With throngs of media temporarily distracted by a sausage bursting into flames on the grill, Mayor Gavin Newsom this morning announced plans to "dust off" a failed redevelopment plan for the blighted mid-market area in a press conference held at at a gourmet wiener eatery.
Newsom managed to show up 45 minutes late for his own hot dog day, leaving a crowd of mid-market property owners, city officials, and a heavy media turnout to sample the grilled fare of Show Dogs restaurant and make smalltalk. A project of the team behind the Foreign Cinema restaurant, Show Dogs is the kind of place where you can order a $25 bottle of wine to go along with a $7 hot dog. It has been operating since July in a neighborhood where the term "wiener joint" could be taken the wrong way and its choice as the site for today's announcement of a "revitalization" project was not random.
The heart of the mayor's big statement was the resurrection of the 2005 redevelopment plan, which the redevelopment department approved at the time before handing it to the Board of Supervisors -- where nothing came of it. In Newsom's words, it was sunk because of "politics," meaning, in Newsomspeak, the mayor wanted to take a shot at Supervisor Chris Daly without dignifying him by using his name.
When asked why "politics" wouldn't doom the plan in 2010 just as it had in 2005, Newsom curtly answered, "I don't know? Term limits?"
Daly -- who represents the neighborhood -- would have been as welcome at the mayor's sausage fest as botulism; he did not attend. Reached afterward, he said that the 2005 plan sank because he wanted more affordable housing than the mayor and his allies were willing to provide. Daly agreed with Newsom that mid-Market revitalization may well occur because of term limits -- sort of.
"For better or for worse, I'll be gone on January 8, 2011. But the mayor doesn't seem to have much political sense, because you're not going to get elected District 6 supervisor without pretty strongly supporting affordable housing," said the supervisor. "When it comes to term limits, we'll have mid-Market redevelopment when we get rid of Gavin Newsom and elect a mayor more in favor of affordable housing."
In other words, it looks like a case of Meet the New "Politics," Same as the Old "Politics."
Affordable housing, by the way, was not mentioned once today in the sausage restarant. Instead, Newsom spoke of:
- The formation of a "Central Market partnership" between the Redevelopment Commission, Department of Public Works, and "neighborhood stakeholders" to revitalize the area;
- The imminent creation of a $11.5 million pool available for low-interest loans to area business that will create a "cultural district" in the area as well as federal loans from HUD;
- Tax incentives for historic rehabilitation projects in the area;
- A cavalcade of speeches from area restaurateurs and artistic groups who really, really want to do business in the neighborhood.
While these were Newsom's talking points, Daly told SF Weekly
that none of those issues are "sticking points. It's all about density bonuses versus affordability requirements." That issue wasn't brought up today.
Newsom emphasized that redevelopment was "not about gentrification," and acknowledged that his and previous mayors' efforts to clean up the area have been about as successful as attempts to remedy the city's fog problem. Now, however, he thought a tangible difference was about to be made.
It seems, however, that it'll take more than "term limits" to get the ball rolling.
In the meantime, a Canadian tourist walked by the restaurant and asked why hundreds of people in business attire were milling around. After being told that it was a press conference concerning revitalization, he glanced around the neighborhood. "Well," he said politely, "It sure could use it."