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Mayor Kevin Faulconer has a big decision to make.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer has an interesting decision to make.
The City Council passed new affordable housing requirements on home-builders that increase the fee they have to pay if they do not set aside 10 percent of their units for people who make 50 percent or less of the area median income around their projects.
It was the first major policy Council President Georgette Gomez marshaled through the Council after she took over a Democratic supermajority. The Dems have a veto-proof majority, but Gomez only got five votes on the new requirements. Councilwoman Vivian Moreno supported developers who opposed the increased costs for building new homes.
It may not seem like a big gap to close between the two sides but it’s a big deal to both Gomez and the builders. Moreno’s vote means Gomez cannot overcome a mayoral veto. Ostensibly Moreno would stand with Mayor Kevin Faulconer if he uses his veto to force more concessions in a final deal.
But another “but:” It may seem like an easy call for Faulconer. He has not shared his perspective on this, but he sided with the same developer coalition years ago, when the city raised a similar fee charged to commercial development. He now finds himself with lots of leverage, and all he has to do is veto the Council’s vote to either kill or force big changes on the policy.
He has other considerations, however. On our podcast last week, Gomez made clear she would be displeased with a veto and it would lead her, possibly, to unravel the bipartisan alliance the mayor has painstakingly held together for his push to raise hotel taxes to expand the Convention Center.
Gomez recognizes the power she holds.
We asked Stefanie Benvenuto, the director of public affairs for the Chamber of Commerce, who has helped lead the coalition of builders in their negotiations with Gomez, whether they were putting pressure on the mayor to veto.
She said no. They want him to keep the veto as an option so they could keep pushing for some concessions. “We’re asking for the mayor’s help in getting everybody back to the table for negotiations. That is the first and biggest priority,” she said.
They have some time. The Council is on recess for August and won’t do a second reading on the new ordinance until it is back in session. Then the mayor has a couple weeks to make his decision.
One more thing: It’s our understanding that the campaign to raise the hotel room tax for the Convention Center expansion, homeless funding and road repair will be officially launched after Labor Day. We are eagerly anticipating its branding.
Every election cycle, parody Twitter accounts run by anonymous actors of various levels of competence appear to drag a candidate. Meet “Will Moore’s Stupid Face” – a feed with the creative premise of starting each tweet with “Will Moore has a stupid face and (insert bad thing about Moore).”
Moore, a Democrat, is running to replace Councilwoman Barbara Bry in District 1 on the City Council. Normally we ignore these because, well, if you have something to say about a candidate, put your name behind it. You can still be funny.
But Moore himself embraced it by sending out a press release about the new troll.
“There’s a new anonymous twitter troll with an account called ‘Will Moore’s Stupid Face’, which accused me of such horrors as: getting a one-star yelp review in 2013 from a guy whose case I didn’t take (guilty); paying my bar dues late once a couple years ago (guilty); sometimes tweeting about politics (guilty); and, of course, having a ‘stupid face’ (perhaps).”
But there’s a lesson on the current state of politics here. Victimhood is often a beneficial state. It’s easy to imagine Moore furious at the appearance of the account, until realizing he could flip it into a message about leading the race and coming under attack. It became a fundraising pitch.
Such was the allure, with the only downside being that he had to make fun of his own face in the process.
Bry once again this week sent out a fundraising appeal attacking the pro-development liberal faction that calls itself YIMBYs, for “yes in my backyard.” She said they’re just a tool for Wall Street investors.
Clearly, Bry sees power in anti-development rhetoric. Her “they’re coming for our homes” email weeks ago proved that.
But time and again, her actual voting record seems … pretty accepting of new development.
Last week, she cast yes votes for a handful of actions that let developers build more homes in the city, or made it cheaper or easier for them to do so. That included saying yes to two proposals that made way for 9,500 new homes around new Mid-Coast trolley stations in Linda Vista and Pacific Beach, respectively.
Neighbors who have organized protests against those plans for years – exactly the types for whom the “they’re coming for our homes” messaging resonates – packed City Hall to urge the Council to vote no.
But Bry didn’t. Likewise, last year she voted in favor of another plan that allowed developers to build 11,000 new homes in the Midway area. She’s also voted for several recent smaller items to speed-up the process of getting projects approved, or to make it easier for developers to build dense projects in the city.
So … what is the pro-development menace she’s warning us against?
One possibility is the state. Her campaign pleas have specifically cautioned against state legislative efforts to make it harder for cities to oppose new development – measures supported by her opponent, Assemblyman Todd Gloria.
In that case, it’s the principle of local decision-making she’s protecting, and not necessarily the substance of the changes those measures seek to make to the development process.
On that question, Bry’s voting record points in both directions – and on the same policy proposal.
Faulconer earlier this year proposed a measure that would absolve developers from meeting minimum parking requirements on projects near high-frequency transit stations. The idea is similar to one proposed in some of the state legislation Bry has attacked.
The Council first approved the proposal, with Bry voting yes. Weeks later, on the Council’s required second reading, Bry changed her vote to no.
Is a Republican going to run?
It had been widely expected that Councilman Mark Kersey would enter the race last month, joining the three Democrats in the field, including community activist Tasha Williamson.
That has not happened. Now, every day that goes by, the possibility that no Republican will seek to replace the incumbent Republican mayor becomes a bit more real.
Just three years ago, the Democrats themselves were on the verge of not putting up even a token challenger to Faulconer’s re-election bid. In the end, Ed Harris, head of the city’s lifeguard union, joined the fray. He did so on March 1, ahead of the June 7 election.
That gave Harris 98 days to mount his campaign.
This year, the mayoral primary is on March 3, 159 days from now.
In other words, Kersey or another Republican could technically wait another two months to stay on Harris’ 2016 pace.
Of course, Harris won just 19.3 percent of the vote, finishing behind former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña, who ran as an independent.