It's the Economic Development, Stupid

Our lefty supervisors need to remember: In an economic downturn, it's not smart or progressive to go around killing jobs

Good local leaders can and should object to economic-development schemes when they offer no clear benefit to the city. But our city's leaders don't appear to have learned the difference between promoting public integrity and discouraging job creation.

Examples of job-killing policies disguised in misleading rhetoric abound. The city is poised to consider extending, or modifying, a business growth moratorium in the Mission District and other neighborhoods in the eastern portions of the city -- even though offices and warehouses in these areas are mostly vacant, and residents there desperately need jobs. Supervisors have proposed zoning controls that would specifically ban biotech companies from locating in certain parts of the city -- just as developers are planning a biotech industrial zone to surround the new UCSF SOMA campus, and as the biotech sector gives signs of becoming one of the major economic engines of coming decades. The rationales for these counterproductive zoning initiatives connect, vaguely, to the S.F. progressives' disdain for developers. That's to say, the rationales are based on politics, rather than on the type of facts that make for good policy.

Because the progressive supervisors have allowed the city's role in the economy to become highly politicized, the types of enterprises that thrive on economic fundamentals, rather than political wheedling, shun the anti-business, anti-jobs mess that is San Francisco. And we're left with the political/business wizards -- can you spell Joe O'Donoghue? -- who've learned to game our Byzantine political system to their benefit but not, necessarily, to the city's.


Ideally, City Hall would be aggressively fighting to bring new, clean, well-paying jobs to the Mission and elsewhere. The Board of Supervisors would be struggling to bring about the regulatory and infrastructure changes necessary for cruise shipping lines to use San Francisco as a major home port. Supervisors would be keeping close tabs on the development of the port as a whole, seeing to it that legitimate proposals were chaperoned to fruition, bogus ones tossed out. San Francisco should be wrestling against the governments of San Jose, Boston, Austin, New York, and other tech centers to lure technology-oriented companies back into empty downtown and SOMA office buildings. The city should do whatever it can to help make sure UCSF's new campus biotech zone in Mission Bay isn't a flop.

And yes, our city fathers should be thinking of ways -- cheap ways, because the city is in a budget crisis -- to rejuvenate San Francisco's devastated tourism industry. That sector has lost thousands of local jobs since 9/11, and attempting to shore it up is not only good policy, but good politics. Aren't waiters, valets, dishwashers, hotel housekeepers, and cashiers, after all, the natural constituents of S.F.'s self-styled progressive coalition?

In an era when the Tour de France dominates newspaper headlines around the world, the biggest one-day race outside Europe -- the San Francisco Grand Prix -- provides an outsize boost to tourism and other business here. Our well-meaning supervisors shouldn't be carping about the insignificant sum needed to properly police this truly grand event; they should be doing everything they can to encourage it to continue to call San Francisco home.

For the past three years San Francisco's been lingering at the back of the pack, economically speaking. But things seem to be in place for an economic rebound. We've got plentiful, cheap office space. This is still a desirable place for workers and entrepreneurs to live. We have a highly educated population; we're a financial capital for the Pacific Rim and for the technology industry. And we're still one of the world's favorite tourist destinations, even if we're a destination that, just now, could use a helping hand.

In other words, we have the strength to pull off a last-minute, come-from-behind win -- and make the ghost of Hal "Snake" Perry proud.

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