Plan C, and the C stands for Condo conversions

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No politically savvy San Franciscan has ever really bought the rhetoric espoused by the so-called “moderate” political action group Plan C that it's all about finding middle ground between what its website calls “a 'downtown' machine, and a far-left, dogmatic, so-called 'progressive' machine.” As if that unbalanced labeling wasn't enough of a indicator, the fact that its funding comes from all the biggest cogs in the downtown machine should be.

But now, as the group's members aggressively work to open the flood gates on converting San Francisco's rent-controlled apartments into privately controlled condominiums, it's become more clear than ever that the C stands for Condo and that the financially motivated group is moving the agenda of the real-estate and investment interests that dominate its Board of Directors.

City Hall sources connected to the ongoing meetings that Sups. David Chiu and Mark Farrell have been holding with stakeholders on the controversial condo lottery bypass legislation sponsored by Farrell and Sup. Scott Wiener say there were indications of possible compromise that came out of the first mediation meeting.

That one primarily involved the tenant advocates who have led the charge against the legislation and the representatives for tenancy-in-common owners seeking to buy a bypass to the city's condo conversion lottery that only allows 200 new condos per year. There were whispers that came from that meeting of a compromise that would allow a one-time bypass in exchange for shutting down the lottery for several years, or indexing it to the construction of new housing for low-income San Franciscans.

Since then, the sources say, Plan C and their partners in the real-estate industry have dominated the meetings with their dogmatic advocacy for indefinitely allowing the maximum number of condo conversions. Despite public statements by Farrell and Wiener that they just want to clear out some backlog without encouraging more landlords to convert apartments to TICs in the future, Plan C just wants to feed more affordable apartments into the expensive real estate market.

Some basic research on the group and its Board of Directors seems to show that this position is about financial self-interest rather than values or ideology.

Plan C Co-Chair Steve Adams is a regional manager for Sterling Bank & Trust, which has consistently been one of the city's top TIC lenders and which recently sponsored a forum encouraging more conversion of apartments, promising to increase its loan volume, and painting a rosy picture of the TIC financing market that belies Wiener's claims that TIC owners can't get financial relief and need the city's intervention.

One of the key presenters at that symposium was TIC attorney Lyssa Paul, who is also a Plan C board member and someone who makes her living creating more TICs. Other members of the 12-member board who make their living in the real estate industry and benefit directly for TICs conversions are Amanda Jones and Brian Hecktman. Other bankers or investment managers on the board that benefit from the TIC business are Ashley Lyon and Bob Gain.

Co-Chair Mike Sullivan is a venture capital attorney who created Plan C in 2001 and used it to help then-Sup. Gavin Newsom sell his Care Not Cash homelessness plan and run for mayor. Randy Brasche is in software marketing and got involved in the issue being frustrated with the condo lottery and [[CORRECTION/DELETION: last year]] forming the San Francisco TIC Coalition.

Board member David Fix is [[CORRECTION/ADDITION: the former]] president of the Small Property Owners of San Francisco, so it's possible that his interest is as much ideological as financial, particularly given his past public statements against rent control. That may also be the case with Baha Hariri, a principal at A&F Properties and the former political director of the downtown-funded-and-created Committee on Jobs.

Among the downtown players that fund Plan C, which was sitting on $73,872 in the bank as of the start of this year, are the Committee on Jobs, the San Francisco Association of Realtors, PG&E, San Francisco Apartment Association, Small Property Owners of San Francisco, Shorenstein Realty, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, and venture capitalist Ron Conway.

So Plan C appears to be little more than Plan A's deceptive effort to push Plan Condo. BTW, I've been waiting more than 24 hours now to get a call back from the Plan C board, after leaving a message with its only paid administrator, Richard Magary, who told me Sullivan and his colleagues are all quite busy now. But I'll be happy to update this post if and when I hear back.

2/22 UPDATE: Still no call back from Plan C, but Fix made a comment requesting the two minor corrections above. C'mon, Plan C, gimme a call, what are you so afraid of?