Shaw's "housing civil war" is really about influence peddling

Randy Shaw advocated publicly and privately for the Twitter tax break he crafted in 2011 with Jane Kim and Ed Lee.
Luke Thomas

I’m always wary of the BeyondChron stories by Tenderloin power broker Randy Shaw, who uses the website as a propaganda tool for his interests and those of the politicians who he helped get into office, including Mayor Ed Lee and Sup. Jane Kim, as I wrote in last week’s paper.

Sure, they can be a great way to understand what the Mayor Lee and his business community allies are up to, as Shaw floats his little trial balloons that try to frame the city’s political dynamics in the interests of his allies. And now, he’s got San Francisco (aka Modern Luxury) Magazine amplifying those efforts.

For example, did you know that we’re in the midst of a “housing civil war” in San Francisco? No, me neither. But that’s what Shaw declared this week, a declaration that the folks at downtown-friendly Modern Luxury amplified today by reprinting that story.

The tone of the story is a little more even-handed than usual, given that Shaw is being careful not to hurt his close relationship with Kim. But it’s also clearly a shot across her bow on behalf of Lee and the pro-development crowd that Shaw has cozied up to in recent years.

Kim already engages in a delicate balancing act between the progressive community that helped her get elected (which is increasingly restive about the gentrification and displacement that have been fed by economic policies she supported after winning the race in 2010) and the political establishment surrounding Mayor Lee, whom she regularly lavishes praises upon.

Apparently, it’s a dance that she’s performed pretty well, given her lack of serious challengers as she runs for reelection this year. But Shaw’s piece seems to be a subtle public warning to remember where her political bread is buttered, and to not go too far with her proposal to limit luxury condo development when it exceeds 70 percent of the total housing construction.

As with any legislation, the devil is in the details on this one, and Shaw seems to be trying to have a big say in influencing those details by declaring a “war” without identifying any of its combatants or battlefields. Then again, this piece doesn’t seem intended for a general audience, but for those in the back rooms where Shaw truly exercises his power.   


Low BMR set asides have barely been around in the law for 10 years and they have been whittled down of recent. Once housing began to be whipsawed by unregulated finance, I was out front in moving to bump them up to capture the profits that hyperinflation provided.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 1:35 pm

been used in various cities and nations for a long time. You didn't invent the idea.

Meanwhile, it has its problems, as was recently exposed in a NYT article.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 1:52 pm

BMR was an informal policy until the early 2000s for projects that required a CU when it was enshrined as law. Then the BMR %age was lowered.

It needs to be doubled over and again.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 2:11 pm

It's actually not a very efficient policy for helping the poor

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 2:26 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 2:29 pm

"Raising the MBY extortion would simply reduce the number of projects built. You'd end up with maybe the same number of BMR units, or less."

EXACTLY. San Franciscans who cannot afford to pay $5000/mo or plop down $175K for a DP have no, zero, zilch, nada interest in entitling more market rate luxury condos. All we care about is BMR. The more BMR with the fewer craptacular luxury condos the better.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 1:21 pm

It needs more successful people as well, and they have to live somewhere.

Anyway it is moot since we elected a pro-development mayor. and even Kim's idea envisages more than twice as many market-rate homes as BMR homes.

The debate is decided.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 1:39 pm

San Francisco has plenty of rich people. The very poor get some services from the poverty nonprofits but the middle income is left to fend for themselves without anyone representing them. Affordable housing in general is geared towards middle income people and we need more of it, much more.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 2:08 pm

So it will always be limited, because those willing to subsidize it are limited.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 2:27 pm

Which is why we need to squeeze as much subsidy as possible out of the highly profitable business of printing money, that is building luxury condos in San Francisco.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 5:55 pm

ROI is better elsewhere.

The city tried to be hardball with Twitter and then had to cave.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 7:21 am

What? They didn't try to play hardball at all. They gave into Twitter's extortion racket without a fight.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 8:52 am

The City approached Twitter on bended knee with open mouth.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 9:17 am

Sounds like you were giving them the Marcos playbook.

Posted by Becky Backside on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 9:32 am

How would you know?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 9:51 am

Is there a single gay man in SF who doesnt know Marcos' playbook?

