- Dylan Shills
- Wilderness on Drugs
- Rich Man's Kristallnacht
- Shorty's Last Bus Ride
- Boonville Winter Market
- Huffman on Marijuana
- SF Real Estate
- Sheriff's Report
THE SHAMELESS DESCENT OF BOB DYLAN
For Pete's Sake!
by David Yearsley
Given the youth movement charged with energizing the Super Bowl’s non-football offerings — a trend embodied by Bruno Mars at this year’s halftime show — it was only fair that the old folks should make a counterattack in the ads, long held to be the true locus of entertainment value at the annual orgy of sex and violence, consumerism and military display. Thus we were treated to the unsavory vision of Bob Dylan sliding into Chevrolet’s latest sedan and gurgling patriotic garbage about American pride above ambient guitar chords.
If not for the fussy make-up and hair-styling, one might have surmised — or at least hoped — that this one-time countercultural figurehead and voice of protest was not pitching Chrysler’s cars in a multi-million-dollar commercial, but was instead doing public service announcements for the last vestiges of American industry. Indeed, since there’s no way that Dylan needs the money, one could have been forgiven for assuming this was his gift to the American people, a gratis boost of confidence during a long stretch of crisis.
But Dylan had clearly cashed the check for this paean so mendacious that it achieved a melancholy far beyond and below that of “Song to Woody” or “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.”
That the spectacle was wrapped so tightly in cliché made it all the more depressing, from the opening line of unprecedented banality (“Is there anything more American than America?”) to the infantile stereotypes of its coda: “Let Germany brew your beer. Let Switzerland make your watches,” intoned the aged bard. “Let Detroit make your cars.” Sandwiched in between were the grimmest two minutes of fakery in Super Bowl advertising history — platitudes delivered to shots of diners and steaming coffee; bucking broncos; cheerleaders; a Route 66 road sign; James Dean; Marilyn Monroe; Dr. J; Gordian knots of freeway interchanges; assembly line auto workers; defunct downtown Detroit; the ancient Dylan teetering into a guitar shop and leaning down to cast a rheumy eye at earlier photographs of himself, these images of the young sleek musician staring back at the babushka doll of today with even more disbelief than did his television audience. So surreal was this tableau that many viewers of a certain age must have thought that their Super Bowl party host had slipped LSD into the Bud.
The most encompassing of these concentric circles of lies was the nonsense Dylan spouted about how you can’t import true American cool or legacy or the heart and soul of American workers. Chrysler is owned by Fiat, not even Italian in any legal sense but soon to be incorporated in The Netherlands. That this transnational corporation was revivifying the Motor City was sadly laughable. Detroit has lost two-thirds of its population and even the streetlights are being turned off in the most forsaken districts of the city. Dylan’s chords strummed on hypnotically, lulling reason to sleep amidst the blitz of banality.
American history is full of telling correspondences, watersheds that illuminate the drift of the country: Custer dies at Little Bighorn in 1876, 100 years almost to the day after the American break with Britain. In the realm of music and politics, the end of World War II in Europe is announced all over the front page of New York Times of May 8, 1945, and tucked in among these headlines is an article that tells us that Aaron Copland has won the Pulitzer prize for Appalachian Spring — an optimistic musical accounting of American innocence as the nation emerges from the war as the world’s greatest Super Power.
Likewise Dylan’s shameless descent into Super Bowl madness was aired less than a week after the death of Pete Seeger, that rock of musical and moral integrity. The closest Seeger ever got to the Super Bowl was refusing former half-time show eruption, Madonna, the permission to cover his “If I Had Hammer” since, as Dave Marsh reported in CounterPunch, she planned to change the words to “If I had a hammer / I’d smash your fuckin’ head in.” Maybe it’s a good thing that Pete wasn’t around to see and hear his former protégé, Dylan sell-out in such ridiculous fashion on the world stage.
A fictionalized version of the young Dylan makes a phantomy cameo at the close of the Coen brothers’ latest movie, Inside Llewyn Davis fortuitously — at least for the filmmakers — released earlier in the very month that Seeger died. Set mainly in the Greenwich Village of 1961, the film follows the couch-surfing, hitchhiking peregrinations of the eponymous main character, and the Brothers dutifully bathe the proceedings in forlorn grey-green light and allow space for capable performances of folk ballads by the singing, guitar-playing actor who stars, Oscar Isaac. Perhaps the most solipsistic of a long succession of studies in style, this Coen production is uncannily prescient about a strand of the American folk revival that ultimately follows Dylan to his Super Bowl debacle.
