Wiener, Saltzman, and SB 827 - not in my name

  • by BAR staff
  • Wednesday April 4, 2018
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Wiener, Saltzman, and SB 827 - not in my name

My husband and I were active in the effort to pass the Berkeley gay rights ordinance in the late 1970s, getting encouragement from Harvey Milk. (Soon thereafter, we got to thank him at an event in Berkeley.) That successful effort led to the passage of similar ordinances in Oakland and then San Francisco (as depicted in the movie "Milk").

As a gay rights, now neighborhood, activist, I hoped the participation of gays inside the government would be a vast improvement. We'd be more compassionate, democratic, and inclusive, based upon our own history of marginalization, and oppression. Unfortunately, we've seen that gay politicians can be just as wrong-headed and doctrinaire as their straight counterparts, and as susceptible to the powerful financial interests as those they've replaced.

And gays were, once upon a time, well-known for appreciating historic preservation and neighborhood character, being pioneers in appreciating San Francisco Victorians for instance. Or mid-century Modernism, as in Palm Springs.

This history, and gene, seems missing in gay San Francisco state Senator Scott Wiener (D), who is pushing Senate Bills 827 and 828. San Francisco Assemblyman David Chiu, a straight ally, is promoting Assembly Bill 2923. All promote high density, high-rise housing development in transit corridors, reducing or eliminating local controls like zoning that allow resident input. The very "little people" that Milk reached out to: unionists, blue-collar workers, longtime residents, to reassure them about his openness and awareness of their issues.

Victoria Fierce, executive director of the East Bay YIMBY cell, East Bay For Everyone, at the BART board's March 8 meeting public comment period, said: "I'm extremely gay - really, really gay - and a single-family home does not work for me." Single-family homes, she declared, "enforce the patriarchy."

SB 827 would allow housing projects as high as 105 feet, no off-street parking provided, within a half-mile of a major transit stop or a quarter mile radius of a transit bus stop on a "high quantity" transit corridor. If passed, the dramatic rise in land values and subsequent demolition of existing houses and apartments would likely cause massive dislocation of low-income tenants and residents. It would be a gold mine for the real estate and development interests, providing housing for tech workers but doing little to address the pressing issues of homelessness, gentrification, and affordability. It may make a good sound bite to suggest that simply building more market-rate housing will make housing more available and affordable for everyone who needs it, but that simply isn't true.

As former Los Angeles Councilmember and LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has written, SB 827 "isn't a housing bill; it's a real estate bill."

Wiener first burst upon the political scene with his campaign against public nudity. In retrospect, that now seems a diversion from his true goal of promoting developer and real estate interests, all in the name of solving the housing crisis, affordability, transit-oriented development, or smart growth. In this effort, he's enabled by other gay elected officials like Rebecca Saltzsman of the BART board.

The bills are moving forward at lightning speed, at the state level, before many are even aware of their long-term radical impacts. Unfortunately, many of us that are paying attention to politics are distracted by the Trump national nightmare, with immigration, war and peace, the environment, and minority rights all threatened.

Wiener and Saltzman may be gay, but they don't speak for me.

Robert Brokl

Berkeley, California

Disagrees with SF judge's decision

Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow, who must run for re-election in June 2018, does not have a good record on free speech. On August 1, 2012, he ruled that six ordinary voter-plaintiffs, who had challenged two unfair California election laws, should be penalized by having to pay $243,279 in attorneys' fees to the law firm that defended those election laws.

The challenged laws were: (1) a law that said write-in votes for Congress and partisan state office could not be counted in the general election; (2) a law that said independent candidates could no longer have the word "independent" on the ballot. The state courts not only upheld them; they also said that we six people who had filed the lawsuit had to pay attorneys' fees to the law firm representing Charles T. Munger Jr., one of the wealthiest men in California.

Karnow's decision was widely criticized. Election law Professor Rick Hasen, who has the electionlawblog, said it was "absolutely outrageous." Hasen is quoted in the Los Angeles Times of October 30, 2012, in an article by Michael Hiltzik. Russell Mokhiber, writing in Corporate Crime Reporter, said, "Judge Karnow's order misapplies the law and punishes the voters in this case for exercising their First Amendment right to petition."

Joe Mathews, a California politics blogger, wrote, "One consequence of the judge's decision is the message it sends to those who might challenge California's community of wealthy reformers and good government groups: if you get in our way, we'll make you pay."

Election Administration Reports, issue of August 13, 2012, wrote, "This unusual award was viewed by knowledgeable California lawyers as having an intimidating effect on those who would bring voting rights suits."

Richard Winger

San Francisco