Mailer Sparks New Rift in Assessor’s Race

by Randy Shaw on November 3, 2005

With polls showing most voters still undecided in the San Francisco Assessor’s race, the Affordable Housing Alliance has sought to boost support for Gerardo Sandoval through a hard-hitting “Tenant Voter Alert.” The mailer says that “we need an Assessor who will fight for renters, not speculators,” and contrasts the Supervisor’s “proven record tenants can trust,” with Ting’s “pocketing over $264,000 in profits” from evicting tenants. Ting has responded to the mailer via e-mail, claiming that the pro-tenant piece was “completely paid for by landlords and developers.” Ting further charged that he “knew when he stood up to downtown and developers that their response might be to fund Gerardo Sandoval.” Who’s telling the truth? Here’s our analysis.

After months of inconclusive campaigning, the Assessor’s race may finally be on voter’s radar screens. Seeking to sway the large group of undecideds, a pro-Sandoval mailer recently hit mailboxes, provoking an angry response from Phil Ting.

The mailer shows an elderly woman peering through a door with the headline “This year, there were more evictions in San Francisco than ever before.We need an Assessor who will fight for renters, not speculators.”

The basis for AHA’s claim that Phil Ting is a real estate speculator is that Ting evicted a tenant for owner move-in, lived in the property for two years, converted the apartments to condominiums, and then walked away with “over $264, 000 in profits.” In response, Ting charges that AHA is “attacking me for moving into a home that I bought.” Ting also cites his former role at the Asian Law Caucus, which fights to protect tenants rights.

Ting’s owner move-in eviction (first reported by Beyond Chron on August 19) is undisputed. The Assessor did more than simply “move into a home” that he bought, as his e-mail response omits the eviction and resulting profit.

But whether Ting had a speculative motive for the eviction is unclear. Ting says he bought the property because it is where he and his wife first met; AHA’s’s mailer argues that speculative profit was the real goal.

But Ting’s personal profit from his real estate deal does not mean that he would “fight for speculators.” That’s not been his history.

The mailer also stretches the truth in claiming that “Ting is not trusted by San Francisco’s tenant organizations.” Chinatown tenant leaders trust Ting as does tenant attorney Gen Fujioka of the Asian Law Caucus. In contrast, the San Francisco Tenants Union clearly questions Ting’s commitment to tenants rights, with his owner move-in eviction a pivotal factor.

But the rest of AHA’s mailer is hard to question. Sandoval does have “a proven record tenants can trust, ” and he is “endorsed by all major San Francisco tenant organizations.”

Now let’s turn to Ting’s e-mail claim that the mailer was sent by a “front group” that “has long been the mouthpiece for downtown developers.”

The AHA is a slate card controlled by Mitchell Omerberg. During the 1990’s, the late political consultant Robert Barnes often funneled money into the AHA slate card to support candidates and initiative positions backed by downtown interests. But AHA’s resulting card was a mix of positions, and was neither pro-downtown nor pro-landlord.

The same could be said for AHA’s Sandoval mailer, which includes a No on D endorsement consistent with downtown interests and a Yes on F position that is contrary to the position of the San Francisco Chronicle, which is the true mouthpiece for downtown developers. This likely confirms that firefighters and anti-reform transit interests helped fund the AHA piece, neither of whom are motivated by a need to get future favors from the next Assessor

What is odd about Ting’s charge that AHA’s mailing is landlord-funded is that the Ting campaign itself has received contributions from landlords. Ting has received the maximum $500.00 contribution from the San Francisco Apartment Association, Trinity Management Services (owned by Angelo Sangiacomo), and developer Ron Kaufman while SFAA Executive Director Janan New has given Ting $250.00, as has West Coast Property Management.

Both candidates have received donations from real estate interests and developers, as befits a race involving the setting of property tax rates. So Ting is free to claim that Sandoval would be more beholden to such interests, but this assertion has no factual basis.

Ting ends his e-mail by asking for money in the next 24 hours to “get the truth out.”

Expect the piece to include testimonials from Chinatown leaders regarding Ting’s commitment to tenants, as well as citing some of the developer interests that are backing Sandoval.

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