The Coens’ Llewyn Davis is a self-seeking, sexually irresponsible, childish brute, who cares only about himself. Though there is talent and a dash of authenticity in what he does, Davis serves in the film merely as an object lesson in the truth that success, even celebrity, is bestowed almost randomly. While seeking out gigs and places to sleep, Davis participates in a studio session for some silly pseudo-hillbilly song, but is so desperate for cash and dismissive of the merits of the music he has just made that he signs away his claim on royalties. In the course of the film’s week-long action, the song is already threatening to become a hit, leaving the impoverished Davis literally out in the cold. Butting repeatedly up against the brick wall of failure, Davis decides at last to go back to his job as a seaman, waving goodbye not only to his musical career but also America itself. At his Village folk-music haunt, the Gaslight, Davis gives a final heartfelt performance before heading out the door, beyond which is awaiting a brutal beating by the husband of a singer he had drunkenly heckled the night before. As Davis leaves the club we hear and see in silhouette the next act, a gravelly voiced guitarist — Dylan himself — doing “Farewell,” his version of the “Leaving of Liverpool.” With the passing of ships in the Greenwich Village night, the Coens try to squeeze a few drops of poignancy out of Davis’s defeat — though it’s hard to imagine why anyone would really care about his final exit from music history. More than that they want to evoke the magical, intimate moments before a star was born.
But the Coens captured a truth about Dylan and his collision course with the Super Bowl: that for the right price humble beginnings can always be forgotten.
THE MARCH-APRIL ISSUE OF MOTHER JONES features an article called, This Is Your Wilderness on Drugs, about the chemical, herbicide and insecticide contamination from the marijuana patches in the Emerald Triangle. Versions of this story have appeared now for several years, but MJ never has gotten out much. As an ancient lib-lab myself, I've long thought the libs should put out one publication a month called WUSS, A Magazine for Really, Really Nice People.
THE POT BRIGADES, I daresay, hardly approach the industrial chemical applications and water diversions of the wine industry, but I see The Nation is organizing some kind of wine-based fundraiser and Mother Jones is also probably heavy on cork sniffers. Limo libs have never had it so good.
A VENTURE CAPITALIST (aren't they all?) called Tom Perkins probably didn't intend to speak for his fellow moneybags when he declared recently that criticism of the super rich is like the Nazi's mass murders of the Jews. That, and subsequent provocations, have brought down a deluge of criticism on the old fool's head, not that he said anything that most of them probably don't think, although they're unlikely to deploy such exciting metaphors. This guy, pimp style, also flashed his watch and said it was worth a bunch of Rolexes. Stand back! That guy's got a million dollar watch!
CLINTON freed the venture capitalists from their few remaining shackles when he rolled back Glass-Steagall, thus creating derivatives and a host of other financial “instruments” that have permanently destabilized free enterprise. Which is fine with lots of us, but given that there are so many more of us, destabilization is going to get wild, even for people like this Perkins character with their own security forces of ex-commandoes with big muscles and emergency retrieval helicopters on permanent standby. And wild in the sense of endless pain and suffering for the many millions on the receiving end of the system these people have created.
PERKINS spoke to a sold-out crowd at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club on Thursday night. Also in the audience were reporters from CNN, Fortune Magazine, the New York Times, and his former wife and best-selling San Francisco author Danielle Steel.
“My friends said, ‘Tom, you are up there with (Justin) Bieber’,” Perkins said after the one-hour confab. “I said you mean Heinrich Biber, the composer?”
No, as Perkins knew perfectly well, he was trending because of his letter to the Wall Street Journal in which he compared the persecution of the wealthy 1% of Americans to kristallnacht, the terrible night of a coordinated attack on German Jews by the Nazi party before World War II.
“I used that terrible word — ‘Kristallnacht’,” he said, “which I should never have used.”
The comparison — that America’s wealthy class was being persecuted like Jews in the holocaust — set off a national flash of indignation. In a perfect storm of modern media, the letter went viral — and beyond.
“It was,” Perkins said, “the most read letter in the history of the Wall Street Journal.”
