Should city commissioners live in San Francisco?


Overriding the Rules Committee recommendation and dissing Sup. Scott Wiener – who has taken a lead role on protecting nightlife from critical cops and NIMBY neighbors – the Board of Supervisors yesterday voted to appoint Glas Kat Supper Club owner Steven Lee to the Entertainment Commission, even though he doesn't live in the city and needed a special residency waiver. UPDATE (1/12, 3 PM): Sup. Sean Elsbernd informs us that the City Attorney's Office has ruled residency waivers can't be used with Charter Commissions such as Entertainment, thus invalidating this appointment. 

Why would supervisors do so when Castro club owner Tim Eicher, Wiener's pick and the Rules Committee's choice, was well-qualified, anxious to serve, and actually lives in the city? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that sources say Chinatown political fixer Rose Pak and Pak protege David Ho are close to Lee and have been lobbying on his behalf. Or that Wiener said Lee supporters have been making the argument that there are already too many gay men on the commission.

“Nightlife issues are important tot he LGBT community,” Wiener said, noting that he was disappointed that Lee supporters have made that argument, particularly because he noted the LGBT people are underrepresented on many city commissions, particularly the powerful Planning and Airport commissions, where there are none.

Whatever the case, it made for a tense discussion at the board yesterday, followed by a vote that didn't break along normal ideological lines. The motion by Sup. Eric Mar to substitute Lee for Eicher was approved on a 6-5 vote, with Sups. David Campos, Carmen Chu, Sean Elsbernd, Mark Farrell, and Wiener opposed.

Lee supporters noted that he has lived and worked in San Francisco for decades even though he has recently moved down the peninsula to help care for an aging father and disabled brother. For three generations, Lee's family has been opening and operating businesses in San Francisco, including nightclubs.

“I felt his experience was somewhat superior,” Sup. John Avalos said of his reason for backing Lee.

But those who voted against Lee said it's a troubling precedent to choose an out-of-towner over a city resident. “To grant a residency waiver for someone when we have a qualified San Francisco candidate is something we just don't do,” Farrell said.

Sup. Jane Kim cited examples of other appointees that had such waivers, but Elsbernd angrily retorted that those were for seats that no city residents had applied for. And if Sup. Malia Cohen gets her way, there will be even more non-residents being appointed to city commissions. She said that she intends to recommend African Americans who have left the city to serve on various commissions, and she told her colleagues that she expects their future support for that effort.

After the hearing, both Lee and Ho downplayed Pak's role in the move, telling the Guardian that Lee had key supporters in many of the supervisorial districts. “I've been doing this on my own,” Lee said. “I never asked Rose to help me.”

As for his priorities on the Entertainment Commission, Lee said, “Obviously, our main goal is public safety, but also working with the neighbors.”