Bernal Hill Is Backdrop for NY Times Article on New Housing Politics


In case you missed it over the weekend, Sunday’s New York Times described the shifting dynamics of housing politics in San Francisco, as a new generation of activists seeks to fight displacement and sky-rocketing rents by building more housing for everyone in San Francisco, more quickly.

The article is an interesting read for anyone who cares about affordability in San Francisco, but the online version of the story opens with a drop-dead gorgeous view of Twin Peaks and Noe Valley as seen from Bernal Hill during a perfect golden sunset.

From our hill, the City’s multitudes are revealed.

When you’re done bathing in the fullscreen warmth of that image, the article goes on to frame the housing debate as a struggle between old-guard San Francisco ideologues and a younger generation of activists who are priced out of the housing market:

Across the country, a reversal in urban flight has ignited debates over gentrification, wealth, generational change and the definition of the modern city. It’s a familiar battle in suburbs, where not-in-my-backyard homeowners are an American archetype.

In San Francisco, though, things get weird. Here the tech boom is clashing with tough development laws and resentment from established residents who want to choke off growth to prevent further change.

[Sonja Trauss from the Bay Area Renters Federation]] is the result: a new generation of activist whose pro-market bent is the opposite of the San Francisco stereotypes — the lefties, the aging hippies and tolerance all around.

Ms. Trauss’s cause, more or less, is to make life easier for real estate developers by rolling back zoning regulations and environmental rules. Her opponents are a generally older group of progressives who worry that an influx of corporate techies is turning a city that nurtured the Beat Generation into a gilded resort for the rich.

Those groups oppose almost every new development except those reserved for subsidized affordable housing. But for many young professionals who are too rich to qualify for affordable housing, but not rich enough to afford $5,000-a-month rents, this is the problem.

Adding to the strangeness is that the typical San Francisco progressive and the typical mid-20s-to-early-30s member of Ms. Trauss’s group are likely to have identical positions on every liberal touchstone, like same-sex marriage and climate change, and yet they have become bitter enemies on one very big issue: housing.

The Times article also includes some nifty multimedia audio and a cameo from our D9 Supervisor David Campos, so check out the whole thing.

D9 Supervisor Candidates Square Off in Bernal Heights


The political hopefuls competing to become the next District 9 Supervisor convened last Thursday night, as the Bernal Heights Democratic Club (BHDC)  held a candidate endorsement forum at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center.

Our current D9 representative, Supervisor David Campos, is termed-out this year, and five candidates seek to replace him. They are:

  • Joshua Arce: 40, a pragmatic progressive with close ties to the labor, nonprofit housing, and environmental movements.
  • Iswari España: 42, a training officer with the San Francisco Human Services Agency.
  • Edwin Lindo: 29, A Bernal resident and Bernal Height Neighborhood Center board member who is also active with the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club.
  • Hillary Ronen: 40, A legislative aide to David Campos and his chosen successor, backed by the progressive establishment.
  • Melissa San Miguel 29, a former policy manager with the National Center for Youth Law and former MissionLocal reporter

Reporter Joshua Sabatini from the San Francisco Examiner attended the BHDC endorsement forum, and he proclaimed Ronen and Arce to be the front-runners. Here’s how he described Ronen’s pitch:

Ronen says she is part of a larger movement to preserve the progressive majority bloc on the Board of Supervisors, running for one of the three open seats this November with termed out progressive supervisors.

She has secured the sole endorsements of the traditional progressive candidate backers like Service Employees International Union 1021 — the government employee’s largest labor union — and the California Nurses Associations, Unite Here Local 2 and former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano.

Ronen blames the Mission’s crisis on Mayor Ed Lee and his allies for “short-sighted thinking and shutting out community voices and only listening to corporate voices — and their horrible negotiations.”

For the past six years, Ronen has served as an aide to Campos. Before that she was an attorney with La Raza Centro Legal, a group which advocates for low-wage and immigrant workers.

Arce, for his part, presented himself as a coalition-builder:

[Arce] said he voted for a measure last November that would have imposed a moratorium on market-rate development in the Mission. The measure, Proposition I, was opposed by real estate interests and developers, and lost at the ballot.

Arce condemned Ronen as part of a failed status quo unresponsive to district needs. “It’s not progressive to talk about meeting the needs of our community, but not returning phone calls or emails,” he said.

