Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Chris Daly's pyrrhic victory at Rincon Hill

Chris Daly on his critics: 

Whether the attack was masterminded from the Mayor's Office or by one of downtown's proxy's[sic], it's clear that the powers that be are very threatened by our success on Rincon and our new model for progressive development in San Francisco. Maybe they just want to keep big developers off the hook for their fair share. Maybe they're worried that San Franciscans will notice that progressives, not downtown's politicians, are the ones making a difference on affordable housing and economic development. Whatever their reason, it just ain't right.

Why should "the powers that be" feel threatened by Daly's Rincon Hill "success"? Rincon Hill means 2200 luxury condos in residential highrises, some of them 50 stories high. No doubt the Mayor hates to see his antagonist claim any kind of political victory, however bogus it may be. And he supposedly doesn't like the idea of shaking down developers to the extent Daly did at Rincon Hill.

But the notion that Rincon Hill is a great triumph for city progressives is preposterous. Daly is right to say that "progressives, not downtown politicians, are the ones making a difference on affordable housing and economic development." Unfortunately, that difference is a negative one. 

Yes, some of the money Daly extorted from the Rincon Hill developers will go for affordable housing. But how can that pseudo-mitigation offset the huge Rincon Hill projects, which will take up 12 square blocks and bring 8,000 more people into that part of town? 

The "big developers" weren't the losers in Daly's shakedown, since they evidently can afford higher development fees. The city was the big loser, as its leading progressive encouraged gentrification in the city by auctioning off part of the town that happens to be in his district. This is success?

Randy Shaw on Daly's critics: 

I understand the Chronicle’s fury with Daly. Here’s a guy representing the most economically poor district in the city, who is not dependent on the paper to boost his clout or credibility, and time and time again he has brought home millions of dollars to his community without tapping the public treasury. And worst of all from the Chronicle’s perspective, in each of the three big community benefit victories ---the 56 units of affordable housing linked to Fourth and Freelon, the preservation of rent-controlled housing at Trinity Plaza, and the Rincon deal---Daly and the developer ended negotiations on extremely good terms. 

How can the Chronicle credibly demonize Daly as a destructive, anti-capitalist radical when people like Angelo Sangiacomo and the Rincon developers keep saying good things about him? The Chronicle ultimately admits its disconnection from political reality by expressing “outrage” in the failure of anyone at City Hall to stop Daly’s “dubious deals.” With the Mayor and the Board recognizing that Daly engineered a classic win-win deal at Rincon that left all sides happy, the lack of anger outside the Daly-hating Chronicle editorial offices is understandable. 

Of course Daly isn't an "anti-capitalist radical." Who says he is? But he is a destructive force in city politics, with his habitual incivility and now his de-facto leadership of the We Need Housing movement in SF, an alliance of the Planning Dept., many progressives, and, not surprisingly, developers. 

The WNH movement thinks the city needs to promote any and every housing development---especially large ones---to deal with the city's chronic affordable housing shortage. Shaw mentions a 56-unit housing project---a project of his own Tenderloin Housing Clinic, by the way---but how does 56 units for former SRO tenants compare to a neighborhood-destroying 2200 highrise condos for the well-off? Selling off an entire part of the city to developers is a "win-win deal"?

Progressives completely screwed up the city's homeless issue over the past ten years, thus leaving a huge political opening for Gavin Newsom, who rode the issue into the Mayor's office. Now they are screwing up the housing issue. Chris Daly's "new model for progressive development": highrise condos for the rich! How's that for an anti-capitalist rallying cry?

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