[Hpn] San Francisco, CA - Ammiano's homeless plan is anti-Newsom - San Francisco Chronicle - August 9, 2002

Editor Editor <hccjr@bellsouth.net>
Fri, 09 Aug 2002 18:25:17 -0500


Ammiano's homeless plan is anti-Newsom
a ballot measure to guarantee 1,000 units of housing for the homeless
within two years, along with 700 slots for addiction treatment - but
where is the funding coming from?  Well, don't worry, they'll never be
built.


____________________________________________
Rob Morse - San Francisco Chronicle - August 9, 2002

San Francisco is broke. Members of the Board of Supervisors are
trying to figure out how to tax the rich, small-business people
and the middle class - - or perhaps serve them up as bourgeoisie
bourguignonne in soup kitchens.

Now along comes Board of Supervisors President Tom Ammiano with a
ballot measure to guarantee 1,000 units of housing for the homeless
within two years, along with 700 slots for addiction treatment.

The plan doesn't say how the city will pay for this.

Ammiano estimates it will cost $13 million.

Not even deducting for addiction treatment, that's $13,000 per
unit of housing -- enough for a well-crafted unit of dog-housing.

What we have here is an addiction problem, all right.

San Francisco has a large number of city officials addicted to
throwing taxpayers' money at problems -- while benefiting
constituencies they like, and hurting ones they don't like.

Come on, who would the kindly Ammiano want to hurt?

Well, Supervisor Gavin Newsom is ahead of him in mayoral buzz.

Ammiano failed to kill Newsom's "Care Not Cash" initiative, so
now he's offering his own homeless initiative, called "Exits from
Homelessness."

That's a phrase used by homeless advocates, but in Ammiano's case
it's his own attempt to exit from mayoral hopelessness.

Newsom's initiative, which would cut large cash payments to the
homeless and stop enabling their addictions, is overwhelmingly
popular with the voters.

With his initiative, Ammiano is trying to seem like a hero of the
poor, while sabotaging the rich kid who would be mayor.

Background:

Newsom collected 25,000 signatures from voters to get his Care
Not Cash initiative on the ballot.

Ammiano got just three other supes to sign his, and on the ballot
it goes, a Trojan horse opposition to Newsom's initiative.

Ammiano's initiative says if a homeless person spends six months
in a shelter instead of in more substantial housing, he can get
his entire cash grants back -- the ones Newsom's initiative would
cut.

Granted, Newsom's initiative is not flawless, will not "solve
homelessness" and won't sober up all the drunks on the streets.

But ponder for a moment the 1,000 units of housing for the
homeless -- or "formerly homeless," as Ammiano's initiative calls
them on the first page.

At $13,000 per unit to build, how much better will they be than
the old cardboard they're already using?

The wise and wily builder/fixer Joe O'Donoghue once told me,
"There is no such thing as low-cost housing."

Whatever you think of O'Donoghue, he's right.

No matter how you cut it, building a unit of housing in San
Francisco takes large units of money.

The Ammiano measure defines these 1,000 units of housing as
including single-room occupancy hotels, apartments, transitional
housing, supportive housing and residential treatment
facilities.

But however you define them, what are the chances of building
1,000 units of housing for the homeless in two years?

The chances are even worse than building 1,000 units of anything
in San Francisco. And for $13 million, the chances are nil-minus.

-- -- -- --

Maybe it should be illegal to put measures on the ballot that are
patently impossible and designed as a political statement or
political revenge.

The Ammiano initiative spends paragraphs on grievance procedures
for homeless in shelters, but there's nothing about how to build
and pay for the housing he's proposing.

San Francisco has become The City That Knows How to File a
Grievance.

Naturally, direct placement in housing is to be preferred to
giving the homeless wads of cash -- as long as those who need
supervision get it, and don't ruin those $13,000 housing units
taxpayers paid for.

But direct placement in housing is hard even for those of sound
mind, body and employment.

Many San Franciscans work one, two or three jobs and yet have to
live in one bedroom of a shared apartment.

So let's just decree 1,000 units of housing for the homeless, and
let everyone's taxes pay for them.

Well, don't worry, they'll never be built.

This is all about a unit of housing called "Room 200" of City
Hall, the mayor's office.


Rob Morse's e-mail address is rmorse@sfchronicle.com.
2002 San Francisco Chronicle
_____________________________________________
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