged by $2,425 to just $17,336, a whopping 12.3% loss in average salaries for those making less than $50,000, even while the 33.3% increase in those earning over $100,000 saw their average salaries increase by $5.3%.

Tables 8 and 9 below show the growth in City managers citywide and additional growth in Muni-specific managers between FY 10–11 and FY 14–15. Between the citywide managers and the Muni-specific managers and transit supervisors, the City added an additional 190 managers, at an increased cost of $39.4 million — fully 7% of Mayor Lee’s additional $567.4 million increase to the City’s budget. One reasonable question is how these additional 190 managers have improved operations of City departments.

City’s Pension Contribution Share Inextricably Linked to Total Payroll

It is indisputable the City has made higher pension contributions between FY 10–11 and FY 14–15. The San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System (SFERS) just released its annual report for FY 2014–2015, which shows in FY10–11 the City’s employer share of retirement contributions totaled $308.8 million and rose to $592.6 million in FY 14–15, for a net increase of $283 million across the four fiscal years.

The $283 million increase more than likely had nothing to do with the three factors Matier and Ross whined about (increased life expectancy of retirees, the supplemental COLA payment, or lower investment returns), since the lower investment returns did not occur until FY 14–15, the supplemental COLA lawsuit was only resolved towards the end of FY 14–15, and City retirees had been having a lower mortality rate for a number of years that was simply not discovered and reported by SFERS’ actuarial consultants.

Instead, dollars to donuts suggest the $283 million increase to the City’s required employer share of pension contributions is more than likely attributable to the hiring binge Ed Lee has been on since taking office, which increased the City’s overall payroll by $567 million during his tenure, resulting in the increased total dollar amount of City contributions towards pension contributions.

You simply can’t have a 15.1% increase in the number of City employees on the payroll, and a 22.7% increase to the City’s total payroll, without a concomitant increase in the amount of City employer contributions that are required to be made.

Since the City’s share of employer contributions is based on a percentage of payroll, it’s obvious that if the percentage of employer contribution remains constant (or even increases), but is applied to a significantly larger payroll (say a payroll that has increased by $567 million), the total employer contribution is going to increase simply because the size of the payroll has increased. This has nothing to do with actuarial estimates of mortality vs. longevity, age at the time of hire, and length of time being a City employee.

As a partially hypothetical example, if the employer contribution rate is 10% and is applied to a year when San Francisco’s payroll was $2.5 billion (San Francisco’s actual payroll in FY 2010-2011), that suggests the City was on the hook to make $250.1 million in pension contributions as the employer’s share. But when San Francisco’s actual payroll jumped to $3.1 billion in FY 2014–2015, when the same hypothetical 10% contribution rate is applied, the City may then have been on the hook to make $306.9 million as the employer’s pension contribution share, for a net increase of $56.7 million extra as the City’s share. [Note: The contribution rate in this example is hypothetical; payroll amounts are not.]

You would think this basic math would have been patently obvious to Matier and Ross.

City Looses Lawsuit

In November 2011, the City placed a ballot measure before voters seeking, in part, to strip City employee retirees of supplemental COLA (Cost of Living) benefits, in part based on bad advice from City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who surely must have a team of labor-relations lawyers on his staff who should have known this gambit wasn’t going to pass muster in a court of law.

After voters wrongly approved restricting COLA payments to retired City employees, a group called Protect Our Benefits sued and eventually won in court, with the City ordered to pay the withheld two supplemental COLA payments, along with interest on the delayed payments.

Of approximately 26,000 retired City employees, the City has agreed so far to restore and pay approximately 17,000 former City employees the COLA benefit who retired after 1996. The City and the Retirement Board are still arguing over whether to extend the COLA back payments to another 7,800 to 8,315 employees who retired prior to 1996.

The upshot is the City had to pay out $40.7 million wrongly withheld from post-1996 retirees, and SFERS did so from funds set aside during the lawsuit (including for the pre-1996 retirees) that had been placed into some sort of “reserve” account. So neither the City nor SFERS is “out” any funds from the Court ruling, since they had already been placed in some sort of a special reserve account.

In the end, the fact remains that rather than blaming City retirees for living longer and trying to assert that the COLA payments are the main cause of the City’s looming budget deficit, the real culprit may be that Mayor Lee has been on a patronage hiring binge, driving up the amount the City has to contribute as its employer share of pension contributions.

This is Ed Lee’s own doing, not the fault of City retiree’s living longer, despite the misinformation Matier and Ross used to whip up hysteria about increasing pension costs for City retirees, while simultaneously ignoring massive spikes in baseline set-asides and other operating cost increases.

