FBI: Hate crimes rose 58% in San Francisco

Hate crimes jumped 58% in San Francisco last year even as they appeared to level off across California and the nation, new FBI figures show.

The city’s surge in hate crimes, which local leaders called troubling, was driven by an increase in incidents in which people were accused of targeting victims due to their race or ethnicity. The number of racially motivated crimes more than doubled last year, from 19 in 2017 to 41 in 2018, making up the majority of San Francisco’s 68 reported hate crimes.

The FBI’s annual report on hate crime in the U.S. doesn’t seek to explain trends.

But leaders in San Francisco’s effort to reduce crime pointed to two factors that may explain the rise: better reporting of hate crimes because of increased trust between victims and law enforcement, and a political climate in which President Trump’s vilification of immigrants and people of color may be empowering offenders. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco’s Political Leadership Has Squandered a Fortune

In 2009, San Francisco’s municipal budget totaled $6.5 billion — $8.6 billion in today’s dollars, adjusted for inflation and population. San Francisco’s budget for 2019 is an eye-popping $12.2 billion, a 10 percent increase just since 2018. The city has failed to match this staggering budget growth with a similar increase in capital investment or services, however, providing an object lesson in the limits of what money can do.

Companies like Google, Salesforce, and Uber, headquartered in and around the city, pour sky-high salaries and stock-option windfalls into the local economy, which has seen real estate values — and the cost of everything else — soar. City coffers overflow with tax revenue. Though the effect has been most pronounced for the past decade, it extends as far back as the first dot-com boom, 20 years ago—in 1999, the city budget was $4.2 billion, equivalent to $7.7 billion today. The excess budget above inflation and population growth over those 20 years totals an astonishing $23 billion.

What has San Francisco done with this wealth? Not much. The Municipal Transportation Agency (“Muni”), which runs the busses and metro, has struggled with failure after failure this year. The housing shortage in the city is so bad that it is driving people to live in cars and even boats. Homelessness is up 14 percent in the past 6 years. Dirty streets, with needles and worse on the sidewalks, were an issue in last year’s mayoral race. A city seemingly rich enough to pave its roads with gold finds them covered in trash.

San Francisco has squandered its fortune. Proclaiming itself a “Transit First” city, density and geography make it one of the U.S. cities best suited for public transport. The city could have used its $23 billion excess to build dozens of miles of subway. Instead, it dug just 1.6 miles of the Central Subway, still not open. San Francisco did build a downtown train station, the Salesforce Transit Center, billed as the “Grand Central of the West”—except that it didn’t fund a tunnel to the station, so no trains go there yet, only busses.

San Francisco politicians also claim to care about affordable housing. Even at the inflated rate to build such housing in the Bay Area — up to $700,000 per unit — $23 billion could have built 33,000 units in the past 20 years. The total number of subsidized units in the city was only about 33,000 in 2018, and just 3,741 of them came from city programs like public housing or the mayor’s office. The rest came from federal, state, or private investment.

San Francisco also claims to care greatly about green energy and rising sea levels. With $23 billion, it could have installed solar panels on every building in the city at no cost to the owner, with almost $16 billion to spare for coastal defenses. Instead, San Francisco offers an anemic $1,500 credit for a typical solar installation, and seawalls have gotten no further than an “action plan” and a “vulnerability and consequences assessment.”

It wasn’t always this way. In the 20 years from 1917 to 1937, San Francisco dug the Twin Peaks and Sunset tunnels that remain central to its metro system; completed the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which provides some of America’s cleanest water; and built both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, which connect it to the region and sustain its jobs. All these projects are still used daily.

There have been some success stories. The city’s OneSF capital plan has been making long overdue improvements to streets and sewers. The Public Utilities Commission has completed several major seismic upgrades to the Hetch Hetchy water system, helping prepare for the eventual major earthquake. Two parks bonds, in 2008 and 2012, led to spectacular renovations of city parks and playgrounds. But these largely represent good governance and incremental improvements, not the fruits of billions of dollars of spending. With no grand projects to point to, it’s reasonable to wonder where all the money has gone.

