ABC shows more concern about expanding police video surveillance than Mayor Lee


The SFPD has quietly expanded its reach and authority to obtain video surveillance from in and around bars, clubs, and markets through a condition it has begun recommending on new liquor licenses, as I reported in today's issue, effectively bypassing controls on city-operated surveillance cameras established through extensive public hearings in 2005.

But the Mayor's Office doesn't seem concerned about the new trend, echoing SFPD's point that it is the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control that decides whether to heed the SFPD's request to include the video surveillance condition. “There is no new policy. SFPD makes recommendations as far as I know, not requirements,” Mayoral Press Secretary Christine Falvey wrote to me in an email responses to our questions.

Certainly, everyone from bar owners to the ACLU to Sups. Scott Wiener and David Campos – who have called a hearing on the policy for later this month – consider it a new policy, or at least one that the public has just learned of after it was adopted internally right after the idea was shot down in public hearings in 2011.

ABC spokesperson John Carr had told me the department “routinely denied requests for conditions by SFPD per section 23800(e) of the Californian Business and Professions Code, occasionally these denials include the surveillance condition,” but he wasn't able to provide me any examples of that happening by press time.

But today, he was able to find one. On Oct. 3, 2012, ABC rejected the SFPD's request for video surveillance at Bush Market at 820 Bush on a quiet residential block of Nob Hill, noting that state law requires such requests be supported by “substantial evidence” that problems exist at the site that would be mitigated by the condition.

“I regret to inform you that the Department is unable to impose conditions pursuant to your request because no evidence was provided to establish that a problem exists at the premises or in it immediate vicinity,” ABC District Administrator Justin Gebb wrote in what was essentially a form letter.

Carr shared an identical letter that the ABC sent to the SFPD denying some of its requested conditions for another liquor license transfer on Feb. 12, this one for the Space 550 event venue at 550 Barneveld Ave. But in that case, the ABC decided to support the SFPD's request for video surveillance “that is able to view the inside and outside of the premises” and which must be given to the cops “upon demand.”

As I wrote in this week's paper, the ACLU considers that kind of extrajudicial expansion of the SFPD's ability to require and obtain video surveillance to be unconstitutional, and we furnished a copy of the article and the issues it raised to try to get a more substantial comment from the Mayor's Office, which seems to be less concerned with the civil rights of San Franciscans than the bureaucrats in Sacramento are.

“Balancing public safety with vibrant cultural and nightlife activities is a concern of mayor. He expects the Police Department to work in partnership with the neighborhood and its businesses to lawfully collect evidence that can help keep the public safe and neighborhoods active,” Falvey wrote.

So I had a few follow-up questions, for which I'm still awaiting answers, and I'll update this post if and when I get them: “The ACLU's position is that this is not a lawful way to collect evidence, and that it violates the state constitution's privacy protections and the rules San Francisco established in 2005 regulating when and how the SFPD may request and use video surveillance. Does the mayor reject those concerns and has he sought any legal advice to support his position? In the absence of any judicial review, shouldn't the city have some guidelines and policies governing this expansion of SFPD's video surveillance authority? Does the mayor believe the 2005 guidelines should no longer apply? And does the mayor agree with Sups. Wiener and Campos that it would be appropriate to have a public hearing on this issue, particularly given the strong public opposition to requiring expanded video surveillance by bars two years ago?”


one case where some extra invasiveness might help catch criminals, deter crime and otherwise make us feel safer?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 4:31 pm

Many laws hinge on permits and licenses.

If you have a private club that sells alcyhol you have to allow in the women folk.

The ACLU has actually been on the other side of these issues when it was working out for them.

Posted by Matlock on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

for equal rights with the SFPD's widespread abuse of people's privacy.

Very strange indeed.... and didn't "Matlock" used to use lowercase letters in his name?

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 9:44 am

A method is unfair when you like the outcome and unfair when you do not.

I believe you posted once that selective morality was not a progressive trait.

Posted by Matlock on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

So let's see....the SFPD makes recommendations, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control decides if they want to ignore them or not, and the BOS is scheduling hearings to review the details...everything is working like a Swiss watch.

Meanwhile the Mayor is focusing on the big items where he can make a real difference for the people of the city.

A 60% approval rating is too low, I tell ya!

I do feel a little sorry for Christine Falvey. Seems like she gets a regular workload of "When did Mayor Lee stop beating his wife?" type questions and she knows that, no matter how she responds, they they are for an article that will be titled "ABC shows more concern about expanding police video surveillance than Mayor Lee".

Which, BTW, is embarrassingly bad grammar for a 'journalist'. I think Steven meant to say that "ABC shows more concern about expanding police video surveillance than Mayor Lee DOES".

