BARF — it’s not just a gross-out verb, anymore. It’s a movement.
The San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation has (ahem) induced headlines from the New York Times to The Atlantic, all while clashing mightily with neighborhood groups here at home, as the group encourages city officials to build, build, build.
Now, the pro-density movement is shifting from advocacy to realpolitik:
BARF leader Sonja Trauss is running for supervisor. She filed to run July 5, according to the Department of Elections, though the race isn’t until November 2018.
Trauss, a former math teacher from Philadelphia, built her name in San Francisco agitating for more housing at every Democratic club, city meeting and neighborhood group worth speaking to, arguing that thousands of more housing units will bring rental prices in The City down.
Oddly, she’s running to represent what are among the most housing-dense neighborhoods in San Francisco: District 6, which includes South of Market and the Tenderloin.
They’ve got apartments sprouting out their ears. So what good is her running?
“I care deeply about addressing homelessness,” Trauss said, in an emailed statement on Monday, as well as “strengthening tenant protections, and rebuilding the South of Market infrastructure to recognize that SOMA is not only a neighborhood of manufacturing and highways but also San Francisco’s biggest residential neighborhood.”
She added, “I’m having my first child in the Fall, I’m planning to raise my family here, and I am personally invested in a future San Francisco that is compassionate and forward looking.”
Randy Shaw, a long-time progressive political watcher and executive director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, speculated that, if elected, Trauss would work to influence city housing policy.
I’m not convinced she could push the single-family homeowners of the west side to build more housing from her perch atop D6. And Trauss really stuck her foot in her mouth last year, when she argued in a public meeting that resistance against tech workers gentrifying San Francisco is akin to racism against Latino immigrants. As a Latino and a San Franciscan, I find that insulting: You can choose to be a tech worker; I cannot choose to shed my brown skin.
Shaw, however, thinks she has potential.
“Sonja was ahead of her time,” he said, noting that she called for more housing before the conversation had grown hot. But many local neighborhood groups have opposed BARF. Gay Shame, the agitator behind “Queers Hate Techies” graffiti, frequently lampoons Trauss in flyers seen across The City.
Local housing activist Chirag Bhakta, who spoke to me not in his capacity as a nonprofit worker but as a guy who grew up “in the TL,” weighed in on the issue.
“A neoliberal candidate who has consistently placed herself on the opposing side of neighborhood activists and born-and-raised Frisco folk is not the person I want representing the hood that raised me,” Bhakta told me.
Shaw said much of Trauss’ opposition came from the early fame she earned in national press, which may have chafed long-time neighborhood groups. But,“Sonja can’t be blamed for that,” he said.
If Trauss continues attracting tech cash as BARF has in the past — including $10,000 from Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman — she could give other candidates a run for their money.
Two other major candidates are rumored to be running soon: Board of Education member Matt Haney and Sunny Angulo, a legislative aide to Supervisor Aaron Peskin.
* * *
Never let it be said that Gavin Newsom isn’t a slick operator.
Back in May, during the latest state Democratic Party division between Hillary-esque moderates and Bernie-esque progressives, our would-be governor issued a dual endorsement.
Both Kimberly Ellis, the progressive, and Eric Bauman, the moderate, got the nod from our camera-ready former mayor in their bid to chair the state Democratic Party.
Ellis asked for an audit, as she lost to Bauman by a mere 62 votes. Now, as those votes are being tallied, a tipster sent us a photocopy of Newsom’s vote, which surfaced in the public audit.
So, who’d Newsom vote for? Nobody, that’s who.
His ballot review form has an entry marked “Ballot Cast,”and the box labeled “No (with blank)” was marked.
Profiles in courage, Gavin.
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.