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Letters to the Editor 

Week of July 31, 2002

Beating a Dead Dot-Com

Let's do the Time Warp: I enjoyed the clarity of Matt Smith's article on the time warp at City Hall ["Political Relativity," July 17]. It does seem like our electeds are reacting to events of two-plus years ago (while trying to accrue power hand over fist). Mr. Smith is right -- now is the time to concentrate on the housing (and homeless) issue, and this economy is well suited to focus on construction.

There is a certain segment of property owners and landlords that benefits from the artificial shortage of housing, as I've become aware of lately. But while he seems to think many of us small landlords want to keep rents high to "cash in," there is another aspect that goes unmentioned and is a bigger motivator for many of us. The reason rents haven't dropped to more appropriate-for-the-economy levels is because the rent laws discourage owners from renting low. That original rent becomes the "base rent" for purposes of any increase. Therefore, the incentive is to keep the listed rent high, and offer other inducements (of a free month's rent, redecorating, appliances, etc.), which effectively lowers the price but keeps the base rent up. Not comforting to someone that wants a low rent with no frills, but that's the way the system is set up.

City Hall is indeed caught in a time warp. And with tenant advocates recently calling for all new buildings to be included in the city's Byzantine rent laws, it's unlikely that much new apartment development will occur. Unless it's from the legion of the city's nonprofit developers, who are generally excluded from rent control.

P. L. Holden
Hayes Valley

S.F. -- the new Hong Kong?: Someone needs to remind Matt Smith that the Planning Commission is not merely about developing housing or offices, it is about implementing the planning policies of the Board of Supervisors. These plans, laws, and guidelines for the future of our city must survive the ups and downs of volatile booms and busts, but the neighborhoods, business districts, schools, and parks must continue to provide a livable, workable, and enjoyable life for children, families, seniors, and the middle-income folks he hopes will move here, if we would only speed up the development process.

If the state's projected growth statistics are accurate, and the Willie Brown free-market helter-skelter approach to planning that Mr. Smith, and his new idol, Tom Ammiano, dream of does come true, San Francisco's architecture will resemble our sister city, the vertical hodgepodge of Hong Kong, within two decades.

And who knows, if Smith and Ammiano's dreams come true, they may even force renters like me, who are already paying the highest rents in the country, to cough up even more rent to subsidize building housing reserved for the median-income ($86,000 yearly) yuppies they hope will come.

Anachronism that the rest of us may be, we'll continue to fight to prevent overcrowding and overbuilding the remnants of our beautiful city. We hope it will remain livable, not just for today but for future generations, who we hope will take the same care of it we have.

Doug Comstock
Vice President, Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods

An In at "Sin"

No offense, reverend, but we'd like to see your divinity degree: Silke Tudor, did you heed our warnings ["The Sindecency of It All," Night Crawler, July 17, on a new monthly club called "Sin"]? No! Did you see through the lies of the "First Church of the Second Thursday"? No! Have you played into the hands of the devil? Yes! Have you been added to the list? Yes!

The Rev. Dan McNabbitt


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