Supervisor Kim Deletes Funding for the Arts; Mid-Market Censorship & Class Warfare; Ed Lee Tries to Leverage Zero; Chillin’ with the Original Burning Man

October 17, 2016

Class Warfare

Ed Lee’s laundry list, as San Francisco Foundation CEO Sandra Hernandez dubbed it, went by the official name of Central Market Economic Strategy (CMES).  Not without its flaws, CMES (central-marketeconomic-strategy-november-2011) attempted to lay out a comprehensive road map to revitalization without displacing existing low-income residents.  It was developed after an exhaustive outreach effort and extensive vetting among mid-Market stakeholders and government officials.

CMES was recognized by the American Planning Association for its 2012 Grassroots Planning Award.  Not bad props.  From what I observed during the marathon development of CMES, this was recognition well deserved.  Any and all community gathering spaces were used by organizers to connect with neighborhood residents, ask lots of questions and solicit input.  I participated in many meetings in my capacity as Tenderloin resident and director of a neighborhood community development organization.

As far as I can discern, three things happened after this herculean effort.  First, there was no leadership from the mayor to move the multiple agendas forward.   Second, there was no money to move the multiple agendas forward.  Third, tech showed up and the mayor’s office effectively said: “What CMES?  May The Tech Be With Us!”

On leadership, it only fair to acknowledge this was a very ambitious plan to take on.  Numerous entrenched interests were being challenged, or at least questioned.   Statistics on placement programs were being made public for perhaps the first time, triggering at least one attempt to censor the CMES.   One prominent nonprofit ED went so far as to accuse the mayor’s staff of “class warfare.”  That’s a tough one, and a common paradox in progressive San Francisco: You listen to poor people, you respond to poor people, you’re accused of being anti-poor people.   What were plan organizers responding to?   Many testimonies from Tenderloin and nearby South of Market residents pleading for better housing conditions and cleaner, safer streets.

The failure in leadership was also, in part, our fault, when we opened wide and swallowed whole the Community Benefits Agreements approach the mayor and local supervisor laid before us after passage of the payroll tax exemption.  The larger, big budget, veteran mid-Market nonprofits, afraid or unable to challenge city hall because of their contracts/funding, raced to get in front of the line for the tech company handouts.  These large nonprofits squeeze out smaller nonprofits – especially those that focus on families and youth – even now as discussions with local builders/developers are ongoing.  One ad hoc assembly of groups, “Market Street for the Masses,” unwittingly became laissez-faire city hall’s best friend during this crucial time.  As one colleague who went to one of their meetings put it years later: “We gave city hall a Get Out of Jail Free Card.”

Let’s Not Go Dutch

The CMES’ had a task force: the Central Market Partnership Funders Collaborative.  As a participant I accompanied staff on the mayor’s magical mystery tour of imaginary Mid-Market messiahs (couldn’t resist!).  The Collaborative’s goal:

Launch a collaborative of foundations, corporate donors, social investors, and other private sector and commercial partners that will contribute and align funds to support projects outlined in the Central Market Economic Strategy.

We met with directors of several local foundations.  One especially respected figure in Bay Area philanthropy reviewed the CMES and concluded: “You’re looking at $100 million minimum; local foundations don’t have that kind of money.  Float a bond.”

They also famously said: Talk to the SF Foundation; while they don’t have that kind of money either they do have access to a network of immense wealth.  But Sandra wasn’t buying it, at least not without the city demonstrating it was going to put some skin in the game first.

Something along the lines of this might have gotten some traction: This is our program, to implement it’ll cost about $150 million.  We’re getting things started with $50 million by floating a bond.   We challenge and expect philanthropy to match with $50 million, and the private sector to match with $50 million.  Then we can work toward equitable development in the face of the tech boom.

Instead, the message was: Here’s our plan, please pay for it.   The neighborhood was left with city hall, philanthropy and corporate sectors all looking at each other and saying “You go first.”    (With the very notable exception of the Rainin Foundation.)

This was, in my view, the great failing of city hall on the eve of the city’s launch into a massive and inequitable period of growth.   It never presented a challenge; it instead raced to the back seat.  I’ve spoken with San Francisco real estate dynasty heiresses and young venture capital tycoons about their civic duties and they’ve all asked the same question in response:  Give back to what?

