Compromises deliver results

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OPINION When Guardian Editor Steven T. Jones asked me to respond to his recent columns ("Chiu becomes City Hall's go-to guy for solving tough problems", 7/23/13; "Chiu: Centrist Compromiser, Effective Legislator, or Both," 7/30/13), I reflected on how our Board of Supervisors' 2013 accomplishments exemplifies the lessons and rewards of working together.

After several decades of intense fights between TIC owners and tenants, I asked both sides to sit down, share perspectives, and brainstorm beyond the impasse. To our surprise, when TIC owners shared their struggles and offered to pay a fee to condo convert, tenant advocates agreed to finally support conversions as long as their core principle of preventing evictions — which I strongly shared — was addressed.

After a decade of failed CEQA reform attempts, the pundits predicted an epic battle between developers and neighbors this year. The breakthrough for unanimous support occurred when both sides acknowledged to me that real neighborhood input and predictability in the planning process are not mutually exclusive, and progressive leaders wanted to ensure that pedestrian, bike, affordable housing, and public projects are not delayed.

After years of controversy, CPMC/Sutter and the coalition of dozens of community-based organizations deadlocked over how to rebuild the Cathedral Hill and St. Luke's hospital campuses. After exposing financial documents challenging the original proposal, I worked with colleagues for six months at a mediation table that refashioned a CPMC plan to rebuild those 21st century hospitals the right way.

While each story is unique, what all of these accomplishments — along with recently balanced budgets, business tax reform, and pension reform — have in common is hard work and extreme patience by dedicated San Franciscans seeking creative solutions.

As Board President, my job is to build consensus among our diverse supervisors and deliver results. When I first came to City Hall, I asked my colleagues to move beyond past politics that had magnified differences. I am proud that today's Board has the highest approval ratings in a decade, as we do more together working through our differences.

At the negotiation table, it's essential to stand firm on core values. My vision for San Francisco has been of a city that protects tenants and families; creates good jobs across the economic spectrum; offers high quality public services with Muni, our schools, and our parks; and embraces our diversity, our immigrants, our seniors, and those who have been historically disenfranchised.

When we can't always find creative win-wins, it's still important to fight for what's right. I've taken my political lumps championing the right of noncitizen parents to vote in school board elections, standing up for workers requesting family-friendly workplaces, and taking on a Yellow Pages industry dumping millions of phone books on our streets.

When I hear criticisms of "compromise," I reflect that the most important federal legislation in recent years — from the Civil Rights Act to the Affordable Care Act, Wall Street reform to comprehensive immigration reform — were also criticized as "compromises." Critics often forget the big picture: by incorporating different views, reforms actually get done, and if we wait forever for the perfect policy, people will suffer.

San Franciscans are at our best when we unite around shared values — from marriage equality to universal health care to environmental protections. We still have plenty of challenges: housing affordability, struggling workforces, family flight, public transit.

Comments

Compared to the scorched earth policies of Congressional Republicans, Chiu's track record shows that "finding common ground" need not be empty rhetoric or an excuse for political cave-ins. Good work, Mr. Board President.

Posted by Peter on Aug. 14, 2013 @ 8:18 am

More like finding as little common ground as possible so as to not rankle the feathers of the ruling elites.

Posted by anon on Aug. 14, 2013 @ 8:37 am

David Chiu is a very active and engaged dealer who clearly enjoys a bit of self promotion and finding the sweet center that everyone can swallow. Terrific.

My problem is that he wants to go to Sacramento and I have no idea how he'll vote, who he'll champion, and what he'll try to accomplish. That's a concern. He talks about SF values but what are David Chiu's values? Please sir, don't assume that everyone in town shares the same viewpoint on everything simply because we all support marriage equality and despised George Bush.

Do we need more Democratic dealmakers in Sacramento? I'm not so sure. Mark Leno is generally considered a successful Sacramento pol and he certainly hasn't done anything substantial to try to reform our state. Leno is 100% a company man and, from what we've seen, David will be one too. Frankly, it's a bit embarrassing that the pols from Marin are generally more willing to be bold and take on entrenched interests (from the Chamber to the nurses to the prison guards) than our politicians from our "forward-thinking" city.

Still, at the end of the day, he's legions better than David Campos but I wish I knew what he stood for and where he wants to take our city.

I also have to say that with this mayor, it doesn't seem difficult to claim the "compromise king" crown. Mayor Lee oftentimes takes a position, makes an agreement and then, subsequently, allows others to intercede and try to improve upon that deal so that everyone gets a win. Terrific politics and smart strategy. But let's not go overboard with the praise for David cutting better deals since it seems like the mayor makes shitty ones begging to be improved.

Posted by BeckyBayside on Aug. 14, 2013 @ 9:42 am

I think Supervisor Chiu should be commended for his putting priority on seeking compromise.

I am a TIC owner. Three friends and I bought one of the original TICs in 1996. The original purpose of TICs was to give working folks an opportunity to buy property inexpensively. Later, it became a vehicle for real estate agents to get ahold of property and quickly sell at a high price (you Ellis Act the tenants and create a new TIC).

I think Supervisor Chiu's proposal is a perfect compromise. TICs waiting in the conversion line will be able to convert to condos now. But TICs will be off limits for conversion over the next 10 years. This will create a big obstacle for real estate investors wanting to make a quick buck on TIC conversions. It will dampen this aspect of the market.

Steve wrote an article a while back praising Chiu for his leadership on the board. This prompted Tim Redmond over in his echo-chamber blog to then rip into Chiu, and Steve then backpedaled a bit. Steve is still going through the process of learning to stand on his own two feet without help from his mentor. We understand. It's all part of the organic growth process. Steve should be encouraged in his efforts to become an independent thinker.

Posted by Troll the XIV on Aug. 14, 2013 @ 1:36 pm

The last thing we need more of is kneejerk ideologs like Avalos.

I'm not totally convinced about this TIC deal as closing the door on condo's seems extreme. I suspect that will have to be reversed at some point.

And property owners now have no incentive to wait for vacancies. they might as well Ellis/TIC immediately as condo conversion is now off the table anyway.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 20, 2013 @ 9:42 am

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