SF Planning Commissioner Under Fire for “Reverse Racism” Letter

The Planning Commission's seven members. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

Activists have started a petition asking for the removal of the lone Republican on the city’s Planning Commission after he penned a letter critical of the Mission moratorium. In the letter, Michael Antonini described the measure as “thinly veiled reverse racism” and called the Mission a “low income neighborhood.”

“The community is incredibly, incredibly upset to the point that it is discussing this matter and it is planning around this matter,” said Edwin Lindo, the vice president for external affairs at the Latino Democratic Club and a hopeful for next year’s District Nine supervisorial elections that will replace David Campos.

The letter was an election guide Antonini circulated to his friends and family, according to comments he made to SF Weekly.  The guide was posted on an internet forum. In it, the commissioner lambasted the Mission moratorium and called its proponents part of the “City’s socialist Left.”

“Measure ‘I’ is really represents [sic] thinly veiled reverse racism,” Antonini wrote. “[Proponents] want [the Mission] to remain a low income neighborhood which only allows residents and businesses of one ethnic group.”

Antonini also came out against parental leave for city workers, city grants for legacy businesses, and short-term rental regulations, writing of the latter that “economically depressed, unsafe, dirty areas of San Francisco” have been revitalized by the short-term rental industry.

Lindo circulated an online petition on October 30, a day after the letter leaked, and says the current focus is on getting “thousands and thousands” of signatures calling for his removal. The petition had 318 signatures as of Sunday evening.

“We have no room on this planning commission or this city for someone who essentially encourages the displacement of communities,” Lindo said, calling the commissioner “toxic” and “the Donald Trump of San Francisco.”

What further actions Lindo may take and who else is involved in these efforts is unclear. Lindo was reticent about future plans and current allies, though for his part Supervisor David Campos told SF Weekly he thought Antonini should recuse himself from projects involving the Mission.

The commissioner could not be reached for comment.

The letter was initially posted online in a Bay Area Renters Federation online forum. Sonja Trauss, the founder and head of the pro-development group, said anyone who pays attention to city politics should know “he’s been saying comments in that spirit for a long time,” though she said she was taken aback by the anachronistic phrasing.

“It was novel,” Trauss said. “I forgot that there are old conservatives in San Francisco.”

She did find it tactless, but said Antonini’s positions are still the best means of building housing in the nation’s most expensive real estate market.

“His thing about reverse racism is an out-of-style thing to say,” Trauss said. “Anybody who’s a little bit sophisticated would know better than to utter the phrase, but that doesn’t mean some of the things it signifies aren’t popular and widely held.”

This is not the first time Antonini has faced criticism. A commissioner for 13 years, Antonini narrowly won re-election by the Board of Supervisors in 2012. Some progressives on the Board of Supervisors criticized the commissioner for being inexperienced (he was a dentist) and failing to provide diversity (as a white male). Antonini only managed to keep his position when progressive supervisors Malia Cohen and Christina Olague, the latter a former colleague of Antonini on the Planning Commission, voted alongside moderates 6-5 to reinstate him.

Another such vote when Antonini’s term ends in July may be the most viable option for Lindo and others to unseat him. But for Antonini to be removed during his current term, the mayor would have to request his removal and put it up to a Board of Supervisors vote.

Antonini’s colleague on the Planning Commission, Dennis Richards, said that he doesn’t envision a removal given the short amount of time left on Antonini’s term.

“I just don’t see that happening. I understand people were upset, but I think it’s a very high bar and I don’t think in the time left on his term that’s something that’s going to happen,” Richards said.

With newly-elected supervisor Aaron Peskin giving the progressives a majority on the board and the mayor possibly wary of another thorn in his side, a renomination fight may be the most realistic hope for Antonini’s removal. Lindo says his petition applies to any situation.

“The mayor can remove him, he can resign, or he can not be reappointed next year,” Lindo said. “The petition speaks to all three.”

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19 Comments

  1. John Thompson

    con·serv·a·tive – kənˈsərvədiv/

    adjective
    1.holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation

    noun
    1.
    a person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes,

    Who are the real conservatives in this city???.

  2. Ricardo Ruiz

    Antonini is a fraud gangster hoodlum like Donald Trump. Antonini probably also wants to turn Telemundo into English only. Antonini does not speak spanish,so he shouldn’t be on the Planning commission. No politician in SF should be elected unless they pass a Spanish test…. Please do not vote for Donald Trump. I do not like Hillary because she doesn’t speak Spanish but better then trump. Guys like trump call Mexicans dirty but I see the saliva coming from their lips when they see a tight Latin Transgender walking down Mission Street. So these lady’s are good enough to have sex with yet are benith you to marry. No good. Love not war. Walls do not solve anything. Only wall should be to keep people like Antonini off commission until he can pass a spanish test.