On this point I often think about one conversation in particular.  It was with Daniel Lurie, the Founder/CEO of The Tipping Point Community (TPC).  TPC gives away all the funds it raises each year, a different approach to conventional foundation grantmaking.  After hearing the city’s pitch, Daniel expressed skepticism about investing in the area.  “Who are your changemakers?  What will be different?  I don’t see new thinking or new models of anti-poverty programming in the Tenderloin.  What’s there has been there for a long time, and the intense poverty remains unchanged.”

It’s good to see, now years later, the Tipping Point Community investing in Larkin Street Youth Services.  If Daniel is reading this, might I also recommend the Vietnamese Youth Development Center?  The Asian Pacific Islander community in the Tenderloin has few voices representing their needs or rich and important legacy in the neighborhood; in fact, some consider them an inconvenient presence in the quiet but methodical campaign to upscale/gentrify the TL’s commercial businesses. (333 beer is out, molecular cocktails are in; alas, the Asian community is not down with the Uptown.  But you can help one family here.)

Chillin’ with the Original Burning Man on the Luggage Store Gallery Rooftop

I know it’s impossible for natives to believe this but I didn’t know what Burning Man was when I arrived in the Tenderloin in 2009.  The mayor’s office certainly knew who they were, and they knew Burning Man had recently created the Black Rock Arts Foundation.  “Burning Man is loaded!” the mayor’s staff said.  “They can revitalize mid-Market!”

Larry Harvey, a Burning Man founder, is an inquisitive, super smart guy with a friendly spirit.  He and his colleagues were weighing the prospect of settling their headquarters in mid-Market.  Larry was moving forward cautiously with eyes wide open under his famous Stetson hat.  One late afternoon on the rooftop at 1007 Market Street, the home of the iconic Luggage Store Gallery, we chatted and looked out at the intersection of 6th & Market, one of the most fascinating intersections of any city anywhere.

I sensed the hesitancy about moving to the area.   I think one of Larry’s concerns was whether Burning Man would be perceived as an interloper.   I remember offering him my two cents: “You see that intersection down there?  That is a great city meeting place for all.  It belongs to no one; it belongs to everyone.  If you come it will belong to you just like it belongs to everyone else.”  Or something like that.

While moving to the area was a question mark, Larry was clear on his view of city hall’s mid-Market arts district plans.  He told me: “They will let us furry animals out for a while, and then when they don’t need us anymore they will put us back in our cages.”  (Easily one of the more memorable observations during my five years in the TL.)

With that we walked back to the death-defying ladder leading from the roof down to the third floor rear window at the Luggage Store Gallery.   I don’t know what ultimately led Burning Man to move to the neighborhood or what led them to leave.  I do know that, not long after, the city proved Larry Harvey’s Little Furry Animals Theory right.

Supervisor Kim Weighs-in Against Moderate Income Housing and Affordable Arts Facilities

Below is the edited October 2011 draft CMES that was circulated to various city departments for review.   The strikethrough edits, and following parenthetical comments, are from Supervisor Kim’s office.   As is clear, the Supervisor opposed the mayor’s office creating, or simply exploring, new funding resources for the arts, arts facilities, affordable housing for artists (even privately funded) and moderate income housing.   Concern over “heightening people’s expectations” appears repeatedly.  Catalytic arts projects – like the 950 Center for Arts & Education – are not “a priority.”

These edits demonstrate an entirely different position on the arts than what Supervisor Kim has communicated publicly.  And while concern over heightening expectations – that city hall would deliver on its word – later proved justified, heightening expectations and delivering on them is what leaders do.  Taking risks on behalf of those who can’t is what leaders do, assuming the leaders genuinely care about the issue. Whether it was fear of taking a risk and/or lack of caring, all of this is consistent with Kim’s being a no-show, on multiple occasions, when a neighborhood arts center in a poor community needed help.

