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The Grid 

Wednesday, Aug 20 1997
The Map of Kaufman
Anyone who has attended a San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting knows what it is like to be bored by the board. Committees and committees of the whole convene and report in a blaze of dullness. Interminable ceremonies honor ordinary people who have done ordinary things. Citizens who have missed their meds comment publicly and endlessly about uninteresting and unlikely conspiracies.

And what is that "roll call" segment? You know what we're talking about -- when San Francisco supervisors rise one after another and make lengthy speeches about proposals that are important yet arcane, incomprehensible but authoritative, unctuous, self-serving, and hypnotic, often simultaneously.

Seated above and directing this cacophony of tedium is Barbara Kaufman, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. She is not necessarily at fault; it has taken decades for the process she leads to become the ennui factory it is. But by quirk of fate, it is President Barbara Kaufman who provides the means by which any ordinary San Franciscan can endure -- and perhaps even enjoy -- any Board of Supervisors meeting he or she is required to attend.

Any citizen, that is, who can read a map.

Barbara Kaufman and her husband, Ron, are involved in a small welter of real estate entities that own property in San Francisco, mostly on the city's east side. Barbara and Ron have partners in some of these investments. Not long ago, the city proposed to buy a building from one of those partners; pests in the news media tried to make a great big ugly deal out of it. Conflict-of-interest mutterings were muttered, but the purchase did not become a big ugly deal. Or even an interesting news item. It was just one building, one purchase, one partner. Context was missing.

As a service to readers in search of context, therefore, the Grid Inc. has worked its employees to the edge of death to compile the Official SF Weekly Barbara Kaufman Conflict-of-Interest Map (see map). This map is pockmarked with dots. The dots show approximately where property owned by a Kaufman-affiliated business (or a business affiliated with a Kaufman partner) is located. Around those dots are circles with (again, approximately) 1,000-foot radii. These circles show "possible-potential-just-might-maybe conflict-of-interest zones."

There is an area marked on the map that is not a circle, but a large glob. The glob takes up a portion of South of Market. Eventually, the glob will become 300 acres of offices and housing and stores and whatnot. The glob, which is owned by the Catellus Development Corp., will then be called Mission Bay, which will be the biggest development to hit San Francisco in decades. The Board of Supervisors will vote on matters related to Mission Bay repeatedly in coming years.

On May 29, 1996, precisely 21 days after the San Francisco Examiner reported that Catellus had decided to seek all sorts of city approvals for its latest version of Mission Bay, Barbara Kaufman acquired somewhere between $10,000 and $100,000 of Catellus stock.

We like these types of coincidences.
So we drew a 1,000-foot conflict-of-interest zone around Mission Bay, too, on the theory that a vote for Catellus might, in certain circumstances, be considered a vote for Kaufman, and vice versa. (We called Supervisor Kaufman's office a couple of times, to see whether she had unloaded the stock since February, when she disclosed it in official documents. She did not return the calls.)

We chose the 1,000-foot PPJMM C-of-I zone as our standard for a simple reason. Not long ago, Supervisor Kaufman ducked out of a board meeting for a few minutes. When we asked about the momentary disappearance, an aide explained that Kaufman owned property near a redevelopment area that had been the subject of an item on the supervisors' agenda. She left the meeting, the aide suggested, to avoid voting on something within 1,000 feet of her own property, because such a vote could conceivably increase the value of her holdings and, therefore, constitute a conflict of interest.

So using Supervisor Kaufman's own criterion, in the interest of context and with public service as our guiding star, we have extended the 1,000-foot rule citywide and made a map.

Now, what to do with it?

The Official SF Weekly Barbara Kaufman Conflict-of-Interest Map can be used in many ways, over and over again, to dispel Board of Supervisors tedium. One could, for example, chart the location of every city project to be voted on, and see whether that project would or would not increase the value of the Kaufman empire. (To extend the life of a map used in this manner, we suggest plastic lamination and grease pencils.)

But here are a few less arduous map games that will help you through almost any supervisors' meeting (and some committee gatherings, as well):

Mission: Find Mission Bay Locate agenda items that deal indirectly with the Mission Bay development. (Suggestion: anything to do with traffic or Muni or redevelopment South of Market.) Watch and wait. Imagine the suspense: Will Kaufman slip quietly out of the room? Abstain from voting with a defiant flip of her bangs? Vote without a hint of concern?

Boredom, be gone!
Folsom Dissin' Duels Tax records say Kaufman has interests in three addresses, among many: 580, 590, and 596 Folsom St. Meanwhile, Supervisor Gavin Newsom has an investment in the property at 530-534 Folsom. Locate the agenda items that center on or increase the value of the lower stretches of Folsom and place your bets: Who will abstain first? Will Kaufman and Newsom make eye contact before or after abstentions? Does it seem like friendly eye contact?

Most fun if played by two or more people.
Babs' Identity Crisis Kaufman has been unable to vote on the San Francisco Giants' new stadium at China Basin because of conflict-of-interest concerns. Last year she was absent when the board voted on the northern half of the Mission Bay development. Sometime in the coming months, the southern portion of Mission Bay will arrive before the board. When that happens, it will be time to play 20 Questions About Barbara Kaufman:

1) Will conflicts of interest again keep President Kaufman from voting on a major public policy issue?

2) Will she explain exactly why?
3) Will she tell us what important matters she can vote on?
4) Will she say why she wanted to be board president, anyway?

We're sure you and your friends will spend many a happy hour coming up with 16 more.


About The Authors

George Cothran


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