Municipal employment has eaten up a large share. Salaries and benefits account for almost 45 percent of the budget, averaging $175,004 per employee, in a city where median household income is $96,265. The city employs 31,830 people, one for every 28 residents and six employees for every city block. The $873 million spent on grants—payments to nonprofits or other groups for various social services—almost equals the total spent on capital projects and facilities maintenance combined.

The larger issues, however, are political indifference and bureaucratic mismanagement. San Francisco carries principal debt of $3.63 billion, which could have been paid down since 2015 with millions to spare. Instead of making this long investment in the city’s financial future, San Francisco’s leaders have grown used to revenue that grow without effort and issued more than $1 billion of additional debt. The current budget is now burdened with $1.6 billion of debt service.

The paltry results from exceptional budget growth are also a story of mismanagement. The Central Subway, though one of the most expensivesubway projects in the world, has almost run out of money; its opening was recently delayed another 18 months. Last year, Muni made critical upgrades to the century old Twin Peaks tunnel, requiring additional busses to substitute for trains during the work. Muni didn’t plan for the extra drivers and took them from other routes, leaving the city short on service and causing a system-wide “meltdown.” The “Grand Central of the West,” despite having no tunnel or tracks, still cost $2.2 billion; it closed only six weeks after opening, due to structural cracks. The city spent $2 million to build a public bathroom at $4,700 per square foot, a construction cost similar to high-rise luxury condos. As successful as the OneSF capital plan has been, searching for a list of projects on its website returns the message, “the requested page could not be found.” San Francisco demonstrates that throwing in more money will compound mismanagement, not solve it.

The story of San Francisco’s budget over the past two decades shows that the city’s leadership doesn’t really value many of the issues—transit, affordable housing, clean energy—that it says it does. Given how little the city has done with its incredible windfall, year after year, it’s not clear what it values at all.

Phillip Sprincin is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online

San Francisco’s Latest Idea – Banning Plastic Water Bottles at the Airport

San Francisco has most recently been known more for its quality of life problems and lack of affordability than the home of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.

You would think that city officials would be doing everything they can to lure both tourists and business travelers back to the City by the Bay.

Apparently, San Francisco’s reputation as being the 4th most expensive city in America, having the world’s 5th-worst traffic congestion, and its out-of-control homeless problem were not enough.  It now wants to start annoying travelers the moment they land in San Francisco.

San Francisco International Airport announced last week that, starting on August 20, the airport’s shops and restaurants may no longer sell plastic water bottles.

In a troubling display of government officials trying to dictate people’s beverage choices, there is even an “SFO approved water bottle list” on the airport’s website, which lists in painful detail the brands and packaging of water that are approved for sale at the airport.

According to the airport, only “reusable water bottles, recyclable aluminum, glass and certified compostable water bottles can instead be provided or sold” after August 20.

Airport spokesman Doug Yakel told the San Francisco Chronicle that, “we’re the first airport that we’re aware of to implement this change.”

Sadly, they’re not the first in California to propose banning plastic bottles.

As our Kerry Jackson wrote earlier this year, California lawmakers “have a new target in California’s war on plastics:  those handy bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion that hotels hand out guests.”  Assembly Bill 1162 would ban those.

Let’s look at the real, practical problems caused by this plan.

The plan has the effect of government picking winners and losers among bottled water producers.  Why is government effectively outlawing the sale of an otherwise-legal product as benign as plastic water bottles?  Californians should have the choice to decide which legal products we buy and consume.  We don’t need government bureaucrats and the airport dictating our bottled water choices.

As a practical matter, travelers can’t take their own water with them into the airport.  No one can bring more than 3 ounces of any one liquid through security under the security initiatives that have been in place at U.S. airports since 9/11.

It could also complicate the loading of airplanes as passengers are already lugging too much onto planes and overhead bin space is at a premium.  Encouraging people to lug large and bulky metal reusable water bottles onto planes will make this problem even worse.

Additionally, this proposal is likely to make airports – which are already a hotbed of germs – even bigger epicenters of illness.  When you drink out of a public water fountain, you never really know how recently or how often they are cleaned.

