It’s a pretty amazing thing to see

Mark Leno, after running for mayor for approximately 65 years, finally has an opinion on something. Homelessness is bad and it’s London Breed’s fault.

Which is definitely an incredibly valid thing to say. It definitely true that the current state of homelessness in SF is the fault of a black woman who’s been in office for 6 years and definitely has nothing to do with the policies promoted (and issues ignored by) a man who’s been in office since I was 9 years old (which is considerably more than 6 years).

And it definitely makes sense to blame London Breed even though basically every shot from that ad takes place in district represented by Jane Kim (8 years in office) his other opponent and the person he thinks should get your #2 vote.

Good thing he released his very innovative and not at all plagiarized homeless plan (March 21, 2018) three days after Breed’s plan (March 19, 2018) while somehow managing to basically copy all of her policy proposals.

Note: Some faithful readers are pointing out that Mark Leno first tried to release his plan on March 18 — which is when he held his first press conference on the topic. The problem? The actual PDF of the plan wouldn’t open. Sorry, but that’s the “dog ate my homework” of policy proposals. This isn’t Schrodinger’s policy. It doesn’t exist until I (and everyone else) can get my hands on it.

Let’s compare Leno’s totally unique approach to homelessness with Breed’s obviously totally inferior plan that was released three days earlier. Leno has 15 major points to his homeless plan. Let’s walk through each of them to see how they represent Leno’s completely unique and superior plan for dealing with homelessness:

Leno Point 1: Immediately move at least 1,000 people off the streets and into permanent supportive housing.

Breed: Her platform doesn’t mention this point, probably because there’s a dispute over whether these empty units even exist.

Leno Point 2: Reform our homeless shelter system to increase capacity and improve rates of re-housing.  His only specific elements to this point are Navigation Centers (Point 3) and improving “wraparound services” (Point 11)

Breed: Build more navigation centers; also leverage Assemblymember Phil Ting’s legislation AB 932 to expedite construction of homeless shelters and AB 857 to secure state lands at virtually no cost.

Leno Point 3: Move as many people as possible off the streets by quickly expanding our navigation center system.

Breed: Build more Navigation Centers, which have more services and fewer restrictions than typical shelters;

Leno Point 4: Take advantage of our Small Site Acquisition program to move more people from the street and into housing

Breed: Acquire more properties via our Small Sites Acquisition Program

Leno Point 5: Bring all families and children in off the streets. This is just saying that he thinks children and families should get priority in the shelters, supportive housing, and navigation centers.

Breed: [citing the high proportion of homeless youth who are LGBTQ] Build an LGBTQ youth services shelter, create host-home subsidized housing for LGBTQ youth.

Leno Point 6: Establish a Mental Health Justice Center to stop recycling homeless people in and out of jail.

Breed: Pass my conservatorship legislation so courts can appoint guardians for the mentally ill, open safe injection facilities, expand the street medicine teams, 

Leno Point 7: Create Universal Mental Health Care for all. This sounds great, but is mostly about adding psychiatric beds to the city’s hospitals.

Breed: She doesn’t mention psychiatric beds.

Leno Point 8: Create 15,000 units of affordable, workforce, and permanent supportive housing to move people off our streets and under a permanent roof. How? Where? With what money? Your guess is as good as mine.

Breed: Build 5,000 more housing units each year; Create a supportive In-Law Unit/Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) program where the City pays for the construction of ADU units (such as these) and manages the permitting process, in exchange for the property owner making the unit permanently available as affordable housing to “Moving On” tenants; Expand, the Homeward Bound program; Lease apartments, buildings, and SROs to expand “step up housing” for folks with vouchers; Lease or buy underutilized buildings to operate as supportive housing under the Master Lease program.

Leno Point 9: Protect at-risk tenants to keep people in their home. He mentions suing people who abuse the Ellis Act to evict tenants, providing rental assistance and Right to Counsel for those facing eviction.

Breed: Pass my Right to Counsel Law, expand rental subsidy programs, continue the Rental Assistance Demonstration program to rehab public housing, extend affordability covenants on units for which the covenant will expire, expand the Good Samaritan Law to protect victims displaced by earthquake or fire, regulate short-term rentals, protect existing housing stock by retrofitting seismically unsafe buildings.

Leno Point 10: Create new tools to hold city government accountable to meeting district-specific criteria and benchmarks

Breed: Implement and improve our unified data system to ensure various agencies and nonprofits serving homeless people are accurately tracking their history and needs and allocating resources appropriately.

Leno Point 11: Fix our broken system of supportive services. This involves securing General Assistance and food stamps for more of the homeless population.

