David Lee and his landlord backers raise the stakes in District 1

This SF Association of Realtors-funded mailer is part of an onslaught attacking Eric Mar on behalf of David Lee.

Realtors and commercial landlords have transformed the supervisorial race in District 1 into an important battle over rent control and tenants' rights, despite their onslaught of deceptive mailers that have sought to make it about everything from potholes and the Richmond's supposed decline to school assignments and economic development.

It's bad enough that groups like the Coalition for Sensible Government – a front group for the San Francisco Association of Realtors, which itself is in the middle of internal struggles over its increasing dominance by landlords rather than Realtors – have been funding mailers attacking incumbent Eric Mar on behalf of downtown's candidate: David Lee. Combined spending by Lee and on his behalf is now approaching an unheard of $400,000 (we'll get more precise numbers tomorrow when the latest pre-election campaign finance statements are due).

What's even more icky and unsettling is the fact that Lee – a political pundit who has been regularly featured in local media outlets in recent years, usually subtly attacking progressives while trying to seem objective – has refused to answer legitimate questions about his shady background and connections or the agenda he has for the city. He refused to come in for a Guardian endorsement interview or even to respond to our questions. His campaign manager, Thomas Li, told me Lee is too busy campaigning to answer questions from reporters, but he assured me that Lee will be more accessible and accountable once he's elected.

Somehow, I don't find that very reassuring. But I can understand why Lee is ducking questions and just hoping that the avalanche of mailers will be enough to win this one. In a city where two-thirds of residents rent, but where landlords control most of the city's wealth, it's politically risky to be honest about a pro-landlord agenda.

“It's pretty clear that is a real estate-tenant battleground,” Ted Gullicksen, executive director of the San Francisco Tenants Union, told us. “District 1 is all about rent control, really. If David Lee wins, we'll see the Board of Supervisors hacking away at rent control protections. The only question is whether it will be a severe hack or outright repeal.”

Real estate and development interests have already been able to win over Sups. Jane Kim and Christina Olague on key votes – and even Mar, who has disappointed many progressives on some recent votes, which many observers believe is the result of the strong challenge by Lee and his allies – but an outright flip of District 1 could really be dangerous.

“I want people to know how high the stakes are in this election. I want people to know that outside special interests are trying to buy this election,” Mar told us.

Mar is far from perfect, but at least he's honest and accessible. With all the troublesome political meddling that we've seen in recent years from Willie Brown and Rose Pak on behalf of their corporate clients, particularly commercial landlords – which has been a big issue in District 5 this election and the mayor's race last year – progressives were disturbed by rumors that Pak is helping Mar.

When we asked him about it, he didn't deny it or evade the issue. “Yes, I have the support of just about all the Chinatown leaders, including Rose Pak,” Mar told us. “I'm proud to have a strong Chinese base of support.”

When asked about that support and how it will shape his votes, Mar noted that he also has strong support from labor and progressives, and that he will be far stronger on development and tenants issues than Lee. “I view myself as an independent, thoughtful supervisor who works very hard for the neighborhood,” Mar said. “There's an accusation [in mailers paid for the Realtors] that the Richmond has become unlivable, and that's just not true.”

We have a stack of official documents showing how Lee has used his Chinese-American Voter Education Project and his appointment to the Recreation and Parks Commission to personally enrich himself and his wife, using donations from rich corporations and individuals whose bidding he then does, and we mentioned some of that in our endorsements this week. We'll continue seeking answers from Lee and his allies about their agenda for the city.

In fact, just as I was writing this post, Lee sent a message to supporters responding to our editorial and other efforts to raise these issues. "I know it is shocking, but while working as a full-time employee for CAVEC for the last twenty years, I was paid a salary. But let me tell you this was no six figure job with benefits," he wrote. Actually, CAVEC's federal 990 form shows he was paid $90,000 per year, while his wife, Jing Lee, was paid up to $65,000 per year as "program director" up until 2006. 