According to Penn State University, “there are many damaging pathogens that live in water fountains, which cause people to get sick.  E-coli, legionella, and coliform are three types of bacteria found in water fountains.  Drinking water also contains viruses, chemicals, and metals.  These types of bacteria can cause stomach problems and pneumonia-like symptoms such as headaches, vomiting and diarrhea.”

If the goal of San Francisco officials is to cut down on littering and improve plastic recycling rates, then public policy solutions should be aimed there rather than dictating consumer choices. It seems clear that all the fuss from this “only in San Francisco” proposal will be for naught.  As Kerry Jackson noted in a recent City Journal op-ed, “only about 1 percent of all plastic in the oceans is from the U.S.; California’s contribution to the mess is negligible.”

The real mess here will be the hassle felt by travelers in and out of San Francisco airport, who just want a cheap and easy-to-handle bottle of water while traveling.  Apparently, that’s too much to ask when visiting San Francisco.  Meanwhile, the city’s well-deserved reputation as a place not worth the headache of visiting will surely grow because of this ridiculous, virtue-signaling mandate.

Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s communications director.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

San Francisco Residents Use Environmental Lawsuit to Stop Homeless Shelter

In the most played-out storyline in urban politics, San Francisco residents are alleging that a new housing development was approved without appropriate environmental review.

The development in question is a planned 200-bed temporary homeless shelter on the city’s Embarcadero waterfront area. It would replace what is currently a publicly owned parking lot used by fans visiting the nearby Giants stadium.

The shelter was first proposed by Mayor London Breed back in March as part of the city’s Navigation Center program, which provides temporary shelter to homeless people while they are connected to other city services.

These plans met immediate opposition from neighbors, who in, public hearings, protests, and official appeals raised objections that commonly dog proposed homeless shelters: The new shelter would bring drugs and crime to the nearby residential neighborhood. Its 200-bed size would prove too large for the city to effectively handle, particularly given its record managing other Navigation Centers. The presence of contaminated soils and groundwater at the site would create health hazards for the people who would live there.

The city’s Board of Supervisors ultimately rejected these complaints, approving the Navigation Center in June. In doing so, they also declared the project was exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which requires that government agencies study the environmental impacts of proposed projects before approving them.

The kind of environmental impact reports that CEQA demands cost a lot in both time and money to prepare, and would have delayed the approval of the Navigation Center by months at the very least. Because of how long and expensive these delays can be, NIMBYs frequently use the law to slow down, alter, or even stop projects they don’t like.

This includes not just homeless shelters and affordable housing, but also regular market-rate developments as well.

City officials tried to avoid this problem in this case by saying that an exemption built into CEQA for urban infill projects applied to the Embarcadero Navigation Center.

But in a lawsuit filed last week, the neighborhood group Safe Embarcadero For All (SEFA) has argued that the many, many negative environmental impacts the project would bring to the neighborhood amounted to “unusual circumstances” that made this infill exemption inappropriate.

“This project will have a significant effect on the environment due to these unusual circumstances, including by attracting additional homeless persons, open drug and alcohol use, crime, daily emergency calls, public urination and defecation and other nuisances,” reads the lawsuit.

Their lawsuit also argues that the state government’s sign off is necessary for the Navigation Center.

SEFA is currently asking for an injunction to stop the Embarcadero Navigation Center from going forward while the case winds through the courts.

San Francisco’s homelessness population has increased by 30 percent in the last two years.

This is not to say that the city’s Navigation Centers have been a huge success at transitioning people into permanent housing. They haven’t.

But the SEFA lawsuit is nevertheless a good example of how any response to the city’s dire homelessness problem, whether its the constructions of more shelters or just the construction of more housing in general, is hamstrung by the state’s onerous environmental review laws.

CHRISTIAN BRITSCHGI is an associate editor at Reason.