Perkins, no stranger to controversy, did not shrink from the criticism. He consented to a television interview on Bloomberg TV in which he apologized for using the “Kristallnacht” analogy, but also showed off his watch, which he said could buy “a six-pack” of Rolexes.
Clearly, this is a man who speaks his mind.
The whole fuss began because Chronicle architectural critic John King wrote about Steel’s “comically off-putting” hedge, which obscures her iconic Spreckels Mansion from view. Steel took offense, and I poked a little fun at her and her comments about how San Franciscans dress. She said we look like we’re on our way to go camping.
Steel did not appreciate the snark. I spoke to her after Perkins’ appearance — she couldn’t have been nicer — and said I was disappointed that we’d hurt her feelings. We were just teasing, I said.
“Well,” Steel replied, “I don’t take teasing very well.”
As Perkins said Thursday night, he felt he had to “ride to her defense, although I spilled a little more blood than I intended.” Perkins continues to insist that The Chronicle had a vendetta against Steel, whom he says he speaks to every day, although they are divorced. He insists, for example, that The Chronicle best-seller list does not include Steel’s books. However, the list only includes books sold in San Francisco, which may not be Steel’s demographic.
But at this point, events have spun well beyond the blog posts on Steel’s hedge. Perkins was assailed as an anti-Semitic and a “wing nut.” And rather than hunker down in his San Francisco high-rise penthouse, Perkins scheduled this Q&A at the Commonwealth Club. Calling it his “second chance at bat” only added to the anticipation.
Frankly, it was hard to say what the paying customers expected to see and hear, but I’m going out on the limb and saying that whatever it was they expected, Perkins was not that. As he is in personal conversation, Perkins was, by turns, genial and charming — right up until some observation comes way out of left field.
For instance, he disowned the Kristallnacht comparison completely — then observed that “if American gun laws had been in place in Germany, Hitler never would have risen to power.”
Um, excuse me?
Fortune Magazine editor Adam Lashinsky, who moderated the discussion, manfully attempted to keep the conversation on track, but Perkins foiled him with a combination of blinding statistics, exasperated sighs, and unpredictable digressions. He asserted that President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty was an enormous error, that the teachers union was ruining the school system and — most importantly — that taxes on the rich were persecuting the “1 percent.”
Pinning him down on specifics, as Lashinsky proved, was like capturing a wisp of smoke.
“You are barking up the wrong tree,” Perkins said at one point. “The squirrel is in the other tree.”
And, just as everyone was thinking that Perkins was a tiny bit off his rocker, he suggested that he had the solution to America’s problems. In order to vote, he proposed, everyone should have to have paid at least $1 in taxes.
“And those who have paid a million dollars in taxes,” he continued, “should have a million votes.”
In a press session afterward, he was asked whether he was really serious about that.
“Of course not,” he said. “I intended to be outrageous and I was.”
That could be said about the entire affair.
SHORTY ADAMS, Mendocino County's senior school bus driver, has been removed from the position he's held since 1966. Now well into his 80s, Adams was planning on retiring this year. It is believed that the legendary Boonville man had travelled more accident-free miles than any school bus driver in the country.
AT THE BOONVILLE WINTER MARKET THIS WEEK YOU WILL FIND:
Diane - Back Yard Jams and Jellies, Crocheted Wool Hsts, Bring Your Own Dishes Kits and other crafts
Yorkville Olive Ranch - 375ml and 750ml bottles of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Jade - greens (kale, collards, mustard, greens mix, etc.) and roots (parsnips, carrots, turnips, garlic)
AV Community Farm - eggs, greens, and meat. The meat includes pork shoulders and leg roasts, pork chops, ribs, and maple link sausage, lamb shoulder roasts, lamb and goat: leg steaks, loin chops, shoulder chops, rib chops and ribs, as well as frozen hybrid and heritage chickens and soup chickens
WildeAcre Farm - sauerkraut, muffins, chocolate hearts, tea mix, tinctures
See you Saturday, in front of the Boonville General Store, 11-1, rain or shine
No strawberries, no chocolate, no honey — without bees Valentine’s Day just wouldn’t be the same.
Bees pollinate two thirds of our global food crops and they are in trouble. Last year U.S. beekeepers reported 40-100 percent loss of their hives, and right now they are likely facing another winter of historic bee die-offs.
That’s why we're asking you to join thousands of people coast-to-coast to swarm Home Depot and Lowe’s stores the week of Valentine’s Day (February 10-16).
