San Francisco is not expected to hold municipal elections this year. Under Proposition H, the Mayor, District Attorney, and City Attorney races are moved to 2024.
Of course, it all depends on Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who won a special election and could trigger another election by resigning midterm.
This will unleash a political avalanche as many high-profile politicians will vie for one of the best jobs in American politics, a lifetime seat in Congress.
But if Pelosi decides to end her term, the stakes will be greater because many of those who might seek her seat will have to give up their current idle jobs to do so.
State Senator Scott Wiener is up for re-election in 2024. So did Councilman Matt Haney, City Attorney David Chiu, and Mayor London Breed; any of them would have to declare for Congress rather than be re-elected. Go home if you lose.
In the meantime, it’s going to be a busy year, even without a special congressional election. Some trends and themes to look for:
Who will be the new Supes chairman? The progressive majority that elected Shamann Walton two years ago is now even more shaky, a combination of two new moderate conservatives, Matt Dorsey and Joel Ngadio, and the likes of Raphael Mandelman, who has since Having shifted to his right in his first election, the scales could turn towards a more centrist candidate.
The chairman of the board of directors has little power or control over the legislative agenda in the same way as the speaker of the state legislature or the speaker of the House of Representatives. Any board member can present anything, with the potential for full hearings in committees and full board votes.
But the president appoints committee members, which could be critical, especially this year, because:
Budget and appropriations committees have a huge role to play.
This will be the first time Mayor Breed faces what could be a brutal budget situation. As the mayor’s office noted in a Dec. 15 press release:
Over the next two years, the City projects a budget shortfall of approximately $728.3 million, with $200.8 million in the first year and $527.6 million in the second. This exceeds the annual general fund budget of approximately $6.8 billion. The shortfall is the result of slowing revenue growth, particularly New York City’s biggest tax revenues, including property and sales taxes, and the loss of temporary federal COVID-19 funding.
That’s more than 10% of the average fund. There’s no easy way to slice it; the mayor’s office will make cuts, and cuts mean priority decisions. Add to that Breed’s insistence that the city deploy more police and put more people in jail — both options are very expensive — and a long list of social programs will be put on hold.
The budget committee cannot rewrite the mayor’s spending plan, and has generally mostly tinkered around the edges over the past few years. A radical budget chair could offer a serious alternative and spark some real public debate.
Find labor to challenge the mayor If budget cuts lead to layoffs or efforts to renegotiate compensation and benefits. The more conservative side of labor, primarily the construction industry, has sided with the mayor and her allies on many issues, but it will be difficult for other unions to stand by if the city employees union accepts her.
This matters as the 2024 elections shape up. If any serious candidates were to challenge Mayor Breed, they would have to start in 2023. It takes a lot of money and organization to defeat an incumbent mayor, and people who start late often don’t come out on top. If Labor is unhappy with Breed, look to the wider progressive base for a challenger.
In fact, I don’t see what Breed can do to prevent her popularity from slipping further next year. The city’s tax base will continue to decline (all she’s doing is weak and futile calls for employers to bring workers back to the office). She didn’t show any leadership in tackling homelessness (even Chron took note), and her discussions of tackling the addiction and overdose crisis went nowhere.
For better or worse, she has made no bold policy moves. Most of her superiors are still not that excited about working with her because she has made it clear that she doesn’t want to work with them.
The news media has also grown tired of “Mayor Breed being unavailable for comment.”
Lots of people backing Chesa Boudin for D.A. (remember, he won!) Not happy with DA Brooke Jenkins. She won the right to complete Boudin’s term, but her main challenger, John Hamasaki, entered the race late and without real-name authentication. She has a year to prove that she is indeed making the city a safer place, an unlikely high standard she will meet. I don’t know who will start organizing to challenge her, but I think someone will.
Meanwhile, this may be the year the whole Yimby story starts to unravel. This will have major implications for local politics; a prominent political strategist told me a few months ago that “the Yimbys have won the argument,” Matt Dorsey and Joel Ngadio The election of (Joel Engardio) should be the proof.
The argument goes this way: housing prices are so high because of the city’s housing shortage, and the reason for the city’s housing shortage is that local codes make it too difficult to build housing, especially dense multi-family housing. Family housing, if we get rid of these barriers, more housing will go up and prices will go down.
In fact, thanks to the Yimbys’ alliance with Sacramento real estate folks, who have long been winning at the Capitol, nearly everything the governor’s office can say about new local housing elements is that they must “remove barriers” to build.
The barriers are said to have been largely set by the Nimbys (connected to the progressive movement) who wanted to preserve the single-family homes and hinted at their property values.
Sometime in the next few months supes will be required to approve new housing elements and these state mandates will play a key role.
But any realistic assessment suggests the whole process was a farce. Some executives may point this out; some news outlets may have to stop ignoring it.
Since many of the people leading Yimby are responsible for Not being here 30 years ago, allow me to provide some historical background.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, developers and investors made a fortune on high-rise office developments in cities like San Francisco. After Reagan deregulated the savings and loan industry, everything went wild, and cash-hungry institutions began offering up to 15% annual returns on savings accounts.
The only way to make a profit at that level is to invest in urban office buildings, which at one point had a return of nearly 50% (thanks in part to another Reagan trick, accelerated depreciation, which made office buildings tax-profitable even if no one occupy it).
Of course, at some point, all of these buildings will be filled with tenants who will hire workers who need housing. But no one was building houses at the time – and Nimbys had nothing to do with it. Offices have a better return on capital, so that’s where the investment money goes.
Along the way, community groups pushed for lower height restrictions outside the financial district (“shrinking zoning”) not because they feared apartment buildings, but because they saw downtown sprawl – offices moved to Chinatown/North Beaches, Soma, above the Civic Center and Van Ness, along Mission Street…it’s all about stopping Mayor Dianne Feinstein’s office madness, not housing.
In fact, the progressives, the left, the ones denounced by the Yimbys, are the only ones talking about new housing and pushing for a so-called office housing production plan that seeks to link the approval and construction of new offices to the workforce housing.
Feinstein and the developers opposed it, saying it would create “barriers” to more office development.
I am there. I’ve written many stories about the impact of uncontrolled office growth on house prices and the failure to cushion it with new housing.
BTW: the developers and realtors at the time kept saying they couldn’t build new houses In San Francisco — but not because of shrinking zoning or planning “blocks” or Nimbys. Instead, they blame rent control. Look, they told me that if you have rent control, no one wants to be a landlord, so no one will build apartments.
Of course, homes built after 1979 are not subject to rent regulation under state and local law in any way. It’s a lie designed to undermine tenants’ rights and divert attention from the real problem: developers can make more money building offices.
If you look back over the past decade or so, the pattern becomes clearer: high-rise condos and luxury condos in San Francisco and several other cities offer the highest return on capital investment. That’s what the developers built. Many new condos were and are unoccupied, but that doesn’t matter: If you can sell them as an investment, you can make a profit.
Now the market has changed again. Construction costs are rising, demand for high-end housing in San Francisco (due to Covid remote work) is weakening, and returns on investment are falling. Therefore, market rate developers will not build housing regardless of whether there is a “barrier”.
Over the past few years, the Yimbys have gotten pretty much everything they wanted. Entire cities were upgraded, single-family zoning disappeared, and the state gave developers big density bonuses…but it didn’t work. Private developers are not lowering prices.
For all of 469 Stevenson’s outrage, the project’s “obstacle” isn’t Supes committees and progressives; it’s (get this): the free market. The project has no financing and will not be built anytime in the foreseeable future.
In 2023, late capitalism has lifted the Yimbys to its feet. We’ll see how the local political establishment responds.