“People look at the Mission as being at a crossroads,” Arce said. The path forward, he added, is “working with communities and not only that but bringing people together.”

Arce frequently used the pronoun “we” during the interview. He prides himself on a political style he describes as forging unconventional coalitions to achieve policy wins.

Assembly member David Chiu, Supervisor Scott Wiener and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom are among those endorsing Arce.

By the end of the night on Thursday, the Bernal Heights Democratic Club overwhelmingly endorsed Hilary Ronen — an outcome that basically pre-ordained, given the close ties that exist between Supervisor Campos’s office and the BHDC.

The general election for the D9 Supervisor’s race will take place on Nov. 8, 2016

PHOTO: D9 Supervisor candidates at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, March 10, 2016. From left to right, Melissa San Miguel, Hillary Ronen, Edwin Lindo, Josh Arce, and Iswari España. Photo by Emma Chiang for the San Francisco Examiner

That Awkward Time Supervisor Campos Crashed a Community Crime Safety Meeting to Give a Campaign Speech


Opinion Disclosure Warning: The post that follows describes a recent unpleasant encounter with our District 9 Supervisor. It is strongly opinionated. If that’s a turn-off, I apologize, and I recommend you skip this post. Thanks for your understanding. — Todd Lappin


Now that the notes from last week’s Northeast Bernal Community Meeting have been posted, I also wanted to describe an incident that happened during the meeting, involving David Campos, our D9 Supervisor.

Supervisor Campos was not involved in the planning and organization of last Thursday’s community meeting. (More on that below.) Refreshingly, however, he showed up at the meeting along with his aide (and D9 Supervisor candidate), Hilary Ronen. That was a good thing, because the crime problem in northeast Bernal is such that residents there need all the official attention they can get. But halfway through the meeting, Supervisor Campos kind of went off the rails.

During a Q&A period, Campos raised his hand. The moderator called on him to speak, and Campos stood up. He started in with a pronouncement that there was “an elephant in the room.” He repeated this a few times. It left people scratching their heads, because until that moment the meeting had generally been constructive and elephant-free.

After a pause, Supervisor Campos pivoted to a speech about how the reason a representative from the Mayor’s office (Jason Elliott) was standing in the front of the room was because of his friendship with Joshua Arce (the 2016 D9 Supervisor candidate who had helped facilitate the meeting). Campos began building up a head of steam around the idea that the Mayor sent his deputy chief of staff to the meeting only because the mayor something something something something something and then…

Then I stood up, and told Supervisor Campos he was way out of line.

Actually, I said a bit more than that, and in a much more emphatic way. Basically I urged Supervisor Campos to discontinue the theatrics, in no small part because the very community meeting he was attending had been necessitated by the fact that Supervisor Campos’s office has done a poor job of responding to Bernal constituents concerns about crime problems in Bernal Heights.

Here’s some backstory: The Northeast Bernal Neighbors Alliance was formed in no small part because many Bernal neighbors in that section of our neighborhood have been unable to get a response from Supervisor Campos’s office about their crime problems. Many emails to his office have gone unanswered. Many many. I know this because when Campos’s office ignores emails about crime problems from Bernal neighbors, many of those neighbors write to me instead. I receive a lot of these emails. Many many.  Bottom line: Last week’s community meeting happened because  a neighborhood that had been neglected by David Campos’s office organized a new neighborhood group to get some help without having to rely on David Campos.

Hilary Ronen was sitting next to her boss as things got heated, and she looked stricken. I felt bad for her, because it was mortifying.

It was mortifying because Campos showed everyone in the room that he was looking at the meeting through the cheap lens of political gamesmanship, instead of listening to what Bernal residents were telling him about the crime problem in their community.

Fortunately, just before things got too hot, Buck Bagot intervened to redirect the conversation. (Note to History: Buck is a Bernal treasure.) Then the meeting resumed. There was no further speechifying from Supervisor Campos, although he did often try to politicize the issues discussed in the room by blaming others for this or that.

Look, it’s great that Campos’s office has finally decided to engage with his northeast Bernal constituents. But his effort to turn a grassroots community meeting into political spectacle was inappropriate. The most important take-away from last week’s meeting was that our Bernal neighbors need all the help they can get. It’ll take a lot of on-the-ground organization, and a lot of interagency coordination, and a lot of hard work to make northeast Bernal a safer community.

