Lee appoints Santos, a staunch development advocate, to CCSF board

Mayor Ed Lee announces the appointment of Rodrigo Santos (left) to the CCSF Board of Trustees.
Steven T. Jones

Rodrigo Santos, a structural engineer who heads the pro-development advocacy group San Francisco Coalition for Responsible Growth, had already raised an unheard of amount of money in his race for the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees, $113,153 in just six months, mostly from real estate and development interests.

Today, he got another big boost when Mayor Ed Lee appointed Santos to fill the vacancy on that board created by the recent death of Milton Marks, giving the ambitious Santos a big advantage in the fall contest and perhaps signaling Lee's support for making deep program cuts to satisfy the accrediting commission's demand that CCSF cut expenditures and beef up its reserves.

“Tough decisions and reform are what City College needs at this time,” Lee said at a press conference this afternoon, calling Santos “someone who shares my vision of reform and will support the tough decisions ahead.”

Although Lee said Santos “is committed and passionate about education,” Santos hasn't been active on education issues before running for this office. His passions seem to lie mostly with advocating for developers and opposing government regulations in front of the Planning Commission and other bodies, where he regularly testifies, and in helping fellow conservatives gain power on city boards and commissions.

The appointment continues Lee's pattern of appointing and relying on controversial conservatives in key areas, from his chief fundraiser and economic adviser, venture capitalist Ron Conway, to his recent reappointment to the Planning Commission of Republican Michael Antonini, who gave Santos the maximum $500 contribution in his CCSF race.

“I join an institution that must be saved. I am absolutely committed to that goal,” Santos told a press conference in the Mayor's Office. He said that he will work to “achieve consensus” around solutions to the troubled institution's problems, while also declaring, “We must support the interim chancellor, Pamila Fisher.”

But rather than someone who seeks political compromise, Santos' reputation is as more of polarizing and ideologically conservative firebrand who regularly criticizes government and progressives as part of the downtown alliance that includes Plan C, Committee on Jobs, Building Owners and Managers Association, the SF Chamber of Commerce, and the Board of Realtors PAC

“I actually find him to be pretty divisive in trying to work on issues at [the Department of Building Inspection],” Debra Walker, who served with Santos on the Building Inspection Commission. “He always seems to come into a situation attacking and I hope he doesn't bring that to this board.”

Walker, a longtime progressive activist and former supervisorial candidate, said that she and her political allies have long endured nasty attacks from Santos and his CRG bretheren.

“They spend all of their time attacking progressives and he gets pretty intense about attacking rather than working with people,” she said. “CRG is about getting people elected who are conservative, that's their whole reason for existence, perpetuating the real estate industry's impact of city policies, which has had a negative impact on the middle class.”

Asked about that reputation by the Guardian, both Lee and Santos denied it and refused to answer follow-up questions. Santos said CRG has a “diverse membership” and told us, “I don't know why you would cast that as polarizing.”

Yet its board is made up almost exclusively of real estate and development interests who have shown themselves to be politically ambitious, winning key mayoral appointments to the Building Inspection and Small Business commissions and working with mayoral staffers to hold onto key leadership positions, edging out supervisorial appointees in the process.

Sup. John Avalos, who was targeted by a CRG independent expenditure campaign in 2008, said that he researched Santos' background on education issues and was a little surprised not to find anything. “More than anything, the appointment says more about Lee's pro business leanings,” Avalos told us.

It was also telling that Lee included two of the most conservative CCSF trustees in his press conference, Natalie Berg and Anita Grier, but that more liberal trustees Chris Jackson and John Rizzo were neither consulted nor notified directly about the appointment. “I'm sorry the mayor didn't involve us more or let us know,” Rizzo told us.

While Rizzo didn't endorse Santos – instead backing Jackson, Steve Ngo, and Rafael Mandelman (who Rizzo said “really does have the best interests of the district at heart”) – he didn't want to offer an opinion on Santos, saying that he wants to work constructively with him to solve the district's problems: “I welcome him to the board and hope he will welcome the work we've been doing.”

