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Anonymous tipster seeks to smear outgoing Supervisor Katy Tang after Sunset District electoral loss

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Supervisor Katy Tang announced she would not run for reelection in June and threw her backing behind legislative aide Jessica Ho, at an event attended by Supervisor Ahsha Safai, then-Board of Supervisors President London Breed and Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu outside Uncle Benny’s Donut and Bagel shop in the Sunset District. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

On Guard column header Joe

There are sore losers, and then there’s this.

It seems someone with a serious axe to grind is out to get Supervisor Katy Tang, following the loss of Tang’s chosen successor, Jessica Ho, at the polls.

A number of San Francisco journalists including myself received an email from “Anonymousemail.me” Thursday afternoon that read: “Not rumor: Katy Tang doesn’t live in District 4 anymore.”

The allegation that Tang no longer lives in the District would have significant repercussions if it were true. The City’s charter states a supervisor must reside in the district they represent.

If they move? “Such resident shall be removed from office,” the charter reads.

It also touches a raw nerve for many District 4 (Sunset and Parkside) residents. In 2007, then-District 4 Supervisor Ed Jew was already in hot water for taking $40,000 in cash bribes from a beverage franchise who sought illegal help in obtaining city permits when City Attorney Dennis Herrera alleged Jew wasn’t actually residing in his Sunset District home — or even in San Francisco.

For all of the above, Jew went to federal prison. (Mostly for the bribes, but the out-of-district thing added time to his sentence).

While there’s nothing completely conclusive, all the facts I’ve seen after an evening of reporting point to Tang living with her parents — inside the district. The paper trail ain’t ironclad, but it’s strong.

But I’ll tell you, the story of this allegation is too wacky not to share.

My inside sources speculated the tipster is likely a moderate Democrat operative angry that, for the first time in political memory, an ally of progressive Democrats, Gordon Mar, has won the Board of Supervisors seat representing the usually conservative, centrist Sunset and Parkside neighborhoods.

Mar’s victory was possible in part because Tang, who announced she would not be running for reelection at the last possible moment in June, boosted Ho, a weak candidate who had only arrived in San Francisco in March to serve as Tang’s aide.

Ho’s loss was particularly painful to Tang’s moderate Democrat allies because Mar, with all due respect, would be a long shot to win the Sunset District against a stronger moderate candidate, like Tang. His unlikely win puts progressives on the Board of Supervisors in a position to potentially stymie any veto by Mayor London Breed. That’s mucho political strength.

So, moderates are P.O.’ed. When I asked one insider who among the “mods” (insider slang for moderate Democrats) was angry enough to smear Tang, they answered, simply:

“What mod isn’t angry at Tang right now?

So the fact that the anonymous email was sent shortly after Ho conceded and Mar declared victory may have been a sign the tipster was motivated by an electoral loss.

The email alleged Tang had moved from her Great Highway apartment to live with her romantic partner in District 7, specifically West Portal. The email provided addresses (which I won’t publish here) and detailed remodeling work performed on the house as part of the suite of evidence against the supervisor.

Were it to be true, Tang, like Jew, could be removed from office. And though Mar won her seat, he won’t be sworn in until January, leaving plenty of time for her to be dragged through the mud.

“It seems like Gordon Mar is going to become District 4 supervisor earlier than expected,” the email claimed.

Well, what else was there to do? I tried to verify the assertion.

Indeed yes, Tang is on the deed transfer for a house in West Portal with her partner on May 3, 2018, according to records from the San Francisco Assessor Recorder’s Office.

And yes, as the email claimed, there has been remodeling work approved by the Department of Building Inspection since the home was purchased, including an interior remodel on the upper floor, according to DBI records.

So far, the tipster’s story checked out.

But voter registration files are also records of residence. I phoned the Department of Elections to get the most up-to-date info, and they informed me Tang had changed her residence on August 9, this year, moving from her apartment at the Great Highway to a house right next to the Sunset Reservoir, within District 4.

And records online with the Assessor-Recorder revealed pretty handily who that house belonged to: Tang’s parents.

So does Tang really live with her parents right now, ostensibly while waiting to move into the West Portal house when her term is up? Could be.

I hopped on a 7X-Noriega Express Muni bus to find out, and was lucky enough to find Tang’s parent’s next door neighbor, Sophia Hou, who told me Tang’s father and mother do indeed live there, and Tang “does stay here at night.”

Hou doesn’t see Tang personally too often but sees her car parked in the driveway, and recognizes it from years of knowing her. “I know the family a long time,” Hou said with a smile. Hou’s own daughter is the same age as Tang, she added, but “my daughter is married and has two kids! I (told her parents) when is she doing that?”

It’s at this point that I headed back to the Richmond District, but I wasn’t more than ten steps off my bus before I got a call back from Tang herself.

“I’m at my parent’s house … it’s really insulting someone would say that,” of her living out of the District.

Tang offered to let me review the footage from her neighbor’s security camera to watch her enter and leave the house every morning. She then provided me with a screenshot of a 311 complaint she made the same day the anonymous accusations were sent (today), of an oversize truck blocking her sidewalk near the Sunset Reservoir.

She also told me she talked to the City Attorney’s Office to verify she was following the law when she moved in with her parents.

Tang said her name was on the deed of her partner’s house because attorneys advised them it would be more affordable to do so now, rather than later, should she move in. She was royally pissed a tipster brought her partner into the supposed smear against her.

“He is a San Francisco native who can afford a house. I am so proud of him,” she said. (With a few more expletives on either side of the sentence.)

The anonymous email also speculated Tang would run for District 7 supervisor in 2020, a seat currently held by Norman Yee. “I have no interest in running for supervisor again,” Tang said.

Tang acknowledged many mods were angry she stepped away from her seat and were also miffed at her choice of successor, Ho, who ultimately lost her election.

But Tang told me this was among the many reasons she knew life as a politician wasn’t for her. In fact, she said, she suspected that very idea back in 2013 when she was first appointed.

“I want a different lifestyle,” she said.

The most her soon-to-be-former colleagues could do, Tang said, is “be grownups about it.”

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at joe@sfexaminer.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story alluded to a second allegation by the tipster regarding the candidate which we have since removed, as it was irrelevant to the discussion of legal habitation in a supervisoral district.

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