Posted by Becky Backside on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 10:56 am

Yer probably an ugly fat troll.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 11:49 am

I'm the one who knocks.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 11:00 am
Posted by Guest on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 2:31 pm

You and Ryan Chamberlain. Look where it got him.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 2:49 pm

At the back door, ass.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 14, 2014 @ 6:22 am

I should mention that my condo is worth north of three quarters of a million dollars, and I have a financial interest in making sure its value only increases.
I have refinanced multiple times to take out equity which I use to pad my already high tech salary.

Posted by Marcos on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 4:17 pm

Cranes dot the sky crapping out condo tower after condo tower and yet housing prices rise.

You can't stand the fact that your favored demographic has no time for your bogus politics.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 5:57 pm

We build more condos like ours because the prices are going up.

If prices were going down, they would not be built.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 7:22 am

Jason Grant Garza here. I've been BEGGING for JUSTICE for a DECADE now and I am STILL WAITING. A VAST CONSPIRACY exists which has tried to SILENCE my VOICE. Taste the HYPOCRISY - SMELL the LIES.

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 1:48 pm

Shaw is as much a menace to San Francisco as is Ron Conway.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 2:00 pm

I'm not sure an under-achieving ideologue would be better.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 2:07 pm

Yes, he gets things done, like hammering more nails into the coffin of a progressive movement he was once a part of in order to increase his power and gentrify the city.

Posted by steven on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 4:31 pm

Things, steven, things.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 5:17 pm

This is great. You feel the same way about Beyond Chron that most people feel about SFBG. I come here to understand what the activist "progressives" are up to.

Also, it's a great opportunity to exercise critical reading and thinking. For example:

"For example, did you know that we’re in the midst of a “housing civil war” in San Francisco? No, me neither. But that’s what Shaw declared this week,"

Actually, he says "I would certainly hope that both sides do their best to avoid this potential housing civil war." And, earlier, "The lack of clear, real life affordable housing benefits from the balance is why the best solution for proponents is avoiding a divisive housing civil war over this issue."

"Avoid" and "potential" doesn't really equate to "in the midst of".

While we're at it, good job at relabeling "market rate" units as "luxury condos"! (Though it's not clear to me what the alternative is. 100% subsidized housing?)

Posted by James on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 5:19 pm

What Shaw is doing is putting a pillow over the mouth and nose of progressives, holding it down and saying there there, there there, you're going to feel a small prick.

The war is on, only one side is fighting. Shaw wants one side to stand down unilaterally more than they already are.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 5:39 pm

divided. And if that is the case why should they have power and influence anyway?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 7:24 am

However, it makes fun reading when neo-progressives eat each other.

Posted by Richmondman on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 9:07 am

James, the headline that Randy wrote for his piece is "SF headed for housing civil war," not much nuance or qualification there. And with average market rate housing prices now approaching $1 million, I think that can safely be called a luxury condo

Posted by steven on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 10:27 am

A lot of difference between "heading for civil war" and "declaring" that we are "in the midst of" one.

There's a difference between expensive and luxury. I assume you know the difference between "expensive" and "luxury", so we can only assume that when you use the word luxury you're being purposefully dishonest (like changing "heading" to "in the midst of", and then batting down strawman).

Posted by James on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 12:40 pm

housing crisis since forever, but now they seem shocked when someone calls it a war.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 2:30 pm

The word "luxury" refers to the size and amenities of a property, regardless of what it costs.

A 400K house in Texas probably is a luxury home. A million dollar condo in a decent part of Sf is just an ever age home - probably no more than 1,000 square feet.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 2:29 pm

Luxury condos marketed as luxury condos to well heeled buyers are luxury items.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 5:13 pm

It generally applies to the place and not what it costs. A million dollar home in SF isn't anything special and certainly isn't luxury. You need to get closer to two million before the word "luxury" even begins to apply

Posted by Guest on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 5:33 pm

NEMA has the San Francisco lifestyle in its DNA – it is an authentic product of its time and place – a pioneer in a city that loves to be a cultural pioneer. Tech-savvy and design-driven, NEMA's new LUXURY apartment rentals bring the best of modern architecture together with warm Northern California inspired interiors and luxury apartment amenities.

