San Francisco Defends Right of Non-Citizens to Vote in School Board Elections

San Francisco is defending the right of non-citizens to vote in school board elections.

In a brief filed Friday, the City Attorney’s Office swung back at a legal challenge by a Republican operative that aims to revoke the right of non-citizens to vote in San Francisco Unified School District elections. 

The motion comes in response to a lawsuit filed three-and-a-half months ago in San Francisco Superior Court by James V. Lacy—an Orange County lawyer, right-wing pundit and author of conservative books such as Taxifornia—alleging that non-citizen voting is unlawful and should be banned.

Fellow plaintiff Michael Denny, a San Francisco resident, said non-citizens participating in local elections unlawfully dilutes the votes of citizens.

In his response Friday, City Attorney David Chiu countered that while California’s constitution guarantees voting rights to citizens over the age of 18, it does not prohibit cities from extending the electorate to additional residents in local elections. 

Even if the court found a conflict between the city’s charter and state law, Chiu argued that San Francisco’s “home rule authority” would prevail.

Chiu noted in his filing that non-citizens were allowed to vote for the first 150 years of United States history.  

“While women and racial minorities who were citizens were deprived of voting rights, non-citizens who were white male property owners could vote in state and local elections well into the 20th century,” he wrote in the brief. “Non-citizen voting in 40 states and U.S. territories was curtailed only after an influx of Southern and Eastern European immigrants and World War I provoked xenophobia and nativism in this country.”

In 2016, San Francisco voters passed Proposition N, allowing non-citizens—including permanent residents, visas holders, refugees and undocumented immigrants—to cast ballots in school board races. Five years later, in 2021, the city made non-citizen voting in school elections a permanent right for parents or guardians with at least one child under 19 years old.

San Francisco’s response brief to Lacy v. City of San FranciscoDownload

Chinese for Affirmative Action—a group that advocates for multiracial democracy—told The Standard the Lacy lawsuit coincides with a national Republican effort to engage in voter suppression and prevent  immigrant voters from having their voices heard.

The nonprofit advocacy group pointed out that more than 500 bills have been introduced since the 2020 elections to effectively disenfranchise people by, among other things, requiring photo identification and purging voter rolls.

If the litigation against San Francisco’s non-citizen voting law succeeds, Chinese for Affirmative Action says it would discourage some immigrant voters from weighing in on issues that affect their children. 

“By extending the right to vote to non-citizens, San Francisco has led the way in expanding access to democracy and promoting immigrant inclusion,” Chinese for Affirmative Action Immigrant Rights Coordinator Olivia Zheng said. “In the face of attacks on voting rights across the country, it is crucial to continue defending the right for immigrants to fully participate in and shape their communities.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey, 105,000 of San Francisco’s 870,000 residents are non-citizens.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Standard

Voters Recall D.A. Chesa Boudin

Reformist prosecutor in San Francisco will not finish first term amid social problems.

SAN FRANCISCO — Embattled Dist. Atty. Chesa Boudin, who became a lightning rod for debates over crime and homelessness in San Francisco, will not finish his first term as the city’s top prosecutor.

With more than 61% of voters backing the recall of the 41-year-old reformer candidate, the Associated Press and the San Francisco Chronicle called the race Tuesday night.

The bitter, expensive recall election has become a referendum on some of San Francisco’s most painfully visible social problems, including homelessness, property crime and drug addiction.

The recall campaign has painted Boudin as a soft-on-crime prosecutor who doesn’t care about public safety. It has tied his criminal reform policies to high-profile crimes, including a fatal hit-and-run involving a man on parole, a series of smash-and-grab robberies from high-end Union Square stores and attacks against elderly Asian American residents.

“Safe is not a word I’d use to describe San Francisco,” said Raj Marwari, 40, who lives in the Marina District and works in finance. He said he voted to recall Boudin because “obviously, things have gotten worse in every way,” including homelessness. He said he’s embarrassed when his parents from Texas visit the city.

