Diversity feud colors board clash 

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  • Melissa Griffin

Last week, the Board of Supervisors considered three Planning Commission appointments: Cindy Wu from the Chinatown Community Development Center; Richard Hillis, former deputy director of the Office of Economic Workforce Development; and three-term commissioner and dentist Michael Antonini.

The reliably pro-development Antonini has certainly cast votes that neighborhood groups don’t like — approving the 8 Washington St. and 1600 Lombard St. projects, for example — and he fought to the bitter end to keep the 49ers in San Francisco. Yet given the debate over his re-appointment, you’d think he was solely responsible for those projects, not just one of four votes needed on the seven-member commission.

But as we saw last week, Antonini bore the brunt of all frustration with Planning Commission decisions. When the lone white male home-owner on the commission does things that are unpopular, the “we need diversity” card can be fatal. Competence be damned.

You can watch any board meeting on sfgovtv.org. What follows is my dramatic interpretation of the debate over whether to reappoint Antonini:

  • Malia Cohen: I’m not sure how to vote on this. The Planning Commission isn’t geographically diverse enough. There should be a commissioner from my district.
  • Sean Elsbernd: Wanna talk about geographic diversity? Antonini is the only commissioner from the entire west side of The City. The other two commissioners being considered today are from neighborhoods that are already represented.
  • Jane Kim: We need someone from the southeast sector of The City. We also need someone who is gay or Hispanic.
  • Elsbernd: This is a fake argument. Neither Wu nor Hillis is gay or Hispanic, or from the Bayview, and yet y’all are lining up to appoint them.
  • Scott Wiener: Hey, I want a gay person on the commission as much as anyone, but the mayor and the president of the Board of Supervisors are the people who nominate candidates, so if you want more diversity, go lobby them. We can’t put that desire for more diversity on one single candidate, especially one who has served so admirably.
  • Christina Olague: I plan to lobby the mayor to send us LGBT and Hispanic candidates, but I worked with Antonini on the commission for over seven years and while our politics are totally opposite, he’s the hardest-working and most dedicated commissioner we have.
  • David Campos: I don’t have anything negative to say about Antonini except this: I’m not voting for him because I don’t like his politics. Add the fact that we need diversity on the commission (so they’ll vote like I want them to) and he’s the perfect person to reject to make room for someone else.
  • David Chiu: The neighborhood groups in my district don’t like the way he votes. And as you know, I make my decisions based on a constituent applause-o-meter.
  • Elsbernd: We shouldn’t go about appointing people because of their voting records. We should vote for people who are dedicated public servants. You know why? Because the Board of Supervisors can review commission actions. If we don’t like how they voted, we can overrule the decision right here at the board. I have voted to appoint people to commissions whose politics I completely disagree with.
  • Olague: Like me! And even Aaron Peskin, Ross Mirkarimi and other progressives endorsed Antonini each of the prior three times he has come up for a vote because he’s simply an excellent commissioner.
  • Kim: Don’t be ridiculous; it’s always about politics. Did I mention we need diversity?
  • Cohen (correctly surmising that she is the swing vote): May I get a continuance to allow each side to lobby me?

The board will vote on Antonini’s appointment Tuesday.

Parking details without the $300 ticket

On July 17, the City Controller’s Office released its audit of the parking enforcement section of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. At close to 100 pages long, it is full of interesting tidbits such as the following:

  • Some street-sweeping trucks have license plate recognition technology to capture images of illegally parked cars, and certain Muni buses have video cameras “to record both a forward view and the right curbside.” Also, the department is experimenting with “electronic chalking” in places where there are parking time limits but no meters. It uses GPS technology to record the precise location of a parked vehicle, so that later the parking enforcement officer can detect whether the car has moved. All of these methods allow officers to issue tickets based on images and without much human interaction. Not that I blame them.


  • On any given day in 2011, an average of 17 employees (out of 170 scheduled) were absent or not able to work. The department began evaluating employees in 2011, but nowhere does the evaluation note the number of days an employee missed or was late. Also, 28 employees were on long-term leave or modified duty each month of last year.
  • A full 80 percent of officers surveyed hate the little motorized milk cartons they drive, and the shoddy state of the vehicles is cause for some number of work-related injuries. Officers in other cities get around using Segways, motorized bicycles and (gasp!) walking — all options that The City should consider.

Quotes of the Week

“I also love this mechanical pony named Buttercup.”
— Supervisor Eric Mar, describing his love for the Toy Boat Dessert Café, while declaring Monday “Toy Boat Dessert Café Day.” The cafe is a delightful little place full of toys and high-calorie treats. What was the name of the brilliant Big Daddy who banned selling the two together?

“I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. Mayor question time has become a total waste of the supervisors’ time, the mayor’s time and, most importantly, the public’s time.”
— Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, on why he hasn’t submitted a question for mayor question time since January.

“St. Francis has endorsed me.”

— Former mayoral candidate “Annapoorna” during the public comment period at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, still the best show in town

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Melissa Griffin

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