Over the past eight months or so, Bayview-Hunters Point activist Francisco Da Costa has posted pretty outrageous screeds on Indybay that have ridiculed Florida-based developer Lennar Corp. and its supporters. Da Costa has compared Mayor Gavin Newsom to Caligula and derided him as a "sissy," called Supervisor Sophie Maxwell a "fat cow," and described some local African-American leaders as "house negroes."
For a long time, Da Costa's polemics went unnoticed — or perhaps were ignored as the rantings of an inconsequential crank. Then he led the successful drive to collect more than 8,400 signatures to get Proposition F on the June ballot. The initiative would require Lennar to rent or sell half the homes at its planned Candlestick Point development at below-market rates. Lennar backers have called Prop. F a poison pill that would kill the project.
Now Da Costa's online tirades are drawing plenty of scrutiny. Last week, S.F.'s Democratic Central Committee — which didn't endorse Prop. F, but did come out in favor of Lennar's competing measure on the June ballot — unanimously voted to denounce him for his alleged use of hate speech. The committee also asked Supervisor Chris Daly, the highest-profile elected official backing Prop. F, to bounce Da Costa from the campaign.
Da Costa's writings were brought to the attention of the central committee by Michael Sweet, a member of the Human Rights Commission and president of the Raoul Wallenberg Jewish Democratic Club. Sweet says he became aware of Da Costa about a year ago, but figured he was just a fringe character. Sweet says his opinion changed after he recently found out the anti-Lennar activist was a main proponent of the ballot measure going to the voters. At that point, he decided to expose Da Costa's transgressions.
Among the materials Sweet gave to committee members was a March 4 blog post in which Da Costa attacked Lennar and warned, "History sure will repeat itself, but this time it will be reminiscent of a time when Crystals fell from the ceilings and there was a hue and cry." Sweet and others believed Da Costa was making an inappropriate reference to Kristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass), a 1938 pogrom against the Jews in Nazi Germany.
Da Costa responded to the censure with arguably his most offensive Indybay post yet, railing against "Jewish zealots." Reached by phone a few days later, Da Costa was more restrained, saying he wasn't referring to Kristallnacht and that he didn't mean to demean anyone of the Jewish faith. He blamed Lennar consultant and political PR heavyweight Sam Singer for trying to smear him. Sweet acknowledged that he'd received some information from Singer, but insisted, "This was not Sam Singer-invoked."
In any event, Supervisor Daly wrote on his blog that he considered Da Costa's alleged Kristallnacht reference anti-Semitic and asked him to step aside as a proponent of Prop. F. Daly blogged that Da Costa had agreed to step down, but the supe might want to double-check with his source. Da Costa told SF Weekly on Monday, "I continue to do everything I did before."