Is SF moving to the right?


The Bay Citizen/New York Times thinks so. The headline on the story -- "more conservative is the new normal" -- says it all. Matt Smith (formerly of our price-fizing rival SF Weekly) and Gerry Shih say the Nov. 8 election signals a turn to the right for this famously liberal city:

But Tuesday’s election signaled a palpable shift: In addition to Lee, a pro-business moderate, voters overwhelmingly picked George Gascón, the law-and-order former police chief — and former Republican — as district attorney.

“To whoever thinks San Francisco is loopy and left-wing, this election basically said, ‘No, it’s really not,’” said David Latterman, associate director of the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good at the University of San Francisco. “We just elected an ex-Republican, pro-death penalty district attorney by a landslide. Just ponder that.”

Well: It's interesting that they call Lee a "pro-business moderate," which is probably accurate but differs from how Lee's more progressive supporters see the new mayor. But while they talk about Gascon, they conveniently leave out the fact that San Francisco has elected the first solid progressive to a citywide office in a long, long time. Ross Mirkarimi -- a former Green Party member and without a doubt one of the most left-leaning supervisors -- won a tight, contested race for sheriff running honestly as a progressive. I think you have to go back to 1987, when Art Agnos ran for mayor as the candidate of the left, to find another example of a progressive champion winning all across town.

The interesting element of all of this -- and something I think Smith and Shih got absolutely right -- is that the demographic makeup of the city is changing, and has been for a while:

"From a political perspective, the tech companies are employing young workers who often prefer to live in San Francisco, even if they commute to Silicon Valley, said Wade Randlett, a Bay Area technology executive and top fund-raiser for President Obama."

Wade Randlett is not my favorite person in local politics, but the point he makes is valid -- and it's not happening by accident. Virtually all of the new housing that's been built in San Francisco in the past decade has been aimed at wealthy people, a lot of them young tech types who commute from the city to Silicon Valley. The other people moving into new housing are empty-nest retirees from places like Marin County. If you walk through the new condo buildings in Soma, the residents are mostly white, with a few Asians; there are almost no African Americans, very few families and essentially zero working-class people.

For years, downtown groups (including Randlett's former employer, SFSOS) have pushed for this kind of housing, and some of them have been very open about their goal: By bringing in more rich people and tech workers, you can change the politics of the city. Housing activist Calvin Welch puts it succinctly: Who lives here, votes here.

That's the reason why land use and housing are so critically important in this town. If poor and working-class people are pushed out to make way for a more upscale set of residents, then progressives who talk about taxing the wealthy to provide services for the poor will have a harder time getting elected.

It's not a conspiracy; it's an open, stated policy goal of the people who spent vast sums of money electing Ed Lee.




While it's a grabby line, Latterman calling Gascon a law-and-order, pro-death penalty guy also isn't accurate. Gascon opposes the death penalty and he's not a typical law-and-order prosecutor, otherwise he would not have gotten the endorsements of Matt Gonzalez and Jeff Adachi.

Posted by steven on Nov. 11, 2011 @ 2:51 pm

Trying to fix the demographic in time forever just because it gives the kind of politics you like a better chance is silly.

It's up to the people of this city to decide how left or right wing they want to be. And that will naturally change as the population changes.

And remember, the old housing stock is expensive too. New build takes the price pressure off old housing stocks, enabling more poor to stay.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 11, 2011 @ 4:35 pm

As they did during the dot com boom. So building new market rate stock does absolutely nothing to lower the price of housing.

Posted by Aragorn on Nov. 11, 2011 @ 5:18 pm

in a way that all those poor people can never do.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 11, 2011 @ 5:25 pm

Turned out to be completely wrong. Remember?

Posted by Aragorn on Nov. 11, 2011 @ 5:37 pm

any monies gained by higher rates on turned properties?

I suggest that you call your district rep and inform them that you feel guilty getting monies from properties taxed at higher rates because they changed hands.

Posted by matlock on Nov. 11, 2011 @ 7:01 pm

A lot of that tax gain is either directly reduced at the front end to subsidize these mega projects themselves (through a thieving mechanism called tax increment financing) and/or used to subsidize the -next- mega project.

