The devil’s in the security detail

In July 2008, Mistermayor got married in Montana. And instead of springing for a diamond-encrusted meat thermometer, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi offered up a different kind of probe: He demanded to know how much it had cost The City for two police officers to drive to Montana and provide security detail for the mayor. Met with a resounding “Whatever, dude … that’s classified” from both the Mayor’s Office and the Police Department, Mirkarimi was never able to get to the bottom of his request.

By February, Mistermayor’s campaign to be the captain of the Titanic (read: governor of California) was in full swing, so Mirkarimi requested the price of security for gubernatorial campaign events in locations such as Donner Pass Road in Truckee. Once again, the answer was no, accompanied by an eye roll.

Undeterred, Mirkarimi introduced legislation in August aimed at making sure elected officials who campaign for themselves or others outside San Francisco while employing “dignitary security” provided by taxpayers disclose and pay back the cost of providing that detail.

Once you recover from the giggles that inevitably ensue when one imagines the word “dignitary” being connected to any city elected official, please note that the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee will consider this proposed law at 10 a.m. today.

Of course, now that Mistermayor has ceased his statewide campaign, this law looks a lot less necessary. But Mirkarimi maintains that the law is still important because, while “Mayor Newsom’s practices certainly highlighted the need for reform,” the issue is one of transparency and saving taxpayer money. “There have got to be some larger strategies [to deal with The City’s constant deficit],” Mirkarimi said, “but it doesn’t mean we should ignore the smaller ones.”

Indeed, the immediate savings for taxpayers is likely to be very, very small. District Attorney Kamala Harris, who is provided security in her capacity as The City’s top prosecutor and is campaigning to be the next California attorney general, is the only local official to whom this law may currently apply. Harris’ office could not be reached for comment. (Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier is running for state insurance commissioner, but is not entitled to a security detail.)

One person who’s not happy with the proposal is President Gary Delagnes of the San Francisco Police Officer’s Association.

“This is just politics as usual in San Francisco,” he told me. “If Mirkarimi and the mayor want to play their stupid games, fine. But leave my people out of it.”

If this law passes, future city officials campaigning outside San Francisco probably will.


Rental-rate ruling could have ripple effect in SF

Developers of rental housing in California had a little something extra to be thankful for Nov. 26. A recent court case — Palmer/Sixth Street Properties v. City of Los Angeles — likely invalidated certain below market rental requirements in more than 100 localities across the state, including San Francisco.

In the Palmer case, Los Angeles did something similar to what we do here in San Francisco: require that new rental developments include a certain number of units for low-income households and declare a maximum amount that can be charged to rent those units.

Palmer (a developer) sued on the grounds that the local low-rental requirement violated a state law, the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, that says landlords get to set initial rental rates. A state appellate court agreed with Palmer and struck down the Los Angeles requirement. In the court’s opinion, it did not matter that (as is the case in San Francisco) a landlord could choose to pay a fee to the city in lieu of providing the low-rate units.

(Note: The Costa-Hawkins Act only applies to rental units, not condos, and does not apply to rental developments that receive government assistance.)

The appellate court decision came down in July, but the California Supreme Court only recently refused to rehear the case. Now that we are stuck with the July ruling, freaking out may officially commence in San Francisco because our below market rental requirements are similar to (though not exactly like) the ones declared unlawful in Los Angeles. 

Already, organizations like Tenants Together are calling for the state Legislature to amend the Costa-Hawkins Act to allow for low-rate rental set-asides.

One San Francisco developer, who asked not to be named, told me that no one knows how the Palmer case may affect projects currently being negotiated. His company plans to consult with its own lawyers, stay in communication with the Planning Department and see what the city attorney advises. I asked the City Attorney’s Office for a copy of anything it had written on the Palmer case and was told that there is a memorandum, but it’s confidential.

Obviously, I haven’t seen the memo, but “everything is fine” is rarely a secret worth keeping.


How to reach the police if you still have a phone

Last week, I published two numbers for y’all to use if you need to contact the Police Department from your cell phone. Calling the (415) 575-4444 number I listed will get you through to a live person who can help direct your call, but the number to the SFPD 911 dispatch is (415) 553-8090. Remember that sending a note to Text A Tip (847-411 — type in SFPD and the information) will not get you emergency help, but will only send along the tip and help create a record.

Of course, none of this will help you if the crime you need to report is that someone stole your phone, which is what happened to one woman on the N-Judah on Nov. 25. The culprit? A 16-year-old girl.

Bay Area NewshousingMelissa Griffinpolice

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