Last week, David Campos signaled that he’s more interested in scoring political points than he is in doing the real work required to be part of the solution. Yet hope springs eternal: There’s another community meeting about crime and public safety this Thursday, Jan. 28, 6 pm, at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, and David Campos helped organize this one. Bernalwood will provide full details about that meeting tomorrow.

GRAPHIC: Northeast Bernal  Crime Incident Map, May 2015 to January 2016, via SFOpenData. David Campos photo via Wikipedia.

The 2016 District 9 Supervisor’s Race Is Already Underway


Our most recent citywide election happened just a month ago, but the race is already on to replace District 9’s Supervisor, David Campos, who terms-out next year. Progressive columnist Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez looks at the line-up of candidates so far:

[Edwin] Lindo, vice president of political affairs for the local Latino Democratic Club, joins Hillary Ronen, who is Supervisor David Campos’ legislative aide, as the only publicly known candidates for Campos’ seat.

Ronen filed a candidate intention statement on Nov. 16.

Lindo said he filed Nov. 2, though the documents are not publically available online.

Ronen told the San Francisco Examiner she’s running because she has “a deep love of the district,” and, “the knowledge and experience of how to fight and move legislation.”

Now that there are two progressives in the race, however, the vote to beat back moderate opposition may be split. And though ranked choice voting may less that impact, a split may shuffle endorsements, allegiances, and overall campaign power – all which will be key for progressives to topple any moderate candidate who comes out of the woodwork.

Campos, a noted progressive, will term out in 2016. The District 9 seat he now occupies is one of three famously left-leaning supervisor seats up for election, as progressive supervisors John Avalos and Eric Mar will also term out.

With Supervisor-elect Aaron Peskin now on the Board of Supervisors, the board majority favors left-leaning progressives, with a 6-5 split. The 2016 elections then would give center-right moderates the chance to take back the board.

The real District 9 opponent is still waiting in in the wings: Joshua Arce. An attorney who works with the Laborers International Union, Arce has long been rumored to be running for the seat with the support of The City’s political “moderates.” Though he has not officially announced candidacy, a “personal endorsement” from a local San Franciscan for Arce’s candidacy has surfaced online.

Why Mayor Lee’s Pre-Election Tour of Holly Courts Still Matters



A few days before the recent election, Mayor Lee toured Holly Courts, the public housing located just west of Holly Park. (Historical Fun Facts: Holly Courts was San Francisco’s very first public housing project, and it was designed by Arthur Brown Jr., the same architect who created City Hall and Coit Tower.)

At the time, the mayor came to Holly Courts to build support for Prop A, the $310 million affordable housing bond that ultimately passed by a comfortable margin. Yet now that Prop A was approved, Joshua Arce, a Mission-based civil rights attorney who works with the Holly Courts Resident Board, tells Bernalwood why the mayor’s pre-election visit matters even more:

Days before last week’s election, Mayor Ed Lee made a surprise visit to Bernal’s Holly Courts public housing community to help build support for an increased investment in affordable housing across all San Francisco neighborhoods.

Lee came to tour one of the City’s oldest, but most resilient, public housing sites alongside Holly Courts Resident Board President Deborah Gibson and me. (I serve as pro bono counsel for the Holly Courts Board.)

Gibson and Holly Courts residents Gail Love and Herman Travis used the opportunity to show the Mayor several housing units and outdoor gathering areas in need of repair, and to discuss concerns that other residents have shared with them. In return the Mayor expressed his desire to work more closely with residents of Holly Courts and other public housing communities as the City applies federal funding to make much needed repairs at properties formerly managed by the Housing Authority.

Mayor Lee grew up in public housing in Seattle and decided to make the stop as part of a final push to build support for the Prop. A Housing Bond led by public housing resident-volunteers from the A. Philip Randolph Institute.

Mayor Lee thanked President Gibson at the end of the hour-long tour and asked the residents to stay in communication as his office works through the lists of Holly Courts concerns that were raised. With the bond approved by an overwhelming number of San Franciscans, the Mayor’s Office now has additional resources to help make good on these commitments, and the residents themselves are highly engaged in the process of holding the City accountable.

PHOTOS: Courtesy of Larry Wong

Your Hyperlocal Analysis of 2015 Election Results from Bernal Heights


Hello Citizens!

As you know, we voted on Tuesday. Yay, democracy!

