Travel guides tackle S.F. homeless 

click to enlarge Panhandling on Haight Street? Yep, the guidebooks warn tourists about that. - S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • S.F. Examiner file photo
  • Panhandling on Haight Street? Yep, the guidebooks warn tourists about that.

The annual San Francisco Chamber of Commerce CityBeat poll results are out, and once again “homelessness and panhandling” top the list of citizen concerns. Because this is prime time for people to plan their summer vacations, and at least some will choose San Francisco, I wondered: Is anyone preparing tourists for frequent, forced fundraising at the hands of our enterprising residents?

I checked three 2012 San Francisco guidebooks, and here is a sampling of what they had to say on the matter:

“A word of warning: most first-time visitors are thrown by the grittiness of some downtown areas, including lower Powell St., the Downtown destination of two cable car routes. Downtown is generally safe, but the streets west of Powell St. and south of Geary St. are rife with panhandlers and junkies.” — Lonely Planet

“San Francisco’s aromatic Tenderloin District (rife with the homeless and addicts).” — Frommer’s

“Expect panhandlers and take taxis after dark.” — Frommer’s, on the Civic Center

“And the kids continue to come: this is where young people who end up on San Francisco’s streets most often gather. Visitors tend to find the Haight either edgy and exhilarating or scummy and intimidating (the panhandling here can be aggressive).” — Fodor’s

Affordable housing measure coming

There is going to be an affordable-housing measure soon, and the people who want to be in charge of doling out millions for development are already laying the groundwork.

Back in July, the Board of Supervisors directed the legislative analyst to create a report about affordable housing in San Francisco. On Jan. 18, the 106-page document was released. While it covers a number of topics, including the disconnect between the Planning Department and the overall housing needs of The City, one of the main findings of the report is, “Future financing sources for affordable housing development are uncertain due to the dissolution of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, decline in the local housing market, and reduced federal contribution.” (This section of the report brought to you by five minutes on Google.)

At the Feb. 14  board meeting, supervisors David Campos and Jane Kim called for a hearing to discuss the report. Expect the result to be a call to arms and a move to pass an affordable housing measure soon, maybe even on this November’s ballot.
“We commissioned a study to state the obvious and now we declare an emergency!”

In order to pass a bond to fund affordable housing, it takes a supermajority of 66.7 percent of votes. One affordable-housing bond passed in 1996, but attempts in 2002 and 2004 failed.

Another idea (reportedly supported by Mayor Ed Lee) is to increase The City’s real estate transfer tax and have the proceeds go toward affordable housing. This proposal would only need a majority of votes to pass in November.

Why would an affordable housing bond or tax increase have a chance at passing in the near future? Because it would have the dual support of progressives on the board who have publicly supported such measures for years, and Lee, with his ties to affordable-housing developers such as the Chinatown Community Development Center. Lee has made clear the fact that he is looking for $50 million per year to fund such housing.

It’s not clear when oneor more affordable-housing measures will be on the ballot, but while we wait for it to happen, we can watch our elected officials build a case for something they have wanted to do all along. 

Sheriff needs solid defense at trial to counter wife’s emotional abuse video

On Monday morning, Judge Garrett Wong ruled that the video of Eliana Lopez tearfully describing how her husband, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, had assaulted her on New Year’s Eve will be part of the domestic violence case against Mirkarimi.

It must be one heck of a video, because Mirkarimi’s lawyers and Lopez’s lawyers have used every argument but the Twinkie defense to try and keep it from being shown in the trial. All attempts at quashing the video have been unsuccessful, though, and now it is clear the video is coming in, along with other statements by Lopez to her neighbor (and the person who filmed the video) Ivory Madison on Jan. 1. The admissibility of statements made later to Madison and another neighbor will be decided at a later date.

Whether the jury will hear from Christina Flores, an ex-girlfriend of Mirkarimi’s who claims to have been harmed by him, will be decided today. The rules of evidence allow for prior acts of violence to be admitted, and I expect that Flores’ testimony will be admitted even though the incident was four years ago.

So, will Mirkarimi take a plea deal now that it is clear the video will be seen by the jury? No one knows , but he hasn’t given any indication that he plans to do anything but “fight the charges” (his unfortunate choice of words). And DA spokesman Omid Talai said there are no plea negotiations under way.

At Monday’s hearing, we got a glimpse of what Mirkarimi’s defense will be. His lawyer described the video as Lopez “just being emotional” and also “scripted” and “staged.” She argued Lopez shouldn’t have waited to tell her friend Madison about the abuse, and instead should have told the first person she saw after it happened — “the kabob guy.” (Seriously.) Then she called Mirkarimi’s prior abuse of Flores (in which Flores said Mirkarimi allegedly “grabbed my arm and pushed me against the wall, yelling”) a “minor incident.”

Apparently, his defense is that Flores and Lopez are crazy broads and manipulative liars. (I have to wonder how long Lopez will remain silent while she is characterized this way.) It’s doubtful Madison will be treated any better.

Insisting on a trial is certainly Mirkarimi’s right, but, “Chicks, man … am I right?” is not a very good defense in a case alleging mistreatment of a woman. And even if it works, it will make for one cold homecoming.

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Melissa Griffin

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