Supervisors reject appeal against e-cigarette business as part of packed agenda 

The Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 to deny an appeal that will allow an electronic cigarette business on Ocean Avenue to move forward. Opponents argued that vaping is unsafe and wrongly influences children to use tobacco. - FRANK FRANKLIN/AP FILE PHOTO
  • Frank Franklin/AP file photo
  • The Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 to deny an appeal that will allow an electronic cigarette business on Ocean Avenue to move forward. Opponents argued that vaping is unsafe and wrongly influences children to use tobacco.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a renegotiated deal with the PGA Tour, required reporting of evictions in publicly funded housing units, continued the debate over Airbnb taxes and took a step toward creating a municipal bank.

But one of the most contentious debates was over Happy Vape, a proposed electronic-cigarette and hookah lounge at 1963 Ocean Ave. Residents appealed the Planning Commission's November decision to allow the business to open, arguing e-cigarettes, currently unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration, are unsafe and wrongly influence children to use tobacco.

"I frequently walk from my home past 1963 Ocean Ave. to either Whole Foods or to BART," said Wendy Portnuff, a resident at the nearby Ingleside Terraces neighborhood. "I do not want to see a business come into our neighborhood that counteracts the positive changes toward family-friendly retail."

But business owner Blake He, 27, and his supporters praised vaping for helping to combat smoking cigarettes and said the industry has also allowed him to pursue his entrepreneurial spirit.

The board voted to reject the appeal in a 9-2 vote, with supervisors Malia Cohen and Eric Mar, who is a strong anti-tobacco legislator, voting against the business. Supervisor Norman Yee, who represents the area, said Ocean Avenue serves a diverse neighborhood with many different interests and needs, and he believes "there is not a saturation of e-cigarettes or hookahs in this corridor."

The vote was significant since it was the first e-cigarette decision made under regulations passed by the board last year on the growing billion-dollar vaping industry.

As expected, the board also approved the much-celebrated PGA Tour agreement to host professional golf tournaments at TPC Harding Park. But approval came only after the deal was renegotiated to have The City share in the profits from the events, which it hasn't done in past in events. The agreement could lead to $1.3 million for The City based on events taking place between now and 2025, including the World Golf Championships Cadillac Match Play set to begin April 29.

"This is actually a much better deal than we had before," Supervisor John Avalos said.

Keeping the Airbnb debate alive, Supervisor David Campos introduced legislation that would require the confirmed payment of taxes before the so-called Airbnb short-term rental law could go into effect. The board approved the controversial law last year with an effective date of Feb. 1. At the time, it was estimated the short-term rental company owed $25 million in back taxes. Campos has also requested a hearing for Tax Collector Jose Cisneros to explain what he has done to collect taxes owed.

In an effort to address one of the most pressing issues facing San Francisco currently -- evictions -- the board approved Supervisor Mark Farrell's legislation requiring the annual reporting of evictions in publicly funded housing units, single-room-occupancy hotels, supportive housing and some public-housing sites.

"The goal here is to ensure that evictions from publically funded units are absolutely the last resort," Farrell said.

Additionally, Avalos took a step toward creating a municipal bank, one of his longstanding efforts. He said it would save The City money from having to pay interest and banking fees charged by The City's existing banks, Bank of America and Wells Fargo. Avalos requested the city attorney draft legislation to establish a municipal development corporation, described as a nondepository financial institution that would fund projects by issuing medium term notes.

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