It’s the Ides of March in the year 2021, and the fortune-cookie pejorative “May you live in interesting times” makes all too much sense. 

What a thrill it is these days to know that, when a “biting incident” occurs at the White House, the culprit is the president’s rambunctious dog and not the president himself. What a thrill it is these days to hear about people getting shot at 24th and Capp streets and know it’s a vaccine site.

These are the less interesting times people have been craving. But as we pine for a return to normalcy, we’d do well to remember that, in San Francisco, the year 2020 was defined not only by covid but corruption. In January of last year, the feds arrested and charged erstwhile Public Works boss Mohammed Nuru in a bribery scheme — and, in the ensuing year and change, the dominoes continued to fall. To date, five department heads have been hounded out of office, three have been federally charged, and one pleaded guilty and has agreed to cooperate with investigators (more on that in a moment).

It remains to be seen, however, how thoroughly San Francisco will hold itself accountable — and how accountable it will be made to hold itself. 

But whatever our new normal looks like, it will not be an outright facsimile of the past. Too many fires are now burning. Too many eyes are now looking. Too many shoes are yet to drop. 

Photo by Mimi Chakarova.

As such, your humble narrator has learned through multiple sources that the District Attorney’s office is interviewing employees of the Department of Building Inspection

This is no small deal. A City Attorney probe in March, 2020, led to the ouster of DBI chief Tom Hui after it was revealed he had, for years, essentially turned over operation of the department to permit expediter and fixer Walter Wong.

Hui and Wong were, of course, waist-deep in the Nuru scandal. Hui purportedly “literally stood over people’s shoulders” to force out the controversial 555 Fulton Street project “sooner than it should’ve been done.” That’s the sclerotic development owned by Chinese billionaire Zhang Li — who allegedly gifted Nuru “some stone” and high-end liquor on a lavish Chinese junket arranged by Wong. Nuru purportedly pulled strings to advance this project too, and Wong — naturally — handled its permitting. 

Mission Local learned that, in February, 2020, FBI agents visited the Department of Building Inspection after files for the 555 Fulton project vanished from the DBI’s computer system — and then reappeared.  

So, that all happened. And, now, multiple sources tell us the DA is poking around in the building department. 

The significance here is that, while the City Attorney deals in civil matters, the District Attorney brings criminal charges. The difference between a “gift” and a “bribe,” it seems, can be significant.

The DA’s office refused to confirm or deny that it was interviewing Building Department officials. As you’d expect. 

It remains to be seen what cases, if any, are built against the building department. A little free advice to those involved, if you’ll permit it — get a criminal defense attorney, not a civil one. 

The difference can be significant. 

Contractor and permit expediter Walter Wong, right, pictured here in 2018 with ex-Public Works boss Mohammed Nuru. Photo by Susana Bates for Drew Alitzer Photography.

In October, Mission Local noted that the vast majority of the funds in Nuru-controlled nonprofit slush funds emanated from Recology. Nuru had an outsize role in determining the garbage rate paid by hundreds of thousands of San Franciscans — and, wouldn’t you know it, while this money was pouring into his slush funds, your garbage rate was jacked up by some 20 percent. 

In November, the feds charged a former Recology executive, alleging that he and Nuru — with knowledge of Recology higher-ups — colluded to jack up those new garbage rates in a crass quid-pro-quo involving these slush funds and employment for Nuru’s son. 

So, when City Attorney Dennis Herrera on March 4 gave the world a few hours to speculate what entity would be the subject of the “major development” in his office’s ongoing public integrity campaign — the smart money pointed toward the blue, black, and green bins. 

Ding, ding, ding: Recology has agreed to reimburse San Franciscans some $95 million in the settlement announced by the City Attorney. The company omitted revenue when tabulating its 2017 request for a rate hike and asked for — and received — more than it was entitled to. 

So, you’ll be getting a refund. Grand. But questions still abound: Mission Local has obtained a January 2019 email in which Recology reached out to the Department of Public Works’ former head of finance Ann Carey and its present finance head Julia Dawson and spelled out the discrepancy that led to San Franciscans being overcharged by scores of millions of dollars. (Recology has additionally claimed that it years ago informed members of the Department of the Environment — though it refuses to provide written evidence and the Department of the Environment denies this.) 