We don't get much of it, and have to fight for scraps called "Community Benefits" to get any crumbs of value out of these ridiculous private cash cow monstrosities at all.

Posted by Aragorn on Nov. 11, 2011 @ 7:54 pm

you will not turn down tax money.

Posted by matlock on Nov. 12, 2011 @ 8:51 pm

The answer, to repeat it so that your feeble brain can potentially grasp it this time, is that there will be no tax money. It will stolen by developers before the City ever gets near it.

You can fuck off now asshole.

Posted by Aragorn on Nov. 13, 2011 @ 7:44 pm

Disagree with someone by calling them names. Infantile. The "no" reply to you pontification on "Trickle-Down" was clearly fillipant, but your potty-mouth backlash basically cost you any credibility you had in the debate...

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2011 @ 2:36 pm

So I can't cuss at someone when I'm pissed off at them, while I make a point?

Give me a break.

You'll note I didn't just cuss him out, I also made an argument.

There is a difference between that kind of response and simply being abusive for no reason.

If you can't handle the heat, get out of the fucking kitchen you bow-tie wearing prude. NOBODY is asking you right wing nut jobs to endlessly spew your inane Beck-esque bullshit on this left wing blog, when this space is far better used to flesh out progressive ideas (and disagreements -between- them).

So you can just fuck off too.


Posted by Aragorn on Nov. 14, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

Hello, is this Marcos' ID speaking?

I thought this kind of thing was banned.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2011 @ 6:02 pm

What ought to be banned is right wing (and/or pretend right wing) addicted loser internet trolls wrecking this site with their continuous useless asinine comments.

Posted by Aragorn on Nov. 14, 2011 @ 7:50 pm

You'd be the first to go. Your comments are 50% idiocy + 50% insults but always - 100% useless.

Posted by guest on Nov. 14, 2011 @ 8:13 pm
Posted by matlock on Nov. 14, 2011 @ 8:52 pm

One hard to look away from. He makes it too easy.

Posted by guest on Nov. 14, 2011 @ 9:20 pm

Those of us in the Halls of Mandos in Valinor await your commands, sire.

Posted by Ingwë on Nov. 14, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

by employing your own encyclopedic knowledge of The Lord of The Rings?

Why don't you just get it over with?
Make a date and go suck his cock, for god sakes.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

I never expected to find him commenting on the SFBG's message board. Last I saw our sire Aragorn he was being crowned King of Gondor outside the walls of Minas Tirith.

Posted by Ingwë on Nov. 14, 2011 @ 6:58 pm

to subsidize yet more destructive, overpriced development. Vicious circle. Not a solution.

Posted by Aragorn on Nov. 11, 2011 @ 5:45 pm

I'd love to see the data for SOMA... or are you just asserting it's all white? Likewise, "virtually all the housing has been aimed at wealthy people" -- source, please?

Do you mean that builders don't want to build for below-market rates? Who can blame them? SF housing is expensive because demand exceeds supply. Adding housing units helps reduce housing costs, and more people living in SF brings money into the economy, which means more jobs, which means less poverty, a greater tax base to help those in need, and improved infrastructure. What would you propose instead?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 11, 2011 @ 5:10 pm

they would support a huge development of market-rate tower blocks in the south-east of the city. Maybe 100,000 units.

At a stroke, that would restore balance between supply and demand, which is the ONLY way to get housing costs down.

NIMBY'ism just increases home prices and rents.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 11, 2011 @ 5:26 pm

Since there are already around 30,000 vacant housing units in San Francisco, demand exceeding supply is an artificial manipulation of the market by landlords allowing them to continue to charge sky high rents.

Building new market rate housing does nothing to change that.

First step, force all those landlords to rent -all- of that vacant housing at affordable rates.

That.. would bring down the cost of housing.

Posted by Aragorn on Nov. 11, 2011 @ 5:29 pm

The figure I've seen is about 10,000, mosty attributed to landlards scared to rent them out due to punitive rent laws.

