The two defining votes of 2012

hospital left, condos right

The Board of Supervisors will be facing two votes in the next couple of months that will define this board, establish the extent of the mayor's political clout -- and potentially play a decisive role in the political futures of several board members.

Oh: They'll also have a lasting impact on the future of this city.

I'm talking about 8 Washington and CPMC -- one of them the most important vote on housing policy to come along in years, the other a profound decision that will change the face of the city and alter the health-care infrastructure for decades to come.

Both projects have cleared the Planning Commission, as expected. Neither can go forward without approval from a majority of the supervisors. And there will be intense downtown lobbying on both of them.

The 8 Washington project would create what developer Simon Snellgrove calls the most expensive condos ever built in San Francisco. A piece of waterfront property would become a gated community for the very, very rich, many of whom won't even live here most of the time. If it's approved, the economy won't collapse, neighborhoods won't be destroyed -- but it will make a powerful statement about the city's housing policy. The message: We build housing for the 1 percent. We are a city that caters only to one very tiny group of people. We are willing to let the needs of the few drive our policy over the needs of the many.

Face it: There is no shortage of housing for the people who will buy Snellgrove's condos. There's a severe shortage of housing for most of the people who actually work in San Francisco. And the city's housing policy is so scewed up that it's making things worse. That's the message of 8 Washington.

Then there's CPMC. California Pacific Medical Center wants to put a snazzy state-of-the art new medical center on Van Ness, which is all well and good. But the giant nonprofit Sutter Health, which operates CPMC, has been openly hostile to some of the city's demands (for housing, transit and other environmental mitigiation) and the proposal that Mayor Ed Lee has signed off on is way out of balance. There's not anything even close to a reasonable link between jobs and housing -- which will impact the entire city. You bring in a lot of new workers and don't help build enough housing for them and everyone's rent goes up.

CPMC also wants to radically downsize St. Luke's Hospital, the only full-service facility on the south side of town except for the overcrowded and overloaded SF General. Health care for a sizable part of the city will suffer.

This is a very big deal, and the Chamber of Commerce is pushing hard for the supes to approve it. A lot of labor and the entire affordable housing community is against it.

So put those two votes in front of a board where the progressive majority has been very shaky of late -- and where Lee will be working hard to line up six votes -- and you've got potential political dynamite. Supervisor John Avalos told me he has serious concerns about both projects. Sup. David Campos told me he feels the same way. Sup Eric Mar is unlikely to vote for 8 Washington and unlikely to oppose the health-care workers and the progressive leaders who want to block the CPMC deal and make Sutter come back with a better offer, but some elements of labor are pushing hard for 8 Washington and Mar is up for re-election in one of the city's swing districts.

Sup. David Chiu is against 8 Washington. I've called Sups. Jane Kim and Christina Olague (who was not a fan of the project when she was on the Planning Commission) but they haven't gotten back to me. Olague is running for re-election this fall in the city's most progressive district, one that's right on the edge of the CPMC project site; Kim's district is on the other edge.

You can't really count to six on either of these projects without getting Chiu and/or Kim and/or Olague. Chiu has no progressive opposition, but if he supports the CPMC deal, someone may decide to challenge him. If Olague supports either project, it will give her opponents plenty of fodder for the fall campaign (John Rizzo, who is running against her, told me he opposes both). If Olague opposes the two projects, it's going to be much harder for anyone to run against her from the left since she will have demonstrated that she can stand up the mayor on tough issues.

I'll let you know if I hear more.