The mayor and condo conversions

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Who is the real Ed Lee? Condo vote could tell us

We all know how Mayor Ed Lee got his start as a tenant advocate, and we all know that every tenant group in the city is fighting bitterly to stop Sup. Scott Wiener's legislation that would allow more condo conversions. In fact, Randy Shaw, who has been Lee's number on cheerleader in San Francisco, came out strongly against the Wiener bill.

So what happens if Wiener gets six votes? Would the mayor, who has been been a lot more conservative than he was in his firebrand youth days, defy the entire tenant establishment, including a lot of his allies in Chinatown, and sign this disaster into law? And how would the Randy Shaws of the world respond?

I think everyone assumes the mayor, who has eyed condo conversion money in the past, is a supporter of the Wiener approach. But he's also playing with political fire here. Lee had some progressive cover with his Twitter tax break (Sup. Jane Kim helped lead the charge) and has tried to talk up "civility" and compromise at City Hall. But this one's a pretty clear line in the sand: Approving the Wiener bill will infuriate the tenant community and cement his position as a pro-developer, pro-landlord, pro-speculator mayor. It would be about the most divisive thing he could do to his fragile reputation as a moderate willing to work with all sides.

It's going to be a defining political moment for Sup. London Breed, too: If she goes against tenants in one of the city's most tenant-heavy districts, she's going to be on the defensive for the next four years.

Sup. David Chiu says he's trying to work out a deal that tenants could live with, which is probably a waste of time: I don't think there's any arrangement that will allow more condo conversions that could get any organized tenant support. You can put in all the modest tenant protections you want, but in the end, you're still talking about more evictions. 

No: This will be a battle royale, all the way to the bitter and, and the tenants won't forget who was on which side.