"We did not receive any money from the government. All of our activities were funded by private donations and grants and our finances were audited on a regular basis," Lee wrote, not noting that he has refused to make public a full list of his donors, although we know from a 2001 report in Asian Week that they included Chevron, Wells Fargo, Anheuser-Busch, Bank of America, Marriott, Levi Strauss, Norcal Waste Management (now known as Recology), State Farm, and the late philanthropist Warren Hellman, who at the time was funding downtown attacks on progressives through groups including the Committee on Jobs.

District 1 has always been an important San Francisco battleground. During the decade that progressives had a majority on the Board of Supervisors, District 1 was represented first by Jake McGoldrick and then by Mar. Neither McGoldrick nor Mar always voted with the progressives, yet McGoldrick had to endure two failed recall drives funded by business and conservative interests.

Now, they have increased their bet, raising the question that President Barack Obama posed in last night's presidential debate: “Are we going to double down on the top down policies that got us into this mess?”

Let's hope not.


Eric Mar, whilst on the school board, voted against neighborhood school assignment.

He thought more west-side kids should be enrolled in east-side schools and vice-versa for better integration, balance, and equity in the district.


His own kids are at Presidio Middle School. He wouldn't want his own kids shipped across town to MLK, Willie Brown, or Everett.

That's for other people's kids.

Posted by Troll the XIV on Oct. 04, 2012 @ 10:20 pm

Why should parents be forced to send their kids to a school they don't necessarily want? It's better to have the current system where you can put in your choices into a lottery. You may not always get what you want, but 85% of the time you get one of your top 3 under the current system. Forcing parents into a one-size-fits-all policy will cause more problems than it solves.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 04, 2012 @ 10:39 pm

Um, Greg?
I know you are a non-breeder and ignorant on these matters, but Presidio Middle School is desired by everybody.

It is everybody's "choice." But Eric Mar got to choose first.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 06, 2012 @ 10:03 am

You know very little about me, and I'm fine to keep it that way. But let's talk about substance rather than ad hominem attacks.

85% of parents get one of their first 3 choices. If Eric Mar was among them, then I'm happy for him. Do you have proof that he received preferential treatment?

Like I said, not everyone gets what they want under the current system, but the vast majority do. I'm not ready to replace it with a system that forces every single parent to send their kids to a particular school whether they want to or not. "Neighborhood schools" is a euphemistic way of saying "parents get NO choice."

Maybe that's why the voters of San Francisco rejected it, even after a deceptive campaign that proponents thought they'd win in a walk.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 06, 2012 @ 10:34 am

Greg, you get six choices. Those who choose Presidio/Hoover/Giannini middle schools do not get their choice 85% of the time.

No, no proof about Eric Mar. But "City Family" members often miraculously get their first choices. There are many "City Family" parents/kids at the prestigious Clarendon Elementary, for example.

Eric Mar supports all-district enrollment. And so do I, for equity purposes. But, as it works out, many west-side kids get shipped across town to southeast schools. And I agree with that policy, Greg, that's how it should work..

But Mar should have put his money where his mouth is. He should have sent his kids to a southeast school. He got Presidio. Luck of the draw? Maybe. Inconsistent with his school board policy? Definitely.

Posted by Troll the XIV on Oct. 06, 2012 @ 10:55 am

It doesn't surprise me that Lee cancelled his Guardian interview. It comes on the heels of him telling the Richmond Democratic Club that he didn't care to attend their endorsement meeting because he felt that they wouldn't endorse him anyway.

So neither the Guardian nor the local Democratic club is worthy of Mr. Lee gracing them with his presence. Do I sense a pattern developing?

This isn't someone who I would want as my neighborhood supervisor. If this guy's elected, it's back to the bad old days when the doors of City Hall were effectively closed to all but wealthy elites.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 04, 2012 @ 11:10 pm

Sounds like Lee is channeling Romney'e 47% remarks.
Is there any connection between CAVEC and those folks who were filmed violating election laws during Ed Lee's campaign.
Any scuttle-butt about whether Gascon is finally gonna pursue this.
Apart from CAVEC, what other Super-Pak is involved in this race.
GO A's
GO 49ers.

