A new New Deal for San Francisco

San Francisco is no longer the employment center of the Bay Area, but the high-end bedroom of a commuting workforce based outside the city

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OPINION On Thursday and Friday, July 8 and 9, San Franciscans concerned about the future of their city will have a unique opportunity to devise practical, locally actionable proposals to shape and direct future policy affecting the local economy and the provision of critical human services.

On July 8, starting at 3:30 p.m. at SF Lighthouse Church (1337 Sutter at Van Ness), a New Deal for the City economic development summit will be held to address set of issues ranging from municipal reform to community-based economic development proposals. A copy of the draft positions can be found at www.sfcommunitycongress.wordpress.com.

The next day, the San Francisco Human Services Network, a 110-member organization of human and health service nonprofits, will host its New Realities summit starting at 9 a.m. at the McClaren Center at the University of San Francisco. More details about topics at the summit can be found at www.sfhsn.org/index.

The results of these two summits, along with proposals on Muni reform and affordable housing, will form the basis for a citywide meeting of "The New, New Deal for San Francisco" Congress, scheduled for Aug. 14 and 15 at USF.

The summits and congress offer a chance to discuss, adopt, and plan the implementation of a comprehensive response to the assault on the provision of critical public services and the clear failure of the local economy to respond to the current and future needs of San Franciscans. Over the past decade, San Francisco has lost, and never replaced, more than 70,000 permanent jobs as first the dot-com bust and now the implosion of the financial sector have shredded the city's "new" economy. In a total reversal of its historic role, San Francisco is no longer the employment center of the Bay Area, but simply the high-end bedroom of a commuting workforce based outside the city.

This historic shift has meant that the primary form of development in San Francisco has gone from commercial, employment-based enterprises to high-end residential development — development that, because of Proposition 13 limits on local property taxes, simply fails to pay for the city services needed to support the existing and new residential population.

San Franciscans built a system of local governance that was unique in the state, and not often matched in the nation, in providing a level of municipal services based on the premise that we share a special place and a common future. These services were provided by a robust mixture of traditional public sector departments and innovative, community-based nonprofits. That system was itself based on an economy that mainly employed San Francisco residents in a diverse mix of economic activities with opportunities open to a wide array of people.

That economic base has been reduced to a mere shell of its former diversity, with few opportunities for even fewer people. Our current mayor has no desire to address this historic shift; instead, he is content to endlessly campaign for other offices, issue press releases on mythical achievements, and pit one portion of San Francisco against another in hopes that all forget the decline of the city under his leadership.

Progressive forces cannot again allow needed changes to be held hostage to the election of a particular candidate. We must put on the table a comprehensive, integrated set of locally actionable policies that make sense in the realities we face in the second decade of the 21st century — no matter who wins. After all, it's our city.

Karl Bietel is a worker advocate; Fernando Marti is a community planner; and Calvin Welch is a balanced growth and affordable housing advocate.