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Monday, April 28, 2008

SF Government InAction: SF offers Big Bucks for SOMA, but always destroys what it loves!

Posted By on Mon, Apr 28, 2008 at 11:18 AM


By Benjamin Wachs

Monday, April 28

10 a.m. – public Safety Committee

Ross Mirkarimi’s three-ring circle of justice continues as the Public Safety committee grills the city’s top law enforcement officials about why the city’s so damn dangerous. The fact that SOMEBODY’S actually taking city agencies to task for performance kind of warms my heart.

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

I admit I was thrown when I first saw that this committee would be authorizing “four new full-service restaurant uses” in the Haight.

Seriously? Because, like a chump, I’ve only ever used them for eating. What else could there be?

Of course, that’s just “zoning” talk for “we will allow four more restaurants” in the Haight Street Neighborhood Commercial District.

Doing so, according to the legislation, would allow the city to “respond to increased demand for restaurant services.”

Anybody know how they measure that? I’m not objecting to new restaurants, I’m just wondering: how many people actually pull Ross Mirkarimi or Tom Ammiano aside and say “Dude – I NEED more restaurants in the Haight. In fact, I demand it.” Or is there some kind of survey that I didn’t get?

But it’s not just about responding to the public’s increasing demand for restaurants (I think, in order of importance, the public’s priorities are: 1) Impeach Bush, 2) Free Tibet, 3) More restaurants). Oh no: it’s not about that at all.

This is a planning masterstroke. According to the proposal:

“By allowing a limited number of new full-service restaurants to locate within ¼ mile of the Haight Street NCD, the neighborhood will have additional land use planning options. This flexibility will accommodate the needs of neighborhood residents and maintain the vibrancy of the community.”

Can you believe you thought people would just open restaurants and serve food? That’s how little we ordinary people understand planning.

Meanwhile, I am proud to announce the AWESOMEST STREET ENCROACHMENT EVER – the San Francisco Arts commission will be installing and maintaining two “mosaic sun spheres,” three and four feet in diameter, on Ocean Avenue at Granada Avenue.

For the record, I am in favor of any legislation that produces “sun spheres.”

Of course, before this gets approved the city has to make environmental findings (sun = good) and determine if the sun spheres are “of consistency with the General Plan.”

That, of course, could be the tough part: 30% of all sun spheres have to be affordable.

And speaking of affordable, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell has called for a hearing to examine the status of the Mayor’s “Hope SF” program – a $150 million investment in rebuilding public housing complexes that never should have been built in the first place.

In business terms, this is called “Throwing good money after bad.” In political terms, this program’s like electing Gavin Newsom twice because you think something good will happen the second time.

Yeah, this’ll go well.

Tuesday, April 29, 2 p.m. – Full Board of Supervisors

I had a near death experience over the weekend and I saw this meeting. You do not want to go there when you die.

Most of this meeting is the bare mechanics of government – accepting grant money, settling lawsuits, and making sure the Sheriff’s office has $6.5 Million for “Officer Training, Inmate Housing Cost Overruns, and Compensatory Time Off.” They’ll also be designating the Shipwright’s Cottage at 900 Innes Avenue a landmark (I’ll admit I had no idea there was a Shipwright’s Cottage at 900 Innes Avenue if you do), and approving the amending the Height and Bulk provisions in the North Beach Neighborhood Commercial District. (Who cares, you ask? Aaron Peskin – now back off).

There are, however, a few items of note. Ross Mirkarimi’s proposal that the city actually adopt a plan to meet its environmental goals is up for discussion, and San Francisco is divided: we love the environment, but we hate planning. There’s no telling how this one will go.

In a similar vein, May 12 – 17 will be declared “Small Business Week” in San Francisco. San Francisco taking a whole week to honor small businesses presents a psychological “chicken-and-egg” quandary: do we destroy that which we love, or love that which we destroy?

This question gains a special poignancy when we learn that May 10 – 17 will also be “Hepatitis B Free Week.”

Mull on that for a while.

Wednesday, April 30, 1 p.m. – Budget and Finance Committee

Now this is interesting. Remember how, in 2005, the Supes imposed a fee of $14 per-square-foot of residential development in SOMA?

Okay, well, they did. Over time, that’s added up to millions of dollars (more than $5 million from one residential development alone), and today the Budget and Finance Committee is looking at a plan to spend it.

Now, they refer to this as a “strategic plan” for the fund, but in fact it’s a “giveaway.” If this plan is approved the Mayor’s Office of Community development will start accepting proposals for cash support from organizations … for and non-profit … that support identified goals. What goes? Well, there’s a lot of them … so many, one could argue, that anything goes … but here’s a short list:

• “ Promote and support projects, initiatives and networks that foster cross-class interaction and relationship building”;

• “Increase civic engagement among (SOMA) residents”;

• “Support businesses that are culturally and linguistically competent”;

• “Support the development of a worker’s cooperative” (apparently any will do);

• “Encourage creation of jobs that prioritize SOMA residents”;

• “Increase availability of affordable space for community serving businesses”;

Now I’ll grant you right off the bat that I chose some of the looser, “activities” to be funded: but the point is they’re in there. So I’ll just ask the Supes this, and be done: exactly when has SF ever run a program like this that hasn’t turned into a multi-million dollar boondoggle supporting politically connected businesses, ineffective non-profits representing vocal constituencies, and flat out bad ideas?


Thursday, May 1

10 a.m. – Rules Committee

Speaking of SOMA, the Rules Committee will be appointing not 1, not 2, but 3 new members to the “Western SOMA Citizens Planning Task Force.” You’d think that would be all the appointing they could squeeze into a meeting, but, not these guys. They’ll also be appointing 10 members to the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force; one member of the Peak Oil Preparedness Task Force; and re-establishing the Presidio Neighborhood Representative Work Group, which they de-established in 2005.

No, I don’t know what they’re thinking either. But they’ll have to appoint some people to it.

I think we may be rapidly approaching a point where San Francisco has more open committee spots than people.

But what’s particularly interesting about this committee is one of the last items on the agenda, a hearing called by Tom Ammiano to “consider” the city’s funding of the arts for the last three fiscal years. What’s up with this? I haven’t a clue – but my eyes will be glued.

Also, why is it in front of the Rules Committee?

I hope they don’t hurt the Sun Spheres.

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

Small Business Week will have a sidewalk sale. That’s really all you need to know, and you probably didn’t even need to know that.

See you next time.

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Benjamin Wachs


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