Thursday, October 07, 2010

Aaron Peskin is "plugged in"

Aaron Peskin has the local media just where he wants them---bending over to kiss his hairy ass to get an interview with our next mayor. The Chronicle's Phil Bronstein is the latest to submit to the Peskin Treatment:

Last week, Daly's old board colleague Peskin reminded me that true "cold is only for the bold" as we dove into the frighteningly chilly morning bay outside the South End Rowing Club on Jefferson Street. Aaron was a spunky swimmer in his Speedos and had to wait out past the dock for me and my draggy, baggy trunks so I could catch my breath. This wasn't so much a man-test for me...as it was an audition for Aaron to try out his upcoming role as San Francisco's chief executive. In the club's packed sauna, he was Mr. Insider among an assortment of judges, lobbyists, cops and probably a respectable robber or two. "You running?" one beefy guy asked him. "Hell, no," he said, naked in his skin and ambition. "I want to be appointed!"

Back in 2007, Peskin subjected Chris Smith to the same swim-and-sauna routine before he allowed the interview that was the basis for Smith's long, fawning, front-page article in San Francisco Magazine:

This is my first encounter with Peskin, a Prius-driving hard guy, and I suspect that if I endure this ritual bit of hazing, he’ll be more willing to carve out time for me. And then, without further ado, he wades in, stroking off toward the Hyde Street Pier. I last about eight minutes in the water; he cuts his usual 20-minute swim short in deference to the newbie. We follow our swim with a spell in the club’s sauna, where he shoots the shit with cops, city attorneys, and developers—a roll call that is about as old-school San Francisco as it gets. They sit in the heat, a bunch of plugged-in guys talking power...

Mr. Insider hanging with other bigshots, "talking power." Bronstein includes the obligatory North Beach, Caffe Trieste scene as further evidence of Peskin as Man of the People---that is, of "plugged-in" people:

Later, at Caffe Trieste, he parked audaciously right out in front (doorway parking in North Beach!) and was seated at the prime corner window table to greet a line of pals and pols like the neighborhood warlord he is. He worried about getting a parking ticket but also pointed out that one of the Rowing Club steam room boys was now patrolling the street in uniform.

How cool is it when bigshots show the rest of us that the rules don't apply to them? Smith did the Caffe Trieste scene, too:

Birds are chirping, a breeze riffles the trash in the gutters. Peskin, in shorts, flip-flops, and a madras shirt, sits outside Caffe Trieste. One after another, people stop by to pay their respects. Peskin receives each graciously, teasing and gossiping, sprinkling his comments with snippets of Cantonese, Hebrew, and Bahasa Indonesia. He’s their guy, a local hero.

I've hammered Chris Daly for the awful Rincon Hill highrise deal, but, as Smith explained, birds wouldn't have sung for that deal without Peskin, the local hero:

During hardball negotiations, Peskin helped District Six supervisor Chris Daly squeeze an unprecedented amount of money for social services in his district from the developers. The outcry from the business community was deafening, and Gavin Newsom called it a shakedown. Peskin could have negotiated his own deal—for lower towers, say—but through it all, he stuck with Daly. “Some developers tried to go around me, to cut a better deal with Aaron that had less community benefits,” says Daly. “But he backed me up.”

Newsom was right, of course. He had no objection, mind you, to allowing thousands of highrise condos for the rich in a city desperate for affordable housing; he just thought Daly went too far in extracting fees from the developers. Exactly how much money in fees has been raised, and where has that money gone? Where are all the "community" and "social services" that were supposed to be funded by the Rincon Hill developers? Still waiting for an accounting, though there have been rumors about some money actually trickling into the South of Market area.

Smith nods approvingly when Peskin applies a patina of pseudo-intellectual crap to his development deals: Peskin read Jane Jacobs when he was a student at UC Santa Cruz, which means that all the development Peskin encourages---Rincon Hill, South Beach, the Market/Octavia Plan, UC's hijacking of the extension property on lower Haight Street---is justified by the half-baked "new urbanism" baloney so fashionable in the Planning Dept. and the mayor's office. In reality it's just another rationale for highrise development downtown and along city "transit corridors."

Peskin is a power-hustler and a deal-maker, which is a normal part of the political process. But like Mayor Newsom, he will be using that power to make it easier for developers to over-develop and degrade city neighborhoods---except of course for lowrise North Beach, where he lives.

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