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Politics & Policy

Ending emergencies and the scooter scourge: Supervisors roundup

Pedestrians and unhoused individuals stroll past the Tenderloin Center, formerly known as the Linkage Center, at Civic Center on May 10, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Mayor London Breed made her monthly appearance before the board, and since she had no questions from colleagues, she addressed recent statements by Gov. Gavin Newsom that he would end the state emergency declaration around Covid in February. 

“This pandemic has been long, and Covid is not going away, but the severity of it that marked the early days is truly behind us,” Breed said. “Now we have to manage and focus on recovery.”

The mayor said her office is working with the city attorney and other agencies to explore the next step in winding down the statewide emergency declaration, including implications for the FEMA reimbursements that have helped keep the city running, as well as the future of remote meetings.

Fourplex Happily Ever After, Minus One

The board touched on multiple issues around the city’s favorite wedge issue, the housing shortage, first by authorizing application to the state Department of Housing and Community Development for a “pro-housing” designation, which would earn the city priority access to development grants. 

While the vote was unanimous, it also featured comments from supervisors who have a few bones to pick with California’s new pro-housing-supply policies. 

Supervisor Dean Preston called the criteria for the designation “a real estate and development industry wish list” and added, “I can’t let this go without commenting on the propaganda that our state legislature has allowed to infect this program/]. […] It’s worth asking why the state legislature thought it was OK to use an industry propaganda term in a state law,” earning concurrence from colleagues Hillary Ronen and Connie Chan

Later in the session, the board, as predicted, approved the latest version of the up-to-now star-crossed “fourplex” legislation, that will allow owners to develop up to four units per lot, or up to six units on corner lots, in residential districts—as long as they meet certain criteria. 

Those criteria have up until now have had multiple sticking points, but apparently this time, the bill really has managed to please more people. Not yet pleased, however, was Board President Shamann Walton, the only member to vote against the bill.  

Further on in the agenda, the supervisors approved holding a Committee of the Whole hearing on the possibly also star-crossed Housing Element draft on Nov. 15. 

And during Roll Call, member Gordon Mar requested a report from the Budget and Legislative Analyst on the feasibility of that newest policy fad, converting commercial office and retail space into housing. We hear the draft will consist of a single page with four words: “Good Luck With That.”

Scooters: Please, Fence Them Off

A commuter rides an e-scooter on Townsend Street in San Francisco on March 19, 2019. | Photo by Paul Chinn/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images | Source: Photo by Paul Chinn/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution urging the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency to crack down on electric scooter rental services that have yet to install geofencing software, which aims to prevent their rolling stock from being ridden on sidewalks, among other safety violations. 

Prior to the vote, chief sponsor Aaron Peskin railed against what he called “the scourge of e-scooter-sidewalk-riding,” noting a rash of collisions involving the two-wheelers and generally excoriating “disruptive” e-scooter companies and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. 

“Frankly, the MTA is just not stepping up their game,” Peskin said.

He added that agency directors, including Transportation Director Jeffrey Tumlin, don’t “seem to care” that what was supposed to be a “last-mile solution” for residents was instead “mostly a joyride for tourists who are freaking out our residents,” while citing a threefold increase in fatalities involving the vehicles. 

Hunters Point Task Force Coming

The board also unanimously approved a resolution responding to the recent Civil Grand Jury report on environmental problems at the Hunters Point shipyard, calling for independent review of the cleanup and citing “serious but poorly understood risks” from sea-level rise on the ability to continue containing pollution on the site. 

Speaking to the report and community concerns, Walton, who represents Hunters Point, said he looked forward to forming a task force on the cleanup. 

“I know there are some folks who want us to be able to do more, and most certainly, believe me, there are things which I would rather be in a position to do, to push the Navy and all the authorities that are involved to ensure that the shipyard is entirely clean,” Walton said. 

Meanwhile, Mayor Breed stands by the current amelioration plan carried out by the Navy and overseen by federal and state agencies. 

Others showed less confidence with either approach. 

During public comment, longtime Hunters Point watcher and public health activist Ahimsa Sumchai used the public comment period, defying board rules, to call on San Francisco Health Officer Susan Philip to declare a health emergency at the shipyard and surrounding area. She was escorted out by deputies. 

More Roll Call: Checking Sideshows, Tenderloin Center and Rethinking the Travel Ban

In new business, Supervisor Matt Dorsey announced a letter of inquiry to SFMTA along with the San Francisco Police Department and the city’s Department of Public Works on the incidence, costs and possible remedies for automotive sideshows. He also asked that the City Attorney’s Office come up with increased penalties for the stunt-driving events, including seizure of offending vehicles for up to 30 days. On top of that, he’ll be urging the state legislature to implement even harsher penalties. 

Preston introduced a resolution urging Mayor Breed to share plans for the successor to the controversial Tenderloin Center, set to close in December, and which has morphed over time from a connection to city services for people experiencing homelssness and drug addiction into a de facto “safe consumption site.” He described the center as “one of few positive developments” from Breed’s Tenderloin Emergency Declaration. The resolution calls for the center to remain open pending the availability of replacement services

Finally, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman requested a report from the City Administrator on policy alternatives to Administrative Code 12X, the law which prohibits city agencies and officials from contracting with entities in states with laws discriminating against LGBTQ people, restrict reproductive rights or promote voter suppression. 

A report from the Budget and Administrative Analyst released Tuesday revealed that 30 states are covered under the law, that compliance with reporting requirements for waivers was poor and that implementation has cost the city close to $500,000 since 2017.