Breed: She doesn’t specifically mention General Assistance or food stamps.

Leno Point 12: Do a top-to-bottom audit of homeless dollars to stop and prevent waste.

Breed: Get more out of each homeless dollar we spend by launching audits and potentially implementing pay for performance contracts

Leno Point 13: Pass a comprehensive regional housing and homelessness bond measure

Breed: Write and pass a $50 million General Obligation bond to build modular homes for homeless people; invest in our affordable housing stock via measures like our $310 million housing bond; pass our Housing For All ballot measure this June to generate $1 billion.

Leno Point 14: Make use of the $100 million dollars I secured as State Senator to create 400 units of permanent supportive housing. This references Prop 63, passed in 2004 which provided funding for homeless services.

Breed: She doesn’t mention this source of funding. However, the San Jose Mercury News says that a recent audit revealed SF only has $22M available.

Leno Point 15: Leverage statewide connections to fund homeless resources

Breed: Advocate with other mayors, state, and federal officials for more homelessness and supportive housing funds

So there you have it — Mark and London’s homelessness plans side-by-side. It’s one thing for a man who held public office for 22 years to blame homelessness on a woman whose been in office for 6 years. It’s another thing to do that AND basically copy her homelessness plan which you released three days after she did.

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Together We Can Solve the Housing Crisis

If you live in San Francisco (or Washington DC, or NYC, or LA, or San Diego or any other crowded expensive city), you will find that a lot of internet bile is spilled over the housing crisis. I’m just going to talk about San Francisco for a moment because that happens to be the city where I currently tithe monthly to my landlord.

Among basic human needs, shelter is pretty high on the list, and in San Francisco you’ve never paid more to get less. It has the most expensive housing in the U.S. How did we get here? Well there’s some disagreement about that. Pro-development folks like city supervisor Scott Weiner loudly proclaim its because there isn’t enough housing. He argues, and I’m inclined to agree with him, that its because the city housing stock simply hasn’t kept pace with the increasing demand for housing.

Others, like different city supervisor David Campos, believe that the high prices are the result of something different. He recently argued that in order to keep prices down we should stop building new housing. Considering that the city’s housing policy has always been some version of build nothing (or less than nothing), and yet we still have super crazy high housing prices, I’m not sure how another moratorium would accomplish the opposite.

But I’m not here to argue for more or less housing (though if I were, I definitely be arguing for more). I’m here because there’s a policy option that hasn’t been given fair consideration yet. You see, when we talk about the supply and demand of housing we always focus our policies on altering the amount of housing available. Demand for housing is increasing, but supply isn’t  (or at least, it isn’t rising fast enough), which means prices rise. Some folks argue that we should build more housing faster to overcome the increase in demand, which seems pretty unlikely. Others argue that we need to focus our attention on building more government subsidized affordable housing.

I’m arguing that we need to stop trying to tackle this problem by adjusting supply. We need to attack the demand. San Francisco has a lot going for it: Low unemployment, a Mediterranean climate without any swarthy Mediterranean people, great food, incredible vistas, etc. San Francisco is simply too desirable for its own good. The only way politicians can ever hope to get housing prices to drop is to implement policies that will decrease demand. In short, we need to actively make San Francisco a less nice place to live.

Now, I’m not saying that we’re doing nothing on this front already. Our politicians have put some great demand reducing policies in place already. Here in San Francisco, its common practice for homeless people to poop on everything, which is great. One of the most desirable places for a homeless person to poop is on the escalators in our subway stations.

Couple that information with the fact that we’re currently in the worst drought since Egbert of Wessex ravaged the land that would become modern-day Cornwall and you might rightly come to the alarming conclusion that we don’t even have enough water to wash away all the poop.

If you’d heard about a city where parts of the public transit actually broke down because homeless people were pooping on it too frequently you might think that at least a few people might decide to live elsewhere, but that doesn’t seem to be enough.

Perpetually thirsty and covered in human excrement, and yet young people are still moving here in droves. The city needs to pursue an aggressive policy of making this place terrible. We need to target our policies to specifically neutralize all the other nice things that San Francisco has to offer, here are a few examples just off the top of my head:

Eat an elderly person every Thursday: This is a great policy because (1) new residents will be dissuaded by the horrors of cannibalism and (2) every old person that gets eaten frees up a previously rent-controlled apartment!