This isn’t exculpatory evidence for Recology, which opted to continue charging the inflated rates for years until the City Attorney stepped in. Rather, it paints a darker picture, and spreads the blame wider — because it’s now clear that city officials knew San Franciscans were being overcharged, and nothing was done, for years.   

Reached on the phone, Carey, now retired, declined to comment, and directed us to Dawson — who purportedly had the lead on this issue. Our calls and emails to Dawson were returned by Public Works spokeswoman Rachel Gordon. Her statement: “We are actively conducting an internal investigation into the Recology rate discrepancy, as well as cooperating with outside investigations into the matter, and have no further comment at this time.”

Fair enough. We’ll surely hear more later. 

A 2016 trash fire provides a fitting analogy for Recology’s 2021 settlement with the city. Photo by George Lipp.

Some 160,000 San Francisco ratepayers receiving nearly $95 million by September is big news. But last week’s biggest development in San Francisco’s smörgåsbord of corruption may have been Sandra Zuniga pleading guilty to a long-running money-laundering conspiracy and agreeing to work with federal investigators.

Zuniga was the former head of Mayor London Breed’s Office of Neighborhood Services and the head of the city’s “Fix-It Program.” Yes, those are two different jobs — with a total salary and benefits of just under $225,000. Like Carson Daly, Zuniga was jarringly overemployed. 

In addition to those jobs, Zuniga was also “GIRLFRIEND 1” in the charging documents against Nuru et al. She was the one who, on a wiretap, told Nuru “Don’t run your mouth. That’s what I’m saying,” and “Don’t tell a lot of people. That’s what you need to be careful of, because that’s what’s gonna get you in the end.” 

Too true.

So, it figures she’s heard some things. And seen some things: The $40,000 tractor Nuru was allegedly bribed with by a trio of contractors was delivered in her name. Bluntly, it also figures that Zuniga may be able to connect any dots for the feds that Nuru, for whatever reason, is unwilling to.

The Department of Justice last week noted that Zuniga’s money-laundering efforts traced back to “at least 2010.” That’s a lot longer than locals thought, and predates Nuru’s time atop Public Works. Zuniga had time to do lots of things and hear lots of things and see lots of things. There figures to be a lot of material for the feds to sift through.

Finally, Zuniga worked in the mayor’s office. If — and this is a big (and unsubstantiated) if — there’s anything that can trace back to that office, it figures Zuniga could well have been in a position to know something about that, too. 

Harlan Kelly, right, and Mohammed Nuru in a 2017 tweeted photo by @mrcleansf, Nuru’s account.

One more item. But you can handle it. It’s only wafer thin

Last week, an independent auditor from the firm KPMG presented her findings to the PUC Commission, in which she stated that former Public Utilities Commission boss Harlan Kelly being hauled off by the FBI and charged in a bribery scheme constituted a “material weakness” in the department’s finances. 

This conclusion wasn’t particularly well-received by the commissioners. That was a little odd. But it wasn’t the oddest thing: Auditor Lisa Avis noted that “PUC management determined there was no financial impact” of Kelly’s alleged corruption.

First, it would be nice to, say, audit that instead of taking PUC management’s word for it. Second, the cost of corruption is all too apparent. 

As we wrote in December:

In San Francisco, the game is that contracts tend to go to insular groups of connected operators — and contractors unwilling to play this game do not find themselves on the winning end of bids, come what may. If an equity program intended to aid small and local businesses is debased, the obvious losers are honest small and local businesses. But that’s not all. 

“The cost of corruption is not measured in the money allegedly exchanged between, say, Walter Wong and Harlan Kelly,” says construction management executive Ali Altaha. “It can be measured in: How much more is it costing taxpayers to build a project?” 

Separate and apart from the competency and honesty of those receiving the contracts, in an artificially constrained pool of bidders, the cost of doing business goes up. “They’ll name their price,” Altaha says. 

In a rather on-the-nose moment, at this very same meeting, the PUC Commission voted to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of work done by the company AzulWorks.

