Mayor London Breed speaking into a microphone outside City Hall.
Mayor London Breed addresses crowd during NAACP kneel-in protest, June 2020. Photo from Shutterstock.

On the heels of President Joseph Biden’s State of the Union Address, San Francisco too is reimagining policies and how they will affect its constituency. This week’s items take a look at the State of the City, and how the consequences of current policies are impacting locals. 

*taps mic* Ahem: 

Bissap Baobab dissenters stalled — for now 

An appeal hearing regarding Senegalese restaurant, club and bar Bissap Baobab’s beer and wine license has been pushed back a month.  

On Thursday, a judge told the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control it had another month to “investigate” complaints that threaten Bissap Baobab’s beer and wine license. 

Two neighbors, Barnali Mishra and Courtney Page, asked the state in a hearing Thursday to appeal the bar and restaurant’s beer and wine license. Their complaint: The music is too loud. But at the hearing’s start, Administrative Law Judge Alberto Roldan acknowledged a last-minute request by the state to continue the appeal hearing another month, so it could verify complaints “in real time.” 

Mishra and Page attempted to change Roldan’s mind, stating that their attempts to work out the issue with Bissap Baobab, by encouraging more sound-proofing or turning down the rhythmic music, failed. Page added she was “concerned for [her] personal safety” ever since a Chronicle published a piece about the issue, because the public now knows where she lives. 

“One of the challenges with protest … about the issuance of a license is that by definition, by communicating that they’re impacted, they’re essentially telegraphing that they live adjacent to … the property,” Roldan said. 

Kevin Ortiz, an advocate for Bissap Baobab, told Mission Local that he and restaurateur Marco Senghor supported the continuance. In the Chronicle article, Ortiz noted that he has personally measured the sound levels in the condos adjacent to the bar, and that the No. 14 Muni buses that roam Mission Street generated more noise than the club’s music.

In the meantime, Senghor set up a $100,000 GoFundMe to pay for the $60,000 soundproofing and tie the place over for loss of sales. A lack of beer, wine and liquor licenses has hurt the biz, Ortiz said. So far, they have raised $17,500. 

The new hearing is scheduled for mid-March.

Mission ‘tree’ is branching out 

Russian Hill: Get ready to say “hi” to a new supply of weed. 

That’s right; the Mission Cannabis Club, at 2441 Mission St., quietly expanded to Russian Hill at the end of December, and may add another location in the future, two employees told Mission Local. 

Russian Hill Cannabis Club opened at 2424 Polk St. and, like the Mission branch, it offers both a dispensary and lounge. 

Moving to other city spots may have seemed like a pipe dream just years ago, when Mission Cannabis Club owner Khader “Al” Shawa struggled to obtain a state license for recreational marijuana sales. Back then, no upstairs lounge existed in the space, and Mission Cannabis Club was called “Shambhala.” 

Locals might remember that the Palestinian immigrant launched Shambhala in 2011 as a medical marijuana dispensary, but shut down a year later following a federal crackdown on dispensaries. 

My, how time flies. Though Uncle Sam still isn’t a midnight toker, he’s now looking the other way. Last year, 37 states (and Washington, D.C.) permitted medical marijuana, and 21 states say recreational use is a-OK. And now, San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman voiced support for new legislation that would permit food and beverage sales at cannabis lounges. His former colleague, Assemblyman Matt Haney, introduced a bill about it last week, hoping it could help reinvigorate the industry, which has been hurting lately. 

State of the City

The mayor dropped her State of the City address and, as you may know, the state of the city is … not so hot. But, in between congratulating her political picks and regaling us with inspirational stories of the Niantic, the Gold Rush-era whaling vessel turned hotel turned Transamerica Pyramid icon, Breed announced housing and economic legislation that could alter San Francisco. 

Primarily, she hopes to revive downtown through tax breaks, a strategy that seems to have worked when the economy was booming and the Board of Supervisors passed a tax break for Twitter. Yup, any business that starts up and plants its flag in San Francisco will get tax breaks for three years. Tax increases will also be paused for existing retail, hotel, manufacturing and arts and entertainment businesses.“We have to stop the endless cycle of one-off ballot measures around taxes thrown on the ballot without any real thought or any analysis,” Breed said to cheers. 

These types of tax reforms will be piloted now, but Breed hopes to start legislation about this for next year’s ballot. 

Breed also mentioned her plan to actually start building all 82,000 of the Housing Element’s mandated-units — an optimistic step for those who hope to see results against a looming housing crisis exacerbated by a crisis in sales. Earlier this week, she released a “Housing for All” Plan lauded by housing advocates. What does the plan entail? Removing barriers, she said at the address. 

“That’s it! That’s it!” Breed exclaimed jubilantly. 

The Housing for All Plan is an optimistic and fascinating executive directive, largely because it has specifics. Who knew that was possible? An oversight team will mark progress of meeting housing goals, and a working group will be tasked to affordable housing funding. 

