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.”