New build targets a different market segment.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 12, 2011 @ 8:41 am

Here you go:

Yet again you feebly try to obfuscate only to immediately be proven wrong for the umpteenth time. You are an embarrassment to yourself.

Posted by Aragorn on Nov. 12, 2011 @ 9:22 am

Especially if you feel the rules, regulations and restrictions are onerous and punitive.

They may also be the wrong types of property, and/or in the wrong location.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 12, 2011 @ 11:32 am

Agreed. New build targets a different market segment.

"With condo prices set at US500,000 to US$2,000,000, many critics have noted that the One Rincon Hill complex is too expensive for most San Franciscans."

One Rincon Hill wiki

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2011 @ 9:32 am

so I wouldn't expect that situation to last.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 12, 2011 @ 11:35 am

"Home prices routinely adjust to market demand."

Are you referring to this market?

"...For decades, the government-supported incentives for housing that distorted the market, created significant moral hazard, and ultimately left taxpayers responsible for much of the risk incurred by a poorly supervised housing finance market. In more recent years, we allowed an enormous amount of the mortgage market to shift to where there was little regulation and oversight. We allowed underwriting standards to erode and left consumers vulnerable to predatory practices. We allowed the market to increasingly rely on a securitization chain that lacked transparency and accountability. And we allowed the financial system as a whole to take on too much risk and leverage...."

- Timothy Geithner

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

government considers homeownership to be such a pillar of stable society that it encourages home purchase through various subsidies.

Even so, on a home by home basis, the process of buying and selling a home is probably the closest to raw, unfettered market forces that most of us experience.

The price moves so that the vacancy rate doesn't have to, although we are seeing some distortions right now because of foreclosures and of course rent-controlled units being taken off the market or Ellis'ed.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 12, 2011 @ 4:22 pm

Most residents priced out of the housing market is hardly a pillar of society.

"The high-tier price index – houses over $608,000 – is the one that most applies to the city and county of San Francisco itself: About 62% of the city’s house sales are over $608,000. If we exclude the 2 less affluent southern districts, running from Bayview to Oceanside, which have been hard hit by distress sales, the percentage of SFD sales in the city’s 8 central and northern districts that is in the high tier is over 84%. If we exclude distress sales (bank-owned and short sales), that percentage goes to 90%."

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

the majority. That's why we call them, er, affluent. It's what the word means!

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 13, 2011 @ 9:33 am

"Affluent areas are always beyond the price point of the majority."

So you won't be needing this?

-- 131 lawmakers push for higher GSE jumbo mortgage limits--

"...Congress elevated the conforming loan limits in 2008 to allow the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac to insure and guarantee more mortgages when the credit markets froze.

On Oct. 1, the elevated limits dropped to $625,500 from $729,750 in the most expensive neighborhoods. In each area, the cap dropped to 115% from 125% of the area's median home price. Previous legislation introduced in the House to extend the limits never made it out of committee.

But the Senate approved an amendment to a spending bill Oct. 20 that would extend the conforming loan limits through 2013...."

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2011 @ 10:12 am

always much higher in affluent area's. They can represent up to 20 times the average annual income in selected vacation places, for instance.

Not all places are equally affluent and never will be. There is little point in trying to change that

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 13, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

"My point was that home-price to income ratio's are always much higher in affluent area's."

My point was that if SF is so affluent maybe it doesn't need all this help from the gubbment because it looks like raw unfettered market forces have little to do with it around here....

-- Mortgage interest deduction focus of debt debate --

"Ending tax breaks for oil, corporate jets and hedge fund managers is nearly every Democrat's favorite way to reduce the federal debt. But one of the biggest tax breaks of all is heavily skewed to wealthy residents of San Francisco...

...Beloved by the public and the real estate industry, the deduction will cost the government more than $1 trillion over the next decade. But few homeowners, even those claiming the deduction, know how skewed it is by region and by income. For young, affluent San Franciscans, it is tailor-made.

Just three metro areas - greater New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco - receive more than 75 percent of the subsidy..."

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

tax breaks are those who pay the most tax. How could it be any other way?

