As I write this column for the first time as the new SF Apartment Association board president, a look back at 2010 seems to be in order. The changing of the calendar gives us much to be thankful for this year. This fall, there seems to be more right in our city than in years past.
Rents have more than stabilized; they’re rising by an average of 8-15%, depending on building location and who you ask. The Giants are World Series Champions for the first time in San Francisco, and the results of the most recent midterm election have been quite favorable to the interests of the rental housing industry. Quite frankly, the results are as good as they could have been and, best of all, we will be saying good-bye to District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly.
Supervisorial races in Districts 2, 4, 8 and 10 resulted in candidates who were either endorsed or supported by SFAA. The mindset of the voters definitely has moved towards a more moderate position after years of progressive dominance. All of this implies that there may be hope in 2011 for continued movement to the middle.
This year’s election was not without the customary political drama, however, with three of the five supervisorial races being decided by ranked-choice voting (RCV) process. Under RCV, if no candidate wins more than 50% of the popular vote, last-place candidates are eliminated and voters’ second- and third-place ballots are redistributed until someone winds up with a majority.
We saw a very competitive race in District 2, where the margin of victory between candidates Mark Farrell and Janet Reilly was less that 350 votes. This result took 19 rounds of ballot counting and was not officially confirmed until two weeks after the election. That interim period before the results are certified can be nerve-wracking for the candidates as well as the general public. The winner in District 2 is Mark Farrell, a San Francisco native and all-round great guy who will be a friend to the rental housing industry. I look forward to working with him in the future, and he definitely deserves your support going forward.
In the District 4 supervisorial race, Carmen Chu ran uncontested and retained her seat on the board. Carmen has always been a voice of reason at City Hall and a supporter of our interests at the board. In District 8, Scott Weiner quickly emerged as the winner after only two rounds of the RCV process. Scott takes the seat vacated by Bevan Dufty and has an impressive record of work at the city attorney’s office over the past nine years. He was endorsed by SFAA and we look forward to working with him in the years to come.
District 10 was a bitterly contested race, with 21 candidates vying for the position. The candidate who won the popular vote ended up in third place overall and Malia Cohn emerged as the winner because she was the second or third choice of many voters. Malia is a native San Franciscan and small business owner with a strong background in civic leadership. She is going to be a great asset to the community in District 10 and great partner to our industry.
RCV was also implemented in Oakland and San Leandro this year with both mayoral races determined by the RCV process. This resulted in a controversial win: new Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who received fewer first-choice votes than her main competitor, Don Perata, but won because more people had voted for her as their second choice. A total of 13,600 people did not cast votes for either of these candidates and their votes were systematically eliminated from the final count. This victory enshrines a new way of campaigning, where the victorious candidate did not ask voters to be their No. 1 selection but for the No. 2 choice.
It also is the crux of a lawsuit filed collectively by six individuals who are challenging the constitutionality of the RCV process in San Francisco. The case was heard earlier this year in federal court and came out in favor of the city. In a few months, the Ninth District Court of Appeal will hear arguments on that ruling. The outcome of that case will set the playing field for San Francisco’s mayoral race later this year as well as the 2012 election, when odd-numbered supervisorial districts will be up for a vote. Many familiar names have expressed intent to seek the office of the mayor, so the race will start to heat up very quickly.
Mayor Gavin Newsom, whether you supported him in the lieutenant governor’s race or not, was helpful for our industry and wielded his veto in our favor many times. The minimum number of supervisors’ votes to uphold a mayoral veto is four, and we relied heavily on it in the past. While we now have potentially five votes on the board on a sunny day, we don’t know who the mayor is going to be and that position will likely still be undecided until well into January.
The interim mayoral dilemma is weighing very heavily on everyone’s minds, as evidenced by the nonstop attention in the media. City leaders have discussed potential appointees with the media, establishing some criteria that may be used to consider who will fill the vacant seat once Newsom has taken office in Sacramento. If you’ve been keeping an eye on this emerging soap opera, you’ve read that no future candidate for the November election will be considered, nor anyone who has served as mayor in the past.
Until Newsom’s replacement can be found, Board President David Chiu will act as mayor. Current supervisors can still throw their hat into the ring, of course, but they may not vote for themselves and must win six votes and do both jobs as mayor and supervisor until a replacement for Newsom can be elected in November.
I will say this, however: holding the office of both board president and mayor is an enormous amount of work and responsibility, not to mention perhaps an unhappy marriage of legislative and executive powers. Then again, what marriage is without conflict?
As of this writing, it is all conjecture and we just don’t know how it will play out. But once the new mayor is confirmed, the last puzzle piece will be in place and we will have a much better view of what the year may look like for us legislatively.
Winning on Defense
Frank Gifford, the football commentator, has said many times while calling games that you entertain on offense but you win games on defense. That strategy doesn’t just apply to football, however. It’s also a good way of looking at SFAA’s legislative successes and future legislative strategy. The biggest wins on defense recently were the defeat of Daly’s renters’ relief program on the June ballot, the proposal to change the city charter in favor of a restructured rent board and mayoral veto of Supervisor John Avalos’ proposal to impose rent control provisions to post-1979 housing.
All these measures were defeated through collaborations with like-minded organizations such as the Coalition for Better Housing and the San Francisco Association of Realtors. In order to hold our own line going forward, however, the SFAA Legal Fund needs to be replenished continuously. Even in times of perceived tranquility, we must constantly renew our commitment to this fund and our legislative agenda so we are prepared when the time comes. I ask that you all continue to contribute generously in your dues renewal package and when requested by the board. The only way we can continue our success is with your support. I look forward to knowing more of you and to continuing fruitful relationships with our industry partners this year and in the years to come.