An expanded version of this article is available on

Monette-Shaw is an open-government accountability advocate, a patient advocate, and a member of California’s First Amendment Coalition. He received a James Madison Freedom of Information Award from the Society of Professional Journalists–Northern California Chapter in 2012. He can be contacted at monette-shaw@westsideobserver.

March 2016

Protecting Pedestrians From Scofflaw Cyclists

Pedestrian Safety Not “Worthwhile”?

Just as truth typically becomes the first casualty of war, in the on-going war to enhance San Francisco’s pedestrian safety the truth about pedestrian accidents caused by cyclists appears to be a veracity casualty of San Francisco Police Department statistics.

The Chronicle reported December 14, millennial cyclist Katrina Sostek felt her $200 fine for running a stop sign at Duboce Avenue and Church Street was unfair. The police officer who ticketed her “could have been doing something worthwhile,” Sostek whined. Puh-leeze, Katrina! Don’t want a traffic ticket? Then simply obey State law and come to a full stop.


How could the Board adopt legislation in the face of no data about the types of moving-violation offenses being committed by cyclists and in the face of data from SFGH’s Trauma Registry?”

When did protecting my life from rogue cyclists become unworthwhile? How did preventing cyclists from receiving mere traffic violation citations become more “worthwhile” than protecting pedestrians like me?

Not to be outdone, Board of Supervisors’ president London Breed was quoted in the same Chronicle article saying “Our limited police resources should be used for more important things” involving public safety. Golly, Supervisor Breed! When did protecting my life become both unworthwhile and less important?

Mayor Vetoes the Bicycle Rolling Stop

After the Board of Supervisors passed its first reading of the rolling-stop bicycle ordinance on December 15 with a vote of 6 to 5 allowing cyclists to slow down but not have to come to a full stop, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition posted a notice on its web site three days later, saying (among other things):

“The question raised by SF’s Bike Yield Law remains how best the SFPD can deploy limited traffic enforcement resources. Over 2,000 people have signed our petition in favor of making people biking cautiously and slowly through stop signs the lowest enforcement priority.”

The Bicycle Coalition neglected noting that 2,000 petition signatures seeking “smart enforcement” represents just over two-tenths of one percent — yes, just 0.23% — of San Francisco’s 852,469 estimated population in 2014. That’s hardly a mandate to change the vehicle code.

Police Chief Greg Suhr also disagrees. Suhr wrote to the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use and Public Safety Committee on December 4 saying the proposed “rolling stop” cyclist legislation would encourage illegal behavior by those using one specific mode of transportation [bicycles] to violate California Vehicle Code §22450(a) — prohibiting running stop signs — putting others at risk of injuries, ranging from minor to fatal.

Suhr’s December 4 letter documented that in the five-year period between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2014, cyclists were at fault in San Francisco in 30 percent of injury and fatal collisions — 129 of 427 — due to failure to stop at stop signs, violating CVC §22450(a). Suhr also claimed that during the first nine months of 2015 (January 1 through September 30) there were 447 collisions between bicycles and motor vehicles, including two bicycle fatalities, with cyclists at fault in 46 percent (206) of the incidents.

In an apparent game of “chicken” with the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors voted on January 12 to ignore the Mayor’s warning and passed the rolling stop Ordinance on second reading on a vote of 6 to 4, ignoring endangered pedestrians in favor of “convenience” — or “inconvenience” — to a small, but very politically vocal and loud group of cyclists.

The Board had been warned by Mayor Ed Lee as far back as September 28 that if the legislation was passed and reached his desk, he would veto it, writing, in part:

“The so-called ‘Idaho Stop,’ while expedient for some cyclists, directly endangers pedestrians and other cyclists, and I cannot allow it to become law. Trading away safety for convenience is not a policy I can allow this City to endorse. This legislation represents a step backwards on this shared Vision Zero goal, and if it is sent to my desk, I will veto it.”

On January 19, Mayor Lee carried through, and issued his veto, saying:

“This ordinance does not promote balanced public safety for all the diverse users of our streets; rather, it trades safety for convenience. Therefore, this is not a policy I can allow this City to endorse.

I remain strongly committed to Vision Zero, and this law does not move us towards that goal, so I am vetoing it.”

City Department Records Responses

Records revealed disturbing data.

SFGH Trauma Registry Data

Data generated from SFGH’s Trauma Registry database provided by DPH for the five-year period between calendar years 2010 and 2014 showed that although there was a relatively small number of pedestrians — 56 — struck by cyclists and treated at SFGH, their outcomes were disproportionately severe.

Of the 56 pedestrians hit by cyclists, 46.4% (26) were admitted to SFGH, a significantly higher percentage of admissions than either pedestrians hit by autos or cyclists hit by autos. Of the 56 pedestrians hit by cyclists, their two deaths reflected a higher mortality rate than did either pedestrians hit by autos or cyclists hit by autos. That’s 56 pedestrians struck by cyclists too many, and two deaths too many.