It did this despite AzulWorks failing to provide the prerequisite and agreed-upon percentage of labor on the job to small and/or minority owned firms. AzulWorks was fined $4,700 for this — but still received nearly $700,000. That seems like a pretty sweet deal for them. 

Even more on-the-nose, AzulWorks is one of the companies tied up in the Nuru saga: Its founder, Balmore Hernandez, allegedly conspired with Nuru on a scheme tracing to 2013 to rig the bidding for an asphalt plant, put a quarter of a million dollars worth of free or discounted work into Nuru’s ranch in exchange for city contracts he wasn’t qualified for — and was one of the three contractors who purportedly presented Nuru with that tractor.

But wait — there’s more: In addition to getting that payday from the PUC, AzulWorks’ Recreation and Parks Department contract to build the lavish new tennis courts in Golden Gate Park was actually increased by $400,000 in November

Very interesting. And these remain rather interesting times. 

If you read us often, please support our reporting. We depend on you.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. “Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior...

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27 Comments

  1. Great reporting, as always, Joe. It appears that any rock you turn over in City government (and it wouldn’t surprise me if the same wasn’t true of the SFUSD, City College and BART), results in finding corruption. One must wonder the percentage of SF’s $13.6 billion budget gets siphoned off as a result of corrupt practices.

    As for the so-called “overseers”, like the City Attorney and the DA, their effectiveness is laughable. Dennis Herrera has been City Attorney has been City Attorney for over 20 years. The practices at Building Inspection have been common knowledge for a lot longer than that. Rumblings about Nuru have been around since Ed Lee, at Willie Brown’s “request”, brought him into DPW, yet it took an FBI probe to get him. San Francisco’s overseers are either incompetent or they are involved.

    1. Right on, Joe. Steve too! I remember when all of Willi Browns contractors who got all the bids were corrupt too.
      I guarantee the CCSF funds, contractors, and dare I say it, some Board of Trustee members may have their hands in the pockets, too.

  2. Excellent writing again…as to one of your earlier articles…this is a city full of connected department heads who run the departments as their own fiefdoms and the Mayors office is just the conductor on the long train of corruption. You need not to look to hard to see or know this is happening. Don’t let the words of our city attorney put you at ease. All of these departments and department heads know what has been going on for decades but do nothing until the are seen in print.
    Thank you Joe, we need these issues to be seen and heard or we will continue to live with this type of activity by persons in power positions

    1. More like the City Attorney and the Controller, two members of the executive branch who are charged with being the responsible legal and financial adults in the room.

      Dennis Herrera’s deputies advised every player that’s been indicted or pled. Much of this had to cross his desk. How do attorneys advise clients year after year and not recognize patterns of corruption and their primary duty to defend the interests of the City and County writ large, to abandon the interests of the corrupt employee client and rep the right of their over arching client to enjoy honest government?

      Ben Rosenfield was the guy through whom all checks run. Why was his office not on top of the fact that a small set of connected contractors continue to get funding year after year?

      There were no legal controls in place from Herrera and no financial controls in place from Rosenfield.

      The DA was inaugurated a few weeks before the first indictment. Public integrity units are not easy to spin up. Forensic accounting is tedious and expensive. The FBI is best suited to address that with their resources. But it seems Boudin’s unit is beginning to hit the ground running.

  3. Joe…thank you for being such an active and interesting local journalist- we all need folks like you! As a local building contractor, there have been several times I saw /experienced very off things at the building department. I am sure there is alot for the FBI to find there. What has stuck me is how obvious the inequities are, and how little the ” bribe” amounts tend to be considering the huge risk to these tremendous salaries, benefits and status. Kind of crazy!

  4. We hear about low cost garbage and recycle programs but it never was true and low cost homes when nothing but high cost homes are being built.So the mayor need to talk to all the department heads in one meeting all together make it public and remove some and the criminals that run housing that are Gaving the contracts the bill overpriced homes and not real affordable ones..This criminal been going for the last 13yrs. and it’s time to stop all departments…

  5. So Mayoral appointees are corrupt? Meanwhile London Breed is threatening to put a charter amendment on the next ballot that would make School Board Members mayoral appointees as well. What could go wrong?!

