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Happy with Herrera Progressive reformers who reluctantly threw their support to maritime lawyer Dennis Herrera in November's city attorney runoff have been pleasantly surprised to see him make good on certain promises. In February the former police commissioner – who had been associated with the old Democratic Party machine – gave a nod to public power advocates when he sued Pacific Gas and Electric Co., accusing the corporation of playing a shell game with its finances. On March 1 he impressed open-government advocates when he made public opinions his department issued, posting them on the city's Web site. And on March 19 he announced at a Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods meeting a plan to create a new division focused on neighborhood and community service issues and to ramp up the existing code-enforcement team. The plan, he told us, will better protect tenants' rights as well as confront rampant illegal demolition of historic buildings. Daniela Kirshenbaum, a coalition executive committee member who supported Herrera's rival Steve Williams, said she likes the idea. "I really had my suspicions, but he came across very well and won me over a bit," she said. "I think he's really mending some bridges.'' Now, if he'd just enforce the Raker Act ... (Savannah Blackwell)

Big-box veto? In a 7-4 vote at its March 25 meeting the Board of Supervisors narrowly passed legislation making it tougher for big-box retailers like Home Depot and Wal-Mart to open shop in San Francisco. Sponsored by board president Tom Ammiano, the legislation requires retail outfits larger than 50,000 square feet to obtain "conditional use" permits from the Planning Commission. The special-permitting ordinance resulted from a dispute between residents of Bernal Heights and Bayview-Hunters Point over a proposed Home Depot (see "Bernal Vs. Bayview," 9/12/01). Though it was no surprise Sups. Tony Hall (who's never been keen on reining in developers), Gavin Newsom (ditto), and Sophie Maxwell (who represents the Bayview) voted against Ammiano's proposal, some in Ammiano's camp were dismayed at Sup. Gerardo Sandoval's no vote.

For his part, Sandoval said no one should be surprised by his vote. Many residents he represents told the District 11 supervisor they want to see a Home Depot open up on Bayshore Boulevard. "This shows how out of touch the left is with poor people," Sandoval told us. "But I've talked to [District 11 residents], and they're interested in both the jobs it would create as well as shopping there."

Without eight votes, the board will not be able to override an anticipated veto by Mayor Willie Brown. "It's clear the African American community in general really wants the jobs and economic activity," press secretary P.J. Johnston said. "The Bayview [Project Area Committee, a citizen panel that looks at redevelopment issues] voted strongly against it, and I think Mayor Brown is inclined to agree with them." (Blackwell)

Calling all wonks: Ammiano is looking for recruits to fill slots on the Planning Commission and the Board of Appeals. Proposition D, which passed in the March election, increased the role of the supervisors in making appointments to the two panels, long dominated by pro-development forces.

And Ammiano has made it clear he's not going to go behind closed doors and just tap a few cronies. Instead, he's created a search committee to shake the bushes and interview potential candidates – all under the auspices of the city's Sunshine Ordinance.

Given the diversity of the search committee, no one could accuse Ammiano of stacking the deck with progressives or political opponents of Mayor Brown, who formerly had sole right to appoint to the two land-use bodies.

For example, while the group includes live-work opponent (and Harvey Milk Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Democratic Club president) Debra Walker, Gabriel Metcalf, deputy director of the pro-downtown San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (which opposed Prop. D) is also on board. (Blackwell)

Leno on elections reform: Sup. Mark Leno announced March 25 a host of ideas to beef up the city's laws on soft-money spending in local elections. That shouldn't be too surprising. While Leno won by about a 2.5 percent margin over challenger Harry Britt, he was none too pleased with the more than $300,000 in independent expenditures on Britt's behalf by local and state labor groups.

Among Leno's proposals: requiring soft-money campaigns to disclose the dates when the expenditures are made, limiting the amount of time in which soft money can be raised, and enforcing caps on contributions to committees that spend soft dollars on behalf of a candidate.

Add that list to Supervisor Hall's inquiry into whether the city has any legal authority to limit all those annoying calls from campaigns pushing candidates or measures. (Blackwell)