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Ed Lee on ‘Forum’: Tech Workers Have the Same Issues as Everyone Else

| April 22, 2014
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San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee appeared on KQED's "Forum" show on Monday morning. (File photo by Michelle Gachet/KQED)

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee appeared on KQED’s “Forum” show on Monday morning. (File photo by Michelle Gachet/KQED)

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a lot of tension in San Francisco these days. Some might call it “a culture war,” others “gentrification” and still others “a housing crisis.” Or if you are Mayor Ed Lee, you may refer to the change in San Francisco simply as “growth.”

KQED’s “Forum” had the mayor on for an entire hour Monday morning. Even so, reams of listener questions went unanswered for lack of time. But the mayor did speak about housing, the Ellis Act, Proposition B, minimum wage, schools and Sunday parking, to name just a few issues. Here are highlights from the interview, edited for clarity and length. You can listen to the show in full here:

On Rolling Back Metered Parking on Sundays:

“I don’t think Muni and the city can have a good conversation with our property owners about investment if we’re penalizing them for parking on the streets on Sundays when they least expect it. Other jurisdictions haven’t done this. It’s a surprise and shock, and every time someone gets into their car on Sunday and they happen to be a minute or two over, they get dinged. And these are not inexpensive citations. These are expensive! It’s hurtful revenue, not helpful revenue. And therefore, I think the better conversation is: If we stop nickel-and-diming you, would you support us on the big dollars that we ask? And I believe people are telling me ‘Yes, we can do that.’ ”

In Defense of Tech Workers:

“Half the time I spend in these companies is with the employees. And they are residents of San Francisco. And they are also working class. There’s a lot of folks that are making $40,000 to $50,000 a year. And they’re struggling … they have the same issues (as everyone else). How can I get to work on time? What about the schools? Public safety … And I have these conversations over and over again with nonprofits as well as with people who’ve got work. The underemployed, same thing. So, these conversations are not had only with (the image of the tech worker that is being perpetuated) by those who don’t want the tech companies here. I’m interpreting their positions more and more as being anti- growth.”

Response to Complaints That Direct Action Was Not Taken Against Tech Buses:

“Well, there is now, with respect to this pilot program that our Municipal Transportation Agency has been authorized to do by the Board of Supervisors. We have this next year to figure out how to make sure that the shuttle buses and all the other shuttles — because it’s not just the tech shuttles by the way, people have to understand there are hospital shuttles, there are educational shuttles that are using these bus stops. We’ve all got to coordinate them better. And if the cost of coordinating those — so that they don’t interfere with the regular Muni bus stops and their transportation schedules — if it costs more, we’ll have to consider charging more. But it has to be a direct cost. We were forewarned through our city attorney’s office that we can only charge for these as much as they cost us.”

On Closing Ellis Act Loopholes and Senate Bill 1439:

“I certainly think it’s aimed at speculators. And (helping them) was not the original intent of the Ellis Act. The Ellis Act was to allow small landlords to get out of the business of being landlords. What got out of hand is that companies are coming in and they’re forming LLCs and they’re simply speculating on these properties. Coming in and wiping out long-term, rent-controlled tenants, and seniors and immigrants and others, on the speculation that they can sell the property to somebody else. That’s a loophole in my respect. And I am very thankful to Sen. Mark Leno for helping take this on with us at the state level … ”

On Not Taking a Position on Proposition B:

“I can’t be distracted. I mean, right now, the advocates of Prop. B have the whole waterfront issue and I can’t just decide to just have that fight and spend all my time doing it. We know where our housing can be built right now and it’s in the southeast corridor, it’s in Hunters View, it’s in the south of Mission Bay, it’s all over those sites that we already have. We just have to get those projects going. … These are the priorities that I am working on right now. I can’t be sidetracked with a waterfront battle that I think would probably lose anyway. … I’ve got other things to do.”

On Supporting a Minimum Wage Increase to $15 an Hour:

“I said I was open to up to $15 an hour. And I didn’t state a number at the beginning (of the minimum wage debate.) What I indicated was that I would like a process that included the chamber, small businesses, nonprofits, working-class folks. … You’ve got to get people united around this in order for them to say that this minimum wage increase will help all of us, and will not decrease the number of jobs that we have. It’s still related to jobs. You can’t just increase minimum wage and then lose a bunch of jobs and say you’ve been successful. It’s more complicated than that and we want to take up those complications in the right way.”

On Students Leaving San Francisco Unified School District for Private Schools:
“The only way to invite more students into the public schools is to make sure that they are the best. And that’s my goal. And, certainly, that’s something that has resonated with the private sector because all the different companies – and especially Salesforce.com through Marc Benioff and Lynne Benioff’s efforts – to help me revitalize the middle schools in the city, which I think are the most challenging. And we have now another $5 million investment by Salesforce to complement our school districts’ focus on getting all the core elements of our middle schools together as high-performing as they are in private schools. When you’re walking in this summer, you’ll see every middle school, all 20 campuses, WiFi-ed up, and every student having an iPad.”