Removing Boudin from office won’t solve everything, Marwari said, but “when the player’s doing bad, you’ve got to pull ’em.”

Property and violent crimes fell by double-digit percentages during Bou-din’s first two years in office. But some individual categories of crime surged in the same time frame: Burglaries rose 47%; motor vehicle theft, 36%. Homicides also increased, though the city saw its lowest number of killings in more than a half-century in 2019.

Like other prosecutors in the nationwide movement to reimagine the criminal justice system, Boudin ran on a platform to reduce mass incarceration and divert low-level offenders into drug and mental health treatment instead of jail cells.

His loss could have national implications, including for Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón, who is facing his second recall attempt in two years.

During his 2½-year tenure, Boudin has refused to seek the death penalty or try juveniles as adults. He has reduced the use of sentencing enhancements. A San Francisco police officer stood trial for excessive force this year for the first time, though the officer, Terrance Stangle, was acquitted.

Boudin and his supporters fanned out across the city Tuesday to hand out pamphlets urging a “no” vote on the recall, known as Proposition H. As he campaigned along Divisadero Street in a neighborhood known as NoPa (North of the Panhandle), Boudin said he was “feeling great.”

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Chesa Boudin’s Recall Is In the National Spotlight. S.F. Voters Could Decide Much More Than His Fate

San Francisco voters mostly transfixed by local problems like theft and the drug crisis will make a national statement in deciding whether to keep or cast off District Attorney Chesa Boudin — either backing a young criminal justice reform movement or fueling a wave of backlash arguing that the changes he represents have gone too far.

That the attempted recall of Boudin is happening in a city with a reputation for being part of the same progressive vanguard has captivated observers across the nation. They’ll get a signal of public sentiment at an unsettled time, when pandemic anxieties and fears of rising crime have stalled some of the momentum spurred by Black Lives Matter activism and the police murder of George Floyd.

California is unique in that its laws make it easier to recall an elected official. But prosecutors pushing reforms designed to reduce incarceration in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago and elsewhere are facing similar accusations that their policies are radical and dangerous. This countercurrent could gain momentum should the effort against Boudin succeed.

Eric Siddall, vice president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys in Los Angeles County, said Boudin’s recall would “100%” be a shot in the arm to their campaign to unseat Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, Boudin’s progressive predecessor before he moved south. San Francisco’s last recall, when voters removed three school board members, was “very telling,” Siddall said.

“When you have an elected official who refuses to do their job, you can’t just wait for the next election cycle,” he said. “Action has to be taken.”

Boudin and his supporters have sought to spotlight what they say is evidence of the larger forces converging in San Francisco, focusing on William Oberndorf, a Republican investor who has put more than $650,000 into the recall campaign and a political action committee supporting it. In a recent interview, Boudin referred to a “national reactionary playbook” that seeks to pump up fear of crime and associates progressive district attorneys with crime problems, even though a national surge in homicides during the pandemic has occurred in conservative and liberal counties alike.

Jessica Brand, a policy adviser who has worked on the campaigns of progressive prosecutors including Larry Krasner in Philadelphia and Kim Gardner in St. Louis, said San Francisco’s tense recall fight “is actually quite reflective of what has become a Republican strategy across the country. … If you cannot win by the rules, then you should try to make up the rules and win when nobody’s paying attention.”

Around the country, though, Democrats also have increasingly pushed back on aspects of criminal justice reform, including efforts to defund police departments, mindful of many Black, Latino and Asian American voters who worry they may be left even more vulnerable. In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed, who will appoint Boudin’s successor if he is ousted, pledged to be less “tolerant of all the bulls— that has destroyed our city.”

Regardless of their source, progressive prosecutors are fending off sustained attacks. In Illinois, proposed legislation would create a path to recall Cook County prosecutor Kim Foxx — and no one else. A Pennsylvania bill would cap an elected district attorney’s time in office at two terms — but only in Philadelphia, where Krasner is the top prosecutor.