But what you are overlooking is that the tax code isn't written just to collect revenue. It's written to encourage some behaviors over other behaviors. It's deemed in the vital public interest that people buy homes because, statistically, that makes them more productive and more law-abiding and more civic-minded.

And, as voters, we regularly and routinely invited to vote to change that if we wish. And we always vote to sustain it. We all want our own piece of the American dream, and that starts with a home of our own.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 13, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

"It's deemed in the vital public interest that people buy homes..."

By that logic the government should stop subsidies that put the price of housing beyond most SF residents and allow the housing market to deflate to a point that people can afford to buy?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2011 @ 2:20 pm

deductions only in those markets that are deemed over-priced. That would kill the home market in much of the US that is still mired in a RE collapse.

The average SF home is about 10 times the average SF annual income. There are other places where that ratio is twenty times. Think yourself lucky.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 13, 2011 @ 3:28 pm

If over priced markets are the only areas that take the deduction anyway then obviously eliminating the deduction completely would be no different than just targeting affected regions.

"...its benefits are heavily concentrated in a handful of pricey cities..."

"...the deduction will cost the government more than $1 trillion over the next decade...."

"...Just three metro areas - greater New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco - receive more than 75 percent of the subsidy,..."

"...By comparison, households earning less than $75,000 get less than $200 in savings from the deduction. More than three-fourths of taxpayers do not itemize, and so don't claim the deduction at all. Those who rent or have paid off their mortgages, most of them seniors, get no benefit...."

"... "In areas like San Francisco, where it's not easy to build more housing, it drives up housing prices by a substantial amount."

"...The deduction is the second-largest federal tax expenditure ..."

"... Such tax breaks, economists say, are identical to granting a direct subsidy..."

"... it encourages people to increase debt, distorts the housing market, sucks investment from more productive activities and subsidizes the well off, economists said...."

"...San Francisco real estate agent Eric Geleynse with Frank Howard Allen Realtors said in an e-mail that he understands the arguments for ending the deduction, which he concedes is "inherently unfair to renters." ..."

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2011 @ 5:14 pm

Hardly consistent of you to promote both a raw unfettered real estate market and trillion dollar tax subsidies primarily for the three most affluent real estate markets in America.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

and every politician in the US knows that the home mortgage deduction is sacrosanct and that opposing it is political suicide.

It's helped 70% of Americans buy their own home. What else would you expect voters to want?

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 13, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

"On a macro level, home prices are not totally efficient"

Have you read "All Real Estate Is Local" by David Lereah? My favorite real estate writer....

"Lereah's book The Rules for Growing Rich: Making Money in the New Information Economy[5] touting investment in technology company equities was published in June 2000 at the onset of the collapse of the dot-com bubble.
Lereah has also written about real estate investing. His most recent book, All Real Estate is Local, was published by Doubleday in 2007. His 2005 book Are You Missing the Real Estate Boom?: Why Home Values and Other Real Estate Investments Will Climb Through The End of The Decade—And How to Profit From Them[6] was rereleased in February 2006 as Why the Real Estate Boom Will Not Bust—And How You Can Profit from It."

David Lereah wikipedia

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2011 @ 5:13 pm

"on a home by home basis, the process of buying and selling a home is probably the closest to raw, unfettered market forces that most of us experience."

Ha ha ha that's just unfortunate....

-- U.S. to lower the size of mortgage it will guarantee --

..."This is just going to kill us," said Beth L. Peerce, president of the California Assn. of Realtors....

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2011 @ 11:54 am

long time since a conforming loan bough the "average" home in a very non-average place like SF.

Not everyone has the fiscal power to live here. 'Twas ever so.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 13, 2011 @ 2:26 pm

Jumbos will definitely still be available....

"Many borrowers who were able to get loans backed by Fannie and Freddie will now have to look for “jumbo” loans. But those typically come with high down payment requirements, strict underwriting standards and higher interest rates. Some potential buyers will inevitably be shut out."