CFS is teaming up with Friends of the Earth, Beyond Toxics, Pesticide Action Network, Beyond Pesticides, Xerces Society, Credo Mobilize, SumOfUs.Org and others to ask these stores to “show bees some love” and stop selling bee-killing pesticides and garden plants pre-poisoned with these harmful chemicals. Planting season is right around the corner, and we can’t let another year pass with Home Depot and Lowe’s selling “poisoned plants” with no warning to consumers.
Will you join us?
Neonicotinoid pesticides (also called “neonics”) are killing bees; that’s why Europe is banning them. Yet we found these bee-killing pesticides in more than half of the “bee-friendly” home garden plants sold at stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s — with no warning to consumers.
More than half a million people have signed petitions asking Home Depot and Lowe’s to stop selling “poisoned plants” and bee-killing pesticides, and we’ll be delivering these petitions with our partner organizations on Valentine's Day.
Can you help ramp up the pressure? Delivering a valentine is easy. Just go to the link below, download, sign and deliver it to your local Lowe’s or Home Depot store!
CONGRESSMAN Jared Huffman was among 17 other Congressional stout hearts writing to President Obama to ask him to direct Attorney General Eric Holder to reschedule marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, as is permitted by 21 U.S.C. § 811.
“We were encouraged by your recent comments in your interview with David Remnick in the January 27, 2014 issue of the New Yorker, about the shifting public opinion on the legalization of marijuana,” the members wrote. “Classifying marijuana as Schedule I at the federal level perpetuates an unjust and irrational system. We request that you instruct Attorney General Holder to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way, at the very least eliminating it from Schedule I or II.”
THAT INTERVIEW, by the way, was pathetic even by today's bended knee standards. Remnick tossed off all kinds of fanciful Obama triumphs while the President agreed and tossed off a bunch of his own.
SAN FRANCISCO’S DISPLACEMENT CRISIS
Speculators, Banks, and Developers Seeking to Unlock Value in San Francisco's Rental Housing Are Pouring Money Into the City's Politics. Tenants Are Fighting Back
by Darwin Bond-Graham
The tech boom has made San Francisco’s real estate the most expensive in the nation. Tech companies, from startups to Fortune 500 firms, are cleaving more and more income for themselves out of the U.S. economy, mainly through advertising, smartphones, and tax shams. As the preferred domicile of the tech workforce, and now even as a choice address for tech offices, San Francisco’s housing and commercial space is in hot demand from buyers who have seemingly unlimited cash. This has pushed up prices considerably. Add the background effects caused by several years of bond buying by the U.S. Federal Reserve —the rise in all real estate values nationwide— and you’ve got a city where the median home price topped $1 million last year, and monthly rent for a one bedroom is averaging just shy of $3,000.
Into this maw of demand the developers are shoveling units and square feet. Take a look at the development pipeline (available online courtesy of the San Francisco Planning Department) and you’ll see a map of the 49 square miles of the city, much of it, especially the eastern half, is crowded with projects packing in housing, retail, and office footage. There’s 50,600 proposed units of housing coming to San Francisco. Approximately 27,000 of these housing units have already been approved by officials, with 6,100 currently under construction. Most of the housing being built is “market rate,” meaning that it’s priced for those who can afford to spend roughly $36,000 a year on rent, or who have a quarter million in cash to drop on a down payment. Despite the popular myth that “nimby” forces have retarded growth, San Francisco is a real estate development beast.
Beast is the operative word. Landlords, developers, and their lawyers are mauling thousands of lower-income renters. The crisis is displacement. The tech boom has conspired with rising housing prices to create an incredibly profitable incentive for landlords to push out low-income tenants and replace them with wealthy buyers, in spite of all the new units coming to market. The favorite tool, although it’s unclear how widely it’s used, is a quiet buyout, telling renters to just leave, and offering a tidy little cash sum to help them say yes. Maria Zamudio, a community organizers with Causa Justa, Just Cause, says many of these so-called “self evictions” are coerced. “Really when your landlord is calling you every night and pressuring you, is it really a choice to leave?,” Zamudio rhetorically asks.
But if they go on their volition, the renters go quietly into the night, and the landlord can do practically whatever they want with the apartment, or the building. They can jack up rents, or convert to condos, or go for the clean slate demolition to build taller and more luxurious. No one, not the city, nor the state, nor any community organization has a handle on how many of these kinds of evictions there are.