In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, asked lawmakers to hand over the power to prosecute homicides in St. Louis to the state attorney general, a move widely viewed as an attack on Gardner, the city’s first Black prosecutor. In Los Angeles, an effort to recall Gascón faces a July 6 deadline to collect enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

Unlike California, Illinois and Pennsylvania do not have recall mechanisms. “Obviously, that resentment among conservatives is there, they just can’t express it in the way that California does,” said John Pfaff, a criminologist at Fordham University in New York City. “Even among states that have the recall … what’s different in California is there’s a lot more of a culture of using it.”

Click here to read to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

S.F. population fell 6.3%, Most in Nation, to Lowest Level Since 2010

San Francisco saw by far the biggest percentage drop in population among major U.S. cities during the first part of the pandemic, underscoring how the city emptied out during a shift to remote work, according to new census data.

The city lost 54,813 people or 6.3% of its population between July 2020 and 2021. One pandemic year erased a decade of tech-fueled population boom: San Francisco’s 815,201 residents as of July 2021 was the lowest since 2010, according to census data.

New York had the second-highest percentage drop, losing 3.5% of residents or over 305,000 people. The country’s most densely populated county, Manhattan, was the hardest hard-hit New York borough, losing 6.6% of its population.

Other Bay Area cities saw some of the highest percentage of population losses in the country: Daly City dropped 3.2% and Redwood City was down 3%, while San Mateo, Cupertino, South San Francisco each fell almost 3%.

Boston and Washington, D.C. also had population drops of almost 3%, and nine of the 15 most populous U.S. cities saw losses in people.

That included San Jose, the Bay Area’s largest city, which saw its population fall 2.7%, dropping below 1 million people for the first time since 2013. It remained the country’s 10th most populated city with 983,489 people. Austin, Texas, a popular pandemic destination for both California residents and companies, gained only 1,056 people for a total of 964,177 to remain the 11th largest city, though its suburbs boomed.

Experts have said the Bay Area’s high housing costs and remote work policies, particularly for the tech industry, fueled out-migration during the pandemic, as residents sought cheaper homes and more space. Almost all California coastal cities lost population, while the more affordable Central Valley and Inland Empire saw gains.

Census data released in March showed domestic out-migration was the primary factor in San Francisco’s population drop, with 56,000 people moving out.

There are signs that fewer San Franciscans are leaving and some are coming back. Postal service change of address requests fell last summer, and apartment rents are rebounding as companies bring people back to the office. State population estimates, which differ in methodology from the Census Bureau, put San Francisco’s population at 842,754 people at the beginning of 2022, down 0.8% from the prior year.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

San Francisco Archbishop Bars Nancy Pelosi from Communion Over Abortion Stance

San Francisco’s Roman Catholic archbishop has banned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) from receiving Holy Communion during Mass until she repents of her public pro-abortion stance. 

“A Catholic legislator who supports procured abortion, after knowing the teaching of the Church, commits a manifestly grave sin which is a cause of most serious scandal to others,” Ssalvatore Cordileone wrote in a public notification Friday. “Therefore, universal Church law provides that such persons ‘are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.’”

“I am hereby notifying you that you are not to present yourself for Holy Communion and, should you do so, you are not to be admitted to Holy Communion, until such time as you publically repudiate your advocacy for the legitimacy of abortion and confess and receive absolution of this grave sin in the sacrament of Penance,” the 65-year-old clergyman wrote.

Cordileone noted that while he and Pelosi had discussed the issue in the past, the archbishop has “not received such an accommodation to my many requests” to speak again following the September passage of a controversial Texas abortion law which bans abortions after a heart beat is detected – usually at six weeks. 

At that time, Pelosi vowed to codify the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade ruling into federal law.

In recent weeks, Pelosi has doubled down on that stance in light of a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that indicated Roe will be overturned later this year. 

