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Monday, March 17, 2008

Supervisors play "You cut WHAT?" with the Mayor while city code gets tighter, and tighter. It's ...

Posted By on Mon, Mar 17, 2008 at 7:12 AM


By Benjamin Wachs

Monday, March 17

10 a.m. – Government Audit and Oversight Committee

The strange thing about the nuts and bolts of government is that they’re not nutty. They’re not even bolty. Most of this meeting is spent on the quiet, required work of government that nobody ever thanks them for but that everybody would complain if they didn’t do. For example: establishing a procedure for evaluating SFMTA decisions under the new Prop A rules …

… you’re already asleep, aren’t you. Okay, never mind. Here’s some eye candy:

• A proposal for 38 million in “mortgage revenue bonds” for a 150 unit affordable housing complex for low-income seniors.

• A public hearing on the Employer Spending Requirement of the San Francisco universal health care plan. That, for people who weren’t paying attention, is the controversial bit. The hearing is sponsored by Tom Ammiano, the father of SF universal health care (however much credit the mayor tries to steal).

Civic bonds, senior housing, employer spending mandates, universal health care and a thieving mayor? I can’t give you any more eye candy without centerfolds.

1 p.m. – Land Use and Economic Development Committee

The San Francisco planning code is like medieval torture device known as “the rack” – just when you think it couldn’t get any tighter, somebody gives it another turn. That’s why, despite being called the “land use and economic development committee” this committee spends most of its time making sure no one does either.

Today they will:

• Decide how to stop “nonconforming signs” in the “northeast waterfront historic signs district” (I thought San Francisco encouraged non-conformity);

• Impose further restrictions on permits for sidewalk flower vending stands;

• Come up with additional penalties for people who don’t obey zoning ordinances (okay, this makes sense, because there’s no point in having zoning ordinances if you don’t give them teeth);

• Stipulate that ANY time a developer removes dwelling units, there needs to be a city review of the process – even in those cases where the city code doesn’t call for a review of the process.

Yikes. You know, I was thinking of getting a new bathmat for my apartment, but, maybe I’d better check the relevant statutes first.

Tuesday, March 18 – Full Board of Supervisors

Wow, there really is nothing new under the sun: today the Supes will continue to discuss shit they’ve already been discussing forever. If we’re lucky, they’ll vote on it … but then what would they talk about next week?

If only there were some kind of system in which government actually did stuff … but what would that be?

Here’s a quick meeting rundown, all of it stuff-you’ve-seen-before:

• Appropriate $4 million to improve SF General Hospital (yes, please)?

• Landmark trees

• Landmark trees

• Landmark trees

• Restrict the conversion of large tourist hotels into condos?

• Force chain restaurants to add nutritional labels their menus?

• Adopt standards of care for city shelters (HOW did we not have them in the first place)?

• More landmark trees

• Discuss appointments to the Planning Commission

• Discuss appointments to the Public Utilities Commission

• Discuss appointments to the Redevelopment Commission

• Discuss appointments to the Mental Health Commission

• Discuss appointments to the Small Business Commission

Let’s move on, before they start appointing people to commissions about landmark trees.

Dammit! Too late.

Wednesday, March 19 , 1 p.m. – Budget and Finance Committee

This week’s award for worst use of language goes to the Public Utilities Commission for this proposal:

"Waiver of Administrative Code section 6.64 to allow modification of Agreement No. CS-525A in an amount that exceeds one hundred-fifty percent of the original contract amount.”

Everybody get that?

It’s actually a pretty simple measure involving old work done to Calaveras Dam and Reservoir, but, you wouldn’t know that without going through an awful lot of work.

Speaking of an awful lot of work, here’s a fun fact: back in 2004 the city was authorized to spend $32 million in state money on park improvements. Four years later, the Recreation and Parks Commission has determined that five of those projects either “cannot be completed with the funds available,” are “ineligible for Proposition 40 funds,” or “cannot be completed prior to the date (October 31, 2010) upon which Proposition 40 funds are no longer available.”

Oh, the funny things it takes you four years to learn about your capital projects! Gosh, if only we’d had some way to check about whether those projects were eligible for funds in the first place. But that would have taken … what’s it called … due diligence … you know, that thing we don’t do.

Bottom line: just under $12 million in funding for park improvements has been freed up by dropping those projects (specifically work on the McLaren Lodge, South and Middle Lakes, Kezar Pavillion Planning Studies, and the Children’s Playground and Urban Forestry Yard).

Whatever shall we do? Does anyone in government know how to spend money?

Meanwhile, Chris Daly will be holding what one expects will be the first in an endless summer of public hearings to ask the mayor’s budget officials “You’ve cut WHAT?” Today’s episode concerns the Latin Clinic at the Tom Waddell Health Center and the Laguna Honda Hospical.

Thursday, March 20

10 a.m. – Rules Committee

Today, the Rules Committee will consider appointments to the following committees:

• Shelter Monitoring

• Asthma

• Fair Lending

• Small Business

• Urban Forestry

• Peak Oil Preparedness

Which raises the following, very important question: is there anything this city WON’T make a committee for? Anything … at all … that just isn’t their job? Cracking the DaVinci Code? Finding Atlantis? Preventing acne? I know we don’t have those committees … yet … but I’d really like to hear someone say that we wouldn’t, even if a bunch of very oppressed minorities asked for one.

Can anyone reassure me?

1 p.m. – City Operations & Neighborhood Services Committee

Speaking of oppressed minorities, Chris Daly has a motion before this committee “commending (the) Tibetan Freedom Torch and Global Human Rights Torch Relay.” I have a soft spot in my heart for Tibet … it really is one of the few unambiguously good causes in the world … so I have only one question:

Why is this before the City Operations & Neighborhood Services Committee? Does it somehow delay trash pickup?

Another measure, probably a bit better placed, opposes the closing of St. Luke’s Hospital. That’s from Ammiano, Mirkarimi, and Maxwell, and they’re playing hardball: it directs “the City Attorney to investigate the actions taken by Sutter Health and initiate proceedings, if warranted, under relevant statutes.”

Wow – and here I thought it was hard to open something in San Francisco. Just try closing stuff.

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Benjamin Wachs


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