Walton Board President
District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton was installed as San Francisco Board of Supervisors president last month, becoming City Hall’s second most powerful politician. Walton was elected to the Board in 2018 to represent Bayview-Hunters Point, Dogpatch and Potrero Hill after serving eight years as the executive director of Young Community Developers, a nonprofit that offers youth job training. Walton is aligned with the board’s progressive wing. Supervisor Hillary Ronen, a contender for board president two years ago, praised him as the right person “to lead us through the end of this pandemic and into recovery. He is clear about why he wants a leadership role; to assist those that are suffering the most. He is brave and visionary and always operates with a profound respect for everyone he works with.” Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents the Tenderloin and South-of-Market, said Walton will “stand up for our vulnerable residents, and help steer the board in a productive solutions-oriented manner.”
Cohen Police Commission President
Malia Cohen, who preceded Walton as District 10 Supervisor, was elected San Francisco Police Commission president last month. Commissioner Cindy Elias was selected as vice president. Cohen’s accidence follows the December resignation of former Commission president Damali Taylor. Cohen is the newest Commission member, having joined in August, nominated by Mayor London Breed and unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors. She also serves on the state Board of Equalization, which oversees tax administration in California.
Emergency Transit Lanes Modified
In January, the San Francisco Metropolitan Transit Agency (SFMTA)’s Board of Directors approved temporary emergency transit lanes on Fourth Street between Berry and Channel streets in the northbound and southbound directions. T-Third Muni Metro service between Sunnydale and Embarcadero Station resumed under Phase One of a plan to improve T-Third rail performance at a point where a bottleneck causes systemwide delays. Phase One allows northbound traffic on the Fourth Street Bridge; the northbound transit lane has been installed within a left turn pocket at Fourth and Berry, prohibiting left turns from Fourth Street onto the 200 block of Berry. If northbound traffic causes delays to the T-Third, Phase Two will be triggered, in which a full northbound temporary transit lane would be installed between Channel and Berry streets, northbound traffic would be prohibited on the Fourth Street Bridge, turn restrictions implemented at Fourth and Channel to prevent vehicles from entering the northbound transit lane from Channel Street, and Fourth Street traffic would be required to turn left or right onto Channel. In another alteration from the original plan, southbound left turns from Fourth Street onto the 100 block of Berry Street are allowed from a newly installed Left-Turn Only lane. General traffic heading south over the Fourth Street Bridge must use the curbside lane. The southbound lane with the streetcar tracks has become dedicated to transit and taxis. Modifications to the original proposal reported in The View’s January issue were based on significant feedback from community members.
Office Market Feeble
In 2020 San Francisco’s office market had its weakest year in at least three decades, as the coronavirus pandemic brought business expansion to a near standstill. New leasing activity plunged 71 percent from 2019, according to real estate brokerage Cushman & Wakefield. At 2.2 million square feet, down from 7.7 million, it’s the lowest level since the 1990s. The public health crises destroyed a nearly decade-long real estate boom, forcing office workers to stay home and emptying once-bustling Downtown streets. The biggest 2020 lease was signed by Vir, a biotech company researching COVID-19, which took 133,896 square feet at Dropbox’s 1800 Owens Street headquarters.
The artificial intelligence nonprofit OpenAI expanded to 96,000 square feet at 575 Florida Street. Office projects under construction, which in recent years were often fully leased before being completed, saw no tenancies signed last year. Brookfield Properties’ partially built office tower at the 5M project and its Pier 70 development are still seeking tenants.
PG&E Rates Ruinous
According to the Public Advocates Office at the California Public Utilities Commission, Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s customers can expected double-digit rate increases this year. All-in, Cal Advocates predict that electricity prices for residential clients will reach 26.7 cents per kilowatt-hour by the end of 2021, a 16 percent jump since last October. Average rates for all customers will hit 22.55 cents per kwh, a 15 percent rise. As a result, San Francisco households will pay $14.60 more a month on average this summer, with a $37.05 monthly hit in hotter places, such as Fresno. Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s rate are roughly one-third less than PG&E’s. It’s yet another warning signal that the investor-owned utility isn’t the right institution to be powering our hopes and dreams. Rapidly rising rates during a period in which all-electric cars and homes are the solution du jour to a changing climate will trigger adverse economic consequences, including reinforcing energy and income inequities. Time for policy makers to wake up and smell the future.
As we sit staring at the dumbing glow of our “smart” phones what’re we not paying attention to? A great deal, no doubt, during shelter-in-place, including furtive political lobbying in the darkened halls of Sacramento, City Hall, and elsewhere during a period when public access is severely limited, by both COVID and Trump-prompted heightened security. Who, exactly, are our politicians talking to these days, and whom are they not?
Title Transfer Correction
In December, the University of California, San Francisco and San Francisco Unified School District signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) on the transfer of Mission Bay South Block 14. The agreement marks a critical but intermediary milestone toward construction of a public elementary school in Mission Bay. The View incorrectly reported in last month’s issue that transfer had been completed; the actual land transfer is anticipated by the end of this year.
Tanis Crosby is the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank’s new executive director, following last month’s retirement of Paul Ash. Ash had planned to retire last year, but due to the unprecedented events of 2020 agreed to stay on to help the Food Bank adapt and respond. Ash will serve as an advisor and consultant to the Food Bank as needed. “During Paul’s three decades of leadership at the Food Bank, the organization’s food distribution increased from just three million pounds to 67 million pounds, ensuring hundreds of thousands of Bay Area families had access to food,” said Scott Brubaker, the Food Bank’s Board Chair. “We are grateful for Paul’s commitment to the Food Bank and the people of San Francisco and Marin. The full extent of his impact is truly immeasurable; he leaves behind an enduring legacy.” Crosby previously served as chief executive officer of the combined YWCA Silicon Valley and YWCA San Francisco & Marin.