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Safai’s ethically challenged affordable housing deal may hit brick wall

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Ahsha Safai is a labor organizer for the Janitors and Teamsters Unions and candidate for the District 11 seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. (Courtesy Ahsha Safai)
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There are so many obstacles to supervisor candidate Ahsha Safai’s new rent-controlled housing “win” that he might as well sign up for American Ninja Warrior.

It’ll take a lot of muscle for Ahsha to swing across this ethical chasm, as highlighted in recent ethics complaints by Supervisor John Avalos and others.

Avalos alleged much wrongdoing around the housing deal, but Safai’s problems don’t end there.

The moderate-backed Safai is running for a District 11 supervisor seat to represent the Ingleside, Excelsior and other neighborhoods. The Board of Supervisors’ balance of power could shift if Safai or his opponent, Kimberly Alvarenga, are elected.

On Guard was unable to reach Safai by press time.

Two Sundays ago, Safai announced through the moderates’ favorite press-release machine, The San Francisco Chronicle, that his family friend, Siavash Tahbazof of SST Investments, would build 103 units of housing in the Excelsior — with, astonishingly, 51 willingly rent-controlled apartments.

It’s a huge win for Safai, who brokered the deal between Tahbazof and The Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development. It was in the news (conveniently) at a crucial time, as late mail-in ballots fly in and voters gear up to pull the proverbial crank for him, or his opponents.

Of course, as the saying goes, when something sounds too good to be true …

The newest barrier for the plan for 915-917 Cayuga Ave., the site of the affordable housing, may be Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s Proposition M, which is now on the ballot.

If passed, Prop. M would create a commission overseeing what is now the Mayor’s Office of Housing and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, which now work directly under the mayor.

Insiders familiar with the commission said it may scrutinize Safai’s affordable housing plan, especially considering the ethical allegations swirling around its creation.

Those complaints allege Safai failed to register as a lobbyist with The City. His forms of economic interest show between $10,001 and $100,000 in business activity between Safai’s Kitchen Cabinet Public Affairs and SST Investments, which proposed the housing.

Avalos also said that Safai should have registered as a lobbyist for pitching the affordable housing development idea to the Mayor’s Office.

When asked if Prop. M could potentially scrutinize the affordable housing proposed by Safai’s buddy in the Excelsior, Jeff Buckley, senior advisor to the mayor on housing, was unsure.

“We would hope that when, slash if, a new commission is instituted that they would not play politics, and accept something like this in a development agreement,” Buckley said.

He did acknowledge that Safai played a crucial role in netting the deal, because “larger development firms have some familiarity with some of these mechanisms” around housing. As for SST investments, “they don’t.”

But Avalos said the deal smelled fishy –– Safai and members of Tahbazof’s family are also listed on a deed for a house on Peralta Street together, which they bought for around $400,000 and later sold for $1.9 million.

“They’re making a lot of money, and they make money together,” Avalos said.

* * *

“Where’s Jerry?” has been the question of the day on Carla Marinucci’s California Playbook at Politico for more than a month, directed at none other than Gov. Jerry Brown.

Well, Moonbeam popped up Monday morning at a breakfast held by former Mayor Willie Brown at the Fairmont hotel. (Brown and Brown were flanked by most major politicos in San Francisco, and many from beyond).

“The only thing I do other than follow politics is enter monasteries,” Gov. Brown said to laughter, so he can avoid the fray.

In particular, he said, presidential candidate Donald Trump raised his eyebrows when he suggested 450 million immigrants would flood the United States under president Hillary Clinton, which is ridiculous — because that population is at least the size of “Europe and Canada.”

Brown said, “It’s incredible … language has no meaning in his mouth.”

“That,” Brown said, “is dangerous.”

* * *

Supervisor Scott Wiener sat just two seats away from me at the breakfast. The state Senate candidate fidgeted a bit and said he rarely gets so long to sit in just one place.

I asked him what he misses from the time before endless campaigning. Wiener was quick with his answer: Yoga.

He does yoga three times a week, and described it as his “silo.”

There you have it folks: Win or lose, Wiener will be back to doing the downward dog by Nov. 9.

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

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