This article was originally published by Reason.com

Restoring Order on San Francisco’s BART

Three months ago, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system that serves San Francisco and surrounding counties began a “blitz” to deter morning rush-hour fare evasion at four downtown stations. As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, the first month’s results were startling: proof-of-payment citations rose 13 percent, new ticket sales rose 10 percent, add-value transactions to existing tickets rose 29 percent, and—most significantly—average weekly calls to police dropped a remarkable 45 percent. This rapid turnaround in behavior was achieved simply by staffing the stations with extra police officers, fare inspectors, and BART managers wearing bright yellow vests so that anyone trying to jump a fare gate or use a bypass door saw their way blocked by an official.

These results should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the Broken Windows theory of policing developed by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. The theory’s simple premise: responding proactively to minor crime (vandalism, disorderly behavior, and fare evasion) also reduces serious crime, including violent crime. Before he made New York City the safest large city in the country as commissioner of its police department, William Bratton put Broken Windows into effect as the head of the New York Transit Police, directing his officers to focus on fare evasion. The effect of the policy—first in the subway tunnels and then on the streets of New York—is now legendary.

San Francisco’s BART “blitz” demonstrates the effectiveness of Broken Windows. Just by putting people at the gates who looked to be in charge—neither the fare inspectors nor the yellow-vested managers were badged police officers—BART was able to cut crime in those stations almost in half. Exactly as Broken Windows predicts, those willing to commit serious crime often start by committing minor crimes, like fare evasion. Keeping such people out of the transit system means that everyone paying the fare is safer.

The data also put to rest two common arguments against fighting fare evasion—and, by extension, against Broken Windows policing. Advocates claim that enforcing laws against fare evasion criminalizes the poor. People don’t evade fares out of malice, the argument goes, but because they’re struggling and can’t spare the cash. But the more than 600 additional fares bought during a recent month show that fare-jumpers can pay—they just chose not to do so, knowing that they faced no consequence. Furthermore, the large increase in add-value transactions demonstrates that it’s not only poor people who jump the turnstile. People who already have a ticket or transit card are more likely to be regular riders, perhaps commuters, who figured that they may as well skip paying the fare since no one was watching. Jumping the gates instead of buying a valid fare remains a choice, not an involuntary circumstance.

Another argument against Broken Windows policing is that monitoring petty transactions is a waste of resources because the money spent paying public employees to do this exceeds the revenue from fines or additional tickets. Some of the police officers involved in the new BART policy worked overtime, and their additional salary may have exceeded the value of fines and extra fares. But this argument discounts the cost of the approximately 40 police calls that did not occur as a result of stationing guards in the stations. Each response to a crime is expensive in terms of officer time, the potential deployment of medical personnel, and justice-system costs—but the social benefits of establishing public order are incalculable. Letting people get away with jumping turnstiles leads to a deterioration of the transit environment. When some commuters become cheats, some cheats become thieves—and some thieves become muggers, a progression that Broken Windows seeks to interrupt.

BART has seen ridership drop by almost 8 million in two years, a loss of tens of millions of dollars of revenue driven in part by the drug use, litter, and even mass robbery plaguing the system. For every potential cheat who turned around when seeing an official at the turnstile, thousands of paying customers saw a transit agency finally in charge of its own stations and trains. Reinforcing law and order in San Francisco’s transit system can help bring those lost riders—and their money—back, but only if BART stays the course. BART needs to make fare enforcement more like San Francisco’s famous fog—an ever-present reminder in the city.

Phillip Sprincin is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online

San Francisco Becomes First City to Ban E-Cigs

San Francisco voted Tuesday to ban the sale of e-cigarettes that do not have FDA approval, a legislative first for a major U.S. city. The FDA specification is effectively moot, observes The Verge, as no e-cigarettes (which are touted as tobacco cigarette alternatives) currently bear FDA approval.

Though pending executive signature, Mayor London Breed’s public statements voicing concern over the rise of teen vaping suggest she will put the bill into law. (Beverly Hills votedto ban the sale of cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and e-cigarettes earlier this month, leaving hotels as the only legal sellers of cigarettes in the city.) San Francisco is also the site of the country’s leading e-cigarette producer, Juul Labs.

Juul spoke out against the legislation, arguing that criminalizing e-cigarettes would “create a thriving black market” and encourage a return to “deadly cigarettes,” as reported by the Washington Post. Cigarette sales are still legal in San Francisco.