Give the Sea Lions at Fisherman’s Wharf Ebola-Rabies-AIDs: First, I think it’s only fair to point out that Ebola-Rabies-AIDs doesn’t exist…yet. We’ll need to put our best public health experts/mad scientists on the job if we want to get this one going. Once this terrible pox is developed we can give it to the Sea Lions in Fisherman’s Wharf and turn our most adorable attraction into the home of the world’s largest concentration pus-filled wounds and bloody stool.

Blow up the Bridges: This is another two-pher. The Golden Gate and Bay Bridges are beautiful. If we blow them up we’ll have fewer nice things to look at AND it will actually be very hard to get here. The only way into the city will be from the south via Daly City. Unless we…

Turn Daly City into a moat of lava: It’s just Daly City. No one will miss it.

Pray to the Incan Goddess Pachamama that the Big One comes soon: I don’t normally like to resort to prayer, but I don’t see what else we can do about this one. I’ve done a lot of research on which pagan deity is most likely to bring about our destruction, and Pachamama seems like our best bet earthquakes-wise. Nothing will lower housing prices faster than an earthquake so violent that it destroys all the buildings and kills all the people. Politicians love to complain that there isn’t enough affordable housing. If there’s anything more affordable than an entire city of shanties made of rubble, than I can’t think of it.

Elect Satan mayor: Even though many would argue that the Dark Lord is already the de facto leader of San Francisco, the city just isn’t fire-and-brimstone-y enough yet to have any impact on the local consumer price index. Ancient Egypt had 10 plagues and we have three AT BEST (drought, homeless poop, and Twitter employees). Seriously, when was last time anyone here was turned into a pillar of salt? It’s been so long I can’t even remember. If we want to lower housing prices, we’re going to need some Old Testament-style otherworldly vengeance wrought down upon our heads. Electing the personification of Evil as the leader of our municipal government would be a great first step to securing the other plagues we’re going to need if we’re really serious about lowing the median price of a one bedroom apartment.

These are just a few modest proposals that I think will help solve the housing crisis here in our city. One thing’s for sure, we’re all going to have to work together if we want to make this city so horrible we all hate living here.  Becoming the worst city in America won’t be easy, and we already have a lot of competition. After all, Washington DC’s got about a 30 year head start.

Sexual harrassment

As a modern man with progressive views on gender equality, I thought I knew it all when it came to fostering an inclusive workplace.

Sexual Harrassment Training capture

Apparently not. The EEOC has yet to opine on how Matsuri is supposed to feel about Matthew’s extracurricular activities.

The Real Port-a-Johns of San Francisco

San Francisco is a pretty weird place: its possible to find a gluten-free vegan organic free trade version of anything, we have a  yoga studio in the airport, the entire city (until recently) is clothing optional, and everyone knows someone who is roommates with an underground DJ.

Living in a city this fabulous doesn’t come cheap. According to recent data (http://sfist.com/2013/07/19/another_sf_rent_map.php) a one bedroom apartment will set you back $2800 a month or $33,600 per year. The median household income in the US was about $50,000 in 2012, which means that such a household would have a mere $16,400 to do things like cloth your body in cheap burlap, make ramen and ketchup soup, and pay taxes.  And we’re only talking about renting. Don’t even think about purchasing property. The only way I could ever afford to buy a home in San Francisco is only if an earthquake ripped apart the earth’s crust at the very moment the entire tech industry collapsed. The earthquake would probably need to be violent enough to cause both a tsunami and apocalyptic amounts of lava.  Like Mark Zuckerburg would need to die in a lava pit.  And honestly I’m just not that lucky.

How all the underground DJs afford it, I’ll never know.

Despite all these fascinating details about my hometown, there are basically no reality shows set here. No one cares about the realness of our housewives, the topness of our chefs, or the american-ness of our idols. We had one season of the Real World back in ’94. The show really hit its stride by pairing an “confrontational bike messenger and an openly gay AIDS activist” together on TV for the first time.  By googling “Real World San Francisco” I discovered that they are actually filming another season here RIGHT NOW. Which would be great except that now the show’s casting formula is less “diverse/interesting strangers” and more “hot people with drinking problems, one of whom is an overt racist.”

Without more reality TV I have no way to accurately put my fingers on the pulse of this city from the comfort of my living room. So I did what other intrepid explorers before me have done. I phoned the King and Queen of Spain and asked them to bankroll my voyage. So far my calls have gone unreturned.

With my budget much lower than originally than I planned, I nevertheless set out to learn a thing or two about this city. And I noticed something very peculiar.

1

This is a house that is undergoing some renovation and next to is is a blue port-a-potty. I guess this alone isn’t all that interesting except that once I started looking around I noticed that they kept getting nicer, at least on the outside.

