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A Stranglehold On City Hall In San Francisco
By Jim Kirwan
To: The Board of Supervisors
For: the City of San Francisco
San Francisco's Board of Supervisors are voting today on one of the most callous proposals to steal the public's tax money ever contrived. It's called the: CBD Proposal (Community Benefit District), but it is seeking funds from the city, to be taken from the City of San Francisco's Budget by the owners of business properties inside the Civic Center that want to tax themselves in order to "improve" the area-in the name of improving their own businesses. The price for this is to be borne by the city's taxpayers, wherever the city is the landlord; inside civic center. However the Board of Supervisor's not the public, will be voting on this issue today!
This matter should have been on the ballot, as it is an outrage and an attempt to divert badly needed city funds that would go directly into the pockets of some of the wealthiest land-lords in this city.
These properties inside civic center use city services from sidewalks to water and power for the city offices that control civil rights in this city-yet these land-owners want the citizens to pay them additional funds, in the hundreds of millions,to keep up their private properties from which they derive their private-profits. This scheme has been used in a number of other locations around San Francisco but this involves hundreds of thousands of government dollars in kick-backs to the property owners to do what they have failed to do to date. Here's a page from their literature.
"The Civic Center itself is an Historic District, the most extensive and complete Beaux Arts ensemble in North America and the most magnificent complex of buildings in San Francisco, but the setting does not live up to the architecture. While the public buildings and their grounds are generally well maintained in terms of cleanliness, even this central portion of the district is somewhat barren in appearance. There is little to do of interest in the Civic Center Plaza, one of the largest open spaces in central San Francisco and consequently, it can feel unsafe and barren, especially when the day time worker population is gone."
This is a bare-knuckles attempt to employ sadly unprofessional landscape designers and 'artists' to clutter up the existing terrain with unneeded and unwarranted intrusions into the cities' spacious public spaces, and to take away the public's input into yet another remake of this classic and beautiful place ­ by those with too much time on their hands because they have too much unearned money and no taste. (Kirwan)
"While the district is relatively safe, it does not feel safe, particularly on the long walks from the BART and Muni Metro stations to the institutions in the central part of the district. As one reaches the edges of the district, closer to Franklin and Market Street on the south and west, and adjoining the Tenderloin on the north and east, a feeling of pedestrian comfort and safety is lacking along the sidewalks.
The Civic Center requires more attention as the ceremonial and functional center ofSan Francisco's City Government as well as a regional center for state and federal governmental agencies and a major center for employment. Its role as the premiere regional performing arts district for the entire San Francisco Bay Area merits a high level of management and coordination. Civic Center Plaza itself is a site of both planned and unplanned activities that need to be coordinated with the institutions around it. The district's growing residential population has special needs that must be coordinated with the other needs of the district."
The civic center of San Francisco does not need to have its civil rights "managed, coordinated" or co-opted by this group of vulture capitalists, by whatever name they chose to call themselves now. What we need is to have this item tabled and sent directly to the ballot box next year. (Kirwan)
"In 2004, the Board of Supervisors adopted and the Mayor signed, a new law making it easier to establish special assessment districts in San Francisco, known as Community Benefit Districts. The first step in the formation of a CBD is to determine whether neighborhood proper and business owners support assessing themselves to fund services and improvements that benefit the properties in the district over and above those provided by the City."
This time however the assessments mentioned involve city-owned properties. This is the back-door to obtain city-funds to support this entirely private venture and needs to seen for what it is. (Kirwan)
"In May 2009, the Friends of the Library [The library is one of the properties in civic center ­ that has crossed this line before (1)]
funded by a grant from the Office of Workforce and Economic Development (OWED) contracted with MJM Management Group to investigate the possible creation of a CBD in the Civic Center neighborhood. Even earlier in 2009, property owners and others interested in forming a CBD formed the Civic Center CBD Steering Committee. Since that time, the 25 member Steering Committee, with the assistance of MJM and OWED, conducted extensive outreach to the community and property owners, including property owner meetings, community meetings, and one-on-one meetings. The Steering Committee mailed two surveys to property owners, and held nine meetings with property owners ~"
Here is a letter to the Board of Supervisors from James Chaffee, a long-time city activist who opposes this outrage for the following reasons.
"CBD Proposal ­ A "Craven Business Domain" in Civic Center?
First, you should be aware that they don't actually call it that. It's technical name is a "Community Benefit District."
