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The GrowSF Report: Bad behavior from the SF Democratic Party
PLUS: Nordstrom Closes & Why SF can’t pay its teachers on time
What You Need To Know
Here’s what happened around the city for the week of May 1, 2023:
- Bad behavior from the SF Democratic Party
- Nordstrom closing downtown SF stores
- Will the Alexandria Theater ever be reborn?
- Why SF can’t pay its teachers on time
- Robot muppet version of Vanessa Carlton sings around the City
Bad behavior from the SF Democratic Party
Members and supporters of the SF Democratic Party’s Central Committee hurled unfounded accusations, insults, and epithets at the leaders of the brand new Westside Family Democratic Club this week, as they sought to be recognized as an official Democratic Club. All because, they allege, this club supported the overwhelmingly popular (about 80%!) recall of the School Board and Supervisor Joel Engardio.
How did the Democratic Party get so broken that it calls Cyn Wang, a gay mom who is a former Obama administration diplomat, daughter of immigrants, who is helping run the family insurance business, and is lifelong Democrat a “secret Republican”? Comments from their side weren’t just wrong, they were offensive and insulting:
Brandee Marckmann, who staunchly opposed the school board recall, said “I know a Republican when I see one,” of Supervisor Joel Engardio and the club founders, all Democrats.
Tenant activist Jordan Davis also opposed the charter, saying the word “family” is “a common dog whistle on the right,” that the club would be a funnel for Republican dark money and that the club wants to turn San Francisco into a “bland-ass gated community.”
“F– you, Westside Family Democratic Club!” Davis shouted into the computer screen. “I yield my time! F– you!”
Wang, when reached for comment, expressed shock but refused to give up.
“My mouth was agape,” Wang said, expressing a shock shared by many San Franciscans these days over the meanness in local politics and the political orthodoxy in some progressive circles.
“Those allegations could not be more false.”
This distressing story highlights what happens when common sense candidates that GrowSF supports lose — the extremists take over and lead our city and the Democratic party down a path of conspiracy theories, extremist rhetoric, and zero-sum do-nothing, backwards-looking politics.
The Democratic County Central Committee is up for election in March 2024. We’ll be ready.
Subscribe to the GrowSF Report so you don’t miss our March 2024 election guide
Nordstrom closing downtown SF stores
Downtown San Francisco has taken another hit as Nordstrom announced the closure of both its Westfield Mall and Nordstrom Rack locations. With 20 retailers closing stores in the Union Square area since 2020, it's clear that the situation has reached a tipping point.
These closures aren’t because Nordstrom is failing, though. In fact, the company is expanding in California by adding five new Nordstrom Rack locations while shuttering its SF outpost.
While Nordstrom publicly blamed a changing retail environment, the operators of the Westfield mall were more direct when explaining the departure:
"A growing number of retailers and businesses are leaving the area due to the unsafe conditions for customers, retailers, and employees, coupled with the fact that these significant issues are preventing an economic recovery of the area"
The mall's owner went on to say that it had expressed serious concerns to city leaders for many years and "urged the city to find solutions to the key issues and lack of enforcement against rampant criminal activity."
What’s clear is that two things can be true: retail stores have to compete with online shopping, and a deteriorating public realm and rampant thefts make operating in downtown SF uniquely hard.
Will the Alexandria Theater ever be reborn?
The abandoned Alexandria Theater in San Francisco embodies the city's struggles with bureaucracy, affordable housing, and blight. Purchased in 2004, the new owners intended to develop the site with housing, retail, and a restaurant, but a nine-year delay from the SF Planning Department hindered progress.
Supervisor Connie Chan did her part to halt progress by demanding financially infeasible low-income housing on the site. Affordable housing is a nice goal, but her meddling was designed to prevent change, not to make low-income housing a reality.
The theater's bleak future highlights the ongoing challenges facing San Francisco. The City, and anti-change elected officials like Connie Chan, stand in the way. In the meantime, the once-iconic theater remains an eyesore, reminding residents of the city's many missed opportunities for progress.