The directive also has deadlines, some which are coming up soon. 

For example, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development  and the Planning Department need to craft a plan that provides “concrete recommendations” for potential public affordable housing funding sources — one of the greatest barriers to construction of new affordable housing — by the end of this month. MOHCD needs to submit another plan for additional funding by Jan. 31, 2024, because building 46,000 affordable housing units over the next eight years won’t be easy. 

By Valentine’s Day, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the Controller’s office will “advance” legislation to fund projects that are already approved, but lack financing to start building. At her State of the City address, Breed said some 52,000 units are permitted, but not built. 

Also explicitly mentioned are strategies to accelerate San Francisco’s slow permitting process, a major obstacle in construction overall. Breed said legislation aimed at eliminating “unnecessary fees” and procedural constraints, such as requiring special permits for certain types of housing construction, will be introduced by May 1. Of course, with slow housing sales, high construction costs and developers looking to build elsewhere, it will likely still be difficult to finance anything. 

The bureaucracy will get a wake-up call, too. Agencies must improve efficacy by 50 percent by Feb. 1, 2024, to speed up permit approvals, the directive says. By then, the Planning Department, Department of Building Inspection, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Public Works, and the Public Utilities Commission must identify and cut any processes that cause backlogs. 

Will this come to fruition? We’ll see. We at least have the goals and timelines to see if we miss the mark. 

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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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  1. I’m guessing “housing advocates” translates to “market rate housing advocates” and “advocates who pay lip service to affordable housing but really don’t care about affordable housing because it doesn’t pad their developer friends’ pockets”

    1. I’m not totally clear on what all that insinuation means… but most of the failure of affordable housing comes down to the cost of land and construction. That, as well as how long the city takes to actually approve funding, plans, permits etc. It is in no way a “this or that” sort of problem, ie. market-rate housing is not somehow stopping BMR housing from being built (if anything it’s one of the few ways to effectively fund it).

  2. The Mayor and her real estate donors and pals demand the city “build more housing” at any cost. Especially because of the state mandated Housing Element goal for San Francisco to produce 82,000 new housing units in the next eight years. Problem being: 46,000 of those state-mandated units (more than half) must be affordable. Truth is: the Mayor and her market rate development allies don’t like building affordable housing. So what’s the plan? For years now in D5, the Mayor’s home district, local residents have been pushing for 100% affordable development at primo sites: 400 Divis, 650 Divis, the DMV site on Fell and at 730 Stanyan. Yet this Mayor along with her appointees at the Mayors Office of Housing and Community Development/MOHCD continue to stonewall, slow walk and refuse to fund affordable development here. It is time to focus on truly affordable housing for low income working families and elderly San Franciscans. The voters resoundingly approved the use of Prop I funds to this end.

    1. Greeny, are you referring there to the 2020 Prop I? Because if you are then the text says nothing about the funds being for affordable housing. Here is the text:

      “Shall the City permanently increase the transfer tax rate on sales and leases of 35 years or more of real estate, to 5.50% on those transactions of $10 million to $25 million, and to 6.00% on those transactions of $25 million or more, for an estimated average revenue of $196 million a year?[”

      If the funds had been dedicated to affordable housing then it would have needed a 2/3 majority. It passed with only 57%.

  3. Senghor is a Mission OG and a great person. What were these neighbors, who decided to buy on one of the noisiest commercial corridors in Frisco, thinking when they went on an all out assault to destroy this man’s business? Sick DF taco spot before, the name of which escapes me, threw awesome LOUD parties all the time as do many of the bars in the area.

    Hopefully we can get this stalled a few more times to give Mishra and Page some headspace to realize they’re better suited for Alamo or some quiet street in Marin down from a local place that serves bad spaghetti.

    Payton… dude is damn near made of rock and he didn’t pass the physical. Will take an abdominal strained Young Glove over Wiseman any day.

    As always Annika your reporting is appreciated.

    1. Yes, Annika did a great job of presenting the details of Breed’s speech without resorting to the kind of spin and snide that at least one other ML writer might have been unable to resist 🙂

      And this from ML’s “inequality reporter” – a title that might have predisposed the reader to expect a lot of opinion, subjectivity and bias.

      So well done, Annika, for a nice and upbeat “just the facts, ma’am” piece. You will go far.

      1. Ron,

        They can pick em can’t they ?

        I’d like to see a list of the talent they’ve corralled then bid adieu.

        You should see the list of people who worked for Patrick Murphy’s D-6 Sentinel.


        I’m not worried about San Francisco.

        It’s bigger than all of us.

        That from this old Hippie who got married three times here alone and traveled the World.

        I feel like that Rutger Hauer robot in Blade Runner describing the exotic scenes.

        SF gave me that and three grandchildren elegible for top SFPD staff.