And of the 56 pedestrians hit by cyclists, 42.9% (24) sustained a higher rate of head/neck/cervical spine injuries than did either pedestrians hit by autos (17 percent lower) or cyclists hit by autos (half as low, at 21.8%). Notably, head/neck/cervical spine injuries were double the rate for pedestrians stuck by cyclists — whether or not cyclists were travelling at six miles per hour or more — than for cyclists struck by autos.

Of the 4,050 injuries reported by DPH involving pedestrians vs. cyclists, pedestrians vs. autos, and cyclists vs. autos in this five-year period, fully 67.7% (2,743) involved pedestrians going up against bikes and cars; the remaining 32.3% involved cyclists going up against cars. Clearly, pedestrians are at much greater risk of injuries caused by scofflaw auto drivers and scofflaw cyclists, since 81 pedestrians died from being struck by cars or bikes, and only nine cyclists died after being struck by autos.

And that doesn’t count pedestrians killed by cyclists or autos and pronounced dead at the scene, and never transported to SFGH, or transported to other hospitals.

The 17 pedestrians killed in 2014 represented 58.6% of all traffic deaths; the 19 pedestrians killed through November 2015 represent 65.5% of all traffic deaths, with 30 days to go. Clearly, with traffic deaths remaining constant between 2014 and 2015 and more pedestrians killed, Vision Zero appears not to be working so well, no matter what the Bicycle Coalition may want you to believe.

There’s clearly a public health cost — along with patient trauma — from such injuries, which Ms. Breed must be aware is “important,” despite her protestations. Unfortunately, SFGH’s trauma system doesn’t capture data on pedestrians injured by cyclists who were transported to private hospitals, so comprehensive data isn’t collected citywide.

9–1–1 Dispatch Data

Another records request to San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management revealed the 9–1–1 dispatch system received 3,479 calls between calendar year 2013 and December 21, 2015 regarding automobile vs. motorized/non-motorized two-wheeled vehicle accidents, 56.5 percent of which (1,964) involved patients transported to hospitals during the three-year period. Of those transported, 76 percent (1,485) were transported to San Francisco General Hospital, and the remainder transported to other Bay Area hospitals.

It should be noted the national medical protocol used by San Francisco 9–1–1 dispatchers doesn’t differentiate the type of two-wheel vehicles involved (bikes vs. motorcycles, scooters, etc.), so it’s unclear how many of these accidents involved autos vs. cyclists. That said, the call volume clearly places an “important” strain on 9–1–1 dispatchers, as Breed should know, and impacts patient care at SFGH and other hospitals.

SFPD Cyclist Citations Data

A records request to SFPD placed on December 14 revealed troubling data in its initial, flawed responses. After battling with SFPD for over a month, by January it was clear SFPD’s cyclist data lacks veracity.

There were nearly 5,000 bike vs. auto collisions across a decade. Wow! There were just 289 such incidents back in 2006, which more than doubled by 2013 to 654 incidents, and despite Vision Zero San Francisco hasn’t been able to reverse the trend to pre-2007 levels!

As troubling as SFPD’s collision data are, the dismal enforcement with citations issued by SFPD is more troubling. After pressing SFPD between December 14, 2015 and January 11, 2016 for clarification, a paucity of reliable data was provided by SFPD staff.

Data SFPD initially provided shows fully 3,413 citations were issued to cyclists between 2006 and 2015, but SFPD was only able to stratify by the type of violations just 935 citations issued to cyclists. Why was SFPD unable to stratify the difference — fully 2,478, or 72.6%, of citations — by type of violation, and stratified just 935, or 27.4%, by type of violation?

Of the 935 citations issued that PD was able to uncover the type of violation, only six were issued to cyclists across the three years for just two of the five “Focus on Five” strategies (five citations for running red lights and just one citation for failure to stop at stop signs). Seriously?

In stark contrast, 28 citations were issued to cyclists riding on sidewalks, which is not one of the five Focus on Five strategies, but a danger to pedestrians walking on sidewalks, nonetheless.

Of great concern, SFPD failed to stratify any of the other three Focus on Five enforcement strategies — including violating pedestrian right-of-way, turning violations, and speeding. Are we to believe SFPD issued zero citations to cyclists for these other three “Focus on the Five” enforcement strategies during the last decade since 2006? Seriously?

Fully 95% of the 935 citations were for violating CVC §21200(a), as if SFPD could not identify and include a specific violation documenting a precise transgression of the State’s vehicle code, and simply lumped 95% of all citations issued to cyclists into a broad catch-all category without stratifying which specific vehicle code violation had occurred.

