New film explores tech in SF politics with Airbnb, Peskin (and me)

Come one, come all, to two San Francisco events you should definitely not miss.

Firstly, no San Franciscan should miss “Company Town,” a new documentary from the dynamo Berkeley-based filmmakers Deborah Kaufman and Alan Snitow. The film explores the complexity of Airbnb’s iron grip on San Francisco’s housing stock and politics.

The tech vs. regulations tussle is played out through Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s 2015 election against then-incumbent Supervisor Julie Christensen. This flick features everything we love, and love to rail against: evictions, Chinatown, tech billionaire Ron Conway, Mayor Ed Lee, beautiful cityscapes and, yes, yours truly.

I’m in the flick pretty heavily, though I’m perhaps a bit less sanctimonious than in my column (lucky you!). So come to the Roxie Theater tomorrow (Oct. 28) for the S.F. premiere.

Fun fact: The film captures former mayor Willie Brown famously calling the election in favor of Peskin at the historic John’s Grill Election Day party last year.

And speaking of the John’s Grill, restaurant-owner John Konstin and media impresario Lee Houskeeper are opening the doors for another Election Day romp on Nov. 8, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

It’s open to the public and sure to be a hoot: Where else will you see Broke-Ass Stuart breaking bread with Conway, or me sharing a laugh with Slick Willie?

On that note, it’d be nice to see State senate candidates Jane Kim and Scott Wiener, in particular, bury the hatchet there that day, or District 11 supervisor candidates Ahsha Safai and Kimberly Alvarenga. Josh Arce and Hillary Ronen, I’m lookin’ at you, too.

“This year particularly has torn people asunder,” Houskeeper told me. But, he pointed out, at the end of the day, we need to show each other respect.

“Even respect for guys with red hair and names like ‘Broke-Ass,’” he said.

* * *
Audrey Cooper made history as the first woman editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, and, it seems, she’s also presiding over historic pay inequality between the Chron’s men and women.

The union of the Chron’s editorial staff — the Pacific Media Workers Guild Local 39521 — is calling out the paper for paying its men three times as much as women in negotiated “overscale” raises, which exceed the salary cap imposed by
the paper.

That divide exists between like staffers, whether they be reporters, columnists, copy editors, artists, designers and more, according to the guild. They also pointed out this may skirt California’s Fair Pay Act, which prohibits employers from paying women less than men for “substantially similar work.”

The union’s analysis is public and shows 75 percent of the overscale ($18,293 a year) goes to men, versus 25 percent of overscale ($6,115) to women.

It also shows 61 of 72 men at the Chron netting overscale, versus 26 out of 40 women. White employees earn nearly twice the median overscale of nonwhite employees.

The number crunching was done by Chronicle reporters themselves, Carl Hall, executive officer of the guild, told me. And yes, they took care to slice the numbers in a way that would account for certain “star” staffers, who may earn outsized amounts.

When Hall quietly took this data to management, they refused to meet. “They didn’t take us seriously,” Hall said. “They gave us a pat on the head.”

I tried contacting Cooper for comment earlier this week but never heard back. As the historic first woman Chronicle editor who has notably hired more women and minority writers, she has been glaringly silent on pay equity — even with her own staff, they told On Guard.

The Chronicle’s VP of Human Resources Renee Peterson sent a letter to Chronicle staff on Wednesday saying “inaccurate information” is being shared about pay inequity at the paper but did not refer specifically to the study.

Peterson also emailed me: “We take pay equity very seriously and stand firmly behind our record of treating and paying our employees fairly in full compliance with the law,” she wrote.

Well, golly gosh, who would expect an honest-to-God newspaper to give a mealy mouthed answer that doesn’t directly answer any questions? (Just kidding, I totally did).

* * *
A century-old photo tells the tale of the 1906 earthquake rebuild of City Hall, as the 1916 Board of Supervisors posed to celebrate their newly rebuilt board chamber. That shot hangs just outside the chambers now.

Inside the Board of Supervisors chambers, circa 1916. (Courtesy photo)
Inside the Board of Supervisors chambers, circa 1916. (Courtesy photo)

Last week, current and former supervisors aplenty posed to recreate that photo in honor of its centennial: From Fiona Ma to Carole Migden, Julie Christensen to Louise Renne, and even blue-haired Tom Ammiano.

California politicians at the local and state level pose to recreate a photo of the first official Board of Supervisors meeting in the Legislative Chamber of San Francisco's City Hall on Oct. 18. (Dan Chambers/Special to S.F. Examiner)
California politicians at the local and state level pose to recreate a photo of the first official Board of Supervisors meeting in the Legislative Chamber of San Francisco’s City Hall on Oct. 18. (Dan Chambers/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Sadly, missing from the festivities was former San Francisco Police Department Chief Greg Suhr — significant because he has family in the original 1916 photo.

In seat number 12, circa 1916, sits the ex-chief’s great grandfather, Fred Suhr.

“He was on the board right at a critical time after the earthquake,” Suhr told me, adding, “I hadn’t heard about any photograph.”

To this native San Franciscan, that’s a shame.

Think what you will of Suhr’s tenure at the SFPD, but one thing is for sure: He’s a San Francisco native with deep roots, and it would’ve been only proper to see Suhr take his great grandfather’s place in this new time capsule 100 years later.

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

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