Supervisors pose tough but important questions to Mayor Lee

Mayor Lee gives a fine political speech, but he's often evasive in addressing the real issues this city faces.
Tim Daw

There’s a full agenda at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting today, from the condo conversion lottery bypass legislation to approval of the term sheet from the massive development project at Pier 70, but some of the most interesting and potentially newsworthy items are at the very beginning of the agenda, when Mayor Ed Lee will answer questions posed by the supervisors.

Unfortunately, if past is prologue, Lee won’t give direct, substantive answers to the vitally important questions that he’s being asked, just as he dodged a question on the condo conversion debate in February and has kept everyone in the dark of which of the rival measures he supports and which he may veto. Mayoral leadership was desperately needed on that protracted debate, just as it’s needed today on some of the questions he’s being asked.

The first question, posed by Sup. Eric Mar, concerns Plan Bay Area and how it plans to pack 280,000 more people into San Francisco by 2040, which was the subject of a May 28 Bay Guardian cover story and panel dicussion that we’re sponsoring at the LGBT Center tomorrow night.

Mar lays out the massive displacement of existing residents and the traffic gridlock that the plan will create in San Francisco and how the approval process from much of this streamlined development may be given waivers from California Environmental Quality Act review.

Mar notes more than 40 regional groups have come together to try to improve the plan and mitigate its damage, and he plans to ask Lee:

“A consensus has formed around the following recommendations for making Plan Bay Area better:

- Provide $3 billion in additional operating revenue for local transit service and commit to a long-range ‘Regional Transit Operating Program’ to boost transit operating subsidies by another $9 billion over the coming years.

- Move 5 percent of the housing growth from low-income communities (mainly San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose) to transit-connected suburban job centers.

- Incorporate strong anti-displacement policies for community stabilization measures, such as land banking and preservation of affordable housing in at-risk neighborhoods.

- Director the Planning Department to analyze the impacts of potential CEQA streamling as soon as possible and create strong mitigation measures.

Do you support these measure, and are you committed to a plan with lower displacement level than the current proposal? If you do not support these ideas, why not?”

Excellent  question, and definitely an appropriate one for our chief executive officer, who would have more clout to push for these changes than any of the supervisors.

The second question comes from Board President David Chiu, who makes news by noting that Mayor Lee has continued his predecessor’s underhanded practice of refusing to fill city positions to provide services that the supervisors have decided to fund in the budget, undermining the city’s balance of power and Lee’s rhetoric on collaboration.

“In recent months, Controller data indicates that positions allocated by the Board for librarians, recreation and park staff, building inspection, health and labor enforcement, urban agriculture and other Board priorities were either not filled or only recently hired. Will you commit to ensuring that when the FY 13-14 budget is approved, our Board of Supervisors’ priorities are treated equally to your Administration’s, with positions filled as soon as possible?”

Again, great question about an important current issue, the kind of thing that voters created this question time for, to ensure that there was communication and collaboration between these two branches of government.

The last two questions concern San Francisco’s housing crisis. Sup. David Campos cites the scatching report that he commissioned from the Budget and Legislative Analyst on the dysfunctional and mordibund Housing Authority, which Lee controls, asking “what is your long term vision to save public housing -- a significant public asset to San Francisco?”

Sup. John Avalos cites data on the skyrocketing rents in San Francisco and asks, “Are you concerned that your administration’s policies to stimulate economic activity, especially supporting the tech industry, have created one-sided development and only job for high-income ‘appsters,’ and have exacerbated the already extremely limited housing market? Do you have any plans to address the increasing rents, and increasing rate of evictions and displacement of long-time San Francisco renters?”

These are tough questions, but they are central to what kind of city San Francisco is becoming. They were all submitted last week, so the mayor has had time to think about them and he should provide answers and show leadership on these difficult issues. That is his job.

Will he? Check back later and I’ll let you know. The meeting starts at 2pm.