City leaders, for their part, remain unfazed by Juul’s admonitions and have even been openly hostile toward the company. As board of supervisors member Shamann Walton told the New York Times, “I would not lose any sleep at all if Juul left. I would help them pack up.”

Sales of Juul products jumped more than 600 percent within one year, says a 2018 letter from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, citing an increase of 2.2 million products sold in 2016 to 16.2 million sold in 2017. In December, the privately held company, then valued at $38 billion, sold 35 percent of its stake to Marlboro manufacturer Altria, allegedly seeking overseas investment to boot. In June, Juul bought a 29-floor skyscraper at 123 Mission Street in a record-breaking deal, effectively making Juul the only San Francisco company not in real estate to make such a massive real estate purchase to date. The building is estimated at $400 million. Juul told Business Insider a month earlier that its staff had ballooned from 200 to 2,000 employees within the past year. Most of Juul’s employees work in San Francisco. …

Click here to read the full article from Vox.com

The high cost of low-level crime in the San Francisco

San Francisco is the nation’s leader in property crime. Burglary, larceny, shoplifting, and vandalism are included under this ugly umbrella. The rate of car break-ins is particularly striking: in 2017 over 30,000 reports were filed, and the current average is 51 per day. Other low-level offenses, including drug dealing, street harassment, encampments, indecent exposure, public intoxication, simple assault, and disorderly conduct are also rampant.

Many in law enforcement blame the crime wave on Proposition 47, which in 2014 downgraded possession of illegal narcotics for personal use and theft of anything under $950 in value from felonies to misdemeanors. Anti-incarceration advocates disagree with that argument, but theft is indisputably booming, and narcotics activity is exploding on sidewalks, parks, and playgrounds. When compounded with other troubles for which the city is now infamous (human feces, filth, and homelessness, which is up 17 percent since 2017), San Franciscans find themselves surrounded by squalor and disorder.

“A lot of people are ready to leave because the crimes are causing depression,” says Susan Dyer Reynolds, editor-in-chief of the Marina Times, an independent community newspaper. “Navigation centers” for the homeless, says Reynolds, “are not sober facilities, and people steal and break into cars to feed their habits. Crime will go up. We know this.”

Property and other supposedly low-level crimes are intensifying the destruction of the retail market. Landmark Mission District stores are shuttering, citing theft and lack of security. In April, CVS closed two pharmacies that had been ravaged by constant shoplifting. Mom-and-pop businesses, wracked by so-called minor losses, find it impossible to survive. Empty storefronts dot once-vibrant neighborhoods.

“Property and low-level crimes shrink the space for everyday people and enlarge them for the people committing them,” says Nancy Tung, a criminal prosecutor for two decades, who is running for district attorney in the 2019 election. “If we continue down this path, we will see more people leave San Francisco.” Tung will face a competitive field of opponents, including Deputy Public Defender Chesa Boudin, a socialist and the son of two convicted Weather Underground murderers, who wants to reduce criminal sentences. Keeping people out of jail is the new social-justice battle; in March, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled that San Francisco’s bail policy violates the rights of poor defendants and brings no public benefit.

Meantime, the poor bear the brunt of low-level and property crimes. “In the Tenderloin we have vulnerable populations—people of color, the most children, the second-highest concentration of elders, and they are held hostage by drug dealers and theft, and the city tells them these crimes are not that bad,” says Tung. “We are failing to protect them. The police do a good job, because the criminals are caught, only to be released back on the streets over and over.”

David Young is board president of his building, located in the South of Market neighborhood. In a recent six-month period, four windows were smashed by vandals, and replacement costs are huge. “The everyday wear and tear on your psyche gets to you,” says Young. “When we walk out the door, we know that there is a 100 percent chance we’ll see someone on drugs, in various states of undress, blood on sidewalks, and discarded sharps. These are crimes no one in city hall seems to care about. When you say something about it, you’re called a fascist.”