    ..and regardless of your thoughts on our current school board, it would be dumb as hell to cede your power to elect them, unless you WANT less democratic control and more mayoral appointees like the above.

    1. >Meanwhile London Breed is threatening to put a charter amendment on the next ballot that would make School Board Members mayoral appointees as well. What could go wrong?!

      First, London Breed isn’t threatening to put it on the ballot, parents who are sick of a board co-opted by the teachers union are.

      Second, San Francisco had an appointed board for 70 years. Why was it replaced? with an elected board? As a last ditch racist attempt to prevent desegregation in SF, they echos of whcih we still see in the achievemnt gap in miority students.

      Third, If you look at other large urban large urban school districts with appointed boards, you’ll see improvements in academic performance and a narrowing of the achievement gap, something the school board continues to accept as normal in SF.

      Is the school board saw their job as a responsibility to the students of the district instead of a stepping stone to higher political office, this would not be the issue it is.

      This isn’t the mayors fault, the board is responsible for the sorry state of the school district.

  6. So when is the PUC refunding us the cost of corruption? Sound like it’s going to be way more than $195. If the Commissioners don’t like the facts presented in an audit, then they should not have a job that involves oversight. Ed Harrington was in charge of the PUC and the CFO for the City…and now he’s getting dismissive/uptight about an audit? Time for change. And “PUC management” —- what does this opaque noun-phrase even mean…

  7. As a long time DBI employee, I can confirm that every single upper-management level position has been filled with people who are either directly responsible for, or enabling massive city-wide criminal corruption.
    Management tried pulling the wool over people’s eyes recently, showboating the hiring of an “outsider” and subsequently placing him in a corner office with a stack of paperwork to keep him unaware of the criminal goings on, yet he saw the writing on the wall and got out of Dodge with a quickness.
    Mid-level management – ‘senior’ building inspectors, (supervisors of district inspectors) who have been promoted within this nefarious environment, are part and parcel to the graft and protection of the “insular groups of connected operators”.
    The lowly district building inspectors with aspirations of climbing the ladder at DBI, spend their days, not inspecting buildings as their job description would lead one to assume, but rather roaming The City doing favors for the bosses, and signing off on shoddy construction work that should -never- be approved.
    Two of the former Deputy Director ‘bosses’, both under criminal investigation, recently celebrated “sudden retirements” and were both subsequently lauded at the Building Inspection Commission by both the BIC president and DBI ‘management’.
    Recently, the newly brought on spokesperson (aka spin doctor/damage control specialist) for DBI, attempted to disparage a recent Mission Local light-shedding article, stating management was filled with the likes of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and a couple Marys.
    The spokesperson used her recent uncontested hiring as an example – stating she had no connections leading to her hire at DBI.
    What she failed to mention to the audience, are minor details of her previous appointments as: Spokesperson for Jerry Brown and Chief of Staff for Bill Lockyer’s wife Nadia, the disgraced meth queen and former Alameda County Supervisor (an appointment from which the DBI spokesperson was fired).
    One could not make up a story as atrocious as this – so how is it, that DBI is permitted to operate with such impunity?
    Well, there’s a little building on Van Ness with a domed, gilded roof that has people in high positions scrambling to provide cover for the lawlessness.
    After all, It’s the City Family.
    The City Family is, as The City Family does.

    1. Let just name a few…E.Sweeney, D. Lowrey , S. Panelli…only the first two have retired. A few more to go…the acting Director and any and all inspectors from that same criminal group should be next. The Mayors’ claims that the City Attorney is doing anything is just more smoke to obscure the truth about DBI and actually how much the Mayors office condones everything DBI does

  8. Another one to throw on the pile, former president of the SF building inspection commission. This gentleman was seen (anecdotally, to be fair) back at DBI submitting permits shortly after being federally charged with fraud for embezzling permit fees. Seems a more effective ban should be in order…

    https://www.californiaconstructionnews.com/2020/05/18/former-sf-building-commissioner-charged-with-federal-bank-fraud-charges-for-allegedly-diverting-checks-to-personal-accounts/

