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The art of misrepresentation

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Supporters of Proposition I, pictured, are against the continued construction of luxury housing in the mission. Their opponents, however, look and sound eerily similar – a new tactic called “astroturfing.” (Michael Ares/Special to S.F. Examiner)

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It’s September, and things are speeding up in Election Land. Posters and ads are showing up everywhere and despite this being an off-year election, there are some very important measures on the ballot. And, of course, along with these important measures comes some serious astroturfing.

I just learned the term “astroturfing” the other day. To quote the venerable Wikipedia, “Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participant(s).” And boy do we have some magnificent astroturfing this year!

Proposition I intends to hold off on building luxury developments in the Mission so that The City can focus on only building affordable housing in the neighborhood. Those in favor of Prop I call themselves Save the Mission and are a collection of community organizations fighting to stem the hypergentrification that’s happening.

The opponents of Prop I are calling themselves SF Real Housing Solutions. That’s not too bad in the world of astroturfing, but it does hide the fact the people funding the “No on I” campaign are, in fact, those who will benefit immensely from the building of luxury housing.

They have major funding from Robert Rosania and the California Association of Realtors. Rosania is the principal behind Maximus, a development company that stands to make a third of a billion dollars off a proposed project at 16th and Mission, and the California Association of Realtors are, well, Realtors.

As expected, the “No on I” camp are outspending the “Yes on I” folks a gazillion to one. When you simply Google “Prop I,” the “No on I” ad pops to the top. Even when I Google “Proposition I San Francisco 2015,” the “Yes on I” site isn’t in the top 10.

It’s a real shame, too, because who do you think has what’s best for the people of San Francisco at heart? The ones set to make oodles of money or the community organizations fighting to protect the interests of the citizens?

The same thing is happening with Proposition F, and the astroturfing here is just magical. Prop F puts stricter limitations on companies like Airbnb so that they don’t squeeze our housing stock, and it also acts to thwart landlords who evict tenants so they can turn their properties into de facto hotels.

While the “No on F” site is simply called NoOnPropF.com, one of the political action committees sponsoring it is called “SF For Everyone.” And that, my friends, is some bullshit, considering Airbnb is the major funder behind both “No on F” and “SF for Everyone.” They stand to make an unfathomable amount of money if F fails. They are spending an incredible amount of money on this campaign, too. One friend of mine is not only seeing web ads for “No on F,” he’s also getting people knocking on his door and calling his phone. I have no idea how the poor bastard got on their list.

It all comes down to this: We can’t let multibillion dollar industries and corporations decide what our laws should be. Because if we do, the laws will only favor them and their shareholders. And that’s how we, as citizens, lose what’s ours.

I’ll be putting out an election guide in October that cuts through the crap and explains how all these propositions work. If you want to stay informed about all this, look up Broke-Ass Stuart on Facebook and follow along.

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in The San Francisco Examiner.

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