Posted by Patrick Monk.RN. on Oct. 05, 2012 @ 8:32 am

I took a class with David Lee at SFSU titled Urban Politics and Community Power. The class turned out to be nothing about community but everything about urban politics and power. "Professor" Lee enlisted our class to perform surveys in the Richmond district, watch youtube clips of Rose Pak, clips of Eric Mar on the Daily Show, and even allowed Jim Ross to come in and make a "presentation". David Lee has been planning this campaign for a long time, and he took advantage of eager political science students to help him.

It was unfair and manipulative.

I distinctly remember one class session where he listed all the demographics on the board (tenants, landlords, elderly, immigrants, yuppies, families) and told us how he would craft his message for each one... suggesting that he can gain the votes of all of them by switching positions and talking points for each one.

Reelect Mar.

Posted by SFSU Student on Oct. 05, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

Mar won by about 300 votes. And he's done NOTHING for the Richmond. He's been nothing but a joke. People here hate him. NEXT!

Posted by RichnondRes on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 11:33 am

I have worked both with Eric Mar and David Lee many years ago before they were involved with running for political office. Let me tell you, Eric Mar is someone who listens, is generous in many ways, and will stand by you. This is his character and the Richmond District is lucky to have him as their supervisor. David Lee, on the other hand, is an opportunist who seems like he will go where the money is. He never struck me as particularly sharp either.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 05, 2012 @ 4:06 pm

I've worked with both of them, too. I, too, like Eric better. He's open, very transparent, and a likeable person.

Lee is not an open person. He is not a likeable person.

I've worked with both of them. This is my view, too.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

"listens"? Oh yes...and gets that look on his face. and then votes exactly as Mirkarimi tells him to. Unfortunately, he is PAID to represent the Richmond. Which he has never done. He can't even be found most of the time.

He's sold us out and sold us out and sold us out. Ask any small business owner what he's EVER done to assist them. drive down Geary and see how it looks -- he hasn't even been able to get more than a handful of medians relandscaped in 4 years -- and they're really badly done. Happy Meals Toys and other stupidity is what he spent his time on, hoping that he'd get statewide or national attention and get another job in politics.

Man is not just a waste of time -- he's a nasty, underhanded, smarmy piece of work.

Posted by RichnondRes on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 11:36 am

Eric Mar voted against Mirkarimi and lost a lot of votes and supporters after doing so . . .

Posted by Guest on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 10:35 pm

On a tangential subject, you just have to love David Lee's occupation title on the ballot. He listed himself as a "voting rights educator." Sounds like he never held a real job in his life, but what most people don't realize is that he actually managed to make big bucks from his little Corporate-backed non-profit. And his wife made a pretty fat paycheck too. Nice work if you can get it. I'd love to be a bullshit artist for 90K a year!

Posted by Greg on Oct. 06, 2012 @ 10:39 am

You might want to actually learn something about what David Lee did and what CAVEC is before you display your ignorance and go shooting your mouth off. Eric Mar will be lucky to find a job walking dogs come January.

Posted by Homee on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

"he actually managed to make big bucks from his little Corporate-backed non-profit."

The non-profit industrial-complex. Sucks off money from the General Fund, but doesn't provide any services for poor people in return.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 06, 2012 @ 5:31 pm

There is little difference between Mar and Lee, except that Lee is even farther to the right.

Mar pushed the astrotufing of the soccer fields and has done nothing about park privatization.

He also helped install Ed Lee!

Better than David Lee though!

Posted by Richard on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 9:27 am

Based solely on the amount of WASTE my household gets from LEE, I'm definitely not voting for him. A five person household does not need 8 copies of the same campaign flier. EVERY DAY our mailbox is filling up with SPAM from Lee's campaign. Though I'm not siding with either candidate just yet, at the very least, Mar got his canvassers to ring the door bell and hand off paper flyers (one set) for our whole house to share. So thanks for that Eric Mar.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 9:55 am

FYI: these do not all come from David Lee -- which is why you sometimes get 2 different flyers in one day. Different groups that are supporting him create their own materials -- and the law says they can't even consult the candidate and get their approval.

