Mayor Lee's waffling on big issues is hurting the city's ability to cut the best deals for the public
CHIU'S CENTRAL ROLE
Chiu has at least been willing to put his energies behind his belief in compromise, taking an active role in the CPMC and condo negotiations, as well as complicated current negotiations involving how to legalize but limit Airbnb's shared housing business in San Francisco, which involves landlord-tenant-neighbor dynamics, regulation of private leases, and complex land use and taxation issues.
"It's been a very long month. I've been going around the clock on several challenging negotiations," Chiu told the Guardian. "The most important things to work on are often the ones that are the most difficult to get done."
Chiu was reluctant to discuss the negotiations, calling it a sensitive moment for each of them. But he did admit that he was disappointed in Lee's non-answer to his publicly posed question. "I had hoped for a little more direction," Chiu said. And while these negotiations haven't shaken his faith in compromise, he did say, "It depends on the substance of the issue whether there are common ground solutions that are superior to two warring sides."
But all involved in the condo debate say it appears we'll be stuck with the latter. "The two sides are so far apart that I don't know what a compromise that both sides would live with would even look like," Campos said. "There are certain issues where I don't think compromise or consensus is possible."
On this one, tenant advocates are trying to protect a finite supply of rent-controlled housing and real estate interests want to convert that same housing into condos. "If the issue was just existing TIC owners, we would come to an agreement," Gullicksen said. "But clearly the agenda of Plan C and the realtors is they just want more condos."
Plan C board member Kat Anderson told us, "I have a simple approach to this: Home ownership is important to me."
She was undeterred by arguments that thousands of new condos are now being built in San Francisco, but there's a steadily dwindling number of rent-controlled apartments in a city where two-thirds of San Franciscans are renters.
Anderson made it clear that she wants to not only allow the backlog of condo applicants to be approved, but she doesn't want to slow the flow of condo conversions for a few years thereafter or place TICs themselves under the cap, compromises offered by Gullicksen. "The worry is that if you change the system, it will never come back and we'll lose our tiny toehold of 200 units [that the lottery allows to be converted to condos annually]," Anderson said. And so we end up with the very thing Lee sought to avoid: a big, nasty, divisive public fight that will probably end up being decided by big money and deceptive campaign mailers rather than a civil, deliberative political process. And the mayor has nobody to blame but himself.
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