Navigating building rules

‘Please help me explain this to my client,” the e-mail said. Usually, messages from this particular friend involve our shared love of inappropriate cartoons, but this one obviously was different. He was working for a developer who wanted to take advantage of some affordable-housing financial incentives offered by The City and was baffled at some of the provisions that any contract must contain. I started digging into the issue and found the following:  

MacBride Principles. Since 1989, our administrative code has required any contract with The City to contain “a statement urging companies doing business in Northern Ireland to move toward resolving employment inequities, and encouraging them to abide by the MacBride Principles.” Those principles aim to eliminate religious bias in the workplace in Northern Ireland.

Tropical Hardwood and Virgin Redwood Ban. Any contract has to say something like, “The City urges contractors not to import, purchase, obtain or use for any purpose, any tropical hardwood, virgin redwood or tropical hardwood or virgin redwood product.” That’s because it’s San Francisco’s policy to “prohibit the use, requisition or purchase, directly or indirectly, by any City or County department or agency” of the protected types
of wood.

Non-Discrimination. Companies that contract with The City have to vow not to discriminate on the basis of, among other things, height or weight.

I sat down and replied to my friend, “Tell your client that San Francisco is a diva, which means it is pretty enough to have bizarre and unreasonable demands. And tell him to be sure and print these extra provisions on recycled paper.”


Only guarantee in raising property transfer tax is job losses

I know the November election seems like an eternity away, but since this is a weekly column and there are 15 measures on the ballot, we should start looking at the proposed measures. In an effort to ease us all into the position of citizen legislators, I’d like to begin at the end of the ballot and work backward, which means today’s contestant is Proposition N, the property transfer tax increase.

Prop. N was proposed by Supervisor John Avalos, who, as chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, had to tell everyone that they would not be getting a pony on Christmas morning. Under Prop. N, real estate transfers worth more than $5 million but less than $10 million would be subject to a 2 percent tax. Transfers worth more than $10 million would be assessed a 2.5 percent tax. Currently, these transactions are taxed at 1.5 percent.

According to San Francisco Chief Economist Ted Egan, if Prop. N passes, it will bring in $35 million.

But that’s a very tenuous estimate.

You see, the property transfer tax is the youngest sibling of all taxes. It’s rebellious and unpredictable, and smokes unfiltered cigarettes.

OK, I made up that last part. But the rest of it is true. Egan explained that the amount of property transfer tax we’ll get in any given year is very hard to anticipate. For example, in an effort to estimate how much money Prop. N might generate, his office ran the numbers on how much extra money the proposition would have brought in had it been in place nine years ago. His analysis showed that the amount yielded would have varied between $6 million and $90 million a year. Egan’s office averaged those numbers to get the $35 million estimate.

Egan also explained that, contrary to common San Francisco ideas about where babies and money come from, the $35 million won’t be brought by a benevolent stork. Buyers won’t take on the extra expense, so owners will pass on the cost to renters. And while it won’t apply to a large number of renters, it will apply to a few important ones. (He didn’t specify which ones.) As a result, the analyst’s 20-year forecast estimates 250 private sector jobs lost per year if Prop. N passes. While those job losses would initially be offset by gains in public employment, by 2014 we would just have a loss of employment positions.

Don’t get me wrong: Prop. N is basically guaranteed to pass. San Franciscans have no sympathy for storks or the kinds of companies and people who are party to multimillion-dollar real estate deals.

But with a projected budget shortfall of $712 million next year, it’ll take a lot more than Prop. N to prevent another sad season of budget negotiations.


Board chief breaks from progressives

At a recent Democratic County Central Committee meeting, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu endorsed Supervisor Carmen Chu for re-election in District 4 and Jane Kim for District 6 supervisor,  and he didn’t oppose Proposition G, which reforms Muni operators’ pay.

Supervisor David Campos, on the other hand, carried the progressive mantle and refused to endorse Chu in District 4, endorsed Debra Walker for District 6 and opposed Prop. G.

These committee votes only reinforce growing perceptions of Campos as the committed activist (particularly on immigration issues), while Chiu occasionally breaks with the party line — to the extent that there is one.

The question now: If Walker wins in District 6, will the progressives on the board punish Chiu and reward Campos by electing him board president for the next term?

Don’t forget that if Mistermayor wins his bid for lieutenant governor, whoever can get six votes from supervisors can be the interim mayor.

Bay Area NewsMelissa Griffin

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