Supervisor Kim’s deletions:

  • Create a mini-grant program to fund artists and arts organizations that will implement this type of programming.
  • Create incentives for developers and property owners to develop and maintain facilities for arts organizations and uses.
  • Support privately-funded development of housing that includes live/work housing for low-income artists that engage the local community.
  • Explore new programs (without using existing City programs/funds) to build moderate-income housing in the neighborhood.
  • Provide support to catalytic commercial and housing development projects—including arts and culture establishments as stand-alone or mixed-use projects—that transform large portions of vacant property.

Central Market Economic Strategy                                     October 2011  DRAFT

Objective 2) Enhance the Creative Arts Community

Build upon existing arts organizations and programs and establish Central Market as a creative center with diverse, culturally sensitive and thriving arts, cultural, and creative organizations and programs that engage the local community as well as the broader San Francisco Bay Area region.

A. Implement and promote large-scale, high-quality arts programs, such as public art, pop-up galleries, performances, or other temporary creative activities that reflect both the existing neighborhood history, current residents and a creative vision for the future.
·             Streamline permitting for temporary projects.
·             Create a large-scale annual event or festival, or enhance an existing event, with an arts and/or cultural focus, that engages local residents.
·             Create a mini-grant program to fund artists and arts organizations that will implement this type of programming. (Unless Funding is identified this is an unfunded mandate that would heighten people’s expectation in an unfair manner, this strategy also doesn’t identify who would be responsible for the program and what the community oversight would be)
B. Develop one or more multi-tenant arts facilities that provide shared space for small organizations and community serving spaces at reasonable rates, especially smaller venues and organizations with educational programming.
·             Develop the capacity of one or more organizations to build and manage a multi-tenant facility.
C. Facilitate partnerships that enable arts organizations (new and existing) to engage the community through arts, education, and social programs, especially for youth.
D. Provide financial, leasing and other technical assistance to non-profit arts organizations that desire to locate and/or remain in the district.
·             Identify arts and cultural organizations with potential to be anchor institutions and build their capacity to acquire space.
·             Prioritize attracting and maintaining tenant organizations with educational and community based programs.
E. Create incentives for developers and property owners to develop and maintain facilities for arts organizations and uses. (Unless Funding is identified this is an unfunded mandate that would heighten people’s expectation in an unfair manner, this strategy also doesn’t identify who would be responsible for the program and what the community oversight would be)
F. Foster collaborations between creative sector companies and non-profit arts organizations, artists, and arts programming entities in order to maximize the impact of the arts in the district and to expand the district’s creative identity.
·             Establish a programmatic link between the 5M Project at 5th and Mission and the Central Market corridor.
G. Support privately-funded development of housing that includes live/work housing for low-income artists that engage the local community. (This strategy has been discussed extensively at both the CAC  and the steering committee and we feel consensus could not be reached on the terms of this strategy)
Objective 3) Stabilize the Existing Community

Stabilize the existing community to ensure that Central Market and the adjacent neighborhoods are healthy, welcoming and affordable places for low income residents to live, and to foster coexistence between social service providers, businesses, and arts venues.

A. Ensure the existence of a multi-tiered workforce development system that provides opportunities and training for local residents.
·             Expand supported employment programs to offer day labor opportunities for neighborhood residents. Leverage local businesses, property owners, and other stakeholders to generate casual labor tasks for the most challenging populations (i.e., chronic inebriates, drug addicts, the homeless, mentally ill) in the immediate neighborhood.
·             Engage a local workforce development organization to create clear pathways for local residents to access Firstsource jobs and other job opportunities.
·             Work with businesses in the district to identify permanent job placement opportunities.

·             Work with Business moving into the Area to take advantage of the tax exemption to create training and educational opportunities for existing residents