The increasingly common tool wealthy investors use to unlock value in San Francisco real estate is the Ellis Act. Speculative investors are buying small apartment buildings and invoking the 1986 law to remove rental buildings from the city’s housing stock. The Ellis Act is named after State Senator Jim Ellis, a conservative San Diego Republican who framed the law as a defense of beleaguered landlords who were just trying to keep Big Government off their backs. “Ellising” a building allows landlords to convert apartments into condos. During the Dotcom boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s there was a rash of Ellis Act evictions across San Francisco.
Ted Gullicksen of the San Francisco Tenants Union says Ellis Act evictions have risen this past year to another crisis point. “People are terrified,” he told a gathering of tenants and activists recently. “We know that if we lose our homes we will be forced out of the city, or in the worst case onto the streets.” According to Gullicksen Ellis Act evictions were up 140 percent in 2013 from the previous year.
The only problem for investors seeking to use the Ellis Act is that in San Francisco condo conversion was strictly controlled for years through a lottery that awarded only 200 permits a year. So instead many of the buildings emptied of their renters were converted into what’s called a tenancy-in-common, or TIC. TICs are an otherwise obscure and inconvenient form of real estate ownership, but it has become strangely common in San Francisco: such is the thirst to eliminate rentals and sell housing in a form that captures enormous profit through capital gains. In a TIC a buyer purchases a percentage interest of ownership in an entire building, concurrently with the other residents. Thus the property records of many buildings in San Francisco are now a tangle of deeds deeming small fractions of undivided ownership interests in whole parcels.
Because of their complexity and illiquidity, TICs are costlier and more difficult to finance than condos. The big banks and mortgage lenders don’t like them. In San Francisco a small group of banks have made financing TICs among their core business. Sterling Bank & Trust is among the top TIC lenders, and its executives and employees are a large source of campaign cash for San Francisco’s politicians. For Sterling Bank & Trust TICs are a multi-hundred million dollar market opportunity. Any restrictions would eat into profits, so the cash flows readily into political races.
In 2013 Stephen Adams of Sterling Bank & Trust dealt out the maximum allowable contributions to Supervisors Mark Farrell and Scott Weiner’s re-election committees, $500 a pop. He also gave $250 to Supervisor Jane Kim’s reelection committee, and another $250 to Supervisor Malia Cohen. In fact, look into almost any recent or upcoming San Francisco campaign and there will be money from Sterling Bank & Trust funding one, or both sides of the race. Since 2004 the Sterling Bank & Trust has spent at least $26,000 on San Francisco elections, according to campaign finance data. Mayor Ed Lee got $9,000 from Sterling Bank & Trust and its employees since 2011.
Just how much Sterling Bank & Trust has earned financing TIC mortgages is unknown. Sterling is a private bank, owned by Scott Seligman, the son of wealthy Detroit industrialist. One of Sterling’s main offices is in the ground floor of a San Francisco financial district boutique office mid-rise owned by the Hearst Corporation (Hearst owns the San Francisco Chronicle, and some very valuable real estate parcels in downtown San Francisco). Seligman is also a co-owner of the San Francisco Giants Baseball Club, as are other major San Francisco real estate entrepreneurs.
Supervisors Weiner and Farrell are widely seen as the most real estate industry-friendly elected officials. In 2013 they co-sponsored legislation that would have allowed thousands of TIC units to be converted to condos. Owners would have paid a one time fee, but from then on they’d own very lucrative slices of the urban market, carved into the more marketable unit than the undivided share: the lot.
Tenant advocates pushed the rest of the Board of Supervisor’s to intervene. “It was an extremely disastrous measure that would have furthered condo conversions,” says Sara Shortt of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco. “We pulled some amazing jiu-jitsu on that.”
The resulting legislation, modified by David Chiu and fellow Supervisor Norman Yee, allowed for some TIC conversions, but put in place serious restrictions, so serious that the real estate industry backed off, as did Weiner and Farrell who withdrew their support for the bill. It passed anyway. The conversions are allowed for units that were eligible in 2012, but the previous condo-conversion lottery will be suspended for ten years. The law effectively shut down the manufacturing line that banks like Sterling, and dozens of developers have been using to first turn apartment buildings into TICs, and then into condos. Still the TICs proliferate, as do other real estate deals that further erode the affordability and security of housing in San Francisco.