Until recently, Young says, San Francisco was an amazing place to live. “Now people look at the city as an abscess,” he says. “The cost of housing compared to the quality of life is way off. Everyone is talking about it. Crime has been ignored for so long, and it’s gotten so huge. Serial repeat offenders have no problem making bail, especially drug dealers, as they see it as the cost of doing business.”

Some citizens are attempting to fight back. Frank Noto cofounded Stop Crime: Neighborhood for Criminal Justice Accountability after an onslaught of break-ins. Neighbors had come together for an art project, which drew crowds—but also crime rings. First tourists’ cars were hit, then residents’ cars, and then homes. So the group started a court-watch program. They attended hearings and observed decisions, and they noted a casual judicial approach to these cases. Their presence didn’t go unnoticed. Judges know that they’re being scrutinized; one actually recused himself. “We have to take a stand,” says Noto. “We talked to one guy, an electrician, who’s been burglarized six times, and all of his tools have been stolen. All we want is for the DA and judges to take this seriously.”

As for the San Francisco Police, they’re doing their best. “It looks like hell here, but we are getting those people,” says San Francisco Police Department Captain Carl Fabbri, who helms the Tenderloin police station. “In our district, robberies are down 17 percent, burglaries are down 28 percent, and auto break-ins are down 26 percent. These results don’t just happen. We’re getting the people off the streets even for two days. When they’re in jail, we see an impact.”

The community benefits when criminals are incapacitated by being locked up, but Fabbri, like Tung and Noto, thinks that low-level criminals are released too quickly. “We could be keeping them and be giving services while they’re in jail,” says Fabbri. “It could really be effective. We need changes in the law and policies, to amend Proposition 47 and strengthen quality-of-life laws.” Bail, too, should remain in place. “There is so much support of the police here, more than you’d think,” says Fabbri. “Social media has turned the tide. If you follow what we’re doing, you can see the difference we are making.”

San Francisco’s lure persists. “There are more people from different parts of the world coming here to build a life all the time,” says Young. “It’s unquestionably a great place for opportunity, and culturally what we have is incredible. But we’re not solving our problems when we pretend low-level crimes aren’t important.” Committed residents are digging in, but if the city doesn’t start changing its approach, how long will they last?

Erica Sandberg is a widely published consumer-finance reporter based in San Francisco and the author of Expecting Money: The Essential Financial Plan for New and Growing Families. As a community advocate, she focuses on homelessness and crime and safety issues.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online

San Francisco Homeless Population Rises 17% in Two Years

San Francisco continues to struggle with homelessness, with a population count revealing last week that the local homeless population had risen by 17% since 2017 — though youth and veteran homelessness had dropped.

Many cities across the U.S. have struggled with rising homelessness in recent years, partly due to the pressure of rising housing costs, and the social devastation of the opioid epidemic. However, in California the problem is compounded by the presence of warmer weather and the availability of generous welfare benefits, both of which tend to attract transients from other parts of the country. Unscrupulous drug treatment clinics have also exploited the state’s health insurance system, luring addicts to receive treatment and kicking them out when the state insurance money runs out.

A news release from the office of San Francisco Mayor London Breed stated:

Every two years, San Francisco is required to conduct a homelessness Point-in-Time Count by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The HUD count, which was conducted on January 24, 2019, counted 8,011 homeless people, both sheltered and unsheltered, in San Francisco. The 2017 HUD count recorded 6,858 people. The increase in unsheltered people was driven largely by people living in vehicles, accounting for 68% of the increase in unsheltered people. There was also an increase in sheltered residents, resulting from the investments the City has made to add shelter beds.

The mayor pledged $5 million in additional spending on the problem.

Los Angeles has also struggled with homelessness — so much so that Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has struggled to deal with the problem, is widely considered to have abandoned plans for a presidential run because of the issue. He has pledged to end street homelessness by 2028, which is also the year that the city is due to host the summer Olympics. The Los Angeles Times notes that the city is due to release its own homeless count by the end of May.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

San Francisco Bans Government Use of Facial Recognition Surveillance Cameras

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted this week to outlaw facial recognition surveillance technology that they say could have been used by the city government to invade on the privacy of its citizens.

