The de Young Museum is put in the crossfire of a landlord tenant battle. The costs for the museum are to be paid for with bonds from the city.. landlords threaten to fight the Museum and other bonds unless costs can be shifted onto tenants.
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Museum Bond Held Hostage
Landlords threaten to fight de Young measure unless City shifts costs to tenants
In a move that would stave off a big-bucks campaign by San Francisco landlords against the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum bond measure, Mayor Brown is pushing their legislative plan to pass costs of previously approved bonds to tenants.
Now, in most cases, property owners pay off The City’s general obligation bonds via property taxes, although they have been trying for years to get tenants to shoulder the financial burden.
The move by the mayor comes as the pro-landlord group Coalition for Better Housing — a client of Brown political consultant Jack Davis — threatens to oppose the $90 million de Young bond measure on the June ballot unless the bond pass-through proposal gets the green light from City Hall.
The legislation would affect only bonds passed by San Francisco voters in 1996 and 1997 — not future bonds.
Brown first promised landlord groups that he would press for the change two years ago as part of a back-room deal struck to win their support for a $100 million affordable housing bond on the November 1996 ballot.
Now the landlords are playing hardball.
“We will oppose all bonds, starting with the de Young, if the agreement we made in 1996 is not kept,” said Brook Turner, executive director of the Coalition for Better Housing.
The mayor said Friday that The City should honor its promise to landlords in return for their support of the much-needed affordable housing bond that voters approved. He said the de Young issue is not a factor in his decision.
But others at City Hall call the museum bond a huge factor in the rush to give property owners what they want.
Brown wants the Board of Supervisors to pass legislation that would grant the pass-throughs for bonds passed during the past two years. Four bonds fall into that time period: the affordable housing bond, a $49 million zoo bond, and two water bonds worth a combined $304 million.
The legislation may be introduced at Monday’s board meeting.
Since 1995, the money property owners spent in San Francisco to pay off bonds has run from $4 a year to $76 a year on a building worth $400,000, according to the city controller. Under the plan pushed by landlords, renters would fund 100 percent of the cost.
As of Friday, Brown was still stumping for the six votes he’d need to win passage of his legislation. Some supervisors, particularly those facing election in November, may be reluctant to back a plan that could generate the wrath of the vote-rich renters constituency.
Supervisor Michael Yaki, a cosponsor of Brown’s proposed legislation and a co-chair of the de Young bond campaign, said, “As the only bond on the ballot, we’re kind of in the cross-fire.” By passing the legislation, he added, “We’ll remove ourselves as the target du jour.”
The de Young bond is no shoo-in. Victory requires at least two-thirds majority approval. Despite widespread support from elected officials and civic groups, backers fear that any well-funded — campaign against the proposal would put the project at great risk. Two years ago, a bond to rebuild the quake-damaged museum was narrowly defeated.
Tenant activists are far from enthusiastic about the mayor’s plan to have tenants pick up bond costs, even though some of them signed off on the original deal. In return, they hoped to get other concessions from City Hall, but those have not materialized to the extent they wanted.
Ted Gullicksen of the San Francisco Tenants Union said renters perhaps could be persuaded to help pay off the affordable housing bond, but the others? “I don’t think the tenants would go for that,” he said.