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2011 @ 2:39 pm

conforiming loan limits were far lower than today, and most buyers used jumbo loans anyway. Nothing that new.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 13, 2011 @ 3:31 pm

2010 census cite for 30,000 vacant units. It took me five seconds on Google.

"San Francisco, one of the most coveted places in the world to live in, has more than 30,000 empty homes according to 2010 U.S. Census data."

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2011 @ 9:34 am

The very wealthy own quite a bit of expensive real estate in places like SF, Manhattan, London and other big cities, similar to the way most of the rest us might invest $10,000 in a CD or buy 50 shares of Apple to save for a rainy day. Government bonds, expensive real estate, and Fortune 500 stocks are the primary sources of the elite's wealth.

The 30,000 vacant units are not part of the SF housing stock per se since they are mostly small line items on some absentee owner's long list of million dollar assets. The units aren't for sale until the owners/speculators need the cash, or until they find something better to invest in, or when the host government threatens to tax idle assets.

The California coast and mountains have always attracted investors who buy a house or condo, or two, and maybe or maybe not rent them out. As the census data shows, SF may have 9% vacant units, but there are 8% vacant units in all of California - over 1 million homes that could be providing shelter and building community for society.

Taxing vacant housing units at very high levels makes sense from a public policy perspective because housing is the backbone of a healthy and stable community. Units that might be used for a few weekends a year by the 1%ers don't add much to the community when most people are paying 30-50% of their total income on rent or mortgage payments. Vacant units are a toxic virus to the community, even if they are $2 million condos in the latest Rincon Hill highrise.

If San Francisco was really serious about its housing policy - like so many politicians and housing activists say they are - the Planning Department would know precisely how many units are vacant investor units and would have better information about who owns them. The Planning Department would also have much better demographic data on who is buying newly constructed units. They would discover there is a lot of foreign money buying SF real estate, partly as a "good investment" and partly because if you're a newly minted Chinese or Vietnamese multi-millionaire - just as examples - you're looking for stable places to park your wealth outside the immediate purview of unpredictable, authoritarian governments.

The Democratic Party does not want to expose how much rent income its largest backers and foreigners extract from the big cities, nor highlight how much downtown and residential rental real estate is concentrated among the elites (excluding people who own a small rental building or two).

Even worse, the Democratic Party won't even tell us how many welfare subsidies are given to landlords and property speculators each year: interest write-offs, tax-free property exchanges, phony depreciation deductions, low capital gain taxes, and the list goes on.

Let's hope the occupation movements focus attention on the state and federal governments who continue to give multi-bilion dollar welfare subsidies to the 1%ers - the group who own a majority of the world's real estate and who benefit from the ever increasing government debt.

It's not just corporate power that has caused so much economic misery in the world. The landlord class and big government bondholders have had a stranglehold on the 99%ers for many more centuries than the corporate class.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2011 @ 8:17 pm

it is vacant, then you merely encourage owners to skirt the law by having a house-sitter or relative there.

Anyway, it's not allowed under Prop 13.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 13, 2011 @ 9:35 am

Making this all the more ironic....San Francisco is by far the area most impacted by extending the conforming loan limit to $729,750...

--Which Areas Will Be Most Affected By Lending Policy Changes? --

State County % Affected Old Limit New Limit
California San Francisco 11.0% $729,750 $625,500
California San Mateo 8.5% $729,750 $625,500
Virginia Arlington 8.3% $729,750 $625,500
California Santa Clara 6.2% $729,750 $625,500
Washington, DC District of Columbia 5.7% $729,750 $625,500
California San Diego 5.0% $697,500 $546,250
California Orange 4.5% $729,750 $625,500
Virginia Fairfax City + County 4.4% $729,750 $625,500
Massachusetts Suffolk 4.3% $523,750 $465,750
Washington King 3.9% $567,500 $506,000
California Los Angeles 3.1% $729,750 $625,500
New York Queens 2.1% $729,750 $625,500
California Sacramento 0.7% $580,000 $474,950
Maryland Baltimore City 0.7% $560,000 $494,500
Oregon Multnomah 0.1% $418,750 $417,000

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2011 @ 11:39 am