Landlords no longer holding General Hospital bond hostage

In the film John Q., a disgruntled Denzel Washington takes hostages in a hospital. Here in San Francisco, we do things differently. Disgruntled interest groups recently took a hospital hostage.

The landlord group Coalition for Better Housing (CBH) made waves last month when it threatened to launch an ad campaign against Proposition A, the $887.4 million San Francisco General Hospital bond measure. The group demanded that the Board of Supervisors allow landlords to "pass-through" more of the costs of their water and sewage bills to tenants — or else. Outraged, tenants' groups this month accused the landlords of holding the hospital's needy patients for ransom — and then went ahead and said they'd torpedo Prop. A as well, if the supes dared to pass the pass-through.

All of which raises the question: What does the matter of who pays to bring water into and shit out of apartment buildings have to do with Prop. A? The answer: Nothing. Both sides seem to have belatedly realized that, and, if good on their words, neither will assail Prop. A.

"It's not on the table," Coalition for Better Housing head Brook Turner confirmed. Regarding the pass-through and Prop. A, he continued, "We don't think they're connected."

Well, then why did you, you know, connect them? He paused for a few moments before answering "No comment."

Ted Gullicksen, director of the San Francisco Tenants Union, confirmed he no longer plans to pull the rug out from under the hospital bond measure now that the landlords have backed off. When asked if it was hypocritical to shame landlords for taking the hospital hostage and then do the very same thing, he didn't deny it. But he's more concerned about getting results. "Our experience has shown that taking the moral high ground does not seem to work," he said. "But when we get down on the same level as the landlords, that seems to work."

Turner wouldn't talk about why the landlords pulled an about-face, but Supervisor Aaron Peskin thinks he has a pretty good idea. "Basically, City Hall called their bluff and, win or lose, the repercussions against CBH would have been long-term," he said. In other words, throwing down against a bond measure supported by the mayor, all 11 supes, and every county, state, and federal politician in the realm can come back and bite you in the ass.

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