Reeferzilla Meets NIMBY-Ra

And unfortunately it's not science fiction. It's San Francisco politics, and the winner used some interesting jujitsu.

The club members have sent letters to the Board of Supervisors, have met with Daly and at least one other supervisor, and have attempted to recruit residents of the club's Fifth and Brannan neighborhood to their Save the S.F. Tennis Club cause. The jury is still out on how successful this incipient campaign will be.

Their apparent chosen technique, of combining heartstring-tugging neighborhood preservation rhetoric with the potential of a political deal left open, suggests great promise, however.

Even though they're rich, largely out-of-town tennis club members, Deamer and her friends, and anyone who opposes new condos, are friends of neighborhood activists and the supervisors who represent them. And though Daly's a brazen wheeler-dealer known for steering money to his political friends, he has managed to explain away the aforementioned Rincon Hill condo-permit-for-political-slush-account deal by using the language of S.F. political nostalgism. New apartments would "destabilize" the largely uninhabited former industrial SOMA neighborhood. What was needed was a $50 million "neighborhood stabilization fund."

In my San Francisco monster movie, this is all good. As noxious as it sounds, Deamer's proposed pact probably represents the most efficient possible way for getting apartments built in this city. The developer would avoid the normal eons of battles with preservationists. The well-heeled tennis club members would get another facility. Daly would extend his political career with even more money going to his friends. At first, citizens would flee in fear and disgust. In the end, however, San Francisco's gargantuan housing shortage would retreat.


In the ongoing saga of San Francisco's beleaguered schools, Green Party activists hounded test-score-raising, financial-books-improving Superintendent Arlene Ackerman from office. Among her crimes: declining to let kids out of school to protest the Iraq War and offending labor unions that represent school employees on some matters. Ackerman resigned last month and will leave next June. Left-wing activists have proposed she be replaced by Supervisor Tom Ammiano, the moral successor to Harvey Milk, the one-time hope of the San Francisco progressive movement, and an ardent supporter of the interests of the Service Employees International Union.

In a recent twist, Ackerman's antagonists have sought to rub salt in the school district's wounds, and draw attention to their Green Party-run school-system cause, by circulating a petition asking the superintendent to give back her $375,000 in severance pay, using the refrain "Think of the children."

As much as these turns of events have saddened many San Francisco parents, I believe good could come of Greenzilla versus Policorrect-Ra.

Ammiano, you see, has likewise taken tens of thousands of dollars from property-tax-funded schools thanks to the logic of Proposition 13, the 1978 law that guaranteed that homes could not be reassessed for tax purposes at their real market value until they were sold. Ammiano has owned his Bernal Heights home since 1974. It's currently assessed at less than $42,000 and he pays around $425 per year in property tax. Real estate professionals I spoke with said the house would fetch around $700,000 on today's market, meaning Ammiano's saved, over the years, around $57,000 in property taxes, according to napkin calculations. This tax money, like Ackerman's severance pay, can be argued to be the rightful property of schoolchildren.

Using Sandoval-style jujitsu, San Francisco parents can use the Green Party's force of logic against it. Why not circulate a petition demanding that Ammiano give back the $57,000? Chances are he'll balk. In Ammiano's place, the city can hire a real professional manager, rather than a mere left-credentialed politician, to run San Francisco schools.

With these issues out of the way, local humankind can go back to contemplating life's deeper questions.

Who wins, in the end, when Naomi Campbell battles Iman?

Richard Simmons versus Pee-wee Herman?

Anthony Robbins versus Gavin Newsom?

In my movie, we're all winners as long as both sides beat each other to a pulp.

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