The archbishop noted that he will “continue to offer up prayer and fasting” for the Speaker in the coming weeks.

Pelosi’s office did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.

It is not the first time Catholic clergy have sought to prevent Catholic pro-abortion lawmakers from receiving sacramental wine and bread, which church doctrine holds becomes the literal blood and body of Jesus.

While on the campaign trial, a South Carolina priest denied Communion to then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden due to his pro-abortion views. 

Not long after, Archbishop Charles Chaput, the former head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, opined that Biden should be blocked altogether for “creating the impression that the moral laws of the Church are optional.” 

Click here to read the full article in the NY Post

BART No Longer Requires Masks to be Worn, but Board Members Want to Reinstate a Mask Mandate

Passengers no longer have to wear face coverings to ride BART, but the regional rail agency’s Board of Directors will consider reinstating a mask mandate at its April 28 meeting.

The agency announced shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday that masks are optional to wear on BART trains and stations, effective immediately, after the state’s Department of Public dropped its mask requirement on public transit earlier in the day. That decision came after a judge in Florida overturned the federal masking policies for public transportation and airplanes.

BART joined the Bay Area’s largest transit operators — Muni, Caltrain, VTA and AC Transit — in ditching mask mandates, though that change could be temporary for the region’s largest rail system.

Rebecca Saltzman, president of BART’s Board of Directors, said she and two other directors from San Francisco, Janice Li and Bevan Dufty, will introduce a temporary mask mandate at next week’s board meeting.

Commuters with and without masks travel on a BART train in San Francisco on Tuesday.
Commuters with and without masks travel on a BART train in San Francisco on Tuesday.Scott Strazzante/The Chronicle

Saltzman said late Wednesday afternoon that a mask mandate on BART is still necessary given rising COVID cases in the region and the fact that BART’s youngest riders — children under age 5 — are not yet eligible for vaccination. A mask mandate would also help protect immunocompromised BART riders, as well, she said.

“I think folks who don’t have young children or who don’t have these health problems maybe don’t realize it and are kind of back to regular life, but it’s scary, still, for a lot of people,” Saltzman told The Chronicle. “And even though everybody’s sick of this pandemic we need to protect our most vulnerable riders.”

The duration of the proposed mask mandate had not yet been finalized as of Wednesday, Saltzman said. For reference, the federal mask mandate that was overturned by a Florida judge’s order Monday was set to expire May 3.

The judge’s Monday order sent Bay Area transit agencies scrambling to decide whether to keep enforcing mask wearing on trains, buses and ferries, creating a confusing patchwork in the interim.

By Wednesday afternoon, all Bay Area transit agencies, as well as the region’s three major airports, said they would no longer require masks.

BART’s potential reinstatement of a mask mandate could make it an outlier, and it’s unclear if other transit agencies would act on their own to require masks again. Public transit had been one of the last remaining places in the Bay Area where masks were required to be worn — which some transit leaders said inadvertently sent the message that transit carried greater risks of catching COVID.

Click here to read the full article at the SF Chronicle

Sacramento Currently Spending $44 Million on Growing Homeless

The City of Sacramento is spending more than $44 million to provide eight homeless shelters and camping options, most not yet built or ready, and three Project Homekey motel conversions. According to city officials, “most of that comes from state and federal grants that are not certain year to year.”

This homeless spending comes on the heels of city residents learning that waste collection services are going up drastically: 4.0% increase for recycling, 4.50% increase for garbage, 20.50% increase lawn and garden, and 7.0% increase for street sweeping.

Senate Bill 1383, authored by then-Sen. Ricardo Lara and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016,  requires organic waste (food waste) be recycled to reduce methane, “climate pollutants” and greenhouse gas emissions in landfills.

Sacramento County has more than 11,000 homeless living on the streets and in the parks, and all shelter beds and spaces are full on any given night.