  9. From KQED Forum Archives, Feb. 25, 2021, 45 minutes into program:
    KQED Forum: “Here’s a question or a comment from a listener who writes: ‘With the recent indictments of top city officials, what structural changes do you recommend for preventing this from happening again, especially at the Dept. of Bldg. Inspection (DBI), where so many of these pay-to-play problems have existed for many, many years?’ “

    Mayor Breed: “Yeah, and right now we have an Acting Director at that Dept. who is working very closely with our City Attorney’s Office to clean up what was a “hot mess”, and I want to be clear, there are some challenges with this dept., but there are a lot of incredible (sic) public servants there who just want to do their jobs, and the person that I have now, who’s the Acting Dir., who’s cleaning up the mess, who’s redoing the systems and setting it up to make it user-friendly and easy for people, and the safe-guards that we’ve put into place, because we had the City Attorney come in and investigate, make recommendations for system changes to avoid these kinds of problems, making sure we have the right checks and balances, and who’s signing off on what, and making the process work better for the people who rely on this dept. We’ve already implemented a number of things. So, we anticipate that all of this work that we’re doing – by the spring, there will be a noticeable change for people who use this particular dept., and it will be a lot better, and there will be checks and balances in place that will help to prevent some of the issues that happened before.” http://www.kqed.org/forum

    Comments:

    So, Mayor Breed thinks that things are now under control at DBI. Apparently, she didn’t realize that the new Chief Administrator for Permit Services had just resigned the day before. Regardless of that, it’s going to take a lot more than just hiring a new Director and a couple of new Deputies to clean things up. The hiring practices need to be straightened out completely, starting at the lowest levels and continuing to the top. That means announcing and publicizing job openings broadly, fairly, and professionally. It means giving meaningful and honest tests and interviews. It means valuing employees for their competence and integrity, and not their connections and loyalty to their supervisors.
    And, meanwhile, it won’t be possible to promote qualified and deserving candidates from within the ranks to supervisory positions, until only qualified and deserving candidates are hired from the get-go for inspector and plan check positions. Otherwise, relatives and friends will continue to fill positions from top to bottom. And those relatives and friends will continue to hand out favors to their favored applicants and promotions to their most loyal subordinates, just as it’s happened at DBI for years. Former Director, Tom Hui, was by far the worst example of this, but not the only one. This practice goes back many years.

    In addition, the existing DBI culture, which places too much value on keeping applicants happy, has to be changed. It’s not the main job of a professional, competent, building department to keep its applicants happy. The building codes are a complex set of laws, and building inspectors are law enforcement officers (read the Code!) In many cases, it’s not possible to do a competent job of plan checking over the counter, as most applicants would like. Not only are there complicated issues, but many plan checkers and inspectors face intimidation from applicants every day. That said, if that enforcement can be improved and expedited with better technology and management, that’s great. And if voters don’t like the Codes, they can take their complaints to the ballot box. (In fact, many of the complaints that are leveled at the Bldg. Dept. have to do with Planning Dept. policies, not those of the Bldg. Dept.) But most important is establishing and maintaining the department’s professionalism, competence, and integrity. It’s no surprise that the Bldg. Depts. at many nearby cities – where Building Officials enforce the Codes with professionalism and enthusiasm – have a very low opinion of S.F.’s Building Dept.

    I also suggest to Mayor Breed that she ask Acting Dir. O’Riordan to show her the applications that were submitted for the pending Dep. Dir. position. At the Feb. 17 BIC meeting, he claimed there were several of those, but he didn’t offer any evidence of that. He also bragged that 60% of permits are now issued online. What he didn’t say was that the vast majority of those permits are simple ones for reroofing, window replacement, water-heater replacement, bathroom remodels, etc., and those have always been issued online or over-the-counter. In other words, business as usual. How about they tell us some of the changes that the Mayor says the City Attorney has made at DBI? Why haven’t those been made public? Just where is the transparency that O’Riordan, Breed, and the BIC are so earnestly espousing, or is that simply too much to ask for from this city? Meanwhile, the BIC and O’Riordan continue to appoint the usual suspects to the Director and Deputy Positions, with little consideration of more qualified outsiders.