According to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco has become the first city in the country to outlaw facial recognition technology that could be used with surveillance cameras. The decision is a big victory for privacy advocates, who have expressed concerns in recent years that surveillance technology could lead to an Orwellian nightmare.

Aaron Peskin, who wrote the legislation that outlaws facial recognition technology for the purpose of government surveillance, said that he believes that the San Francisco city government cannot build trust with the community by deploying surveillance technology to monitor their behaviors.

“This is really about saying we can have security without being a security state. We can have good policing without being a police state,” Peskin said. “Part of that is building trust with the community.”

Only one member of the Board of Supervisors, Catherine Stefani, voted against the decision to outlaw the technology. Stefani argued that a complete ban of the technology would prevent local police from utilizing it to catch criminals.

“I am not yet convinced, and I still have many outstanding questions,” Stefani said. But “that does not undermine what I think is a very well-intentioned piece of legislation.”

 A local activist group called “Stop Crime SF” is not satisfied with the decision. A representative from the group told the San Francisco Chronicle that the surveillance technology could have been used to increase public safety.

“We agree there are problems with facial recognition ID technology and it should not be used today,” the group’s vice president said. “But the technology will improve and it could be a useful tool for public safety when used responsibly and with greater accuracy. We should keep the door open for that possibility.”

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Desperation Growing in Bay Area’s Housing Market

Fears that heavy housing costs could undercut Silicon Valley and the Bay Area’s economy have grown steadily in recent years as gains in wages have been outstripped by soaring rents and home prices.

Now a poll of 1,568 registered voters in the region done on behalf of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and Bay Area News Group paints one of the starkest pictures yet of public dissatisfaction.

Those polled were nine times as likely to say life in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley had gotten worse over the past five years than to say it had gotten better. Forty-four percent of respondents said they wanted to move out of the region because of housing costs, bad traffic and declining quality of life; 6 percent intended to leave in the next year. African-Americans and Latinos were those most likely to want to move elsewhere.

But even 64 percent of homeowners – normally much more content than others in surveys on life satisfaction – said their lives had gotten worse.

The results produced yet another warning from the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which has cautioned for years that the region will struggle to attract workers for tech and blue-collar jobs alike unless housing costs stop spiraling upward. The group’s CEO, Carl Guardino, told the San Jose Mercury-News that “not working at our weaknesses will come at our own peril.”

School districts launch own projects

Most of the cities in the region haven’t come close to meeting state goals for either affordable or market-rate housing. Recent new state laws meant to spur more housing construction have yet to pay off.

Meanwhile, school districts in and near San Francisco and Silicon Valley are increasingly impatient with the status quo and open to new approaches. Three districts which struggle to keep teachers from leaving for cheaper communities are going into the housing business to ensure teachers have affordable rents.

In Mountain View, the city plans to meet its state affordable-housing mandates by working with Los Gatos-based developer FortBay to build a 144-unit subsidized apartment building for use by Whisman School District teachers and other employees.

The Whisman district’s board backed a $56 million agreement that commits the district to lease the building for at least 55 years. The project could be finished by the end of 2021, depending on the pace of city approvals and other factors. Long-term funding options include bonds or certificates of participation (bond-like measures that don’t require voter approval).

District Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph has also voiced the hope that substantial gifts from philanthropic groups could reduce the cost to Whisman.

In Daly City, the Jefferson Union High School District is using a $33 million voter-approved bond to build 116 apartments for teachers and other employers.

The Palo Alto Unified School District is evaluating how to fund a 120-unit project for its employees.

Legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016 allows the districts to give housing preferences to their employees. It also gives them access to state and federal low-income housing credits.

Can districts afford housing subsidies?

A recent UC Berkeley study of teacher housing issues in Berkeley Unified showed strong support from employees for a similar approach in their district. More than half reported difficulty paying rent.

But to date, no study has examined the long-term financial feasibility of having districts provide subsidized housing, as is contemplated by the three districts pursuing construction plans.

Employee compensation already consumes 85 percent or more of most school districts’ general fund budgets. With districts’ pension contribution rates more than doubling from 2014 to 2020 as part of the bailout of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, dozens of districts are pleading poverty.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com