Santos told reporters that he starts every work day with an “open house” at his office from 5:20-8am, discussing various issues with anyone who wants to stop by, before getting into his engineering and administrative work for his firm, Santos & Urrutia. “I will bring that same commitment to City College,” he pledged.


How exactly?

Let's all be honest here - Mandelman and Santos want this position because they enjoy politics and like telling other people what to do. Mandelman has a long record of being appointed to commissions like the Board of Appeals and the Building Inspection Commission which are usually jumping off points to elected positions on either the Board of Supervisors or elsewhere. He ran for and was defeated for a position on the BOS before this position opened up. Beyond his desire to use this as a springboard for some other elected office (probably BOS or Assembly) why is he interested in education? He has no children in either the SFUSD or CCSF, didn't attend SFCC himself and grew up attending elite private schools as both a child and then for his undergraduate (Yale), graduate (Harvard) and law school (Boalt) educations. Well - Boalt is public so I'll give him that.

So in the end how different is Mandelman from Santos other than the fact that they may view the world slightly differently on the left-right spectrum? They are both machine candidates - they've each just spent their lives working on slightly different parts of it.

Posted by Troll II on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

We fault Mandelman on the College Board because he doesn't have children? Are you kidding?

Posted by CitiReport on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 5:05 pm

who'd run for the fucking water board if he thought it would get him into higher office. He doesn't give a shit about SFCC - he's attended elite private schools his whole life, from elementary through graduate school. Give me a goddamn break - you people are pathetic and just BEG to be used by douche bags like Mandelman.

Posted by Troll II on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 8:42 pm

Ed Lee spits on the legacy of Milton Marks.

It's Ok. We'll defeat this guy. Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom did the same thing, and their appointees usually got thrown off the board pretty promptly. Remember when Ackerman was going to hold that election night press conference for her pet commissioner Heather Hiles to celebrate her victory, only to have to hastily cancel it when the returns started coming in?

Posted by Greg on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 6:25 pm

Shades of Heather Hiles.

Posted by marcos on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 7:35 pm

Of the SFBG and Debra Walker complaining about the lack of civility and compromise that Santos is capable of?

Posted by D. native on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 9:10 pm

Except when it doesn't - like with Ross Mirkarimi.

Posted by Troll II on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 9:21 pm

Didn't the BG just run an article touting how Avalos and Campos never compromise and refuse to move towards the middle? So it's a virtue if they refuse to compromise but abhorrent if Santos does?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2012 @ 11:03 am

"Civility" is one of those red herring issues that nobody really gives a damn about.

I support Rafi (and oppose Santos) for the same reason that folks like Troll and D. Native take the opposite position. I generally agree philosophically with progressives, and they agree philosophically with moderates/conservatives/whatever.

But there's a basic fact that can't be ignored in this race. City college has been brought to its knees because of rampant corruption, mismanagement, and neglect of the needs of students and faculty, in favor of administrators and various private companies leeching off the college.

One faction of the board, led by Milton Marks, fought to expose the mess.

The other faction, led by Natalie Berg, fought to keep it covered up.

Everybody who's paying attention knows very well that Rafi will align himself with the former, and this guy Santos will be part of the latter. The rest of the rhetoric-kids/no kids, civility/lack of civility, etc etc -that stuff is just spin.

If city college is going to come out of this and survive, it is critical that we don't go back to the bad old days of corruption and cover-up. In that regard, Rafi is exactly the kind of person City College needs, and Santos is exactly what we don't.

Posted by Greg on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 9:40 pm

"Walker, a longtime progressive activist and former supervisorial candidate, said that she and her political allies have long endured nasty attacks from Santos and his CRG bretheren."......Walker, I believe she was beaten by JANE KIM, and I believe that KIM has no affiliation to the so called CRG, so maybe this could be classified as SOUR GRAPES.

