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A Bunch of Carrots

Jan
12
2004

The media roll-out for the new administration of SF Mayor Gavin Newsom has been top-notch. It’s not all show, either. Much of it is smart positioning. So pay attention. There are deals to be cut. This is Pol’tix 101 and we can always use a refresher course.
First, Newsom gets front and center behind Proposition J, the “workforce housing” initiative that’s going to be on the March ballot. Supported by the Chamber of Commerce, Prop J will create a special development zone of tall buildings as long as developers set aside some units for lower-income housing. Prop J needs 51 percent to pass and the city’s business interests really want this.
To fight off what will probably be profound opposition to Prop J from the Coalition of Neighborhoods and anti-development groups, Newsom’s folks leaked their intention to pay close, close attention to the city’s building department. One of the big – and reasonable – objections to Prop J is that the city’s planning and inspections departments can’t be trusted to enforce codes, agreements, or approved plans. A cleaner-running department, among other things, blunts that objection.
Then, Newsom announces his support for a $150 million bond measure for supportive housing for the homeless. Even homeless “advocate” Randy Shaw likes this idea. But the supportive housing measure – headed for the November ballot – needs a two-thirds majority to win approval. That’s a problem if you’re a housing advocate, particularly one who’s high on rhetoric. Because bond issues can – depending on how they’re structured – increase property taxes. And property owners don’t like it when they’re taxes go up. Why do you think Prop 13 is the “third rail” of California politics?
Newsom’s done some other stuff. Gave a “big tent,” speech at his swearing in ceremony reminding everyone that this City Hall stuff is a team effort. Appointed a woman to run the fire department (giggle). Appointed a PR savvy black woman to help Schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman get through the next few months. He’s probably going to appoint – The Ex’s predictions notwithstanding – a disabled white woman, Michela Alioto to his former District 2 seat.
All of this should be – at least in the public’s mind – squeezing the city’s progressives into a tight little corner. Newsom’s appointments are smart and diverse. And there is very little room for the Left to walk away from the “supportive housing” measure. But to get the job done, they’ll need their traditional enemies – the chamber, downtown businesses, the real estate guys, hotels – to sign on and help get the thing passed. Once they’re on board behind “supportive housing” – and they are — the Lefties can’t walk away. If they do, you can bet someone in City Hall will dial 777-1111 and ask for Phil.

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