As the real estate market heats up, investors, developers, and landlords are sowing cash into local political races in hopes of gaining more influence over policy. One in every four dollars raised by Supervisor Scott Weiner last year for his reelection bid came directly from the real estate industry. Campaign finance disclosure forms filed by Weiner reveal that both small and large landlords, real estate developers, property managers, and dozens of brokers and agents put $37,000 in Weiner’s bank account in 2013. Many of these contributors have business pending before the city’s Planning Board, or awaiting decisions by the Board of Supervisors and various city departments. Some of the largest landlords in the city like Vanguard Properties and Herth Real Estate, Zephyr Real Estate, California Property Services, and Flynn Investments are backing Weiner.
Supervisor Mark Farrell raked in $29,000 from the real estate industry in 2013 according to campaign disclosure filings. One of Farrell’s backers is Thomas Coates, a millionaire who lives in a three-story mansion just a stone’s throw from the Marina Green, part of Farrell’s district which includes several of the wealthiest zip codes in the nation. Coates is infamous for spending $950,000 in 2008 to promote Proposition 98, a ballot initiative that would have phased rent control out across California. (Shortly after receiving unfavorable press about his role in bankrolling Proposition 98, Coates wrote in an open letter that his motivation had more to do with restricting cities’ power to use eminent domain, something the law would have also accomplished. He added that while he does own a lot of real estate, none of it is in the form of San Francisco apartments.)
Coates is also a recent contributor to Weiner, having given the Castro District Supervisor $500 last October. It’s all chump change so far compared to what Coates expended in San Francisco’s 2010 elections, $200,000 funneled through independent committees to supported Farrell, Weiner, and another candidate who was not elected. It’s likely, however, that as the November 2014 election nears, real estate industry partisans like Coates will intensify their efforts to shape the outcome.
About 15 percent, or $19,000, of Supervisor Jane Kim’s campaign cash raised in 2013 came directly from real estate interests, according to an analysis of her recent campaign disclosure filings. Among the single biggest sources was the Emerald Fund, a development company run by Marc Babsin. Emerald Fund builds giant apartment buildings. Babsin and his team control some of the most valuable property in the city. The city Planning Commission has green-lighted Emerald Fund to build a 13 story, 162 unit apartment high rise at 101 Polk Street, tucked between the Civic Center and Market Street in what is said to be the hottest spot for development in the whole city. Emerald Fund also controls parcels directly across Hayes Street, and nearby on Van Ness, and has sketched out plans to build upwards of 900 units. The area is considered choice because of its proximity to Twitter’s headquarters and several high-rise luxury apartment buildings already under construction that are being marketed to the industry’s affluent employees. Emerald Fund staff gave Jane Kim’s re-election committee $2,000 last year, and the wife of the company’s president Alastair MacTaggart put in $500 more. Emerald Fund gave another $2,000 to Weiner, and $1,500 to Malia Cohen.
Other big developers giving cash to San Francisco’s politicians include Forest City, AGI Capital, TMG Partners, and Group I. AGI Capital employees have given Supervisor Cohen $2,000 over the past year. Jack Sylvan, Forest City’s vice president who is leading up the company’s massive Pier 70 project, 1,000 condos and apartments and over 2 million square feet of office space designed to attract large tech companies, has written $500 checks to Supervisors Weiner, Farrell and Cohen. Employees of Group I, a developer and landlord with office space in the Mid-Market Twitter-zone that it fills with “start-ups” and “venture capitalist” firms, according to the company’s web site, have given $2,000 to Supervisor Jane Kim, and $500 to Scott Weiner over the past year.
Landlords who have recently used the Ellis Act, and who have even been targeted by tenants and protesters, haven’t been shy about putting their money into San Francisco’s political races. For example, Ashok Gurjal, a very active San Francisco property speculator, wrote a $250 check to Supervisor Scott Weiner in October of 2013. Gurjal recently moved to evict residents of a ten unit apartment building in the Mission District, according to the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, an activist group that tracks investor activity.
