Shaw's "housing civil war" is really about influence peddling

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Randy Shaw advocated publicly and privately for the Twitter tax break he crafted in 2011 with Jane Kim and Ed Lee.
Luke Thomas

I’m always wary of the BeyondChron stories by Tenderloin power broker Randy Shaw, who uses the website as a propaganda tool for his interests and those of the politicians who he helped get into office, including Mayor Ed Lee and Sup. Jane Kim, as I wrote in last week’s paper.

Sure, they can be a great way to understand what the Mayor Lee and his business community allies are up to, as Shaw floats his little trial balloons that try to frame the city’s political dynamics in the interests of his allies. And now, he’s got San Francisco (aka Modern Luxury) Magazine amplifying those efforts.

For example, did you know that we’re in the midst of a “housing civil war” in San Francisco? No, me neither. But that’s what Shaw declared this week, a declaration that the folks at downtown-friendly Modern Luxury amplified today by reprinting that story.

The tone of the story is a little more even-handed than usual, given that Shaw is being careful not to hurt his close relationship with Kim. But it’s also clearly a shot across her bow on behalf of Lee and the pro-development crowd that Shaw has cozied up to in recent years.

Kim already engages in a delicate balancing act between the progressive community that helped her get elected (which is increasingly restive about the gentrification and displacement that have been fed by economic policies she supported after winning the race in 2010) and the political establishment surrounding Mayor Lee, whom she regularly lavishes praises upon.

Apparently, it’s a dance that she’s performed pretty well, given her lack of serious challengers as she runs for reelection this year. But Shaw’s piece seems to be a subtle public warning to remember where her political bread is buttered, and to not go too far with her proposal to limit luxury condo development when it exceeds 70 percent of the total housing construction.

As with any legislation, the devil is in the details on this one, and Shaw seems to be trying to have a big say in influencing those details by declaring a “war” without identifying any of its combatants or battlefields. Then again, this piece doesn’t seem intended for a general audience, but for those in the back rooms where Shaw truly exercises his power.   

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