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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

We won B and C -- and maybe it's the start of something

After the speeches, after the results were final, as the crowd was thinning out at the No on B and C party, former Planning Commission member Dennis Antenore, who has watched politics in this city for many years, turned to me and said: "Wherever Mayor Lee is tonight, he better be shaking in his boots."

Seriously: The election was over almost before the night began, and when all the votes were counted, the 8 Washington project went down in a landslide. Outspent more than 4-1, the opponents (a crazy coalition) won by 20 points. And for better or for worse, Lee was the face of the Yes campaign.

In TV ads and fliers, Lee (along with Lite Guv Gavin Newsom) talked about parks and "neighborhood housing." The developer, Simon Snellgrove, made every effort to turn the  mayor's popularity into a yes vote on luxury waterfront condos. And it was a total failure.

The vote tonight was a lot more than a referendum on one development project. It was a statement by San Franciscans that they're fed up with the direction the city is going. It was as much about the epidemic of evictions and the influx of rich techies as it was about height limits on the waterfront. And it was a vote of confidence in the mayor --one that he lost, badly.

As I sat and watched a range of speakers who not so long ago would never have appeared on the same stage -- retired Judge Quentin Kopp, former Mayor Art Agnos, former City Attorney Louise Renne, former Supervisor Aaron Peskin -- I realized that something profoundly important was happening here. People of all political stripes who have lived in San Francisco for a while are realizing that their city is being stolen away from them.

Now: There have been many times in the past when Old San Francisco complained about newcomers, from the Beats to the Hippies to the Punks to the Gay and Lesbian population -- but this was very different. Nobody at the party tonight cared a bit about how new arrivals looked or smelled or what they smoked or wrote or who they loved. It was, and is, all about money. About longtime residents being forced out of town purely because they aren't rich enough to stay.

As David Campos put it, in a preview of the coming state Assembly race: "There is a tale of two cities. We have an affordability crisis, Ellis Act evictions are up 170 percent, and City Hall doesn't get it." He noted that the supervisors just hours earlier voted (with Sup. David Chiu the swing vote) for a bill to push homeless people out of the parks.

"Enough is enough," he said in a fiery speech. "San Francisco is a city for all of us, not just for the ultra-rich. We have a crisis here, and we have to act as if it's a crisis."

It was stunning to hear Renne -- an appointee of Dianne Feinstein and never a foe of development -- proclaim that "To all those developers, this is a message: Don't mess with our waterfront." Renne even praised environmental lawyer Sue Hestor, who for man years fought bitterly with Renne over planning policy.

Everyone was talking about how to turn this momentum into something bigger. As Kopp put it, "This is the beginning of the end of five more years of a Willie Brown administration." Added Agnos (who used to fight bitterly with Kopp): "This is the beginning, and it feels like a movement."

Among other things, the Warriors arena, the 45 Howard highrise condo project, and the Giants development on the waterfront are now all very much in play. There's likely to be a ballot measure to set strict waterfront height limits.

And Campos is already talking about introducing legislation to start attempting to control the evictions.

There was hope in the air tonight. Labor, environmentalists, neighborhood folks, along with a whole lot of San Franciscans who used to be on the opposite side of major issues, came together to say, as Campos put it, "Enough is enough."

I rode my bike home from North Beach thinking that maybe we can still save San Francisco.


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  2. This coalition reminds me a lot of the similar successful coalition we convened over the past year to challenge and then essentially completely rewrite Scott Wiener's attack on our CA Environmental Quality Act protections (which help defend us from out-of-control development). At the end of the day, we made the law better instead of worse. Many of the same players (indeed from all across the political spectrum) were involved in both fights. It all comes down to San Franciscans finally realizing as a majority together, that we now need to stop developers from ransacking our city.

  3. A missed opportunity to add millions to City coffers to build housing for low-income residents. A victory for the well-heeled residents of Golden Gateway Commons who regard the 8 Washington property as their backyard... and now it is. Meanwhile gentrification continues and you have absolutely no strategy to reverse it.

    1. Please provide verifiable evidence of - and accounting of - the purported "City coffers" for low-income or affordable housing to which developers are said to be making contributions (or at least a specific link to that information). Which City department administers those funds? Is there an accounting of dollars contributed by each residential development by date. And what has been built with money from this fund? This phrase "affordable housing fund" appears in numerous articles about residential real estate projects of scale, but never with any citations. And why was the requirement that affordable housing construction be included within these projects side-stepped by allowing developers to ignore the intent of the legislation and "make a contribution" to a housing fund instead of actually building affordable housing? The legislation was designed to protect and promote economically diverse living environments. These exceptions do the opposite.

  4. Hell, I came away from last night feeling like San Francisco could be a model for the world! From encroaching, out-of-control capitalism. This is what organized, vocal, well-articulated—whether by our leaders, citizens or well-orchestrated media debates—people power looks like when pitted against pure capital. We win, and we should!