How SF Tenants Swayed Democrats on Prop G

by on August 15, 2014

2014 Tenants Convention Backed Anti-Speculation Tax

On the night of August 13, San Francisco’s tenant advocates turned impending defeat into a critical SF Democratic Party endorsement for Prop G, the speculation tax initiative. Although it looked like a “No Endorsement” would prevail only hours before the vote, a fierce mobilizing campaign by Prop G backers brought a critical victory.

Here’s how it happened.

First, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, UNITE HERE Local 2 and SF Labor Council leader Mike Casey and others got Assemblymember Phil Ting to abstain rather than vote No Endorsement. I have not been able to confirm State Senator Mark Leno’s role in also helping move his close ally Ting to abstain, but I do know how highly Ting values Leno’s judgment and can only assume this was a factor. In any case, Ting now joins his strong support for Ellis Act reform with helping tenants win the endorsement of the anti-speculator tax.

Second, Supervisor Malia Cohen also moved her stated position from “No Endorsement” to abstain. I found out about Cohen’s alleged opposition too soon before the vote to reach her, but that position made no political sense. The landlords in her district will go with Marlene Tran. If it’s true as rumored that Tran has cut a deal for second-place votes with Tony Kelly, Cohen is better off competing with Kelly for the district’s many tenant votes.

Third, David Chiu also allegedly changed from saying on Monday that he was a no to voting for Prop G. The Community Tenants Organization of Chinatown put enormous pressure on Chiu over this vote, and it worked.

I described organizer Tammy Hung and CTA as “unsung heroes” of 2012. Based on the volume of emails praising them after the Prop G endorsement, these heroes may no longer be unsung.

Finally, a broad and diverse coalition of tenants attended the SF Dems endorsement meeting, compared to a small pro-speculator contingent. These larger and more representative turnouts did not sway critical Assembly votes on Ellis Act reform because representatives from Orange County did not care about San Francisco tenants.

But those on the SF Democratic County Central Committee are elected by San Francisco voters. They have to pay some attention to which forces are turning out for their meetings.

In my August 11 article, “Will SF Dems Endorse Anti-Speculation Tax,” I noted that “For over two decades, the San Francisco Democratic Party has backed pro-tenant ballot measures. In some cases, the Party’s endorsement has been decisive.”

The SF Democratic Party had to be pushed, but in the end it did the right thing. It will be very difficult for speculators to now defeat Prop G, and the Party’s endorsement may again prove to have been decisive.


Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron

Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw's latest book is Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America. He is the author of four prior books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. He is also the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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