Posted by Fly on the wall on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 9:44 pm

thrashed in that election. She just doesn't understand how she turns people off. She's had the full charisma bypass operation.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 10:29 pm

Who cares that Wong is Asian and gay? He ain't showing up to meetings because he's partying down in South America. Remind me again why we need identity politics dictating who gets elected or appointed to boards and such in this town. I think I missed CCSF watchdogs taking Wong to task for his vacations.

Check this out:

City College trustees have long been paid $500 per month, regardless of attendance. As a result, some members have frequently collected their stipends despite absences — including veteran trustee Lawrence Wong, who has regularly missed meetings to vacation in Brazil.

Read more at the San Francisco Examiner: http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/education/2012/08/no-pay-absent-ccsf-tru...

Posted by MPetrelis on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 9:47 pm

How is reappointing Antonini 'controversial'? He has established senior credentials as a planning commissioner. Is it controversial because Lee appointed someone who doesn't vote the way that the SFBG wants him to? Is that what goes for 'controversial' around here?

Also, note how Steven is documenting "Lee's pattern of appointing and relying on controversial conservatives in key areas" but he has to leave out the biggest appointment that Lee has made to date, the D5 Supervisor.

Anyway, I don't know much about the CCSF board or Santos but after reading this article I am really excited about Lee's choice. Of course, Steven feels that Lee has a responsibility to pick someone that the SFBG approves of. Luckily, Lee knows better..

Posted by Troll on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 9:57 pm

When the trolls engage in these anonymous personal attacks you can bet the points are making a difference. Attack progressive leaders all you like, Most are used to it from you all. These silly little personal attacks mean nothing exept to tell people the articles are likely true and effective. Otherwise you wouldn't be paid to troll around here.
CRG and Santos have reduced political dialogue from the SF right to a sorry defense of a weasly little mayor hiding behind bullies handing over the city one contract at time to his corrupt friends.

Keep it up....you will be winning elections for the left again and again.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2012 @ 6:23 am

That really works well, a political strategy that centers around the incompetence of your opponents. This is all that is left when there is an existential fear of articulating a broad, coherent vision that speaks to constituencies outside the traditional progressive comfort zone.

Posted by marcos on Aug. 22, 2012 @ 6:52 am

Just what we need, a developer lobbyist appointed to a position which spends public capital on development projects!

Posted by marcos on Aug. 22, 2012 @ 6:49 am

Eliana Lopez confirmed that she's the newest member of Pussy Riot.

Posted by Orwell's Uterus on Aug. 22, 2012 @ 7:11 am

Meanwhile, the Examiner which owns the Guardian says this:

"CCSF board pick the right one for current situation"


(can't give link due to spam filter).

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2012 @ 4:25 pm

The Examiner doesn't own the Guardian. Both papers are owned by the same people and we are each editorially independent.

Posted by steven on Aug. 27, 2012 @ 10:54 am

Well when the sale of the BG happened, it was widely reported that the Examiner was buying the Guardian, which implies what I wrote previously (ownership). My point is that when the sale happened, as I recall, the Examiner had a new owner and was touted as being "progressive." Since then, I've seen articles written by the Examiner counter to the opinions expressed in the Guardian (such as this Lee appoints Santos article). If the "new" Examiner were truly as touted ("progressive") it seems to me they would not be counter to what I read in the Guardian, regardless of each being editorially independent.

I'm getting the impression that the Examiner is not really "progressive" as it was said to be at the time of the sale (it seems to be more pro-Establishment), from what I read on their site.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 27, 2012 @ 4:22 pm

Why would it need to be?

It covers news in a mainstream way because that is it's target audience i.e. the majority who are moderate. Ditto for the Chron.

The SFBG is for the "progessive" minority and there quite simply aren't enough of them to justify two papers - maybe not even enough to justify one.

It's hardly a merger of equals and if there is any conflict between the two papers, the Examiner would trump the SFBG.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 27, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

"i.e. the majority who are moderate. Ditto for the Chron."

"Moderate" is newsspeak for conservative/right-wing.

You're fooling no one with your attempt at newsspeak.

SFGate has the most hateful comments of any site I've seen. There's nothing "moderate" about hate.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 27, 2012 @ 9:55 pm