Dennis and Russell Flynn of Flynn Investments have already written checks to Weiner and Cohen for $1,000 for their 2014 re-election committees. In 2013 employees of Flynn Investments gave $9,000 to San Franisco politicians, including $1,500 to City Attorney Dennis Herrera, $1,500 to Supervisor London Breed, $1,000 to Assessor Carmen Chu, and $3,000 to Supervisor Katy Tang. Flynn Investments is one of the largest landlords in San Francisco, with a portfolio of apartments estimated around 3,500. The Flynns have the distinction of pursuing the most grandiose eviction and TIC conversion in San Francisco history, turning the Park Lane building, a ritzy 1925 address atop Nob Hill into pads that are selling for $3 million.
While the real estate industry has the money, San Francisco’s tenants still have quite a bit of power. Tenants have their allies on the Board of Supervisors, especially John Avalos, David Campos, Eric Mar, and David Chiu. Last Saturday over one thousand San Franciscans gathered in the Tenderloin Elementary School’s gymnasium for a city-wide tenants convention. To ring in the gathering they chanted, “when landlords use the Ellis Act, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” Attendees brainstormed over proposals to reign in real estate speculation, including a moratorium on no-fault evictions, and even an anti-speculation tax that would dramatically reduce profits, creating a disincentive for landlords to carve up apartment buildings into TICs and condos.
“There’s this myth that it’s really difficult to evict tenants in San Francisco,” said Tyler Macmillan of the Eviction Defense Collaborate, a legal office that helps tenants in distress. “We need to write better laws that keep people in their homes. Those policies that we can’t get through the Board of Supervisors, we’re gonna put on the ballot for the people to vote on.” Others at the convention spoke in more direct and forceful tones about taking direct action to stop evictions.
The room listened somberly as Gum Gee Lee, a 74 year-old elder of San Francisco’s Chinatown community recounted her family’s eviction from their home of 30 years, an apartment on Jackson Street where converted TICs now sell for $1 million and up. “It was a time of pain, I couldn’t sleep,” said Lee. “I though to myself, is this how I’m going to live my last days?”
Cheers erupted when Lee shook off the sense of defeat saying resolutely, “for all those being evicted, friends, you need to stick together and fight!”
(Darwin Bond-Graham, a contributing editor to CounterPunch, is a sociologist and author who lives and works in Oakland, CA. His essay on economic inequality in the “new” California economy appears in the July issue of CounterPunch magazine. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.)
SHERIFF'S REPORTS AS OF FRIDAY MORNING
The following were compiled from reports prepared by the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office:
DUI — Richard L. Jones, 59, of Redwood Valley, was arrested at 10:54 a.m. Tuesday on suspicion of driving under the influence and driving with a blood-alcohol level greater than the legal limit, and booked at the county jail under $5,000 bail. The California Highway Patrol arrested him.
Fake Currency — Randal S. Bonacorso, 27, of Ukiah, was arrested at 5:04 p.m. Tuesday on suspicion of making, passing or possessing a fictitious bill, note or check, burglary, receiving stolen property and violating his probation terms, and booked at the county jail. The Ukiah Police Department arrested him.
DUI — Thomas J. Jones, 26, of Navarro, was arrested at 7:17 p.m. Tuesday on suspicion of driving under the influence and driving with a blood-alcohol level greater than the legal limit, and booked at the county jail. The California Highway Patrol arrested him.
Meth Sales — John J. Cullen, 74, of Gualala, was arrested at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday on suspicion of selling methamphetamine and booked at the county jail under $35,000 bail. The MCSO arrested him.
Battery With Injury — Billy M. Eaton, 54, of Ukiah, was arrested at 9:56 a.m. Wednesday on suspicion of battery causing serious injury and violating his probation terms, and booked at the county jail under $35,000 bail. The MCSO arrested him.
Marijuana Sales — James G. Huff, 38, of Fort Bragg, was arrested at 1:15 p.m. Wednesday on suspicion of possessing marijuana for sale and booked at the county jail under $25,000 bail. The Mendocino Major Crimes Task Force arrested him.
Marijuana Sales, Drug Manufacture — Jillian M. Meharg, 29, of Fort Bragg, was arrested at 2:19 p.m. Wednesday on suspicion of possessing marijuana for sale and manufacturing a controlled substance by chemical extraction, and booked at the county jail under $50,000 bail. The MMCTF arrested her.
Marijuana Sales, Drug Manufacture — Michael S. McGee, 31, of Fort Bragg, was arrested at 3:36 p.m. Wednesday on suspicion of possessing marijuana for sale and manufacturing a controlled substance by chemical extraction, and booked at the county jail under $50,000 bail. The MMCTF arrested him.