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VOLUME 2, NUMBER 23   <>  MONDAY, JUNE 11, 2001

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

I don’t know what you said …but I understand it.
— Anti-nuke poster child

I wasn’t really sure what the hell Gavin Newsom was talking about during the June 5 meeting of the San Francisco Supervisors’ Economic Vitality, Small Business, and Social Policy Committee. But I certainly understood it. What a show. Give up your soap operas, folks. Channel 26 on cable has it all. Power, beauty, danger, sex, and intrigue right out the segue. Dig this scene.

Conflicts of interest

(Gerardo Sandoval vs. Gavin Newsom)

Want to see a rich guy with a yacht wet his pants? Suggest bringing a few van loads of troubled black and brown kids down to walk on the docks to which they tie their floating palaces. Then suggest that just like midnight basketball, you could bring the kids down late at night! Ooooh, ooooh, Gavin was forced to interact with the “rabble” to stop that one. It was worth passing up my afternoon nap.

Here’s what happened. You figure it out.

Right now, the Marina, like the yacht clubs flanking it, is pretty much the exclusive domain of rich white people. It ain’t fair. It’s getting worse. The St. Francis and Golden Gate Yacht Clubs are looking for their little spoiled rich boy Gavin Newsom to tie up the public marina between the clubs in some kind of thousand-year lease by which they pay next to nothing and gain even tighter control. Oh, and they also want their own rents lowered and they’re more than willing to engage in a rent-strike to get what they want. Guess what would happen to you if you didn’t pay your rent?

I digress … Back to the point.

When the new board came in at the first of the year, the supes found half of the public land all the way from Sunol to Treasure Island locked up by long-term leases by rich folks who had (just coincidentally) contributed to the Brown/Burton machine. The other half, they found either for sale or basically “in escrow.”

You don’t wanna mess with property a rich guy has in the old pipeline. There’s lots of it and one of the key pieces is the public marina (contains about 700 slips — that’s parking spots) down on Marina Green. It is most certainly some of the most valuable property on the face of the earth. The City of San Francisco has been a slum landlord to this property for many years. They don’t do much a’ nuttin’ down there. Willie and his friends want this piece of property to look bad so they’ll have an excuse to give it to the yacht clubs. Their point man in this exercise is Supervisor Gavin Newsom. His accomplice in the exercise is the head of Rec & Parks, Elizabeth Goldstein. Right now, the marina is crumbling while a variety of Willie Brown appointed citizens’ advisory committees and rubber-stamp commissions put together a lease for the property for the yacht clubs.

Essentially, that’s it. Newsom whined and cried and pouted until the full board accepted an audit of the marina that said the place should be privatized (given to Gavin’s rich buddies) if conditions weren’t improved. Since the board (idiotically) passed that little piece of legislation, the Brown Machine has done everything possible to run the projected cost of bringing the marina up to snuff ($33 million now says Goldstein) … as high as possible. All the money they’ve collected in the marina is going toward more studies and planning instead of toward maintenance and infrastructure capital projects (huh?).

That’s the backdrop of the Newsom/Sandoval clash.

There are 4 hands here. Don’t get confused.

On the one hand, we have the yacht clubs waiting to grab the property.

On the other hand, we have the tenants of the harbor, who basically rent the parking spaces. The yacht club folks are doing ok. They sometimes stop paying their rent when they’re pouting or showing off, but they’re doing ok.

On the other, other hand, we have the people who own the boats parked down there. They’ve gotta watch their butts. It’s gotten more dangerous since the city started deferring maintenance. They want their rents spent on fixing the docks.

On the other, other, other — got that? — hand, we have you … the rest of the citizens of San Francisco, of whom one of Supervisor Sandoval’s speakers noted: “The place belongs to ALL of the citizens of San Francisco.”

It went like this.

Supervisor Sandoval presented a modest little program for bringing deprived kids to the marina. I mean … duhhhh! However, as Supervisor Newsom was quick to point out, no one asked the various rubber-stamp city and rich neighborhood groups if it was ok to bring these van loads of “colored” kids down to whitey’s private preserve.

Gavin was real upset. Granted, the ‘Y’ and various Beacon Centers have impeccable credentials. Granted, it was a wonderful program that Gavin would love to contribute to. But it interfered with the rich guys’ master plan. It was a question of the “source of funding,” hammered Newsom, who had funneled many times the sum requested away from the marina and down such dark holes as a “Study of Toxicity in Gas House Cove.” It wasn’t the prospect of his rich district being overrun by groups of children of color that Gavin objected to. Naw, he wanted to take the deferred maintenance money and spend it on some more studies to prove that his buddies at the yacht clubs should take over the whole place. What a guy. He thinks he’s better than the rest of the members of the board (virtually all of whom are better educated and more experienced than he is). He replied caustically to Sandoval, who tried to get him back on the subject at hand: “This fits together, but some might not see it.”

I see it, Gavin. See if I’m right.

San Francisco Raiders

The San Francisco Raiders are a small group of developers, financiers, and realtors who spend their time identifying either large blocks of property or other valuable public assets. Once identified, the Raiders move to seize control, either outright or through other long-term contractual agreements, of the city’s most valuable holdings. The marina I’ve spoken of is atop their list. Harding Golf Course is another. The land under the old Central Freeway is a nice chunk they’ve moved upon. The Raiders noted the huge Muni bus yards with drools, and they’re moving to corner that land. The PUC holdings are being steadily parceled out.

The most amazing thing to me is that virtually all of these rip-offs have to go before the new board not just once, but sometimes several time. And still, Gavin and the mayor’s staff have barely broken pace with the giveaways. The new supes are badly outnumbered. The mayor moves to confuse the board committees with long blathering staff reports and obfuscation that would do any magician proud.

Hopefully, there will be a few bones left for the people once the big dogs have feasted. Don’t count on it.

miles to go before you sleep: sobone@juno.com

h. brown