The Mayor and City Council now calls Sacramento’s drug-addicted, mentally ill homeless vagrant population the “unhoused,” “people experiencing homelessness,” “guests,” and “our unhoused neighbors,” as if these really are our neighbors who were just one paycheck away from living on the streets. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Despite the uncertainty of ongoing funding, the City is planning on these various shelters into 2023. “We think for 2023 we have pulled together the funds to cover the shelter piece, from both the State Homeless Housing Assistance and Prevention (HHAP) grants and by redirecting some funds within the Department of Community Response budget.

While the city’s total siting plan involves 20 potential sites, City staff said they are currently focusing efforts on eight sites, “that have shown the most potential for development and activation. Some of these sites have been added to the plan in recent months.”

This is the status of the eight proposed and existing homeless sites:

  • Joshua’s House is a private hospice facility not yet built on a city-owned lot in North Sacramento. The developer recently applied for a permit and the site could be up and running late this year.
  • Miller Park Safe Ground is a 60-tent low barrier shelter has been opened since Feb. 8. It has already served approximately 140 people, 25 of whom have moved on into positive settings.
  • Auburn Boulevard Respite Center is sited at the former Science Center Museum. It is in use now as administrative space for Hope Cooperative and Department of Community Response outreach teams. It is ready to be used as a respite center for adverse weather conditions.
  • North 5th Street is an existing 104-bed shelter which, under the siting plan, has been expanded to 145 beds and will add another 18 in July for a total of 163.
  • Downtown Service Hub is an unnamed location that is the subject of ongoing negotiations to purchase the building and use it as a central hub for homeless and the service providers who work with them.
  • Colfax Yard is a vacant city-owned vacant lot not yet ready for official use being used now as an unsanctioned parking spot by homeless. The State Water Board ordered an environmental clean up  for longer-term, sanctioned safe parking. The homeless there now will need to vacate.
  • Roseville Road RT Station is currently used unofficially by homeless parking vehicles. The city is working on a three-way agreement among the City, RT and Cal Trans. When completed, that agreement will allow between 50 and 70 vehicles to safely park there.
  • The 102-acre Job Corp site was recently purchased as federal surplus land, not accessible yet. In the short term, the site requires new road access and other improvements before part of it could serve as a safe parking site.

Currently available shelter for homeless totals 164 spots according to this list – 104 actual beds, and 60 tents in a public park.

Sacramento has more than the 11,222 homeless people accounted for Sacramento in 2019-2020. Where are they sleeping? We don’t know how many are sleeping in their cars in designated parking lots, and other default parking locations.

Again not yet ready or opened are three Project Homekey motel conversions, La Mancha, Vista Nueva, and Central Sacramento, the City is working on with the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency on, expected to provide more than 300 rooms to be used mostly as supportive and transitional housing.

Last month the Globe reported that Sacramento city manager Howard Chan warned the City Council that future funding for the city’s existing homeless shelters was uncertain, even as the City Council was pushing to open more large homeless sites to address Sacramento’s growing homelessness crisis.

Click here to read the full article at the California Globe

In San Francisco, Mayor Picks Risky Fight With The Left

Breaking from calls to defund the police, Breed aims to end ‘the reign of criminals.’

SAN FRANCISCO — When San Francisco Mayor London Breed arrived at UC Davis for her freshman year, she saw her new classmates surrounded by family. Except for the friend who dropped her off — her belongings in two small bags — she came alone.

Breed would frequently make her way back to the notoriously unsafe housing project in San Francisco’s Western Addition where she was raised by her grandmother. She came not just to visit but often because of tragedy.

“When I was coming home, it was for the funeral of somebody I grew up with,” Breed said in an interview in the city’s ornate Beaux Arts City Hall. “And I just thought, what if he was here with me? I just imagined them walking around campus, and this could be their life. And that’s what got me involved in public service.”

Breed, 47, is a rising star in California politics because of her stewardship of San Francisco during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as her efforts to tackle crime, homelessness, addiction and education in a city that is famously — if not always accurately — known for its liberal, live-and-let-live ethos.

