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Mayor Lee’s Vacant Administration — UPDATED!

by Larry Bush on 01/12/2012

in Empty Chairs

As Mayor Ed Lee takes up duties as the city’s elected mayor, his office has provided CitiReport with an updated list of mayoral commissioners, including vacancies, and the dates when each commissioner’s term expires.

The full list can be downloaded here.

The Mayor’s Office response comes more than a week after an Immediate Disclosure Request and after CitiReport posted on vacancies based on the city’s online database of commissioners.

The January 12, 2012 release alters several aspects of CitiReport’s earlier report.

The mayor’s office has made no announcements of commission appointments since August 31, 2011. The updated list now shows a bare handful of vacant commission seats. Sitting commissioners are forced out of office by a law that limits holdovers to 60 days.

Meanwhile, a city website maintained by the mayor’s office that lists expired commission and board seats has not been kept current.

At issue are some of the city’s most important commissions, including a majority of seats on the city’s Building Inspection Commission and an expected three seats on the city’s Small Business Commission that Lee wants to enhance with the authority to delay or amend actions by the Board of Supervisors. One vacant seat is to be filled by the Mayor and two Board appointees are predicted to leave the Commission in the near term.

In some cases, appointments are made by the Board of Supervisors as well as the mayor. The Building Inspection Commission, where five commissioners’ terms have expired, includes two mayoral appointees and three Board of Supervisors appointees in expired terms.

Mayor Lee’s appointment of Christina Olague to the Board of Supervisors now leaves vacant a Planning Commission seat that is appointed by the Board of Supervisors.

Board vacancies are announced publicly at their web site (

Back Door Notice

There does not appear to be any requirement that the Mayor make a public announcement of appointments. Instead, the Mayor is required to notify the Board of Supervisors when he nominates candidates for appointment.

In December, Mayor Lee informed the Board that he was naming Belinda Christian and Richard Roda to the Human Rights Commission, Jean Fraser to the Health Services System Board, and Richard Hillis to the Board of Appeals. Hillis, formerly  the Deputy Director of the Office of Economic Development, now heads the Fort Mason Center.

According to a tenant organization, Kent Qian, an attorney with the National Housing Law Project, has been named to the Rent Board and was to be sworn in on January  6. The mayor’s calendar lists no events for that day and there has been no announcement from the mayor’s office.

Mayor Seeks Power Shift Away From Board

Mayor Lee is seeking to put a charter amendment before voters that would prevent the Board of Supervisors from enacting laws that the Controller deems as affecting job creation until the Small Business Commission has held hearings and sent amendments back to the Board.

The grant of authority to the mayoral appointed commission is unprecedented in city government. In most cases city commissions such as Planning, Permit Appeals, Historic Preservation and even Police and Fire hold hearings and make recommendations for the Board to consider. Mayor Lee’s proposal flips that in the case of the Small Business Commission to require that the Board defer to them before acting.

The Redevelopment Commission, focus of considerable controversy over the years, shuts down at the end of January as a result of state legislation that ended all California Redevelopment Agencies.

Two Redevelopment Commissioners – Darsan Singh and Rosario Anaya – terms expired in September and were apparently not reappointed. The remaining five commissioners now also leave office.

Lee Shifts Power Into Mayor’s Office

Mayor Lee has announced his intention to form a new oversight body to handle remaining Redevelopment projects, but this time without a role for the Board of Supervisors.

“The Oversight Board will approve certain changes to obligations and new agreements and implement enforceable agreements, including review and approval for issuing bonds,” according to the mayor’s press release. “The resolution designates that the Oversight Board to exercise authority in land use, development and design approvals under the enforceable obligations for Mission Bay, Hunters Point Shipyard and parts of Transbay.”

The proposal, introduced January 10, is sponsored by Supervisor Malia Cohen and cosponsored by Supervisors Jane Kim and new Supervisor Christina Olague.

Mayor Lee is proposing that the mayor appoint four of seven members, with additional appointments by the School Superintendent, City College Chancellor and the BART board. Under state legislation, a special authority is granted to any charter city that is also a county that gives the mayor more authority. San Francisco is the only jurisdiction that is eligible for this authority.

In other jurisdictions, appointments are also made by the Board of Supervisors and must include a resident.

Lee announced his nominees will be John Rahaim, Planning Director, Olson Lee, Housing Director, Nadia Sesay of the Controller’s Office and Bob Muscat, Executive Director of Local 21. Three of the four nominees either report to the Mayor or work in City Hall in close cooperation with the mayor.

The Board of Supervisors will confirm the mayor’s nominees but appears not to be authorized to confirm the nominees of other officials. The effect also is to transfer oversight from a citizen commission and puts city bureaucrats in charge. Most of those nominated by Mayor Lee report to him.

The effect also is to transfer oversight away from a citizen’s commission to city bureaucrats. In the past this has been a sensitive issue as decisions were made at City Hall with little input from residents.

The Redevelopment Agency’s decision to define much of the Western Addition in the 1960’s as blight, removing residents and businesses, resulted in a federal lawsuit that required citizen input when federal funds are involved in redevelopment efforts.

The Son-of-Redevelopment will be among issues that come first before the Board’s Rules Committee which just underwent its own make-over by Board President David Chiu.

Rules chair remains Jane Kim, and Mark Farrell remains on the committee. David Campos now will serve on the committee and Sean Elsbernd moves off. For the past year, Elsbernd was a dominant force in moving the committee in a conservative direction.

No Show List of Commissioners Posted

In December, the Mayor’s Office also belatedly posted the attendance records of commissioners for the quarter that ended September 30.  The public disclosure follows a series of investigations by CitiReport showing that most commissions faced a serious absenteeism problem and that some commissions halted meetings because of a lack of a quorum.

The new disclosures identify “unexcused” absences but not necessarily all absences. Those listed with unexcused absences during the 90 day quarter from July 1-September 30, 2011 are: Florence Kong, City Hall Preservation Advisory Commission; Rahul Prakash, Environment Commission; Jacqueline Lingad Ricci, Immigrant Rights Commission; Al Norman, Southeast Community Facilities Commission; and Joshua Zuckerman, Youth Commission.

The quarterly report can be found at:



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