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Under Ed Lee, San Francisco was remade into a playground for tech capitalists and real estate developers
by repost
Monday Dec 18th, 2017 10:18 AM
Ed Lee helped drive working people out of the city for billionaires and speculators while the number of homeless exploded.
Ed Lee (1952–2017)

Under Ed Lee, San Francisco was remade into a playground for tech capitalists and real estate developers.

Under Ed Lee, San Francisco was remade into a playground for tech capitalists and real estate developers.

Ed Lee died suddenly this week at age sixty-five, while still in office. As San Francisco mayor for nearly eight years, Lee presided over the city’s tech boom, doing more than perhaps any other individual to transform it into a Xanadu for tech capitalists and the real estate developers who followed on their heels.

There will be laudatory eulogies for Lee, who shattered precedent to become San Francisco’s first Asian American mayor. But it’s crucial, too, to examine the legacy of his signature corporate-friendly policies, which are being replicated across the nation with little regard for the consequences.

The first thing Ed Lee did when he took office in 2011 was provide a massive tax break to tech companies in exchange for their setting up shop in the city’s downtown area. “I was very wary of the Twitter tax break,” says former city supervisor John Avalos, who lost the mayoral race to Lee in 2011, “because we had the whole experience of the dot-com boom in San Francisco that led to a huge amount of displacement and gentrification.” Eight years later, Avalos is vindicated: the city is seeing eviction and homelessness on a mass scale, and the gap between San Francisco’s rich and poor residents is notoriously wide and growing.

In recent years, Lee made an effort to secure funding programs for the city’s homeless population and set up navigation centers to help people get on their feet. But he remained committed to a capital-friendly policy approach — one that exacerbated the same problems he made an effort to solve. Lee saw his primary task as concentrating large businesses in San Francisco and keeping them there, and he consistently removed obstacles for real estate developers and tech companies to make it happen. “He was a strong adherent of the growth machine model for cities,” says Jennifer Fieber of San Francisco’s Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, “but I never saw him make the link between his trying to attract tech workers and the obvious displacement it would cause.”

In 2015, the board of supervisors unanimously passed a tenant protection law. Fieber points out that while Lee did not veto it, he also refused to sign it. “It’s like, who are you trying to not offend if it’s not the real estate industry?” she asks. Lee similarly refused to sign an ordinance requiring Airbnb hosts to register with the city, though that passed unanimously as well, and he vetoed legislation that would require a sixty-day cap on short-term rentals. Short-term rentals like Airbnb units contribute to soaring rents, which in turn increase evictions and exacerbate the problem of homelessness.

“Toward the end of his tenure he was trying to resolve the homeless situation,” says former city supervisor and state assemblyman Tom Ammiano. “While the gesture was appreciated, there was a lack of connecting the dots. He wanted to be there for the homeless, but when you looked at the housing policies he supported or his approach to Airbnb or what have you, his actions were often in contradiction to the gesture of funding homeless programs more and setting up navigation centers. You often see that in politics, where someone will adopt an issue but they’re not really paying attention to the things that they’re supporting that undermine that issue.”

Avalos echoes the concern about Lee’s attention to cause and effect, saying, “There was a greater emphasis on attracting businesses and wealthier interests to the city rather than dealing with the impact of growing inequality that those interest brought to San Francisco.” Lee tried to facilitate the concentration of corporate wealth within the city’s borders, Avalos says, presumably guided by the belief that the wealth could be harnessed for the greater good. Yet he was unable to harness that wealth effectively through taxes without getting cross ways with the corporations he’d empowered, who gained a greater foothold in San Francisco politics with each passing year of Lee’s tenure. “Like the sorcerer’s apprentice,” says Avalos, “he lost control of what he was trying to achieve.”

In his campaign against Lee, Avalos proposed a $500 million housing bond to secure affordable housing, offset rental prices, and keep San Franciscans housed. As mayor, Lee went with a $310 million bond, after Avalos pressured him to raise the amount. Lee also jousted with Avalos over corporate taxes, with Lee opting for the lower tax rate on businesses. “Lo and behold, years later Ed Lee came forward with a sales tax, which was regressive, to pay for the same services that he could have paid for with the business tax,” says Avalos.

