Chiu becomes City Hall's go-to guy for solving tough problems

David Chiu has become a more effective legislator since our last cover story profile of him on June 14, 2011.
Keeney and Law

At the start of this year, when I wrote a Guardian cover story profile of Sup. Scott Wiener (which SF Weekly and San Francisco Magazine followed shortly thereafter with their own long Wiener profiles), he seemed like the one to watch on the Board of Supervisors, even though I noted at the time that Board President David Chiu was actually the more prolific legislator.

Now, it’s starting to seem like maybe we all focused on the wrong guy, because it is Chiu and his bustling office of top aides that have done most of the heavy legislative lifting this year, finding compromise solutions to some of the most vexing issues facing the city (ironically, even cleaning up some of Wiener’s messes).

The latest example is Wiener’s CEQA reform legislation, which the board is poised to unanimously approve at today’s meeting, a kumbaya moment that belies the opposition and acrimony that accompanied its introduction. Rather than a battle between developers and the coalition of progressives, environmentalists, neighborhood activists, and historic preservationists, Chiu and board aide Judson True transformed the legislation into something that benefited both sides.

[UPDATE: For reactions to this post and another perspective on Chiu, read this.]

That effort comes on the heels of Chiu’s office solving another big, ugly, seemingly intractable fight: the condominium lottery bypass legislation sponsored by Wiener and Sup. Mark Farrell. To solve that one in the face of real estate industry intransigence, Chiu showed a willingness to play hardball and practice a bit of gamesmanship, winning over swing vote Sup. Norman Yee to get six votes using some hostile amendments to the legislation.

In the end, Chiu won enough support to override a possible veto by the waffling Mayor Ed Lee, who has always echoed Chiu’s rhetoric on seeking compromise and consensus and “getting things done,” but who lacks the political skills and willingness to really engage with all sides. For example, it was Chiu -- along with Sups. Farrell and David Campos -- who spent months forging a true compromise on the hospital projects proposed by California Pacific Medical Center, replacing the truly awful CPMC proposal that Lee readily accepted.

“It’s been a very long year,” Chiu told the Guardian. “It’s been important for me to not just to seek common ground, but legislative solutions that reflect our shared San Francisco values.”

Next, Chiu will wade into another thorny legislative thicket by introducing legislation that will regulate the operations of Airbnb, the online shared housing share corporation whose basic business model often violates local landlord-tenant laws, zoning codes, and lease conditions, in addition to openly defying rulings that it should be paying the city’s transient occupancy tax.      

“This challenge has been particularly difficult,” Chiu told us, referring the many hard-to-solve issues raised by companies such as Airbnb, who Chiu and board aide Amy Chan have been working with for several months. In fact, after originally predicting the legislation would be introduced before the board takes its August recess, Chiu now tells us it may need a bit more time to hammer out the details.

We’ll be watching to see how he sorts through the many tough issues raised by Airbnb’s approach, here and in other big cities with complicated landlord-tenant relations, which I will be exploring in-depth in an upcoming Guardian cover story. But if there’s anyone at City Hall capable of solving this one, it’s probably Chiu.


Just because you are more important than everyone else?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 11:45 pm

This would have been a big win for Bike Messengers, but not much for anyone else.

Posted by Richmondman on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

On the contrary, richmondman. The biggest new ridership up and down Polk will be tourists using bike share or rentals and heading to and from fisherman's wharf. That's a lot of potential sales.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 2:45 pm

Yes, and that sobering fact should be on every rider's mind, so that we understand that the elderly in particular, often don't survive falls. Everybody needs to ride responsibly. That said, each year about 20 pedestrians get hit and killed by drivers in SF. That's in addition to the annual near 900 reported car-pedestrian injury collisions. Statistics don't kill; people do.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 2:51 pm

Nor do the very young or the disabled.

The vast majority of cyclists are young, fit healthy white people. And they want everything their way, as yuppies always do.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 11:46 pm

You do realize how nuts you sound, right? We can't suggest that better bike lanes on Polk make sense because two bicyclists have killed pedestrians? So what does that mean for drivers of cars - they can't complain about ANYTHING because of how many pedestrians cars have killed? You've won the non-sequitor contest!!!

Posted by yentu on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 4:09 pm
Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 11:27 pm

Once again Steve the Corporate Reporter gets on his knees and gives a non progressive a big pseudojournalistic BJ, sucking up to power, as it were. This is the new corporate Progressivism in full force. Good thing Tim isn't around to observe this kind of fluffing. Protip: get some mouth wash in your mouth in between sessions...

Posted by corporate reporting sucks on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 5:01 pm

they want to tax airbnb because it is the path of least resistance. what makes it fair for me to rent short term on CL, and not pay the tax, and CL of course can't be charged, but if I rent on airbnb, they do get charged the tax?
most sf issues are resolved around tenant's as the special interest group - and only those who have low rents for a long time. tenants groups could care less about low income people, hence they now say they have rent control for the "creative classes" and fight tooth and nail means testing. they think if someone got a rent controlled apt thirty years ago and now makes a half million a year, them keeping a low rent apt helps keep diversity or some such crap. what's that logic? I meet long term tenants here all the time who invest their money in real estate outside sf and laugh about what a great deal they have - at their landlord's expense. of course, the pool or rent controlled apts will keep decreasing and the people rent control was designed to help will get shafted by the "creative classes" and their friends who lucked out - regardless of their income, regardless of what city they actually commute to for work. rent control has no fairness per current policy.

Posted by Ray on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 9:54 pm

Sorry, everyone, that's it for now. Come to our forum tonight or send a letter to if you want to comment further this week.

Posted by steven on Jul. 31, 2013 @ 8:18 am