On Bringing African Americans Back to San Francisco:

“We are trying to create an in-migration of African American families by inviting small businesses back to Third Street and emphasizing the diversity of the city.We want to see a lot of not only food, but small retail establishments in the areas in which people have lived in in the past. I think what we’re doing in the southeast sector of the corridor re-invites a lot of great diversity in the city because the housing there is going to be that much more affordable.”

In Response to Caller Who Says Muni is the Worst It’s Been in 22 Years:

“Why don’t I make you a promise that I’ll ride those Muni lines myself so that I can get the experience you have. I do agree with you that this city has got to be a lot more civil at every aspect. And I can’t agree with you more that if we’re going to invite more people to use the public transportation system we’ve got to get an acceptable standard, kind of like when you’re riding on BART. I think there’s an instant respect. There are incidents that occur, but I think people do have to respect each other and I’m going to make sure that happens.

Listen to the complete interview here:

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About the Author ()

Amanda Stupi is the Engagement Producer for KQED’s daily public affairs program Forum. In that role she turns the information shared during the hour-long call-in show into web-friendly content. Her writing has been featured throughout KQED.org, including on KQED Arts and News Fix as well as on MLB.com, Hyphen Magazine and the San Francisco Examiner. Her radio work has aired on The California Report and Talk of the Nation. Stupi runs the @KQEDForum Twitter account and Forum Facebook account. Her personal Twitter account is @FiftyCentHotdog. She believes that Hostess products get a bad rap and that cereal can save the world. Reach Amanda Stupi at astupi@kqed.org.
  • Christian

    Wait, why do we need an initiative to bring African Americans Back to San Francisco? Why is that necessary? How does that make the city a better place to live?

    • Brad Phillips

      San Francisco must not become a gated community for the rich, white and Asian communities. Transferring a suburban mentality to a city is what we are seeing.

    • saucetin

      That is literally the LEAST Christian thing you could say, Christian. Jesus wept.

  • John

    Recall.

    • Ethan Davidson

      won’t work. For Feinstein, a recall attempt was rocket fuel for her career.

  • NativeExile

    and what about the tax breaks for certain tech companies? Along with other more poignant, relevant questions…this is a joke

    • Ethan Davidson

      agreed. Not profits get no tax breaks. Small busnesses don either. WTF? Trickle down, SF style.

      • John Pettitt

        Non profits don’t pay tax to get an extra break on.

  • Cummbottom

    Ed your response not vague. Endure criticism upon not doing. Enough for fair housing policies especially. Renters rights going battle argument. Besides commerce allowing exclusive. Tax preference for cartels Ellis Act. State law place on ballot could.
    Be defeated simply San Francisco is real estate oz. For those expecting immediate gain. Tenants enduring pain and strain. Possible going insane upon evictions! Pro renters rights, yes Board of Supervisors. Pass two bills In-Law units and increase retribution. Is this accurate solution hello? Everyone has opinion you must. Have knowledge of laws example. Tishman Unspired or Speyer 222 2nd st. Guess what? Lease to Linkedln’s written this empty lot. Was zoned resident for low income. Rezoned Tishman guilty for opposing fair housing. Anywhere there have properties receive. Tax breaks Ed your saying. Techies have problems this general response. Basically Ed getting criticism from executives. Irate regarding attacks on corporate. Camps now San Frandomitory enough. Corporations have engulfed the Bay Area. For the best next thing implosion. Tried of limited interest Board of Supervisors. Failed approved BMR housing a charade. Ed why only meager 2,000 BMR units. it was statistical and political.
    Vistation Valley not urban blight. Neighborhoods forgotten your friends whom. Own planning developing Tenderlion. For profits
    believe employee’s of chosen. Industries dont’ care to stare or dare. Observe the damage of gentrification! Advocates condonance of Google there others. Influence Ellis Act key industries Banking,Insurance firms,Bio-medical,New Media,Law firms and health care. Support of City hall top paying industries.
    Pay between $85,000-240,000. Average tenant housing taken away. Affluent residents whom paying for. Visa status usually net worth. Over $20 million who and where? Emigrates from ASEAN fee markets and India. Due to popular demand that is. Ellis Act to make higher profits. Pretentious clamor of Bay Area greedy realtors. Ed see you at the polls. To decide my political choice. Fair housing anybody? Ellis Act hasen’t been quell those. Receiving higher retribution learn to say. Former resident landlords going deny. You apt due the solidarity of San Francisco. Equality now!