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A House. A Home. A Big Fight.

Jun
21
2004

Why oh why is it taking so much time – and so much agita – for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to pass its much-discussed, much-wanted, much-agreed-upon (in principle) housing bond?
Because this is San Francisco, that’s why.
And the bullying tactics of the city’s self-styled progressives are in full swing. Supervisor Chris Daly is doing a consistent imitation of basketball coach Bobby Knight (a man who, according to author John Feinstein had no use for Daly’s almost alma mater, Duke University, but felt happiest when he used the word “fuck” to describe 1)astonishment, 2)aggression 3)enthusiasm 4)anger and 5)delight). Irish class warrior Joe O’Donoghue is blowing smoke. Every one else is trying to remain civil.


What’s weird is that this is a pissing match between two winners. The ones who defeated Proposition J; that’s the neighborhoods and the “progressives.” And the ones who won the election; that’s Newsom’s business supporters. They agree there needs to be help for the city’s lower income and homeless residents; they agree they want to borrow the money to provide that housing. And they agree that they have to come up with a compromise piece of legislation that two-thirds of voters will approve. But who gets to decide who gets what – the business guys or the progressives – is the heart of this fight. Both think they’re victors and both want the spoils.
The subtext here is tenants’ rights. The city’s progressives, with Daly and lame duck – or is that lame swan? or swain? – Matt Gonzalez in the lead don’t want anyone well-off to benefit from the bond issue and they have a variety of ways of defining “well-off.” What they really mean, is that they don’t want to encourage home ownership.
The city’s business interests want to do exactly that, to get out from under a voting base that’s mostly renters – about 65 percent, right now — to a city of homeowners. Why? Homeowners are more conservative – make that moderate, less interested in raising taxes, more interested in efficient, well-run government. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the demographics for Noe and Castro Valley and their Supervisor Bevan Dufty. He’s not exactly a flame-thrower. This the change the progressives are trying to control, if not stop.
There is where the bare-knuckled politicking comes in: Daly yelling obscenities; other supes threatening to derail the bond issue (and, oh, by the way, take its federal homeless money with it). To some extent, the change the city’s Lefties fear is somewhat inevitable. San Francisco’s about going to go through another Silicon Valley-driven housing shortage (there have been three big – intercontinental – moving vans on my street in the past month and I know two dot.comers looking to come back). Those new buildings around the ballpark will be sold, unit by unit; the stuff coming on line in Mission Bay and all the new infill development that’s been put in the past two years will be bought up. Sooner or later, renters and owners will have some parity; San Francisco may try and discourage homeownership but the federal tax laws work the other way and they’re, in the long-run, more powerful.
In the meantime, the supes will, it seems, fight among themselves. There’s a good chance that the bond will be pushed off this week’s agenda; the board Finance Committee has until July 13 to come to some agreement. And there are lots of ways – lots of technical things – that can be done to make both sides happy: average out all the worries about which median income gets which kinds of support – stuff like that.
The bickering is nevertheless maddening, however. At more $100,00-a-year, no one on the board of supervisors – or the advocacy groups all piling on this issue — goes homeless. On that, too, we can all agree.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 3:28 PM | Permalink

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