Wednesday, May 29, 2019

"Transformation" of Divisadero 3

Proposed project at Divisadero and Oak

The other day I was puzzled by this reference in a Chronicle story to Supervisor Brown's approach on the massive proposed housing project pictured above: 

Supervisor Brown said that she can’t take a position on the development because it could end up appealed to the Board of Supervisors. But she said that it enjoys widespread support and that she worked hard to increase the number of affordable units. “The consensus in the neighborhood had been that people wanted more affordable units and rental apartments as opposed to condos,” said Brown.

It seems obvious that Brown does support the project. So what's the first sentence about?

My email to Brown:

Supervisor Brown:
Your comment reported in the recent Chronicle story on the proposed Divisadero housing project is puzzling: "Supervisor Brown said that she can’t take a position on the development because it could end up appealed to the Board of Supervisors."

If you were quoted correctly, my readers and I would like to know what could possibly prevent you from now publicly supporting or opposing this important project.

Rob Anderson

This response from Brown's office:

Juan Carlos Cancino (BOS) wrote:

Mr. Anderson,
Because the Board of Supervisors hears appeals of decisions of the Planning Commission, its members traditionally refrain from taking positions on projects that may be appealed so as to avoid any bias that could disqualify them from voting if/when a project is appealed. Please feel free to call if you have questions about this 1-415-554-5185.

Juan Carlos

My response to Mr. Cancino, who I incorrectly addressed as "Mr. Carlos":

Mr. Carlos[sic],
I've been covering City Hall politics in San Francisco since 2004, and I've never heard of this tradition. Since every housing project might be appealed, how does Supervisor Brown decide which proposed projects to "take a position on"? 

Surely she can't simply refuse to take a position on every proposed housing project and then make a decision at an appeal hearing that may not happen. That would make her a poor representative for the people of District 5, who have a right to expect their supervisor to oppose or support projects based on how they affect both their district and the city itself.


Finally, Supervisor Brown herself tries to clarify the issue.

On May 28, 2019, Vallie Brown wrote:

Rob, when I first got into office I had several neighborhood meetings, and went to neighborhood associations meetings discussing this development. The message was clear, folks wanted choices for housing and affordable housing. Taking the direction from the community I set the highest affordable housing percentage 20%, higher than the City's 18% requirement. So as the project moves forward through Planning, I will be watching and making sure my constituents priorities are heard at City Hall.

On May 28, 2019, Rob Anderson wrote:

In other words, you do "take a position" in support of the project.

On May 28, 2019, Vallie Brown then wrote:

If the developer does everything they've committed to do, yes, bc we need affordable housing.

Rob's comment:
When I first read what Supervisor Brown reportedly said about not being able to take a position on this project, I thought of how supervisors were gutless during the attempt to destroy Ross Mirkarimi. 

Sometimes you have to reject legal advice, especially when it provides you with an excuse to be politically spineless. See Why have the supervisors been muzzled? and  Our spineless supervisors and their "independent counsel."

Even though the proposed project provides only 57 parking spaces for 184 housing units, it also provides 186 bicycle parking spaces, since of course few of those future residents will own cars and they will want to ride bikes around our Vision Zero city.

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