What he wrote implies that the ABC cares more about surveillance than they do about Mayor Lee.

No matter, doesn't change the bottom line, Mayor Lee is the BEST!!!

Posted by Troll on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 6:07 pm

Spoken like the taxpayer-paid flak that you are, Tony.

Posted by steven on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

others are paid to post here, that strikes most of us as ridiculous. SFBG has neither the readership nor the influence to warrant that.

Do you have a shred of evidence that anyone has EVER been paid to post here?

Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

They must have access to disappointing polling data that makes them insecure to the extent that they troll on the SFBG comments section.

Illegitimate power is always looking over its shoulder.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

Didn't think so.

Steven can maybe track the IP addreess, but I notice he has said nothing on that.

Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

If there was some operation being paid to post at these backwaters all they would have to do is get a dsl line and unplug the dsl modem every once and awhile.

Posted by Matlock on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 3:22 pm

. . . I wonder if the Guardian will ever get concerned about how the Human Rights Commission in November committed to a public hearing on the Castro rainbow, but because of political pressure and threats to the agency's budget, the public hearing has not happened. Excerpts from HRC minutes:

At the February 2nd meeting:

Director: I’ll tell you the issue … specific to Supervisor Wiener and this has happened on other issues … the issue about the flag. We were involved because a complaint was filed … we got involved and we continued to mediate it; (Michael) Petralis continued to want to have a public meeting. Director Sparks talked to Scott Wiener and suggested that maybe we would (hold a meeting); she said, “Scott Wiener went crazy…and he does not want a public meeting. He … called me and (Commissioner) Pappas the night that it was suggested at the commission.” He said, “I don’t care what you do,” “don’t have it” and that this is “my territory; this is my neighborhood” … “stay out.” Commissioner Mavis asks why this “wasn’t communicated to us?” Director states she told the Chair. Commissioner Mavis asks again why he was not told. Director says it was her opinion…….inaudible….

February 28, 2013 HRC Meeting:

Commissioner Mavis asks for change to minutes on page 8 under Item 7 – Open Discussion with Commissioners on Ideas for Advisory Committees. At the bottom of the page, there’s a line item “discussion of suggested meeting in District 8 and the flag issue.” His recollection, and he may have misheard this, at the meeting on February 2, 2013 when they discussed this issue, he understood the Director had said the Chair had decided we were not going to hold a public hearing regarding the raising of the Rainbow Flag as he (Commissioner Mavis) had suggested at the November 8, 2012 meeting, and that there were several meetings that had already taken place about this issue and these meetings were held outside the public hearing environment, and the Chair decided not to hold that hearing.

Furthermore, it was his understanding from this hearing on February 2, 2013, that the Director had said that Supervisor Wiener pointed out that if we were to hold a hearing on this issue, there might be a reduction in our funding or budget, so therefore he would like to reflect in the minutes that these issues are relevant and thinks it would be important to note the details accurately. Director Sparks said we can go back to listen to exactly what was said and we would be happy to note those details more accurately.

March 14 HRC meeting:

Chair Sweet assures the Commissioner that he has not received a threat and does not feel threatened. If a member of the Board of Supervisors were to express a sentiment along those lines to him, he would not change what they are trying to do. [...]

Commissioner Mavis wants to have a hearing, based on comments made by the Director at the February 2, 2013 “hearing” on whether or not we would or would not hold a public hearing on the raising of the Rainbow Flag at Harvey Milk Plaza. At the February 2 hearing, the Director stated that Supervisor Weiner said that we definitely should not hold a hearing on this issue, and she said that if we did, we would have our budget threatened if we held a hearing like that – “this is what I understood her to say,” and that this has happened on previous occasions. … He wants a hearing to have the Director discuss her comments. He wants to make a motion that at the first regular hearing date upon the Director’s return, we have her explain her comments. “I think it is appropriate to have this in public.” [...]

Posted by MPetrelis on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 7:25 am

What was the point of this?

Posted by Whackamole on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 7:41 am

Start any conversation on any topic and within ten minutes you can near guarantee that he try and change the subject to some obscure aspect of gay rights that almost nobody cares about.

It's his thang.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 8:21 am

The Saloon on Grant St. in San Francisco had its entrance bugged by the FBI allegedly to capture a couple of rogue North Beach cops ten years or more ago, and yet it was only a small squib in the paper. No one apparently objected.

Face it. We shamelessly and sheepishly gave our rights to privacy away.

Posted by SFreptile on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:54 pm

After reading the comments, it appears that a lot more is going on under the surface than we mortals can comprehend.

Perhaps we are due for a "Game of Thrones" type epic game where all the lightly veiled players in our little City/State of San Francisco can be posted on a massive game board.

I've got just the format. Let the games begin.

Posted by SFreptile on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

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