This is really no reason not to vote for Lee. Vote for the person who will work for the Richmond and represent our view. We haven't had anyone do that for 12 years now and our district is really suffereing from Mar's neglect.

Posted by RichnondRes on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 11:32 am

Trust me, no one in the Richmond District wants to have their kid sent to a school on the East Side so someone can come from the East side to a school a block from their home. Presidio and Roosevelt are good Middle Schools, Washington a decent high school and was better when it was a neighborhood school, and the elementary schools are all good, Alamo, Lafayette, Peabody, Sutro, Argonne and McCoppin. It only hurts people in our area. We need to be able to offer a guarantee to keep middle class families and compete with Burlingame and other suburbs to keep families. Otherwise it will only be a city for rich (private school) and poor (people happy to be on 2 buses across town.

Parents and kids are sleep deprived due to the immense amounts of homework and competition to get into Lowell. Making them spend 12 hours a week in some cases extra in a car (parents) or 6 (kids) makes them have less study time, adds traffic and pollution to our City, etc.

Also, go to Alamo, look. If they had a rule only black and Latino kids could come to West Side schools, it would be OK, then add capacity to guarantee everyone in the area can go to school in the Richmond who lives there, but don't allow any white or Asian kids in over any kid in the Richmond. Alamo has very few black or Latino kids. It's not integrating, plus they closed Cabrillo despite families leaving.

Mar's people want the Richmond to become like the Marina so landlords can make more and there's turnover, no rent control. They want it to be a place you live for a few years, then move when your kids get older, like the Marina. Landlords make more that way. You get the rich in private school, the poor who will take this, and the middle class moves when their kids get older or if not, go to the East side and artificially inflate the test scores while the achievement gap stays big and the district can avoid doing what they have to to improve black and Latino scores, which is end seniority/tenure as the sole basis for layoffs for teachers, pay for tutors, raise taxes on the rich to pay for it, and convince everyone to study 15-20 hours a week, not the current 2-5 in some areas. You won't have Asians studying 15-20, whites studying 10-15 with tremendous financial support and parents who can buy them tutors, and blacks and Latinos studying 5 or fewer and get the same results. You can only close the gap by convincing all to work long hours and hiring tutors. Anything else is a fantasy.

Posted by Fred Dobbs on Oct. 16, 2012 @ 3:01 am

If you live in the Richmond, you should be able to send your kid to school in the Richmond. It's a quality of life issue.

Posted by Fred Dobbs on Oct. 16, 2012 @ 3:02 am

I agree TOTALLY. So does David Lee.

Posted by Real Richmond on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 11:43 am

This claim about David Lee being against rent control is beyond absurd and has been invented out of thin air by Eric Mar, who's bid for re-election is going down in flames.

This is a cynical -- and racist -- ploy by Mar to try to scare the many Asian and Russian immigrants in the Richmond into voting for him by planting what he knows is an absolute LIE.

David Lee is the record for some time as supporting rent control -- and has been for some time. And there is no measure regarding rent control on the ballot -- and rent control hasn't even been a issue under discussion in this election (or the last one!)

Yet suddenly, Mar has a paid to put a guy on the street of the Richmond district trying to get people to sign a fake "petition" to "counter" this supposed proposition that is going to eliminate rent control.

This is a truly desperate ploy to scare people for no reason.

Mar knows very well how the "Chinese internet" works. If a few Chinese people see someone on the street saying there is going to be a vote against rent control and believe it -- it will spread like wildfire. Same is true for the Russian immigrant community.

Mar won the last election by just 300 votes. For 4 years, he has failed to represent the wishes of his constituents. Mar is seriously disliked in his district (probably why he rarely has the nerve to even show his face here, but hides out in the Mission).

He can't even find constituents in the Richmond to work for him -- he's having to bring in people from the Mission. (Think this isn't insulting to residents of District 1? Imagine what would happen if a bunch of Chinese Richmond district residents showed up in the Castro to work for a candidate no one in the Castro wanted!)