  10. Great job Joe as usual. I suggest that your next investigation should be The Department of Health and the Housing and Support services because I am certain that there is also a cabal of insiders at DPH. Why is the city paying $5000 a month per person to live in a tent when the seriously homeless mentally ill are excluded from so called supported housing because they “need a higher level of care” Such a level does not exist in San Francisco but at $5000 a month there can certainly be housing that heals with 24/7 on site mental health professionals for this fragile population

  11. Another problem is sheer incompetence and excessive management.
    Look at the purchasing department with managers who are functionally illiterate.

    The span of control, managers per employee, is laughably small throughout city government.

  12. What I wonder is, why don’t we do an audit, using an outside auditing company, of ALL the departments? Where are we spending that $13.6 Billion specifically? How about an audit of the Non-Profit Industry? What is each Non-Profit doing, how are they meeting their own mission statement, with regards to the Tax Payers Money? How many Non-Profits are doing the same job; how many Non-Profits are controlling the other Non-Profits? It gets more and more complicated every year. Another question is what is the effect on the voting outcome via the Non-Profit industry employees? They have a vested interest in legislation passing especially if the proposal is worded so they don’t have to pay the tax. After all, no Non-Profits pays a property tax if they provide Housing Services. Nice. Why not extend this to all Housing Providers (no comments on this, whatever is said, it is all a construct for the outcome desired).
    Another way to help prevent what is going on in San Francisco is to have a two party system. What we have is a controlling party, run by the DCCC. We all know that in a two party system, the “Loyal Opposition” keeps things honest, or tries to. Now I am a Democrat, but maybe we need some Centrist Republicans, just saying, we need something other than what we have now in San Francisco, run by a single party, the Progressives. An observation, the Progressives gained full control of San Francisco politics after they got the District Elections in and further confused the electorate with Ranked Choice Voting. Maybe it is time to return to Citywide Elections and Straight Voting.

    I leave the most important for last. we are having this conversation because we have an independent media who is writing about what is happening to our great city. Thank you Joe. I am a new reader but I saw your work as what we are lacking in the Chronicle and the Examiner. Both mouthpieces for the Progressives.

  13. It’s the Willie Brown machine! The mayor, is no better! All(?) your top people are corrupt and you know nothing. Yeah right

  14. Good ol’ Joe just HAD to put in another shot at Trump in a otherwise good article. Can’t help yourself, huh Joe?

  15. Brilliant but sadly depressing article. I’m an architect who has designed residential buildings in SF for 26 years without the benefit of connections to top brass.
    Though I had high hopes for London Breed, she seems powerless to do anything. The guillotine is out for a few fall guys but the cancer is so widespread that will, as cancer does, get worse and worse.
    The only realistic solution is to close these departments and farm out the business to private companies. Many municipalities do this and it works. Yes, there will be collateral damage, but the surgery must be done to save the city.

  16. Funny how nobody mentions ECS of SF. They worked with all the guilty parties and in Wongs, Nuru’s, and Tom Hui’s emails and phone calls that are in your public records shows blanton corruption. Just look at the take over of the Henry Hotel in 2015 by ECS with Patel and all the co conspirator s you will find files of corruption that are so obvious it sicking. So the corrupt clean up SF corruption. Are all of you that damn stupid. What the hell are you smoking. If you want proof then grow some balls and call me. Who do you think called the FBI 5 years ago and showed the proof . I saw the corruption the day I join the 377 local union . And yes I call and had hand fulls of evidence. I said it is so bad that almost every person in the SF Government knows or does the bidding if these crooks or you can quit your job because nothing happens when you report this stuff . It just gets lost. Even now I can’t get nothing done because it’s still corrupt. The whole city is involved and there should be at least 50 people in jail on fed charges not 5 that is obvious corrupt cleaning the corrupt. It’s so bad that they are afraid that it might shut down SF if it gets out how really bad it is. It effects every person in this city and is one of the most evil crimes man can commit. It’s like Hitler’s Germany here

  17. Agree with all above, great writing Joe! This has gone on for so long, we can carbon date the DBI corruption. Think Leo McFadden and all his cronies. But the main thing as you’ve pointed out is “gift” and “bribe”. The stark differences and patterns are ultimately the responsibility of the DA and the Controller, given the Mayor will always be a part of the corruption to some degree.

