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SB 827 rallies end with YIMBYs shouting down protesters of color

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Anti-SB827 and YIMBY rallies square off at City Hall on Tuesday. (Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez/ S.F. Examiner)

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Perhaps the Yes in My Back Yard group should change their name to Yes, We’re in Your Face.

At a Tuesday rally, YIMBY protesters shouted down people of color at a rally on City Hall steps against Senate Bill 827, legislation authored by State Sen. Scott Wiener and CA YIMBY, that would see much of California upzoned to allow taller developments to be built near transit.

The voices of black, brown and Asian community members at the rally were drowned out by the young, mostly white pro-housing (at any cost) group.

Tenants groups and people of color fear SB 827 may spur mass evictions, and groups west of Twin Peaks have decried its threat to neighborhood character. YIMBYs say California must build its way out of the housing crisis to help those same communities. 

Inside City Hall, the Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 to oppose the bill. Outside, it was a fracas.

The YIMBY group shouted over speakers. Those in the rally shouted “SHAME!” back. Supervisor candidate and BARF founder Sonja Trauss moved into the crowd and shook her protest sign in the face of an elderly Chinese man and, in turn, was allegedly shoved by a white woman from the anti-SB 827 crowd.

Video shows sheriff’s deputies escorting Trauss out of the crowd — perhaps not an ideal Kodak moment for her campaign.

One 77-year-old member of a group of Chinese community members was so disturbed by the YIMBY shouting that she later fainted and was ferried by ambulance to Chinese Hospital.

“Our members were intimidated by YIMBY. They felt threatened,” said Wing Hoo Leung, president of the Chinatown-based Community Tenants Association, who spoke at the rally.

He said he has never encountered a counter-rally so vitriolic in his 10 years of organizing. Sometimes, counter-rallies are held across the street from an event, or an hour later, but not directly in the faces of community members trying to speak their truth.

“I think the YIMBY have no heart,” Leung said.

YIMBY spokesperson Joe Rivano Barros told me they would learn from the conflict. He added that the YIMBY group had expected largely white West Side neighbors at the rally, and agreed that shouting down low-income people of color is an action that shouldn’t be repeated.

“I think it was a mistake, and we can learn from that,” he said.

He also said YIMBY was fired up by the reaction of West Side neighbors at the last City Hall meeting on SB 827, when those groups hissed at YIMBY members and cast them as white techies shilling for developers. “That informed the chanting,” Rivano Barros said.

But, Rivano Barros added, though anti-SB 827 ralliers shouted “RACISTS! WHITE POWER!” at the YIMBY group, he himself is Chilean, and their counter-rally included a Persian man and black woman.

Shanti Singh, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America who herself was drowned out by YIMBY shouting at the rally, called BS on YIMBY apologies and pointed out YIMBY leadership defended their actions on Twitter.

“What does it say about you when you’re drowning out communities of color talking about their struggles?” It was depressing, she said. “I went home and had a beer.”

* * *

District Attorney George Gascon was missing-in-action at a news conference on Monday to announce major statewide legislation to restrict firearm use by police officers to “only when necessary” instead of “when reasonable,” the current standard.

But don’t worry, he’s not playing hooky. As a matter of fact, our snowy-haired DA was picked for jury duty.

This is in civil court, of course, as it would be a conflict for the DA to serve jury duty in a criminal trial. He’s been sitting in the jury box in civil court since Monday, a District Attorney’s Office spokesperson said Wednesday.

* * *
Our slick-haired former mayor has apparently left some of his old political allies behind in his gubernatorial race.

The California Democratic Party recently made public members’ endorsement votes from the state party annual convention late last month. Those Dem delegate votes reveal lots of eye-popping reversals, but locally, they show former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and city Supervisor Malia Cohen gave each other the snub.

Cohen did not cast a vote to endorse Newsom for governor, and Newsom in turn did not cast his vote to endorse Cohen in her state Board of Equalization race.

Newsom only cast endorsement votes for governor (himself), insurance commissioner (Asif Mahmood), Secretary of State (Alex Padilla), State Controller, (Betty Yee), and U.S. Senate (Dianne Feinstein). Cohen voted to endorse gubernatorial candidate Delaine Eastin.

Adding another twist to the tale, Cohen used to work directly for Newsom as his confidential assistant prior to running her first race for supervisor (which Newsom also declined to endorse her in, though he later endorsed her run for re-election).

Cohen told me Monday, “Is there friction? There’s no friction. I’m a woman and I had an opportunity to support a woman who’s running for governor.”

As for Newsom’s snub, Cohen simply pointed out she garnered 52 percent of the California Democrat delegate vote. “I think I’ve proven I can stand on my own two feet,” she said.

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.

This post has been updated to reflect Joe Rivano Barros full last name.

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