Up for reelection in 2023, Breed received national attention when she didn’t mince words as she declared a state of emergency in the Tenderloin district, beset by overdose deaths, open-air drug dealing, violence and homeless encampments.

“It’s time that the reign of criminals who are destroying our city, it is time for it to come to an end. And it comes to an end when we take the steps to be more aggressive with law enforcement. More aggressive with the changes in our policies. And less tolerant of all the bulls—that has destroyed our city,” she said in December.

In a break with liberals who have called for defunding law enforcement, Breed’s emergency declaration allowed her to quickly increase police budgets and bypass city bureaucracy to ramp up services to addicts and mentally ill people who are living on the streets. (About 1 out of every 100 residents of the city is homeless, according to data from the federal government.) The declaration just expired, and some question whether it had a tangible impact.

Regardless, Breed’s approach drew praise at a pivotalmoment for San Francisco, which was already struggling with gaping inequality between tech millionaires and working-class residents before the pandemic exacerbated the divide and also destroyed tourism in a city that is dependent on visitors from around the globe.

After a series of smash-and-grab robberies late last year at luxury stores in San Francisco and other cities in California, police presence in Union Square noticeably increased. An armed guard stands sentry at the entrance of a Louis Vuitton store that was looted, and Macy’s glass storefront remains partly covered with plywood.

“She’s giving voice to something happening in a lot of progressive cities right now,” said Sean Clegg, a Democratic strategist who lived in San Francisco for much of the last three decades. “She’s capturing the mood of the moment.”

But Breed’s efforts have also been faulted by some Democrats who argue she is falling back on failed policies that place the interests of the well-connected above those of the marginalized.

Kaylah Williams, the immediate past president of the city’s Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, pointed to Breed’s opposition to several ballot measures, including a successful 2018 proposition that raised taxes on the city’s largest companies to fund more services for homeless people.

“We see time and time again, a lot of corporations and corporate interests put ahead of the interests of working-class San Franciscans,” said Williams, who was the deputy campaign manager for San Francisco Dist. Atty. Chesa Boudin.

Breed has repeatedlysaid that she is “unapologetic” and has rebuked white progressives such as Boudin — who is facing a June recall — as not understanding what it is like to be poor and a minority person in San Francisco.

“I can’t help but take risks in order to transform lives so that the experiences that I had growing up doesn’t happen to the next generation,” Breed said recently, speaking at a celebration of a $120-million two-year campaign she createdthat transferred money from law enforcement budgets to programs aimed at bolstering the city’s Black residents.

Later that day, Breed waved a wand at the reopening of the “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” play at the historic Curran Theatre, which had been closed for nearly two years because of COVID-19.

“This is really icing on the cake as we start to reopen our city and recover from this pandemic,” she told costumed Harry Potter fans before cannons shot confetti in the air and celebrants clinked bottles of Butter Beer.

Such moments — including a cameo in a “Matrix” film that was shot in the city and write-ups in Vogue — were unthinkable when she was younger.

::

Breed said her experiences as a child and young woman ground her approach to governance.

She was raised in a roach-infested housing project so dangerous it was called “Outta Control Projects,” or OC.

She never knew her father, and her mother was largely absent. A younger sister died of a drug overdose; a brother is imprisoned. A cousin was shot and killed by police. She witnessed her first homicide when she was 12. The men in her family were pimps, hustlers and drug dealers, Breed said.

“I just know that we were poor, and it was hard. And there were times where I wanted to go out there and sell drugs and do illegal things in order to have money, and fortunately I didn’t,” Breed said in her office, surrounded by pictures of herself with Democratic luminaries, awards and a desk plaque that reads, “What Would Beyonce Do?”

“And I’m glad I didn’t and I’m glad that I’m in a place that could help empower other people so that they don’t feel that they have to choose a path of doing something that can land them dead or in jail or on drugs.”

