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.”


Don't Charter commissioners have to be electors or is that just for the biggies like Police, Fire, Planning etc?

Posted by marcos on Jan. 11, 2012 @ 8:29 pm

Ah, the Entertainment Commission. Ironically, the most boring commission.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 12, 2012 @ 2:52 am

Does anyone over 25 even care about nightclubs?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 12, 2012 @ 7:06 am

Of course people over 25 don't care about night clubs and since nobody undeer 25 can afford to live here, we can dispense with the commission, night life, nightclubs, entertainment, and hell, let's just dispense with San Francisco entirely while we're at it since most of the people on this blog hate everything about it. Thanks for the suggestion!

Posted by Anonymous on Jan. 12, 2012 @ 9:15 am

to the city, nightclubs don't feature in the top hundred.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 12, 2012 @ 11:01 am

Wow, the old fuddy-duddy contingent is out in force. Yes, nightlife and culture are very important to San Francisco, just as they are to all great cities. I hate to break it to you, but most people of all ages go out at night, at least occassionally. For the rest of you, I don't know why you don't just move to the suburbs, it's cheaper and quieter. And even if you don't like music and people, you must accept the fact that clubs are an important economic engine for the city that employs tens of thousands of people, adds to our tax base, and makes people want to come here, spend money, and contribute to the vitality of this urban center.

Posted by steven on Jan. 12, 2012 @ 12:22 pm

Nightlife is a very important part of San Francisco's economic and cultural engine and there has long been a bias in favor of "neighborhood" concerns - which are usually dominated by old NIMBYS.

It's scandalous that someone who is not a San Franciscan should be serving in place of a San Franciscan who is eminently qualified. Shameful and scandalous.

On this issue, as on most nightlife issues he writes about, Steven Jones is in the right.

Posted by H. Monk-Brown CI on Jan. 12, 2012 @ 12:59 pm

Steven, in San Francisco land use planning is all about making money, but there is something to be said about anticipating conflicts in land uses and zoning accordingly.

The one thing that liberals and conservatives in this town agree on is that their pet projects should move forward no matter the consequences on SF residents which results in a tacit agreement to supplant residents with activists and advocates in decision making.

Activists in front of and leading the people has failed the progressive movement. We don't know nothing special, really. Activist and advocate ideas and solutions aren't generally as good as the critiques are.

Occupy should have given us a huge dose of humility on how to build majoritarian coalitions. When you tout entertainment's value as an economic engine and job creator, you sound like Ed Lee or John Boner.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 12, 2012 @ 1:10 pm

If I sound like John "Boner" when talking about the economic value of nightlife, you sound like Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, etc. in your fundamental misunderstanding of basic economics, particularly that of local or regional communities. Or just some other unfun, old fart/NIMBY

Posted by Guest on Jan. 12, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

Actually you're the most boring commenter here.

Posted by Anonymous on Jan. 12, 2012 @ 9:13 am

When the City decides to relax the rules on what businesses in or near residential zones can have more live entertainment, then people over 25 care about nightclubs.

Remember that big spat a few years back when the contest was between the thousands of low income SRO residents on 6th street and Club 6?

Posted by marcos on Jan. 12, 2012 @ 7:42 am

Marcos, this just really point further to your misunderstanding of the issues about the local SF "5 to 9" economy. This past year, the Board of Supes passed legislation that created a "limited live performance permit" to allow more flexibility in what kinds of entertainment were allowed in certain neighborhoods before 10PM. Think that if the kids can turn down the racket by 10 o'clock, that's OK?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 12, 2012 @ 3:21 pm

It is very important for us to pay attention to the enfranchisement - or potential disenfranchisement - of the LGBT community in San Francisco. We have worked very hard to create a unique freedom in SF that exists no where else on earth. The price of this freedom is eternal vigilance against forces of ignorance that will attempt to take those freedoms away.

Posted by Brian Basinger on Jan. 14, 2012 @ 10:25 am

that's always a bad idea. Card playing should have no place in our power structures.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 14, 2012 @ 10:58 am