Of note, CVC §21200(a) is not, in itself, a violation of the vehicle code — unless it is documented by an additional violation of some other section of the vehicle code. CVC §21200(a) is simply an identifier that another vehicle code section violation was committed by a cyclist, rather than a motor vehicle driver.

“Seven Ate Nine”: SFPD’s Unreliable Crime Stats

As Joe Eskenazi noted in his Dec 2014 article in the SF Weekly, titled “Seven Ate Nine: The San Francisco Police Department’s Crime Stats Aren’t What They Used to Be,” SFPD has a troubled history of fudging its crime stats. Discussing an audit of SFPD performed by the City Controller, which was requested by Chief Suhr, Eskenazi reported, in part:

“So, the numbers — the numbers that reveal whether or not crime is going up or down and by how much — are unreliable. And have been for some time.”

For over a month, SFPD attempted to uncover the actual moving violations cited on tickets issued to cyclists, but a disappointing January 8 records update from SFPD did not include further stratification about the types of citations issued. Instead, SFPD claimed that although the bicycle citations issued by the Traffic Company — using electronic handheld devices — were thought to be capable of generating a breakout of the type of citations issued, SFPD was unable to do so.

SFPD claimed it would have to manually print the 1,613 tickets issued to cyclists in 2015 and then have to manually tally the types of citations involved for the CVC §21200(a) tickets. This simply suggests sloppy record keeping at SFPD, or a lack of trained information technology staff to extract the data electronically.

By the time SFPD provided revised data on Jan 8, it turns out the Park Station — which includes the “Wiggle” — had issued just 3.2% (108) of tickets between 2013 and 2015 out of the 3,666 tickets issued to cyclists citywide. The Mission District and the Tenderloin District stations issued fully 41.1% of the 3,666 citations, not the Park District station.

The January update did indicate that the number of citations for violating CVC §٢٢٤٥٠(a) — running stop signs — between January and November 2015 grew from one citation across the entire City, to three citations. Really? Just three citations for running stop signs fueled the Bicycle Coalition’s drama and angst?

Sadly, the January update illustrated the “Seven Ate Nine” phenomena, since SFPD reported there were only 405 citations issued for CVC §21200(a) — the identifier code, for cyclists subject to same traffic laws as drivers — down from 408 SFPD first reported for this article.

So the “Seven Ate Nine” monster is now nibbling on SFPD’s bicycle violation statistics, in addition to SFPD’s crime stats, damaging the veracity of SFPD data every step of the way. It’s unacceptable that Vision Zero has to rely on unreliable SFPD data.

After all, in the absence of stratifying the volume of citations issued by the particular violation infraction committed, how can there be targeted enforcement or targeted education campaigns to change cyclists’ behavior if officials don’t know which sections cyclists are violating?

Inconvenient Truth: Risks of Rolling Stops

Bicycle apologists claim it appears most cyclists who caused collisions during that time frame appear to be, for the most part, injuring only themselves. Nonsense.

“Injuring just themselves” — when SFPD data shows 86 pedestrians were involved in collisions with cyclists — appears to be bicycle advocates just making stuff up notwithstanding clearly disproven by DPH and SFPD data.

Educating cyclists on the fines they face may deter their scofflaw behavior.

Has everyone forgotten that when laws are enforced, they’ll be obeyed, and when they aren’t enforced, they won’t be?

Apparently, millennial Katrina Sostek believes enforcement isn’t worthwhile and she shouldn’t have been singled out for having chosen to disobey the law. Chief Suhr disagreed when he noted it isn’t acceptable to encourage folks (like Ms. Sostek) to break a law that can result in injury or death because it is “inconvenient” for cyclists to come to a complete stop.

Given the paucity of data since 2006, the six Supervisors who passed this Ordinance were completely remiss in declaring these violations the lowest priority. How could the Board adopt legislation in the face of no data about the types of moving-violation offenses being committed by cyclists and in the face of data from SFGH’s Trauma Registry?

The Board of Supervisors now has 30 days to override the Mayor’s veto — until February 18 if it can muster the eight votes.

Contact the Board of Supervisors and urge them not to override the Mayor’s veto.

Your life — and mine — along with pedestrian safety, may depend on it.

An expanded version of this article is available on

Monette-Shaw is an open-government accountability advocate, a patient advocate, and a member of California’s First Amendment Coalition. He received a James Madison Freedom of Information Award from the Society of Professional Journalists–Northern California Chapter in 2012. He can be contacted at monette-shaw@westsideobserver.

February 2016

Patrick Monette-Shaw 2016

Patrick Monette-Shaw 2015

Patrick Monette-Shaw 2014

Patrick Monette-Shaw 2013

Patrick Monette-Shaw 2008-12

Earlier Laguna Honda Articles by Patrick Monette-Shaw