SF police union a no-show for new chief from LA
December 21, 2016
Updated: December 21, 2016 6:00am
The San Francisco Police Officers Association was noticeably absent Tuesday for Mayor Ed Lee’s City Hall announcement of L.A. import William Scott as the town’s new top cop.
It’s no secret that the union — which has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to various political campaigns and candidates backed by the mayor — had been lobbying hard for acting Chief Toney Chaplin to get the nod. The union even took out ads on KCBS radio touting Chaplin and warning against picking an outside chief.
The first sign that Lee wasn’t going to heed the union’s advice came over the weekend when sources tell us he called POA President Martin Halloran personally to say he was facing a “tough choice” in the selection — the first hint that Lee might turn down the call for Chaplin and go outside the department.
The official word came to Halloran late Monday night when Lee’s chief of staff, Steve Kawa, called the union leader to invite him to the announcement the next morning.
“I’d be happy to stand behind Chief Chaplin when the announcement is made,” Halloran said.
After a pause, Kawa informed him that it wasn’t going to be Chaplin.
The union did release a statement later saying it was looking forward to meeting the new chief and “hopes to work closely with him.”
When asked at the news conference about the POA’s opposition to bringing in an outsider, Scott said it was common for police to be resistant to change. But, he added, as chief “I get the kind of union that I deserve.” And, Scott said, “if I’m firm and I’m fair,” then that is the type of union he will get in return.
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While the news conference was long on the call for change — bringing policing “into the 21st century” in the use of force — it’s worth noting there was virtually no mention of the chief’s other duties … like fighting crime.
Net gain: The Golden Gate Bridge suicide net, which was in danger of collapsing under the weight of spiraling costs, is back on track — thanks to a sleight of hand play by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission that brought $40 million in Bay Bridge toll money into the mix.
Bay Bridge commuters were asked to come to the rescue when Golden Gate officials discovered that hanging a mesh steel net under their bridge could cost upward of $200 million when all is said and done, way over the original $76 million estimate.
The soaring costs had bridge Director Denis Mulligan diving for dollars in every direction. While he found extra money from Caltrans and from the bridge district itself, they were still short $40 million with a hard Dec. 16 deadline to approve a bid to build the net looming.
They found it, thanks to the cash-rich Bay Area Toll Authority, the arm of the MTC that collects tolls on the Bay Area’s seven state-run bridges — but not the Golden Gate, which runs its own operation.
The Toll Authority had more than enough money to cover the $40 million gap. But the money came from bridge tolls, and under state law it couldn’t be handed directly over to another bridge authority.
So the MTC came up with a “money swap.”
They took $40 million in federal money that was to go into buying new BART cars and moved it over to help with the suicide barrier. Then they transferred $40 million in toll money over to BART to make up for the federal funds that went to the barrier.
“This is the way we could get it done,” said MTC spokesman Randy Rentschler.
“Now is not the time to quit,” said Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who sits on the 21-member MTC.
And with the new money in hand, the contract was awarded to a joint venture of Oakland’s Shimmick/Danny’s Construction, with work expected to begin next year.
Whoop-de-doo: Not a lot of smiles from either side after the city on Monday said it had won a $60 million, out-of-court settlement in its building code case against the San Francisco Academy of Art.
While the deal to bring 33 of the for-profit school’s 40 buildings into planning code compliance was heralded as a “win-win” by both sides, the news was announced at separate news conferences where the testy feelings on both sides soon bubbled up.
“This was a case where the academy — a private, for-profit company — amassed a real estate empire while thumbing its nose for a decade at planning and building department code requirements,” said City Attorney Dennis Herrera.
Academy of Art attorney James Brosnahan, who had been brought in to reach a settlement, conceded that the school had expanded “probably too rapidly,” but said there was no need for Herrera to file the lawsuit last May.
“We would have settled on these terms without the city attorney doing the whoop-de-do,” Brosnahan said, “but if he wants to claim credit for something that didn’t need to happen,” so be it.
Real estate bet: The $13 million sale of a penthouse atop the sinking Millennium Tower certainly is raising eyebrows among owners of neighboring units in the downtown high-rise.
On the one hand, tech veteran Craig Ramsey’s purchase of the two-bedroom unit from the estate of late Silicon Valley investor Tom Perkins gives neighbors reason to hope they won’t take a bath on their own units.
On the other, it could make it tougher for the homeowners association to claim big damages if it green lights a lawsuit against the developer.
As for Ramsey, he told the Wall Street Journal that he believes he made a good investment — considering that Perkins paid $9.4 million when he bought the place in 2009 and spent another $9 million to build it out.
“I’m willing to take whatever risk there is to benefit from a depressed environment.” Ramsey told the paper, adding that he is confident the Millennium will soon be repaired.
San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross appear Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. Matier can be seen on the KPIX TV morning and evening news. He can also be heard on KCBS radio Monday through Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Got a tip? Call (415) 777-8815, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @matierandross