BLOC OR TO BLOCK CONDO CONVERSIONS

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Posticker Sig revisedSupervisor Mark Farrell of heavily homeowner District 2 (Pacific Heights/Marina) is facing prospect of voting May 7 against his own affordable homeownership legislation to clear backlog of 2,000 aspiring first time and middle class homeowners thru a lottery bypass fee raising $20-$25 million for affordable housing. The poison pill or compromise is an amendment by Board of Supervisor President David Chiu of heavily tenant District 3 (North Beach/Chinatown) that enacts minimum 10 year moratorium on a conversion lottery while allowing the city to catch up in creating affordable housing units. The amendment, supported by Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) Jane Kim of heavily tenant (but growing homeowner) district (D6 – Little Saigon, Tenderloin and SOMA), Norman Yee of primarily homeowner District 7 (West of Twin Peaks) as well as heavily tenant District 9’s (Mission) David Campos, also raises owner occupancy requirements for conversions by “mom and pop” units (3 and 4 unit buildings) when lottery resumes – which affects SF Small Property Owners, a group with growing APA “mom and pop” landlord constituency…

John Funghi of SFMTA (left) and Sup. David Chiu at Central Subway forum

John Funghi of SFMTA (left) and Sup. David Chiu at Central Subway forum

GO TO THE PEEPS?: Depending on how final legislation turns out and whether Mayor Ed Lee signs or vetoes it, Farrell (whose proposal is backed by District 8’s Scott Wiener of Upper Market/Castro) could take the original measure to voters – a potential leverage on Chiu’s amendment and aspirations in negotiations. On the ballot, Farrell’s measure fares better chance of November 2013 municipal election passage given lower turnout diminishing tenant voter edge over homeowners/landlords by 1.2 to 1 ratio citywide (188,957 voters to 155,082 according to PDI) where Chiu doesn’t face voters. But qualifying measure in June 2014 diminishes chances of passing Farrell legislation because of higher tenant voter turnout boosted by Chiu and Campos interest in an eastside (and more pro-tenant) Assembly seat….

At April 20 community budget hearing, SF Supervisor Mark Farrell (right) chairs Budget and Finance Committee while listening to testimony with (left to right) Sup. Eric Mar, Mayor Ed Lee and Sup. Katy Tang.

At April 20 community budget hearing, SF Supervisor Mark Farrell (right) chairs Budget and Finance Committee while listening to testimony with (left to right) Sup. Eric Mar, Mayor Ed Lee and Sup. Katy Tang.

WHACKING MUNI MOLE: North Beach’s debate is over derelict 106 year old Pagoda Palace, which once ran Chinese movies in 1980s and whose developer envisioned a taqueria and condos a few years ago. Now gutted eyesore – unoccupied since 1994 – has become entry point for unending debate as to whether it becomes an exit point, parking spot or tomb for SF Municipal Transportation Agency contractor’s tunnel boring machine (TBM) – basically a blind mechanical mole. Or does Pagoda provide Central Subway passenger station connecting Chinatown to North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf. Or is the mole temporarily parked before drilling on, or permanently entombed after burrowing 2,300 feet of unused tunnel space? Sounds like the stub of long-gone Embarcadero Freeway extension halted nowhere north by anti-highway, NIMBY and environmental forces in the 50s…Russian Hill Neighbors and SPUR representative Stephen Taber noted paralysis over Central Subway north of Chinatown, “This City has been completely incapable of doing advanced planning…Here we build one segment without the faintest idea where the next one is going” at last week’s standing room SFMTA forum attended by over 175 residents at Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center

HELPS CHIU IN 2014: Chiu’s amended condo legislation passage favors him in 2014. Like Campos, Chiu has seriously contemplated a run to succeed eastside (17th District) and terming out Assemblyman Tom Ammiano. As discussed in earlier columns, a Campos-inspired June 2014 measure renaming SFO to memorialize assassinated gay Supervisor Harvey Milk boosts LGBT turnout and his chances to succeed Ammiano as a gay legislator over Chiu, a straight APA…However, Chiu’s leadership on his amendment of a major landlord-tenant issue gives him an edge in heavily tenant Assembly district (1.7 to 1 ratio or 130,372 to 72,633 voters) over Campos for both 2014 Assembly races (top two finishers in June run in November). Further, Chiu – targeted as swing vote in condo conversion legislation – could cut into Campos’ LGBT support. Chiu’s amendment bridges major LGBT divide over TICs supported by gay Supervisor Wiener and liberal-moderate LGBT politicos like Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and Plan C and opposed by progressive (left of liberal) LGBT and pro-tenant community in Campos and Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club….