By now you’ve probably had the chance to digest some of the the overall results. Citywide, Mayor Ed Lee coasted to victory with 57% of the vote, but that was an underwhelming tally given that he had no major opposition. The progressive hot-button ballot measures, Prop F (the Short Term Rental Ordinance) and Prop I (the Mission District Housing Moratorium) were both soundly defeated.  Ross Mirkarimi, the scandal-tainted Sheriff, suffered a big (and appropriately humiliating) defeat. Prop A (the Affordable Housing Bond), Prop C (the Lobbyist Expenditure Ordinance), and Prop D (Mission Rock Development) were all approved by comfortable margins.

All politics is superhyperlocal, however, so what was the tally like for voters from Bernal Heights? And for different parts of Bernal Heights? Just as he did last year, Neighbor Adam has done us a great service by analyzing the election data from Bernal Heights to reveal how Bernal residents voted in 2015. Take it away, neighbor Adam:

Here’s a hyperlocal look at this week’s election, to follow up on the discussion that took place on Bernalwood last year about where Bernal voters fit in with the rest of the city and what, if any, differences there are between North and South Bernal.

This year, I analyzed Bernal’s vote using the election results data available at midday on November 3, 2015. This data may omit some subsequent vote counts that include late mail-in ballots, but the final results are unlikely to change significantly.

For 2015, I looked most closely three races: Mayor, Prop F (Short-Term Rentals), and Prop I (Mission Moratorium). These races probably reveal the greatest distinction in right-center-left or moderate-progressive voting patterns, and they serve as good follow-ups to last year’s Chiu/Campos race and Proposition B (waterfront development regulations).

Overall, the results clearly reflect Bernal’s left-leaning nature, with Mayor Lee failing to get a majority in either North or South Bernal, and Props F and I both receiving greater percentages of “yes” votes here than they did citywide.

Interestingly, however, the differences between North and South Bernal are more pronounced this year, with North Bernal skewing farther left than South Bernal. For example, while both Prop I and Prop F captured a majority in North Bernal (by modest margins), both were defeated in South Bernal (also by modest margins).

This is somewhat surprising. Last year’s results didn’t show as much of a difference between North and South Bernal, and based on what I think is a slightly more attractive real estate market in North Bernal, one might have expected North Bernal to head in a more centrist direction after another year of resident turnover. But in fact, the opposite happened. Perhaps the real estate market had no effect on voting patterns, (Editor’s Note: Most likely, since the total number of houses that turn over in a given year is small.) or perhaps folks moving in to North Bernal are more progressive than those moving into South Bernal. Or perhaps these numbers are all too small to draw conclusions. What is certain is that Bernal has retained its status as a very left-leaning part of the city.

The difference in the result between North and South Bernal prompted Todd to wonder how the Dep’t of Elections defines the two voting districts. As you can see in the Election Departmment map shown above, North Bernal includes the more left-leaning microhoods in west Bernal and around the summit of Bernal Hill, while South Bernal includes the more centrist St. Mary’s microhood, along with some of our ancestral kin from the Bernal Glen area on the other side of the Bernal Cut.

For the sake of completeness, I’ve also included the results of the Sheriff’s race and all the other propositions. In general, they all show the same slight lean to the left in North Bernal, but are otherwise not quite as illuminating as the big three races of Mayor, Prop F, and Prop I.

Voter Turnout:
North Bernal:  2909/8208 = 35.44% of registered voters
South Bernal:  2211/7148 = 30.93% of registered voters

NOTE: these numbers above don’t match up to the vote totals below; not sure why.  As such, percentages listed below are percentages of vote totals for each ballot item, not percentage of “turnout totals” above.

Citywide: LEE (57%)
North Bernal:   LEE: 1156 (37.4%)  OTHER: 1770 (57.3%)
South Bernal:  LEE: 1021 (43.1%)    OTHER: 1224 (51.7%)

Prop F – (Short Term Rental Ordinance)
Citywide: NO (55%)
North Bernal: YES – 1605 (50%)   NO – 1577 (49%)
South Bernal: YES 1115 (46%)   NO – 1288 (53%)

Prop I (Mission District Housing Moratorium)
Citywide: NO (57%)
North Bernal: YES – 1670 (52%)   NO – 1472 (46%)
South Bernal: YES – 1171 (48%)  NO- 1189 (49%)

