Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tim Redmond: "Maybe for once I got it right..."

Tim Redmond's candor would be almost endearing if, as Executive Editor of the weekly SF Bay Guardian, he didn't hold one of the most important jobs in local journalism on the primary source of progressive opinion in the city:

I made it through the week without anyone calling to complain about my analysis of the mayor's race, so maybe for once I got it right: unless Gavin Newsom drops out or a third strike drops[sic] and it's pretty bad, we already know what things are going to look like in the fall.

I actually thought about doing an item on his column in last week's Guardian, but I didn't get around to it. Ruminating on this year's mayoral race in SF, last week Redmond had this analysis:

So here's Scenario One: Newsom toughs it out, nothing else awful drops[sic], and he stays in the race. Honestly, very few people are going to challenge him. Not Mark Leno, not Carole Migden, not Dennis Herrera, not Aaron Peskin. They don't want to look like they're exploiting Newsom's personal problems, so they will wait four years.

I laughed out loud when I read this. These folks are all career politicians. They would drive over Newsom with a truck if they thought it would advance their careers. Four years is an eternity in a political career. If they want to be Mayor of SF and don't run against Newsom, it's only because they think they can't beat him. Besides, it's only February, and the filing deadline isn't until August. One or more of these folks may still enter the race.

Redmond continued:

So the left candidate is Ross Mirkarimi or Matt Gonzalez. If Gonzalez wants it, Mirkarimi steps out of the way. That could set up Matt vs. Gavin, round two, with Gonzalez as the candidate of the left and the Residential Builders Association, leaving people like me (who think land use is supremely important) tearing our hair out.

Why would/should Mirkarimi "step out of the way" for Gonzalez? Does Redmond mean like Gonzalez stepped out of Ammiano's way in 2003? If the Murk wants to run and thinks he can beat Newsom, there's no reason why he would or should defer to Gonzalez, who jumped into the 2003 race the day of the filing deadline, thus cutting fellow progressive Tom Ammiano's campaign off at the knees. 

"Land use is supremely important" to Redmond? Then why doesn't he write about it in the Guardian? He did an article on the South of Market developments in 2005, but he's done nothing of significance on the subject since. Redmond even ended his article with a call to arms to city progressives: "This is the next battle for San Francisco. And there's no time to lose." Evidently there was time to spare, since he didn't mention it again for months.

Now that the Guardian has had editorials against the highrise epidemic two weeks in a row, we welcome them to the cause. Better late than never, I suppose. But the Guardian's credibility on the highrise issue isn't very high, so to speak, given their scanty coverage of the problem until now. 

Back in 2005 the Guardian earned one of my year-end awards for its lame dissent in an editorial on Chris Daly's Rincon Hill highrises: “Simply put, five more towers [on Rincon Hill] of luxury condos is too many. No matter how lucrative the payoff, when the projects come through for final approval city leaders should reject at least two of these towers.” (“Don’t Sell SoMa,” Aug. 3, 2005) Three towers are okay but five are too many! How's that for a clarion call to arms?

Sue Hestor issued a more succinct call to arms against highrises in last week's Guardian: "To the barricades!" (San Francisco's Erupting Skyline, Feb. 14, 2007). But where were Hestor, Brugmann, and Redmond while the Rincon Hill highrises were moving briskly through the planning process with virtually no dissent from city progressives?

Okay, so the Guardian has been guilty until now of political negligence on the highrise/overdevelopment issue. Let's hope they don't have another attack of Attention Deficit Disorder and let the issue disappear again from the city's political radar screen.

Hestor mentions Rincon Hill and the towers planned down by the Bay Bridge, and Brugmann---presumably the author of the Guardian's unsigned editorials---refers vaguely to "South of Market" development. 

It would be helpful if the Guardian focused on another huge Planning Dept. fiasco now moving toward approval: The Market and Octavia Neighborhood Plan. This appalling Plan to change zoning regulations to make a wide swath of the city---it's not a "neighborhood" at all---a free-fire zone for developers also has a significant highrise element, particularly around the Market/Van Ness area.

It can still be stopped if the city's liberals and progressives know about it, which is where the Guardian comes in. Informing us about important city issues is its core job description, after all.

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