Avalos sees both of these policies as a failure to prioritize the needs of low-income residents and a mistaken belief that wealth eventually spreads around, enriching everyone in its vicinity. “Ed Lee’s idea was that if we serve these tech companies and corporations,” he says, “they will bring economic success and vitality to San Francisco, and the rest of the city will be able to benefit through some version of trickle-down economics. Well I don’t think a trickle is significant enough. When it came to actually trying to create revenue streams that could be used for uplifting all of San Francisco, and dealing with the inequality that increased with the tech companies coming in, Ed Lee fell short.”

Lee took a permissive approach to tech corporations and real estate developers alike — and the relationships between the two were laid bare over the course of his time in office. “Real estate developers know that people working for big tech companies make more than the average resident,” explains Erin McElroy, also of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, “so they cater to them. We’ve seen them rebrand parts of neighborhoods as places for tech workers to reside and take private buses to and from Silicon Valley. We’ve seen apartment complexes specifically built for tech employees go up right next to their office buildings. Of course those new condo developments raise the price of rent in the surrounding areas. We’ve even found that there are more evictions proximate to tech bus stops.”

Worse yet, many of the condos developed on Ed Lee’s watch remain vacant while people sleep in tents on the city sidewalks. There are more than 30,000 vacant units in the city — most of them luxury condos owned by speculators, second or third homes owned by affluent jet-setters, or short-term rentals in partial use. Meanwhile, it’s estimated that nearly 8,000 people in San Francisco are without homes.

“The perception was that Ron Conway had too much of a say on Ed Lee,” says Ammiano. Conway is an angel investor who has backed Airbnb, Square, Twitter, Zynga, and sixty-five other San Francisco-based tech companies. He was the single largest donor to Ed Lee’s campaigns; news reports called the two a power couple. Lee followed Conway’s lead in encouraging private philanthropy to boost the public sector. “If you’re talking about Salesforce donating seven million dollars to the schools,” Ammiano says, “that’s not the solution. It’s the tax structure that’s the solution.”

Conway encouraged Lee to pursue public-private partnerships in response to the housing crisis — that is, to let real estate developers build their condo complexes and trust that the private sector will provide for the public. “Lee believed that the real estate industry was the champion to fix all of our problems,” says Faiq Raza of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, “and that liberalizing the sector, getting rid of various requirements, and streamlining development were the answer.”

“If we don’t have a strong economy in our city, we can’t help anybody,” Lee said last year. This outlook led Lee to put private profits first, and deal with the externalities of corporate wealth concentration down the line.

But “the more you harness the power of wealth to grow the economy,” says Avalos, “the more inequality is created if there aren’t structures to create equity.” When asked what kind of political leadership is required to undo the damage Lee’s policies have done, Avalos replies, “I think we need someone who has an anticapitalist perspective. Our capitalist market is not going to bail us out of growing inequality.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Register Peace & Freedom or Green
Monday Dec 18th, 2017 9:52 PM
People are known by the company they keep. Democrat Ed Lee was a loyal servant of the ruling capitalist class and friend of the infamous, womanizing, millionaire, election-frauding, anti-rent control, organized crime gambling attorney Democrat Willie Brown who owes his 2 terms as mayor to election fraud and who promoted blatant and terrifying election fraud in the June 3, 1997 49er Stadium Swindle election in which we voted 70% no on the 49er Stadium Swindle, and his election fraud team turned that vote into 50.1% yes. Then, when Delores Evans, a pollworker, was about to testify as to the election fraud she witnessed in that election in an election fraud lawsuit, Evans and 5 children, all ages 8 months or so to 8 years, were murdered by Willie Brown’s election fraud team in a mysterious fire in their Housing Authority home from which the fire department said they could have escaped but someone stopped them. For more on this and the rest of the Democrats’ election fraud in that election, see

The Democrats were not new to election fraud in San Francisco. In the 1970s, they used the CIA’s People’s Temple to commit election fraud. See

The Democratic Party of San Francisco committed the same election fraud in 2003 to put millionaire Gavin Newsom in the mayor’s office, when it was Board of Supervisors President and Green Party member Matt Gonzalez who actually won the mayor’s race.