Standing room only crowd at Apr. 17 Central Subway forum at Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center

Standing room only crowd at Apr. 17 Central Subway forum at Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center

LIGHT AT END OF TUNNEL?: SFMTA’s so far authorized to tunnel to Chinatown station at Stockton and Washington and then north to Pagoda, across from Washington Square…District 3 Supervisor David Chiu emceed the hot North Beach discussion with SFMTA General Manager Ed Reiskin and Central Subway Director John Funghi who said the project was “community driven” and defended not leaving or extracting the TBM in Chinatown or Columbus Avenue (a major Chinatown artery). Chiu noted the subway would serve West Coast’s “densest neighborhoods” drawing 16 million tourists annually and 2 million daily commuters….Although a couple APAs spoke for North Beach, former Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association President and insurance business owner Jack Lee Fong empathized with home crowd applauding him. “We are all North Beach people. We have a lot of good ideas. You should absorb all of our ideas and thinking and change the plan. Do what our North Beach people wants,” he said…Also warmly received, architect and North Beach native Howard Wong of SaveMuni.com, expressing concern about whether future Central operations would gut up to 76,000 bus hours of service, according to SFMTA and USDOT Federal Transit Administration documents, and echoed many perceptions of deteriorating North Beach service…

Sup. David Campos (center) at Apr. 24 meeting of SF Democratic County Central Committee with College Board member Rafael Mandelman (left) and former SF District Attorney candidate Bill Razio (right)

Sup. David Campos (center) at Apr. 24 meeting of SF Democratic County Central Committee with College Board member Rafael Mandelman (left) and former SF District Attorney candidate Bill Fazio (right)

SWING WITH NORM: District 7 Supervisor Yee, also targeted as a swing vote, was hotly criticized over school board stances on major APA issues like JROTC and student assignments – but also praised for building consensus in his election as school board president. Last November, he won as supervisor by a bare 132 votes over labor leader, former commissioner and Irish American community leader FX Crowley. However, avid salsa dancer Yee could dip and swing politically to the benefit of his district and citywide constituents like non-profit community (Yee was non-profit consultant and Wu Yee Children’s Center director). After barely two and one-half months as supervisor, Mayor Ed Lee took him on business, cultural and St. Patrick’s parade trip to Cork, Ireland which has a political and historic imprint on District 7 voters. That helps with Yee’s re-election in four years but also aids Mayor Lee, of the same generation with Yee. Lee needs to muster supervisor voters to press his agenda (majority of 6 of 11 votes) or sustain a veto of any measures (minimum 4 votes)…

Jack Lee Fong, North Beach business owner and former Chinatown Consolidated Benevolent Association President at Central Subway forum

Jack Lee Fong, North Beach business owner and former Chinatown Consolidated Benevolent Association President at Central Subway forum

WILD CARD: Out of neighborhoods sending independent Quentin Kopp to City Hall and Sacramento, District 7’s supervisors have functioned as ally (Sean Elsbernd with Mayors Lee and Gavin Newsom) or thorn (Tony Hall with Newsom). Also competing for Yee’s affections, Board President Chiu selected him as chair of influential Rules Committee (responsible for vetting appointments, ballot measures and charter amendments). Yee was the only rookie supervisor to chair a committee. Yee is nicely positioned – especially considering homeowner and tenant sides heavily lobbied him as tiebreaker on condo conversions once deadlocked at 5-5 support….

Howard Wong of SaveMuni.com at Central Subway forum

Howard Wong of SaveMuni.com at Central Subway forum

HOMELESS IS NOT ONE WAY: To laughs of Telegraph Hill and North Beach audience at SFMTA forum on Central Subway tunnel, one member asked, “I don’t want it to become a homeless hotel…What are you going to do to prevent people from Chinatown getting into that tunnel?” Likewise, those ubiquitous Chinatown po po’s (grandmothers) keeping SF streets clean of recyclable cans and bottles have the same concern – competing scavengers coming in from North Beach and Telegraph Hill…Funghi of SFMTA assured audience that a “safe and secure” bulkhead, security and detection system would keep folks out, albeit campers, street musicians and solicitors occupy stations like Powell…

Norman Yee, salsa dancer, can also dip and swing politically as SF Supervisor.

Norman Yee, salsa dancer, can also dip and swing politically as SF Supervisor.

PUKI MEN ALSO WANTED:  No, not Pokemon. Filipina Women’s Network and Marily Mondejar are staging April 27 Tagalog-speaking tryouts for men and women in Usaping Puki – Tagalog for Vagina Monologues. Details at www.FilipinaWomensNetwork.org/events

MISS ME?: Email Samson Wong at potsticker@prodigy.net and  follow him at Twitter @SFPotstickers…

About the Author

Veteran columnist has appeared in up to 450,000 households weekly in the SF Independent, Examiner (2000-04) and AsianWeek since 1996. As Editor-in-Chief (2003-07), AsianWeek and Samson received wide recognition from the California Legislature, New American Media, League of Women Voters, GLAAD, Organization of Chinese Americans, SPUR and APA civic groups. Thru the SF Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections, SF Elections Task Force and Chinese American Voters Education Committee, Wong helped boost APA influence from 25,000 in the 1980s to over 50,000 voters by the early 1990s.