She and her neighbors were too afraid to speak to police after witnessing officers beat suspects and commit other crimes. But she also remembers the compassion officers showed her aunt, who was developmentally disabled and acted out — experiences that shaped her view of law enforcement as both necessary and needing reform.

“It’s a real balance of making sure that people in communities like I grew up in also feel safe and able to communicate and work with police,” Breed said.

She attributes her success largely to the women in her life — her grandmother and members of the community who guided her, helping her write college application essays and providing an outlet that led her to stay out of trouble. “It was just so many people, and it was constant,” Breed said.

As part of a city summer program for low-income youths, Breed worked at the Family School starting at age 14. Some employees didn’t want to work with Breed because she was “rambunctious,” so then-administrative assistant Minyon McGriff had the teen assist her in the office.

“She was always a bright, funny, smart kid. She just grew up hard because she grew up in the projects. She was rough around the edges,” said McGriff, 60. “Simple stuff — how to dress, appropriate behavior, basic etiquette — those are a lot of the things she got from us.”

Breed’s experience at the Family School prompted her to create a program in 2018 that offers a paid summer internship to any working-age student in San Francisco who wants one.

Such relationships, as well asher sorrow that friends she grew up with could not experience what she did at UC Davis, prompted Breed’s first foray into public service — registering voters for the NAACP while in college. After she graduated, she worked on Willie Brown’s 1999 mayoral campaign and served as executive director of the African American Art & Culture Complex and on several other city entities before winning a seat in 2012 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

She has been dogged by claims that she was a puppet of the machine run by Brown — a legendary force in the city and state’s politics — as well as business leaders, wealthy donors and other power brokers who have long controlled San Francisco politics.

She has repeatedly lashed out at such allegations.

“So why do women have to be a pawn for somebody?” Breed told the Fog City Journal during her 2012 campaign. “Willie Brown didn’t wipe my ass when I was a baby — my grandmother took care of me.”

Brown declined an interview request.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

The Housing Crisis Is Pushing Both Bay Area Landlords And Tenants To The Financial Brink

In a quiet corner of Oakland, Pat McHenry Sullivan agonizes over taking out a life insurance loan to pay off rent debt for her and her husband, who lives with dementia.

A few miles north in Berkeley, Susan Marchionna is in the reverse predicament: She’s debating selling her house of four decades after a drawn-out dispute with a tenant who she says in state filings has not paid rent since the fall.

As a renter and a landlord, McHenry Sullivan and Marchionna are on opposite ends of California’s two-year effort to prevent a pandemic eviction crisis. But both are still waiting for answers to months-old applications for $5.2 billion in statewide rent relief — two of thousands of Bay Area residents unsure where to turn as local eviction battles intensify and a March 31 deadline looms for a final layer of emergency state rental programs.

“I’ve been sitting here since early December with everything in limbo,” said McHenry Sullivan, 79. “It’s heartbreaking, and it’s exhausting.”

The tension playing out in living rooms, city halls and county eviction courts follows an unprecedented expansion of America’s housing safety net. First there were broad local, state and federal eviction bans, most of which expired in California last fall. Then came the multibillion-dollar statewide rent relief effort, designed to accept applications and shield those still waiting for approval from eviction through March 2022.

With that deadline fast approaching and politicians so far unresponsive to tenant advocates’ calls for another extension, renters and small landlords report widespread confusion and fear about falling through the cracks. Only a fraction of relief funds has been paid out, fueling concerns that indebted renters will be pushed out of the region or end up homeless.

The situation is even more complicated in McHenry Sullivan and Marchionna’s home county of Alameda, where stronger local eviction bans haven’t prevented messy eviction disputes.

Now, as landlord and tenant groups battle over the future of renter protections, both sides warn that housing could get harder to find as property owners — fed up with California’s piecemeal approach to rent relief and evictions — take rentals off the market or raise income requirements in a bid to insulate themselves from future tenant disputes.