Yes, there is a proposal to create a Civic Center CBD. Because they were assured of its appropriateness, the organizers of this CBD made a presentation to the Library Commission in order to solicit the Commission's support. Because of the nature of the audience, namely the crass and privatized Library Commission, the presentation was the full-on pro-Fascist appeal. It was a promotion that would make the hair stand on end for anyone who respects the role of public space in an American-style democracy. The primary selling point of this CBD, according to its promoters, is a roving band of employees without legal credentials or accountability to be called "ambassadors" who would be charged with clearing out the socially undesirable individuals from the designated area. These "ambassadors" would use methods that were unknown and their only responsibility would be to the "board of directors" of the CBD,
who it was clear, would not question the means and only wanted results.
But of course, this is unclear on the concept with respect to the "Civic Center." If the "Civic Center" means anything it is the public communal space in which all members of the society can participate. The essence of the appeal for a CBD is that they can get rid of people who the police are powerless to get rid of. What does that mean exactly? That the CBD can get rid of people who have rights in a democracy, are not doing anything wrong, and have the right to be there under the law?
So that means everyone who is not a friend of the CBD or whose presence does not represent a benefit to the CBD. Of course, they mean not only you and me, but any number of people who are not "connected." It is clear that selfishness in our society has reached such a pass that even the Board of Supervisors think that it doesn't matter if they aren't doing it to "me." But the fact is, they haven't done it to you, yet.
I called it the "Craven Business Domain" above, but it seems that the "Citizen Blight Disposal," or even, "Commerce Banishes Democracy." What they mean, of course, is the "Brave New World."
The following are the closing oral comments from one of the organizers at the Library Commission meeting, a gentleman who was introduced as "Jim Chappel" and these comments are transcribed directly from the recording of the meeting:
"A key part are the ambassadors who will be circulating through the district day and evening and bringing a new level of civility to the streets and preventing capital damage from being done.
"Just as a way of example, when we bought the property on Mission streetwith an alley behind it, there were people who
had been living in that alley for years. When the Community Benefit District started, the first evening at 6:00 o'clock after work, I walk out there and there are people setting up their beds. I called the ambassador.
"Everybody puts it on their speed dial, or gets a card from the district. And the ambassador was there in five minutes and asked the person to leave. The person got up and left, and walked around the block and came right back. And the ambassador had walked around the block and came right back. This happened for three nights in a row and then it never happened again in a year and a quarter since then.
"It use to be that there was graffiti on the building every single day. Now there has not been graffiti in months. So, these things work. I am ready for questions."
This is the "Sit Lie" law using private thugs who are not inhibited like actual police officers. This sends the message, "let'm have civil rights and decency in someone else's neighborhood." And, don't forget, all of the "stakeholders" will have the private thugs on speed dial. Yeah, sure. I can hear them now, paraphrasing the line from the famous John Huston movie, "I don't have to show you no stinkin' sit-lie law." What happened to that person over those three days? Is he/she swimming with the fishes now? The real point is this guy doesn't want to know. All he wants to know is that "these things work."
But of course this is the San Francisco Civic Center. It is a very fine line between finding people undesirable because of where they sleep and finding them undesirable because of what they think. Do we really want the merchants and the philanthropists having the "ambassadors" on speed dial because they don't like what we think?
In a decent world San Francisco City Hall and the City agencies should be ready to put a stop to it on public policy grounds, but now they are using tax dollars to pay for it. The Library Commission's resolution supporting it called for $21,397, just from the library funding and just in the first year.
I am sure that the public library thinks that the "ambassadors" will finally be able to prevent me from going to Library Commission meetings. There is just one little problem: there are dozens of laws ­ all based on the US Constitution ­ that are supposed to guarantee my right to attend Library Commission meetings. I don't know why they are paying money to the
"CBD." All they had to do was pay protection to the local Mafia, and I could have been removed from Library Commission meetings a long time ago. If you think this is any different you are dreaming.
A resolution of the Board of Supervisor authorizing the City to cast affirmative votes for is on the Board Agenda for October 19, Item 35, File No. 101201. Those who believe that justice is for sale are the supporters of this. Anyone who is an advocate for anything else has to be against this. Please let everyone know. Pass this along. Send the message to the Supervisors in San Francisco that this cannot be allowed to happen.
James Chaffee"
This fashionable "idea" of the CBD goes deeply against the grain of anyone that understands the full thrust of citizen-controlled government. And while this might be workable as a plan for private land-owners dealing with privately held properties elsewhere in the city ­ it will not work in this area that is filled with city-owned
properties-nor should it ever be entertained.
1) High Tech Barbarians at the Gates

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