Saturday, January 12, 2013

London Breed lays a rap on District 5

Reading the Haighteration interview with London Breed, our new District 5 supervisor, is a daunting experience. First, it's 10,000 words long. Nothing wrong with that if you actually have a lot to say. But Breed's interview is mostly blather, reminding me of the Mose Allison song: "Your mind is on vacation and your mouth is working overtime."
Part of the blame goes to the interviewer, who asked few follow-up questions, wasn't very well-informed on the issues, and, importantly, apparently did no after-the-fact editing of Breed's long, free-association-like responses.
Breed blathers about "bringing people together," making "decisions that are the best interests of the city," moving "forward with positive energy," that "jobs is[sic] a priority for me," she's "excited" about this and that, wants to be "proactive," that "There are good cops and there are bad cops," etc.
She seems to think that the Board of Supervisors can somehow become a major policy player in the Housing Authority to ensure that people who need housing have access to the authority's units, which isn't clear at all. Nor is it clear that the board can somehow create jobs for the jobless or actually expand rent control in the city.
Speaking of rent control, I was surprised to learn that Breed lives in rent-controlled housing, even though, according to an Examiner story the other day, last year she made $108,000 as head of the African American Arts and Culture Complex. She speculated about making rent control work better "so that more of these units are on the market, and people aren't getting priced out of these markets." 
How about a rule disqualifying people who make $100,000 a year from occupying rent-controlled housing units?
Other comments are just mystifying, like "How are we going to revitalize the Haight and take it up a notch?" The Haight---upper or lower---needs to be "revitalized"? News to me. "People talk about how they've been poor, I don't really get caught up in that." But that's what a lot of her responses are about, growing up poor in public housing. The kind of issues Breed will face as supervisor will be more about land use, planning, and traffic policy, not waging some kind of war on poverty in the city.
One thing about Breed that makes her different than her predecessor is her concern about quality-of-life problems in the city. She was the only candidate who supported Sit-Lie, which is promising. Supervisor Mirkarimi was never really engaged in dealing with the sit-lie issue and/or homelessness in the city, as the city's "progressive" leaders, after Gavin Newsom defeated Matt Gonzalez in 2003, took an adversarial approach to whatever Mayor Newsom did on that issue, even though he started a number of more or less successful policies that are helping the city cope with chronic homelessness.
The interviewer never asked Breed how she would have voted on Mirkarimi or about the Murk's problematic seven-year record on the board.
The interviewer brought up the problem of parking in the lower Haight, but Breed laughed and said that "It's not a top priority, but it's something that I'm definitely interested in..." Breed needs to understand that parking in District 5---or even citywide---is no laughing matter, particularly since she supports the Panhandle bike lane project that will eliminate 100 parking spaces and the Masonic bike lane project that will eliminate 167 parking spaces in a part of town where it's already hard to find a parking space.
Breed had nothing to say about these projects in the interview, but then she wasn't asked about them. Nor did she have anything to say about UC's ripoff of the old extension property, the Market and Octavia Plan that will bring 10,000 new residents to this part of town---or about the city's "smart growth," dense development housing policies in general.
She wondered about the city's budget: "In San Francisco, where we don't even have a population of a million people, what are we doing with[a budget of] seven billion dollars?"

Good question. And more than 24,000 city employees. She could start by asking what the more than 5,000 people working in the MTA actually do all day.

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