  3. Wilson Brown

    No doubt the murals in la mission about “la raza” taking over the barrio are referring to the only race; the human race.

    • @Wilson Brown – Yes, La Raza is taken from “La Raza Cósmica,” which refers to a “cosmic race” comprising people from all over the world, i.e. the human race.

      However, there’s no shortage of people who read “La Raza” and go ballistic, revealing their own ignorance as they scramble to make the same argument that Antonini did.

  4. Bob Evans

    Yes, we must bar self enabled white people from occupying SF in favor of BIG BROTHER supplicated latinos.

  5. Lisa Feldstein

    The Mayor doesn’t have to request a commissioner’s removal for the BoS to vote not to remove. During a commissioner’s term the commissioner can only be removed for cause, but each term is separate from the one(s) preceding and following it. The Mayor nominates; a majority of the BoS must vote in favor of the nomination to confirm.

    • Joe Rivano Barros Post author

      Hi Lisa, I’ve clarified that the mayor has to request his removal only in the middle of his term. He can be removed at the end of a term by a simple majority vote at the board.

      • Lisa Feldstein

        Thanks for the correction. Please note, however, that at the end of a term, no vote to remove is needed. The term is over. The seated commissioner has no right to that seat unless approved for another term. These are the possibilities for a Mayoral appointee:

        1. The mayor nominates the person for another term. The BoS votes yay or nay.
        2. The mayor doesn’t nominate the person for another term, and does nominate someone else for the seat. The BoS votes yay or nay on the new nominee only.
        3. The mayor doesn’t nominate the person for another term, and doesn’t nominate a replacement for the seat. The current person is “held over” until the mayor nominates a replacement. However, the current person’s term is not extended, they are simply acting until a replacement is found.

        For appointees of the Board President, the process is exactly the same; simply substitute “board president” for “mayor.”

  6. Tom Colvin

    So when someone says “Keep the Mission brown!” (which I’ve heard during community meetings and protests) what does that mean then? Sure sounds like trying to keep residents and businesses of one ethnic group to the exclusion of others. That’s not very progressive.

    • Ricardo Ruiz

      Your part of the problem Tom. Racism needs to end and we need to see everyone as an individual. I hope your not an uncle. Viva la Raza

      • Patricia Cogan

        I agree with you that we should see everyone as an individual. But your opinion (from an earlier comment) is that only Spanish-speakers should be on the planning commission? Hmmmm.

      • John Thompson

        If you read Ricardo’s statements, it’s obvious he is a racist. He doesn’t like white, black and asian people. SF is 15% latino. It’s about 35% Asian and abbout 21% chinese. Using Ricardo’s logic, it would be more pertinent for our leaders to speak chinese vs. Spanish. But, let’s not let logic get in the way of Ricardo’s rants.

        Ricardo, I hope you are not a nephew.

        • Ricardo Ruiz

          You need to understand that majority rules does not win. The white man runs the show because of sistemic racism not because he has the largest percentage of the population. You seem to be the pull yourself by the bootstraps type of guy. Some people like you are born on 3rd base and think the game is fair because it’s rigged in your favor. Majority of the people at the $15 rally on mission st and 24th agreed with me. Racist are keeping the minimum wage down. End racism

      • Larry

        @Ricardo: Can you explain why Tom is part of the problem? It seems to me that he made a factual statement.. Just because you disagree with him, that does not make him a racist.

        • Ricardo Ruiz

          Hey Larry, I will try my best to explain why your husband Tom is racist. “Keep Mission Brown” means many things. I will give you some examples. Means keep the mission diverse. No body learns from each other if we all think the same. Kinda like 10 rich guys in Danville meeting at Starbucks (you know what that group looks like ) they talk politics and stuff but learn nothing because they are the same. Keep mission brown also focuses on speaking up for the people who have the quietest voice do to lack of economic or social power. These people need to be heard and not just trampled on. Politics flows like water and runs over the path of least resistence. We stand up showing we are here and have a voice. Kinda like you should walk beside an elderly person in the crosswalk. They are less likely to get hit because a car will see a group of people easier then a loan elderly person. You should have respect and walk at their pace so they don’t get hit. Part of being a good citizen and human. So when you hear keep mission brown. Think of walking next to an elderly person as they cross in the crosswalk. Seniors need help and so do the most vulnerable. Do not vote trump , he’s a racist. Do you want me to explain why he’s a racist just like your husband Tom is?

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