2

From across the street you can barely notice this one. Its been wrapped in a wood-net thing. This is what it looks like close up:

2013-08-31 15.32.46

Clever readers will notice that this isn’t exactly the same one as above. The wooden waffle-iron on this one is slightly different. But that’s only further evidence! Two fancily camouflaged port-a-johns in the same ‘hood! But these two were only the beginning. Brace yourselves kids its about to get weird.

2013-08-31 15.54.24

Not to be outdone, this enterprising builder at another house is going through his blue period.  While the previous builders clearly wanted their facilities to be less noticeable, this builder is saying something entirely different. By taking a blueish port-a-pottie and covering it in wood panels that are slightly more blue, he’s saying “The person inside this house is so rich that they’re paying me enough money to make noticeable but ultimately useless and superficial cosmetic changes to the place where I will poop temporarily.”

These port-a-potties are about status. Nothing says “I’m pretty friggin’ rich” like a port-a-pottie with architectural details. As if the fancy multi-million dollar mansions these johns sit beside weren’t enough.

2013-08-31 15.13.32

But these encasings aren’t necessarily entirely without utility. Take the one above, for example. San Francisco is a hilly place and a slanted port-a-pottie is a dangerous thing. This builder has used this as opportunity to get his to stand up right and I’m sure the people that live down hill are very glad he did.

2013-08-31 15.59.13

Mr. Caruso really wants you to know that he’s the one who will be pooping here. He also wants you to know that he’s the one doing the renovations on the glorious house right before you. He also wants us to know that as a construction person he uses saw saw blades and protractors. But mostly he just wants you to be so impressed with his panache that you’ll hire him. He’s emblazoned his name across his port-a-john to tell us this mini-biography of himself.

2013-08-31 15.28.08

This port-a-pottie is so nice you could almost forget that this is where construction workers poop on the sidewalk, probably without washing  their hands. This thing may have a false window, painted wood paneling, faux-iron hinges, and an arched doorway, but a sink it does not.

2013-09-01 00.53.22

When you look at this monstrosity, I want you to try really hard not to think about all the third-world children that died of starvation because this person decided to electrify a port-a-pottie instead of using that money to feed them. TRY REALLY HARD. I can’t imagine what kind of life a person must lead to say to their builder, ” NO, no, no a a false window, painted wood paneling, faux-iron hinges, and an arched doorway simply won’t do! I must have a Greco-Roman-inspired palace of glass and light!” I can only imagine that once inside there would be a candelabra or chandelier of some sort and that you would be greeted by a butler who can play the harpsichord. If I were the ghost of Liberace, I would haunt this port-a-john.

Like Alexis de Tocqueville, I set out that morning to document a small slice of American life. So from now on when you think of San Francisco, you shouldn’t just think of free love, gays, and beat poetry. You should also remember the billionaires, whose consumption is so conspicuous even Marie Antoinette would be like “Guys, c’mon enough already.”

Delusions of Grand Jury (pt 1)

Part of the reason I decided to to start blogging…again is because I was summoned to jury duty. I received my summons at the same time one of my favorite bloggers (Yoonanimous, you need to be reading this) also was summoned to jury duty and blogged about it. I was all like “OMG we’re civic duty twinzies!” in the comments of her blog. She gently encouraged me to stop trolling the comments section of her blog (never! I love it too much), and take my adventures onto a blog of my very own, which is what you’re reading write now.

Anyway, I’ve always wanted to be on a jury ever since my mom was on a jury and she told me that she was being paid $11 a day. And this was back in ’93, so we’re talking about some serious cash here. At the time I had never even considered that being paid such astronomical sums was even possible. What couldn’t an 8 yo buy with $11 a day? I submit that there is nothing.

In the intervening years, I’ve watched a lot of dramatizations of court proceedings on TV. I was/am an avid fan of The Practice, Family Law (Dixie Carter 4 EVER), Judging Amy (Tyne Daly is so boss), Night Court, and Judge Judy. Since I was summoned to serve at the criminal court, I had a feeling this was going to be a Law&Order situation (SVU? Only time would tell). Regardless, having spent countless hours watching L&O marathons* on cable, I knew Dick Wolf had trained me well. Between that and the fact that I had put down a deposit for law school on three separate occaisons (’11, ’12, and ’13), but didn’t actually go; I knew I was really prepared.