Linea was born from the imagination of world-renowned architect Bernardo Fort-Brescia as a way to bring a forward-thinking aesthetic to those who appreciate true modern design. With walls of glass framed by bold, geometric pillars, experience the city’s surrounding neighborhoods in LUXURY and style like no other.

Millennium Tower residences are the canvases where owners create their own unique San Francisco lifestyle. Streetwise and close to the city’s energy. Comfortably situated in a welcoming, open aerie. Or high above it all, with a view of the iconic Bay Bridge and the world beyond. Here, urban LUXURY living is elevated to an art form.

The pinnacle of luxury leasing
Tower Two at One Rincon Hill is in a class by itself with the most spacious high-rise, for-lease residences in San Francisco featuring stunning views and an array of exceptional amenities.

Vara says luxury without saying luxury:

Welcome to Vara, a stylish residential community featuring new studio, 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments in San Francisco’s Mission District. Spacious layouts and premium amenities welcome you home, along with exceptional service and an ideal location within walking distance to shopping, dining and entertainment options. Are you looking for an apt for rent in San Francisco? Enjoy the perks of interior features such as gourmet kitchens with hardwoodstyle cabinets, stainless steel appliances, and beautiful quartz countertops. Just steps from your door you can take advantage of community features like a tech room for getting work done, a courtyard for socializing and lounging, and a state-of-the-art fitness center for working out. Vara is a chic retreat located in one of San Francisco’s most desirable neighborhoods. Welcome home.

As does 1501 15th:

Designed by renowned architect Stanley Saitowitz,
Fifteen Fifteen offers upscale living with an urban edge.
The sleek five-story building is comprised of spacious
studios, one- and two- bedroom contemporary homes.
The buildings’ design mirrors the Mission’s unique and
sociable vibe, bringing attractive features into each
condo and multiple common spaces.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 5:54 pm

it would help him sell it. It's called marketing.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 7:11 pm

Now you're just blathering.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 7:39 pm

And the fact that a realtor uses that word means nothing

Posted by Guest on Jun. 14, 2014 @ 11:33 am

Will the Giants make it to the playoffs this year?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 5:51 pm

I bet if we put a measure on the ballot to ban Randy Shaw from receiving a contract with San Francisco for life that it would pass overwhelmingly.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 6:11 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 7:24 am

On one side are those who want to build new homes to accommodate new residents and, in doing so, collect the funds for more affordable housing. On the other side are those who seek to shove out new residents any way they can - property owners looking to inflate the value of their property, non-rent-controlled renters looking to eliminate competition by harassing tech people and new arrivals out of the city, and rent-controlled tenants who will cease to give a shit about anyone else once the Ellis Act is neutralized.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 9:40 pm

Randy Shaw has been one of SF's more interesting players over the last 25 years.

He practices realpolitik. He has worked alliances that purists would reject, but unlike say public power advocates he has something to show for his time. SF Tenants have a much better deal under DBI than they did when building inspection was controlled directly by a downtown friendly CAO. THC's leased hotel program provides housing for those who would otherwise be homeless and on the streets.

Those are real achievements.

Shaw is human. He's not perfect. Like many political people left, right and center he he's got his control issues but he can point to achievements for poor people in SF. He's got more to show for his time than sentences in a chat room. Was the price too high? Was he on the wrong track to embrace the Twitter deal naked without a proper community benefits deal? Folks can argue and differ about that.

Shaw's columns are opinion pieces. I don't read them often between elections because once the Mayoral election cycle is completed, I know the drill.

In short, unlike those who've naively trusted elected officials to do the right thing with regrets, Shaw comes to the political process with an agenda to be advanced. He's single minded. The pols are instrumental to the goals, and that's his best lesson to progressives with ADD who get distracted by personalities or educational CVs.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 9:57 pm

Shaw's columns are opinion pieces on local politics that are subsidized by the tax dollars of others. At the end of the day, the lot for Shaw's charges and their prospects for the future in San Francisco are worse now than before he got into the business because Shaw has traded off crumbs for an onslaught of corporate welfare. This involves surfing down political power to accommodate your opponents' end game.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 7:46 am

I'm wondering, have you been officially diagnosed with Aspergers?

Posted by Becky Backside on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 9:34 am

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