Showing up at the Sunday, December 17, 2017 City Hall service for Ed Lee were millionaire Democrats Willie Brown, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Lt. Gov Gavin Newsom, and Governor Jerry Brown, along with billionaire investor Ron Conway and billionaire investor and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. None of these people have anything to do with the lives of the workingclass, the 80% of Americans who sell our labor for less than $80,000 a year. The elected officials who are millionaires and billionaires cannot possibly represent us since their interests are diametrically opposed to ours. Senator Feinstein is also a war profiteer. See The Democrat and Republican parties not only support all stadium swindles, they are both the twin parties of war and fascism, supporting the police state at home and the war machine abroad since the greatest profits are in oil and munitions, the only reason the military exists.

The housing crisis is now the worst in memory and this writer can remember back to 1960. The homeless crisis started in 1980 under Democrat Pres. Carter. This can and must change. In the mayor’s race of 2015, running against incumbent Ed Lee in a low voter turnout election, Green Party member Francisco Herrera came in second in a field of 6 candidates. Democrat Lee received 55% of the vote, a poor showing in a city that gives 80% of its vote to the leading Democrat in the governor’s and president’s races. See

The mayor’s race is currently scheduled for June 5, 2018, the same date as the primary election for partisan offices such as governor. The nomination period is from December 15, 2017 to January 9, 2018 so now is the time to support a pro-tenant candidate for mayor, hopefully from either Peace & Freedom or the Green Party as those are the only 2 pro-tenant parties. In an open election with no incumbent, if we unite behind one candidate and are serious about overcoming election fraud, we can win. The larger the support for one candidate, the more difficult it is for the capitalist class to commit election fraud. It is a non-partisan race, with instant runoff, so June 5, 2018 will be the deciding race for the mayor’s office. Since 2018 is the year to elect a new governor, and the outrage against Trump is very high in California, we will see a high voter turnout, which means the workingclass that does vote will turn out to vote in the mayor’s race as well as on everything else on the ballot.

San Francisco has 147,400 millionaires and 26 billionaires. The rest of the 414,000 active voters in San Francisco have no business voting for any millionaires or billionaires or their lackeys since their interests are not the same.

Meanwhile, you can do your part to prepare for the 2018 elections by registering Peace & Freedom or Green. You can register online at:
For more information, see
by Lee Ed
Friday Dec 22nd, 2017 6:17 AM
And he's backing London Breed, so watch out.
by Register Peace & Freedom or Green
Sunday Dec 24th, 2017 7:19 PM
Republican Charlotte Schultz, 84 year old wife of former Secretary of State under Reagan, 97 year old George Schultz, and San Francisco's Chief of Protocol in a city that voted 9% for Republican Trump (less than the usual 15% for a Republican president), engaged in an anti-Chinese slur at the City Hall farewell to Ed Lee, whom she claimed was an old friend, by referring to him as squinty-eyed. The local Chinese American community leaders were outraged and referred to this as a "teachable moment." She is also Chief of Protocol for the State of California, a state that voted 30% for Republican Trump and has been so reliably voting Democrat since 1992 that there is no serious Democrat or Republican campaign in California since this is an uncontested state. IT IS LONG PAST THAT ANY ETHNIC SLURS CAN BE TOLERATED FROM ANY GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVE. Yet, the Democrats allow this old fossil who, like her third husband, George Schultz, obviously benefit from excellent medical care to live to their ripe old ages, unlike the rest of us can expect, when, not if, the Republican majority destroys Medicare in January 2018 to pay for their tax scam, continue to hold a government position. See

In San Francisco, the teachable moment for the Democrats is now since they have allowed the housing crisis to become so bad that there is no affordable housing for anyone making less than $100,000 a year unless they moved into their rent-controlled apartment 20 years or more ago. The homeless are literally everywhere, in every doorway possible, every single night. The Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, could have released public funds to pay for construction of affordable housing but has refused to do so. After all, he is also a member of the capitalist class. This is why we hope to see a Peace & Freedom Party or Green Party candidate for mayor.

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