B. Launch an initiative to improve conditions in SROs.
·             Target the “worst offender” SROs by addressing management issues and citing all code violations (safety, visitor policy, hourly rental policy and cleanliness).
·             Identify opportunities to raise the quality of the residences by adding more bathrooms, kitchens, gathering areas, supportive services, and upgraded wiring in units. (many concerns have been raised around funding being made available to private SRO landlords)
·             Ensure that DPH-funded beds are only contracted out to code-compliant SROs, to incentivize compliance and improve the environment for supportive services.
C. Activate an interagency task force (including City Attorney, SFPD, DPW, DPH, HSA, MOH, and other grantor agencies) that will expand and better utilize existing City tools to crack down on illegal activity hot spots on sidewalks, storefronts, transit stations, and inside buildings.
D. Stabilize the existing affordable housing stock in order to prevent the displacement of the neighborhood’s existing residents.
·             Study the feasibility of piloting the new “smaller site” affordable housing program in Western SOMA.
·             Explore policies that will prevent the conversion of residential hotels to tourist/temporary uses and student housing. (These are actually 2 separate policies one focuses on creating a definition of student housing which has been initiated by the planning department and the second one is better enforcement of existing code around the “hotelization” of residential rental housing stock)
·             Assign a point person in the Mayor’s Office of Housing to act as a liaison for affordable housing strategies in the Central Market district.
E. Explore opportunities to increase income diversity in the neighborhood by increasing the diversity of unit types and affordability levels in affordable housing rehabilitations or new developments and establishing policies to maintain a production balance between affordable and market rate housing reflecting the City’s Housing Element quantified housing goals.
·             Develop affordable housing that targets very low income families.
·             Explore new programs (without using existing City programs/funds) to build moderate-income housing in the neighborhood. (Non monetary incentives still have a fiscal impact as this strategy would require staff time and we believe this is part of a much broader and longer conversation that needs to be had on the need and the funding streams for moderate income housing, including it here would heighten people’s expectations without a clear pathway for its realization)
F. Reduce negative behaviors in the public realm by providing more positive activities for residents.
·             Encourage the development of “Home Room” drop-in facilities that are based in existing local residential hotels, social service centers, and other accessible facilities.
·             Expand access to local urban gardening programs and identify new sights for urban garden as they encourage positive behavior and address the critical issues of food security and economic development
Objective 4) Reduce Vacancies and Catalyze Development

Address the high rate of commercial/storefront vacancies and leverage introduction of large employers in the district to catalyze development of additional large employers, support arts organizations, attract independent retailers, restaurants, and nightlife and bring in much needed neighborhood retail and services.

A. Expand and continue to implement technical assistance and loan programs for new and existing small businesses in the area.
·             Attract and develop unique, independent restaurants, nightlife and retail establishments that complement the arts and culture district and neighborhood-serving retail and services.
·             Create a façade and tenant improvement program for Central Market businesses.
B. Pursue a full-service grocery store to locate in the neighborhood that is affordable to residents
C. Market existing funding and incentive programs to property owners in order to restore historic buildings, facades, and theater marquees.
·             Continue to market and award funding from the Central Market Cultural District Loan Fund (HUD Section 108) to property owners and tenants.
·             Identify opportunities to bundle state and federal incentives for historic preservation, renovation, and energy efficiency.
·             Educate local property owners about the Mills Act historic preservation benefit. Encourage and prioritize applications from the Central Market district that support the objectives and strategies outlined in this document. (Non monetary incentives still have a fiscal impact as this strategy would require staff time, this is a strategy that was extensively discussed during the process and we feel consensus could not be reached on the mechanism of prioritization of applications, we also believe this strategy should be tied to and framed in terms of the creation of affordable housing and/or small business retention)
·             Establish a point-person to coordinate the marketing of incentive programs and aggressively pursue potential applications for Federal Historic Tax Credit programs. (Non monetary incentives still have a fiscal impact as this strategy would require staff time, we believe this strategy should be tied to and framed in terms of the creation of affordable housing and/or small business retention)
D. Explore the possibility of non-monetary incentives to facilitate the rehabilitation of vacant buildings that face huge barriers to occupancy.
·             Study the feasibility of piloting an adaptive reuse program in the district. (Non monetary incentives still have a fiscal impact as this strategy would require staff time and we don’t believe this is a priority)
E. Provide support to catalytic commercial and housing development projects—including arts and culture establishments as stand-alone or mixed-use projects—that transform large portions of vacant property. (Non monetary incentives still have a fiscal impact as this strategy would require staff time and we don’t believe this is a priority, this strategy also doesn’t identify who would be responsible for the program and what the community oversight would be)
·             Assign a point person at the Mayor’s Office to act as a liaison for these projects.