(Courtesy photo)

Supes approve Mayor Breed’s appointee to the Planning Commission

Long-time land use attorney Susan Diamond was approved Tuesday to become San Francisco’s newest member of the Planning Commission.

Mayor London Breed appointed Diamond to the commission and the Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 to confirm the appointment Tuesday.

The vote occurred without debate, but on Monday, during a board committee hearing on the appointment, several members of nonprofit groups like PODER and SOMCAN argued for someone who is more of an advocate for communities of color facing the pressures of displacement.

Supervisors Gordon Mar and Sandra Fewer opposed the appointment.

Mar told the San Francisco Examiner that he wanted someone with a “willingness to challenge the status quo of growth for growth’s sake which has led to our housing affordability crisis, displacement of the working and the middle class, and gridlocked streets in our city.”

Fewer told the Examiner that she had met with Diamond and found her “a nice, knowledgeable person.”

“But in my opinion, she does not have connections or experience with those who are rapidly being displaced in San Francisco — the working class people of San Francisco and in particular, people of color,” Fewer said.

The commission is comprised of seven members, four who are appointed by the mayor and three who are appointed by the board.

Breed issued a statement soon after the vote.

“I nominated her to the position because I believe she will be a great asset on the commission, especially as we tackle complex planning decisions to make sure our City is livable and resilient for generations to come,” Breed said. “She has a wide range of experience in land use and real estate matters, and will bring her 30-plus years as an attorney and strategic advisor to the commission.”

Diamond worked as a land use attorney for a large law firm for 28 years representing real estate clients who opened their heardquarters or other facilities in the Bay Area. In 2011, she formed her own law firm and represented nonprofits, including Temple Emanu-El and the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.

“I take very seriously my obligation as Planning Commissioner to represent all of San Francisco’s diverse communities and stakeholders, especially as we work to build more housing in all neighborhoods,” Diamond said in a statement.

Diamond will begin serving on the commission at its next meeting on Thursday, when it will continue closed session discussions to determine which applicants to send to Mayor London Breed for consideration as the next planning director. Under The City’s charter, the commission must send at least three applicants.

The commission has also scheduled discussions for Dec. 5 and Dec. 9, 10 or 11.

Diamond was appointed to serve out the four-year term of Rich Hillis ending June 2020. Hillis vacated his seat in order to apply to become the next planning director.

He is among about 16 applicants. Planning Department veteran Miriam Chion, the department’s housing and equity manager, is also among the applicants, the Examiner previously reported.

The board was previously expected to vote Tuesday on placing Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s vacancy tax on the March 2020 ballot, but that vote was postponed to a special meeting on Thursday. The special board meeting was needed to meet the deadline to place the tax measure on the March ballot after Peskin amended the proposal in the board’s Budget and Finance Committee hearing Monday.

The amendment addressed concerns expressed by Supervisors Sandra Fewer and Catherine Stefani that landlords might seek to pass on the tax to failed businesses who vacate the space. “This tax should not be assessed on the lessee who goes out of business,” Peskin said Monday. The amendment said that if a business that was open for at least six months goes out of business, it won’t be liable to pay for the vacancy tax through the remainder of its lease.

The tax begins at $250 per linear foot of vacant storefront frontage in 2021 and increases to $1,000 in 2023. A commercial space is deemed vacant if unoccupied for more than 182 days in a year.

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