Monday, May 31, 2010

Chris Daly: a retrospective

If the NY Times is already doing a retrospective on Chris Daly's career as a supervisor, I guess I can too. The Times story gives Daly credit where it isn't due:

But Mr. Daly is probably most known for forcing developers to pay to play — those who build in the city must make a contribution to the community. This can be in the form of affordable housing or other services for the poor.

This is apparently a reference to the Rincon Hill highrises Daly pushed through the process in exchange for higher fees from developers. At the time, Daly touted the Rincon Hill deal as a victory for a progressive approach to housing in the city: “I’ve got very exciting news. As of about one hour ago, individuals with development interests in Rincon Hill and community members came to agreement on a package for development and associated mitigations [in the area].”

I don't claim to be a progressive, but how does okaying luxury, highrise condos qualify as a big accomplishment for our most ultra-left politician? Progressive is as progressive does, I suppose. Daly's claim can only be justified if the development fees provide real benefits to the people of San Francisco. The development fees from Rincon Hill are beginning to trickle in for some community groups (apparently affordable housing wasn't part of the deal). But you can't really "mitigate" this project, which accelerates gentrification in the city and is a blot on the skyline forever---or at least until the Big One hits.

(City politicians like to grandstand about requiring developers to include affordable units in housing projects, but the reality is that, after all the public posturing is over, developers don't have to build those units on-site: they can build them elsewhere or simply make a contribution to the Mayor's Housing Office to discharge that obligation.)

Most people in SF probably became aware of Daly when he was arrested in a protest against the parking garage Hastings College eventually built on a nearby property. Daly and the protesters wanted UC to build affordable housing on the site. Daly distinguished himself by allegedly threatening to have the arresting officer fired. Not suprisingly the District Attorney, Terence Hallinan, then refused to prosecute his progressive comrade. (Guess who also opposed the garage? The SF Bicycle Coalition's Dave Snyder, the transportation expert who's against parking garages as a matter of principle.) Hastings really did need the garage for its 1,500 students and staff, since the college is on the edge of the Tenderloin, where it's always been a little dicey for people to park, especially at night, when students have night classes, want to use the law library, or attend special events.

Then there were the public utilities commission appointments Daly made as acting mayor when Mayor Brown was out of the country, a boorish violation of protocol that city progressives thought was pretty cool.

I particularly enjoyed the statement Daly issued after his family moved to Fairfield last year: "I continue to eat, sleep, and bathe in my home on Stevenson Street. I bicycle to City Hall and to district meetings from my home and intend to continue to do so until the end of my Supervisor term and probably for longer." Forget about living in his district; the important thing is he keeps riding his bike.

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