Breed’s planning commissioner pick is Latina with Mission ties / Hinckle’s funeral reveals man behind the journalist

http://sfexaminer.com/category/the-city/sf-news-columns/on-guard/

Many weeks see Latinos from the Mission lambaste the San Francisco Planning Commission.

From the Monster in the Mission to the Beast on Bryant, the neighborhood is home to some of the most contested housing developments in The City, which, neighbors fear, spur evictions.

Now their voice may grow.

On Guard has learned the Planning Commission’s newest potential commissioner is a Latina woman with decades of experience in Mission District activism: Myrna Melgar.

She’s a recent Democratic Party board candidate and current commissioner at the Department of Building Inspection. Melgar told me, “Planners like to think we’re neutral, but nothing could be further from the truth.”

She added, “We have to be mindful of power imbalances and equity issues.”

Her approval comes by way of Board of Supervisors President London Breed, and is pending approval by the full board.

In a statement, Breed noted that the Mission “is facing such enormous land use pressures right now,” and that “Myrna has two crucial qualities: independence and integrity. She will bring balance. She will serve the whole city.”

There is some worry Supervisor Mark Farrell may not back Melgar, sources tell On Guard, because Melgar ran on the progressive “reform” DCCC slate opposite Farrell.

However, the Board of Supervisors majority may make Farrell’s vote moot, as Melgar has strong progressive ties — perhaps a consideration of Breed in her supervisor race against progressive Dean Preston.

Christina Olague was the last Latina planning commissioner, who left her seat in 2012.

Melgar was born and raised in El Salvador, and her family fled its civil war to San Francisco when she was 14. She worked at activist groups like PODER, Senior Action Network and St. Peter’s Housing Committee (now Causa Justa Just Cause).

Those are serious bona fides.

On the flipside, Melgar also worked in the Mayor’s Office of Housing, under then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, and currently serves on the Department of Building Inspection Commission. Her appointment would likely preserve the 4-3 ideological split of moderate and progressive planning commissioners.

Of no small note, Melgar has a masters degree in Urban Planning from Columbia University. To wit, she hopes to rejigger some wonky-but-vital calculations for developers to pay into The City’s affordable housing trust fund.

Reworking that calculation was a leftover promise from the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, she said, and would’ve netted more than $12 million for affordable housing from the recent Vida development in The Mission. Instead, The City netted about $2 million.

“That’s a geeky example,” she said.

But it’s also an informed housing perspective from an insider who’s got an eye on helping the Mission, and The City’s most vulnerable.

The Mayor’s Office also has an appointment to the Planning Commission pending, and On Guard hears this person may stem from local unions. We’ll know more soon.

* * *

Hell-raising San Francisco columnist Warren Hinckle died last week at the age of 77. His funeral Tuesday morning bore testament to his ink-stained legacy, but it also revealed the man behind the muckraker.

The sun shone on SS Peter and Paul’s Church in North Beach as hundreds gathered: Mayor Willie Brown, author David Talbot, Burning Man co-founder John Law, media impresario Lee Houskeeper, politico Jack Davis, Angela Alioto, Bruce Brugmann, James Fang and many more.

Some of us even wore eye patches in his honor.

The services kicked off with two rounds of sounds: Hinckle’s basset hound, Toby, howling outside, and the oddly lovely tones of “Danny Boy” sung by Ess Eff notable Joe O’Donoghue.

Hinckle’s daughter, Pia, stood at the podium before her father’s casket. She told the crowd, “He was a cynic, but an eternal optimist. He was a curmudgeon who cried at movies.”

Above: Check out this column in print today for an homage to Warren Hinckle.

As he grew older and lost his mobility, she said, San Francisco lost its most irate columnist, but Pia gained time with her father. “As a man with an oversized public persona, those times of intimacy were a gift,” she said.

Hinckle’s daughter Hilary said, “my kids didn’t grow up with him in bars” like she did, but sitting with him watching entirely too much SpongeBob SquarePants.

Hinckle was infamous for belting out his columns from the bars of North Beach. So near the end of his years, Hilary said, she asked her father if his drive rose from the hooch.

“His eyes got huge,” she said, and he told her, “Justice is what it’s about.”

And so it was: For his career, Hinckle doggedly pursued justice for San Franciscans.

But near the end of his life, and as he was remembered Tuesday, Hinckle belonged to his family — be they blood or be they chosen.

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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