The budget's opening battle - Page 3

Sparks fly from the Newsom/Daly budget battle

Protect policies that give people a decent place to live."

"This is about your priorities," Newsom said as he made the case that fixing potholes, sweeping streets, and putting more cops on the beat are now San Francisco's top concerns.

"I've never seen this type of disrespect to the public process," Newsom said, addressing a crowd that included a couple of Daly supporters holding "Homelessness is not a crime" signs alongside people dressed as trees, a dozen people in orange "Newsom '07" shirts, Newsom campaign operative Peter Ragone, and former Newsom-backed supervisor candidates Doug Chan and Rob Black (the latter of whom who lost to Daly and now works for the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce).

"Gavin Newsom's budget reflects that he has been listening to you. It's not something he has dreamed up is his ivory tower," Townsend said, while Kelly Quirke, executive director of Friends of the Urban Forest, pointed out that Daly's proposal would mean the 1,500 trees that the Department of Public Works planted this year "would not be watered," and Police Commissioner Yvonne Lee said the proposal would "eliminate 50 new officers that could be on streets, plus a $400,000 system to identify the source of gunfire."

What Newsom's supporters didn't mention was that his proposed budget, which would add $33 million for the Police Department to help get more officers on the streets and pay existing officers more, also would drastically shift the city's housing policies by transferring about $50 million from existing affordable-housing and rental-support programs into spending on home ownership and development of market-rate units. And that comes as the city is losing ground on meeting a goal in the General Plan's Housing Element of making more than 60 percent of new housing affordable for low-income residents.

Daly doesn't think people fully understand the implications of Hope SF and said public hearings are needed so they "can understand it better." Yet the Newsom rally still touted the mayor's concern for those in public housing projects.

"We're not interested in rebuilding unless the tenants are supportive," Doug Shoemaker of the Mayor's Office of Housing told the Guardian, promising that existing public housing units will be replaced "on a one-to-one basis" and noting that 85 affordable rentals, along with 40 to 50 units for first-time home buyers at a below-market rate (for a household of two with an income of about $58,000 annually) and hundreds of market-rate condos, will be built.

"The market-rate condos will cross-subsidize the rebuilding of public housing," said Shoemaker, who claims that the "lumpiness of the mayor's budget" — in which home-ownership funding increases by $51 million, while programs benefiting the homeless and senior and families renters appear to have been cut by $48 million — "is best understood over the long term" and is related to the redevelopment projects in Bayview–Hunters Point and Mission Bay.

"The hardest thing about explaining these figures is that it sounds like a game of three-card rummy, but we need to fuel whatever is coming down the pipeline," he said.

The confusing fight over affordable housing has even split its advocates. Coleman Advocates for Children and Their Families publicly urged Daly not to hold Hope SF funds hostage to his housing supplemental, while the Family Budget Coalition urged Newsom and the supervisors to "work together to find at least $60 million during the add-back process to prioritize affordable housing."

But with Daly gone from the Budget and Finance Committee, how will his proposals and priorities fare?