  18. UPDATE:

    Former S.F. Grand Jury member, Jerry Dratler, directed 4 questions (related to Mayor Breed’s KQED Forum interview) to the BIC at their 3/17/21 meeting.

    1. “Is there a list of implemented and to be implemented DBI safeguards from the City Attorney Herrera that you can share with the public and what specific abuses are the safeguards designed to prevent?”

    2. “Which specific safeguards mentioned by the Mayor have already been implemented at DBI?”

    3. “Which additional safeguards will be implemented later in the spring of 2021?”

    4. “Five members of the DBI senior management team have recently resigned or retired: Mr. Hui, Mr. Sweeney, Mr. Lowrey, Ron Tom, and Bill Strawn. Is there a current Organization Chart for DBI, and who at DBI is in charge of the day-to-day implementation of City Attorney Herrera’s recommendations?” (Mr. Dratler forgot to include Chief Administrator Issam Shahrouri, who resigned the day before the Mayor’s interview.)

    See: General Public Comment, 03-17-21 (sfgovtv: https://sanfrancisco.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=14&clip_id=38053&meta_id=863106)

    As they often do, the BIC would not answer or respond to any of those questions. For the most part, they just stared at their desktops. And that, of course, raises another question: Just who is running DBI at this time? Is it the BIC and the Interim Director, or is it the City Attorney’s Office?

    And now for a little background: In June, 2013, Mr. Dratler and the Grand Jury published their recommendations for DBI – “Building a Better Future at the Department of Building Inspection.”

    https://civilgrandjury.sfgov.org/2012_2013/BuildingABetterFuture.pdf

    (That was shortly before Tom Hui, the most corrupt employee in the department, by far, and one having little or no leadership ability, was appointed to the Director’s position by a previous Angus McCarthy led BIC (Sept, 2013.) )

    In turn, the BIC was required by the Presiding Judge of the Superior Ct. to either agree to the G.J. recommendations or explain why they were not. The BIC did agree, for the most part, and yet Tom Hui and his allies continued, uninterrupted, with their widespread corruption and incompetence.

    Furthermore, at the March 18, 2020 BIC meeting, Mr. Dratler, a steady follower of DBI matters, commented that there were “clear indicators that an independent, professional, outside investigation of the department is long overdue.”

    Enough is enough. When is DBI going to be cleaned up? The need extends from top to bottom, and that includes the BIC. These unqualified, political appointees should not be running the Building Department of a major city, and certainly not one that once called itself “The City That Knows How.” Excuse me while I stop for a laugh.

  19. Great piece Joe! I wish the whole topic was not so depressing!

    I am a bay area native and have lived in SF for the last 30 years. I am completely disgusted at the corruption that i have seen exist here. This city used to be so user friendly and inclusive. Now it is just like one big gated community for the rich and corrupted.

    I am realistic with the amount and the depth of this deep seeded corruption that i am almost to the point where i don’t know if SF can ever come back. It may be a lost cause. After watching CCSF close their art campus in Fort Mason under the cover of lock down i knew it was all over. I am afraid that big tech is now a part of all of this too. I am/was so frustrated by what i see out there the other day i finally had to add my two-cents. This is not just happening in SF i am convinced but extending corruption to our neighboring communities, through things like this complete racket of the Hwy 101 toll lanes.

    i am a descendant of Levi Strauss . My great aunt lived in SF my whole life. My parents met here. My brother owns a business here and i have lived here for the past almost 30 years…. It is truly painful to see what i have always seen as my home become so corrupted. It doese’nt even feel livable anymore. I hate to give up on my hometown, but having to grind every day to make a living, just to be able to afford to live here when you know a chunk of our hard earned money is just lining the pockets of the rich is wearing me down. When they say that locals are fleeing the city at great numbers… this is why in a nutshell.

    (I got so mad the other day that i had to dust off my blog which i had not posted in in over 5 years so i could get this off my mind. if you want to read my writing on the toll lane project you can here… https://bluepearlgirlsworld.wordpress.com/2021/08/24/lets-discuss-these-toll-lanes-on-hwy-101-for-a-minute/)

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