Citywide: Hennessy (61%)
North Bernal: Hennessy – 1554 (50.3%); Robinson – 109 (3.5%); Mirkarimi – 1205 (39%)
South Bernal: Hennessy – 1258 (53%);  Robinson – 117 (4.9%); Mirkarimi – 1148 822 (35.7%)

And here are the rest of the 2015 ballot propositions:

Prop A (Affordable Housing Bond)
Citywide: YES (73.5%)
North Bernal: YES – 2512 (83%) NO – 481 (15.9%)
South Bernal: YES – 1784 (78.2%) NO – 464 (20.3%)

Prop B (Paid Parental Leave for City Workers)
Citywide: YES (66%)
North Bernal: YES – 2393 (79%) NO – 566 (18.7%)
South Bernal: YES – 1677 (73.5%) NO – 555 (24.3%)

Prop C (Lobbyist Expenditure Ordinance)
Citywide: YES (75%)
North Bernal: YES – 2178 (72%) NO – 715 (23.6%)
South Bernal: YES – 1614 (70.8%) NO – 556 (24.4%)

Prop D (Mission Rock Development)
Citywide: YES (73%)
North Bernal: YES – 2287 (75.6%) NO – 677 (22.4%)
South Bernal: YES – 1623 (71%); NO – 606 (26.6%)

Prop E (New Public Meeting Requirements)
Citywide: NO (67%)
North Bernal: YES – 782 (25.8%) NO – 2140 (70.7%)
South Bernal: YES – 635 (27.8%) NO – 1556 (68.2%)

Prop G (Renewable Energy Disclosures)
Citywide: NO (77%)
North Bernal: YES – 437 (14.4%) NO – 2424 (80.1%)
South Bernal: YES – 400 (17.5%) NO – 1729 (75.8%)

Prop H (Clean Energy Right to Know Act)
Citywide: YES (79.5%)
North Bernal: YES – 2477 (81.9%) NO – 359 (11.9%)
South Bernal: YES – 1793 (78.6%) NO – 325 (14.2%)

Prop J (Legacy Business Historic Preservation Fund)
Citywide: YES (57%)
North Bernal: YES – 1892 (62.5%) NO – 1027 (33.9%)
South Bernal: YES – 1367 (59.9%) NO – 812 (35.6%)

Prop K (Housing Development on Surplus City Land)
Citywide: YES (73%)
North Bernal: YES – 2458 (81.2%) NO – 475 (15.7%)
South Bernal: YES – 1733 (76%) NO – 462 (20.3%)

Wow! That’s fantastic. Thank you, Neighbor Adam, for crunching the data.

One final (and fascinating) detail: Despite all the bluster and noise, Prop F and Prop I didn’t do so well in the Mission either. For comparison’s sake, in the Mission, Prop F garnered just 55% of the vote, while Prop I — The Mission Moratorium! — squeaked by with just 56%. That puts Prop I in Ed Lee territory, which is to say that with those levels of support on their own home turf, the NIMBYs of the Mission don’t enjoy much of a mandate either.

Citizens! It’s Election Day! Get Thee to a Polling Place!


Citizens of Bernalwood! Today is Election Day, 2015! Don’t forget to vote. If you’re a registered voter, here’s some last-minute guidance from the San Francisco Department of Elections:

All San Francisco polling places citywide are open for voters from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Department urges San Franciscans to confirm the locations of their polling places at or by calling (415) 554-4375 before they go to vote.

Voters may also vote at the City Hall Voting Center. Located on the ground floor of City Hall, the Voting Center is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Vote-by-mail voters may drop their ballots off from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at any polling place in San Francisco, at the Department’s Ballot Drop-off Stations outside two City Hall entrances–the main entrance at Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place (Polk Street) and the Grove Street entrance– or at the Department’s office.

Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked with today’s date and received by the Department of Elections no later than Friday, November 6. Anyone uncertain about whether his or her mailed ballot would reach the Department in time to be counted is encouraged to instead bring the ballot to any San Francisco polling place, the City Hall Voting Center, or the Department’s Ballot Drop-Off Stations before 8 p.m.

Still on the fence about how to vote? The Bernalwood Slate Card looks at the 2015 ballot from a YIMBY/urbanist point-of-view, and it’s been getting a lot of traffic lately. Otherwise, our friends at Hoodline have put together a rather spiffy interactive reference guide to all the other election guides around town, so you can browse, compare, and contrast. Viva democracy!

PHOTO: Election Day on Precita Avenue, 2011 by Telstar Logistics