One thing’s increasingly clear: Even in a swath of the East Bay with some of the nation’s strongest protections for renters, there’s no escaping the turmoil redrawing the map of where people can afford to live.

A renter’s exit plan

Until the fall, McHenry Sullivan thought she would be able to keep paying $1,426 a month for the Glenview two-bedroom that she and her husband, John, 82, have rented since 2006. But then the author and speaker’s extended unemployment benefits ended, and the pandemic didn’t. Medical equipment, taxi fare to doctor’s appointments and the countless hours McHenry Sullivan spends caring for her husband and their home, limiting her ability to pursue outside work, all added financial pressure.

September 2021 was the last month the couple paid rent on time. To cover the rent for October, the final payment they’ve made, McHenry Sullivan said she was forced to dip into a life insurance policy, leaving less money for her or her husband if widowed.

McHenry Sullivan has a master’s degree and is comfortable enough with computers to have run her own business for years, but she was stymied by Oakland’s rent relief website, which she said repeatedly malfunctioned when she tried to apply in the fall. She called politicians and ventured to San Francisco for help from one of the few housing clinics offering in-person assistance, then was told to apply for a state program instead. In December, after months of fruitless calls to check her application status, she was told to reapply to the city program.

She’s still waiting for answers.

“Nobody ever responded,” McHenry Sullivan said. “Nobody.”

Tenant advocates say the odyssey through California’s maze of state and local rent relief programs isn’t uncommon for Bay Area renters looking for help. Cities and counties including Oakland, Marin and Sonoma opted to run their own rent relief programs instead of routing all residents to the bigger state program Housing Is Key. Several local programs have already stopped accepting new applications or run out of money, though more federal funding may become available in the coming months.

Click here to read the full article at the SF Chronicle

What Will It Take For S.F. Public Schools To Drop The Mask Mandate? Officials Won’t Say

San Francisco private schools and many Bay Area districts expect to abandon mask mandates later this month, but the city’s public school district has decided against the change and declined to provide details or dates for when their 49,000 students will be able to drop face coverings.

District officials say they will continue to require masks indoors, noting that county and state health officials “strongly recommend” students and staff continue to use them.

But require and recommend are not the same, and many families and health experts are asking for clarity on what criteria the district is using to decide when it will lift the mandate.

The district said masking is part of the current discussions with the union.

The San Francisco Unified’s stance will leave its public school students following a different set of rules than many if not most private school students in the city, as well thousands of other students across the Bay Area, where officials in most counties have already announced they will lift the mask requirement as of March 12.

While some families felt relief that masks would stay on in San Francisco public schools, others expressed frustration at the lack of clarity and metrics.

Districts in Contra Costa, San Mateo, Solano, Marin, Santa Clara counties as well as many others across the state announced this week they would follow the state’s lead and leave mask use up to individuals, including Santa Clara Unified, San Ramon Unified, Mill Valley Elementary and Mt. Diablo Unified.

Alameda County and Berkeley health officials announced Thursday they would also lift the mandate, which would likely mean some districts there would also make masks optional, although Oakland and other districts had not yet said what they will do.

In San Francisco, at least a handful of private schools have also said they will stop requiring masks, including Sacred Heart Cathedral, Adda Clevenger School and all of the city’s Archdiocese schools, which serve 23,000 students.

In addition, city health officials announced public buildings will no longer require masks either, except during public meetings.

That means public school students can go into city libraries, City Hall, boba shops, malls, restaurants and virtually any other venue or retail establishment without a mask. Classrooms will be virtually the only place they will have to wear one.

Bay Area infectious disease experts say that while SFUSD’s decision to maintain the mask mandate is not in lockstep with many other districts, it has both positives and negatives — and overall, is a complicated issue.

“I see both sides,” said UCSF infectious disease Peter Chin-Hong, saying the current “gray zone” of the pandemic has led to a lot of confusion and frustration, especially as it relates to schools.

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