Monday, December 10, 2012

Aaron Peskin and the class of 2000

It's not surprising that journalists reach for the handiest cliche when facing a deadline. But local journalists keep using an Aaron Peskin cliche that in effect rewrites the last 12 years of the city's political history.

From the SF Chronicle last month:

[Aaron]Peskin, a progressive who clashed both professionally and personally with then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, was an outspoken critic of his perceived adversaries and sometimes his allies, and a powerful political organizer who challenged many big real estate developments.

It's simply untrue that Peskin has "challenged many big real estate developments." The opposite is closer to the truth. With the exception of the Treasure Island project, the developments Peskin has opposed have been near North Beach, where he happens to live. Peskin opposed the highrise at 555 Washington Street because it was much too close to North Beach, and he opposes the 8 Washington project for the same reason.

Peskin helped Supervisor Daly push the Rincon Hill highrises through the process, with the crucial help of the other progressive supervisors. And he's been silent on other large development projects that will damage the city for years, like the Market and Octavia Plan and allowing UC to rip off the old extension property for a massive housing development on lower Haight Street. Peskin has even bragged about his support for highrise development in San Francisco.

San Francisco Magazine, now morphing into something called "Modern Luxury," which is appropriate, since the city is turning into a theme park for the rich, thanks to the leadership of "progressives" like Peskin, reinforces the myth in its current issue:

Part of Peskin’s staying power, of course, is that he’s only 48 years old—hardly old enough to hang it up. And he still has plenty to rage against. When he was elected back in 2000, it was Willie Brown’s patronage politics and downtown development. Today, it’s the tech-and Chinatown–leaning machine of Lee, Pak, and Ron Conway...  

In fact "downtown development" was not the big issue in 2000; it was Willie Brown's live-work loft developments south of Market Street. (I tried to make homelessness an issue from District 5 that year but was unsuccessful).

Once Peskin, Mirkarimi, McGoldrick, Gonzalez, and Daly took over the Board of Supervisors after the 2000 election, they promptly began greenlighting downtown development, including the Rincon Hill highrises.

C.W. Nevius also maintains a fanciful and flattering account of the city's left during that time:

There was a time when the far left wing of the Democratic Party in San Francisco stood for something. Sure, they could be shrill, exasperating and self-righteous, but they took a stand. Their causes were clear---the homeless, the downtrodden, and those who didn't have a voice in big money politics. The truth is, as infuriating as they could be, those efforts were good for the city. They pushed everyone to think about the bigger issues: affordable housing, thoughtful development and, of course, more pot clubs.

This is completely wrong. It was the much-despised Gavin Newsom who pushed to do something about the city's serious and growing homeless problem ten years ago, not the city's left. Daly called Care Not Cash a "war on the poor," as did the Bay Guardian. After Newsom rode the homeless issue into the mayor's office, he launched other effective programs to deal with the issue: Homeward Bound, Project Homeless Connect, and supportive housing, all programs that have either been opposed or ignored by the city's left.

And "thoughtful development"? On the contrary. Along with the aforementioned Market/Octavia Plan and the UC fiasco, City Hall, with barely a murmur of protest from the left, has also okayed the Treasure Island and Parkmerced projects, both of which will create massive traffic problems for the next generation. Let them ride bikes!

A memory hole is any mechanism for the alteration or disappearance of inconvenient or embarrassing documents, photographs, transcripts, or other records, such as from a web site or other archive, particularly as part of an attempt to give the impression that something never happened (Wikipedia).

Speaking of the history of the last ten years, the long, fawning, front-page 2007 San Francisco magazine story on Aaron Peskin---I wrote about it here---has vanished from the internet. San Francisco/Modern Luxury magazine has apparently dumped its archives, so the few worthwhile stories they published over the years are gone forever. When I have time, I'll post the full text of the story, since I still have a hard copy of that edition of the magazine.

Photo by Jim Hughes for SF Magazine
for an article that's no longer available

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Representative McCarthy hammers high-speed rail project

It's a sad commentary on the state's Democratic party, when a Republican is the one who makes sense on California's high-speed rail project. On this issue, Democrats are the dumb party.