Why SF can’t pay its teachers on time
Friend of GrowSF and former Assembly candidate Bilal Mahmood penned a stunning op-ed in the Chronicle detailing how SF Unified School District blundered its way into not paying our teachers. The tale has everything: incompetent bureaucrats, engineering worst-practices, and teachers left unpaid or even owing the school district money.
Over 5000 teachers and staff in SFUSD have reported missing payroll, their taxes misreported, and delayed retirement deposits. SFUSD changed software payroll systems in 2022. But in the midst of that transition, they hired a consultant that didn't test their own software, leading to scores of bugs that went undetected for a year. Not to mention the more than 10,000 support tickets!
This fiasco represents the necessity for citywide organizational transformation, and the need for more tech expertise in City Hall. Because if we can't do something as simple as paying a teacher on time, what hope do we have to fix the myriad other problems?
Robot muppet version of Vanessa Carlton sings around the City
For some light-hearted fun, check out this video of a robot muppet version of Vanessa Carlton singing her famous “A Thousand Miles” on the back of a repurposed delivery robot. Thank you to Ben, Noah, and Lane at The Box Shop! Whimsy is good for the soul!
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GrowSF happy hour this Tuesday
Join us for the May edition of our monthly happy hour!
WHEN: Tuesday, May 9; 6:30pm - 8:30pm
WHERE: Orbit Room, 1900 Market Street
Listen to Ezra Klein interview Scott Wiener
California State Senator Scott Wiener talks SF Politics, Affordable Housing, and the Challenges of Progressive Governance on Ezra Klein’s Podcast.
Scott Wiener, California State Senator and friend to GrowSF, recently sat down with journalist Ezra Klein to discuss the unique challenges facing California politics and San Francisco in particular. As a leading voice in the state legislature on housing affordability and criminal justice reform, Wiener offered insights into the complex interplay between progressive policy goals and the practical realities of governing in a state as large and diverse as California, while also touching on his experience on the SF Board of Supervisors.
This fascinating conversation covered a range of issues, from the ongoing housing crisis, to crime in SF, to the role of psychedelics in mental health treatment. Check out the full episode on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
The spirit of San Francisco
There’s a lot to love about our city and the Bay Area. Here’s what makes it great. Brought to you by The Bold Italic.
What we’re writing about
The best places to poop in San Francisco
We asked around and found some primo spots to take a dump in San Francisco. Not all of these are public restrooms, so buy a coffee or cocktail, or make up an excuse.
Lex is a new queer app that gives me hope
Lex — a new queer owned-and-operated app — helped writer T Von D. find her first post-pandemic date and enter a new realm of homo-social interactions.
“Hed VeryThai” review: Rare Isaan Thai platters hidden off a FiDi alley
Hed VeryThai just opened late January 2023 hidden in a downtown Financial District alley off Kearny Street. It’s focused on Isaan Northeastern Thai cuisine, but unlike many in town serving dishes from that region, Hed VeryThai serves food in khao gaeng style. While that broadly translates to curry over rice, it’s a platter of mini-bowls of complementary dishes, playing off contrasting flavors and textures.
What we’re doing this week
Mill Valley Music Festival
WHEN: May 13 - 14 various times
WHERE: 180 Camino Alto, Mill Valley
The Mill Valley Music Festival is a two-day outdoor arts and culture event produced by the Mill Valley Chamber and Noise Pop Industries, it features a heady, multi-genre mix of diverse national acts and local lights, coupled with world-class food, drink and art for your best friends and the ones you have yet to meet.
Hits! The musical
WHEN: May 8 7:30 P.M.
Singing, dancing, hundreds of costume changes and state of the art lighting and sound — Imagine songs like “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” “Hero,” “I Will Always Love You,” “Singing In The Rain,” and nearly 80 more of America’s most iconic songs performed by the greatest young singers and dancers in the country. The cast is 29 performers, ages 10-22.
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