*Note: You know how on USA/TNT/TBS they have those L&O:SVU themed marathons? Like L&O: Mistaken Identities weekend, or L&O: Femme Fatales. My dream job is to work for one of those bootleg stations and curate different Law&Order themed marathons. My first order of business would be a L&O: The Aughts: As told through the many hairstyles of Olivia Benson. I would argue that Olivia Benson was to the 2000s, what Jennifer Aniston was to the 90’s.*

Anway, if I had my L&O druthers, I would have a judge like Judith Light aka Judge Liz Donnelly. Judith Light is one of those actresses that I like to pretend is always playing the same woman just at a different part of her life. Who’s the BossUgly Betty, or L&O:SVU: it doesn’t matter, in my mind it’s all the same Judith. So whenever I turn on the TV and I see her I like to say to myself “Oh there’s that crazy Judith. What is she up to these days?” and then she tells me.

I’ve been a big Judith Light fan ever since her sitcom days. I always felt like she was, without question, the actual boss. Here was a woman wrestling with all the pressures of modern 80’s life as an ad agency exec, mother, and shoulder pad-wearer, all while taking care of her post-menopausal sex dynamo of a mother. Tony Danza just rolls up one day with his David Cassidy-esque feathered hair and tries to usurp her authority. IMHO she should have Game of Thrones-ed his ass. But eventually she went on to flourish as tough, but fair judge in the NYC criminal courts; and I thought that I would really flourish as a juror with someone like her presiding.

Who’s the boss?

She’s the boss

 If Judith Light was off the table, I definitely wanted to go the Night Court route. It was pretty early in the morning when I finally made it to the court, and there were no snacks in the jury assembly room, so I could really have used some Harry Anderson-John Larroquette-Markie Post shenanigans to kick-start* my day.

*Note to self: Remember to create actual Night Court-based project to submit for funding at kickstarter.com

Would you pay good money to help Kickstart (TM) a Night Court-themed something? Maybe a breakfast cereal?

Upon arriving at the Hall of Justice, I actually started to get nervous. I don’t know if it was the four separate bail bonds…stores?…enterprises?.. I don’t know what you call a place that sells bail bonds; or the crack heads out front, but suddenly I knew this was some serious shiz.

I made my way to the aforementioned jury assembly room (you’ll remember that I mentioned there were no snacks). It was filled with SFers from all walks of life. I knew that where I sat was going to be very important because that person would probably become my new friend. As I looked around, I realized the pickings were going to be slim, friend-wise. I spied on rather handsome gent, but then I realized that he was wearing a leather jacket and I swore I would never be friends with someone who would wear a leather jacket. I finally settled on a woman who looked like a trim Janet Napolitano. Everything was going great until I realized she had fallen asleep approximately 30 seconds after I sat down. When she awoke, she moved to another seat, leaving me totally vulnerable to whatever waste of life decided to sit down next to me.

Luckily, one of the clerks decided that it was time to get the show on the road. He explained that it was time for the juror orientation video, and walked over to the tube television, and slid the VHS tape into the VCR. This video could not have been made any later than the Mesozoic Era. We were greeted by a “former juror” who I can only assume had just unloaded his Conestoga wagon and was on his way to pan for gold with the other gold rush prospectors when he was selected for jury duty.

“We take crime just as seriously here in the California Territory as they do in the 30 states. After all, this is a post-Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo world we’re living in,” he wheezed. I swear I’ve seen daguerreotypes of more recent vintage.

Ok, so he didn’t really say that. I don’t really remember what he said because another potential juror sitting to my right was blowing his nose and leaving his snotty Kleenex in a pile on the coffee table between us. I was fairly certain that that kind of behavior would get him promptly ejected from service.

The clerk came back and informed us that the pay was $15/day plus $2 for transit costs…unless you’re a public employee. WHAT!?! I work for the government. My 8 yo dreams came crumbling down right before my eyes. Jury duty, as it turns out, is not the ticket to fame and fortune I had imagined.

Then the clerk started calling names and telling folks which court to report to. As the clerk read the first list of names, I heard one that sounded like mine. Could it be me? Did I just mishear the last name? I’d better check. No, not me? OK, time to regroup, pee, and think about how I really want a snack. Oh wait, next list. Nope, not called again.

Don’t they see how justice flows through my veins? Maybe I should mention how I almost went to law school three separate times. Ah Ha! Called on the third list.

My fellow potential future jurors and I all filed down to Dept. 27 and sat in the gallery, where the judge and two attorneys were already waiting for us. A new clerk welcomed us and then said she was going to call 24 names at random for preliminary question…and my name was chosen!

Of course I was chosen. If you had to choose 24 names at random, wouldn’t you choose mine?

I was juror #8, and I swore that I would be the greatest juror #8 that ever rendered a verdict

Stay tuned until next time; when an actual trial happens!