I have been a resident of the Richmond district since I came as a new college graduate in 1979. I moved into a nice, middle-class neighborhood with good schools, where I felt safe and which had a vibrant small business community, tons of parks.

Under the McGoldrick and Mar, my once-pleasant neighborhood has been in steady decline for 12 years. McGoldrick and Mar took their salaries and their perqs, barely checked in, and refused to represent our interests and wishes. Mar's done little more except embarrass us on "The Daily Show" ranting about Happy Meals and going off about the Grammy awards categories. It

My neighborhood is now filled with empty storefronts and abandoned trash on the corners. Seedy-looking massage parlors and "stress reduction centers" are popping up like mushrooms. Yes, the economy is partly to blame...but under Carmen Chu, the Sunset has become bustling, vibrant, doing well. If we had a supervisor who cared about our neighborhood and would work FOR it, we could do this, too.

Mar's statements that he's "for the people" and "responsive" and "caring" and all of that is total hogwash. He's turned his back on us and even (iilegally) had a Richmond resident -- a distinguished attorney -- fired off the community police advisory board, because Eric felt "intimidated" when he stood up at a public meeting and asked Mar what he intended to do about a problem that had been continuing in the neighborhood for years and had grown exponentially worse.

You can read the article that appeared in the Wall St. Journal about this incident.

Then, there was Supe. "I hate fast food" Mar standing up in front of the Entertainment Commission, stating "I eat at Jack in the Box all the time! oh, er -- heh, heh - I guess that sounds kind of funny coming from me, huh?" (that video should still be on the SF.gov site for the Entertainment Commission...)

Did it sound funny? Sure. Were we surprised? No -- after all, campaign season was about to begin, no one was supporting Mar, ..and Jack in the Box is one of only a few wealthy corporations doing business in Mar's district (McD's doesn't have a location in Mar's district...)

These are just a couple of reasons why District 1 residents can't fling Mar far enough, fast enough.

These outrageous lies about rent control are designed to mislead the immigrant population in District 1 into supporting Mar. It's just another example of why we want him gone.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 11:27 am

I have been reading through the comments here. And I would be very surprised if more than 1 or two of the posters live in District 1. I'll bet you anything they live in the Mish or the Haight. That would be in line with exactly the way Mar operates -- he hides from his constituents, imports people to pretend they're residents who support him...

Posted by Guest on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 11:42 am

Why post here? Why not GO to the debate TONIGHT?

It's at 7 p.m. at the Richmond Rec Center. Mar and Lee.

If you have questions, go and ASK them. I can't believe how many people bitch and moan and spread rumors -- instead of asking the people who are asking YOU to vote for them and pay them money to represent YOU for 4 years!

if they don't have answers you like -- or won't answer -- don't vote for them.

This is our chance to say "this is what I want to see, this is what I want done, this is what concerns me -- now, what will you do about it if I give you my vote?"

They need you NOW like they're never going to need you for another 4 years. Hold their feet to the fire and make them tell you what they are going to do for YOU!

Posted by Real Richmond on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 11:46 am

the correct term is "square peg trying to fit into a round hole." A round peg can fit into a square hole quite easily.

Posted by marke on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

Ok -- just in case there are people out there who don't know what this is really about.

Eric Mar couldn't raise money or get endorsements. He was having to stand out on Geary Blvd at bus stops by himself and try to beg people to sign the paper that would allow him to have his filing fee waived. (I saw him doing it one morning at rush hour at Arguello and Geary -- it was pretty sad. He almost didn't make the deadline).

In order to get backing, he went to SIEU and promised them the moon if they would endorse him. Vote for whatever they want -- no problems.

How could SIEU lose? Sitting Supervisors don't lose. And everyone knows the Richmond district is full of immigrants who don't vote, right? Stealing candy from a baby. So they endorsed him. Spent a lot of money supporting him.

And now -- !!!!!! -- WFT? Lee is the favorite. Lee is going to win!

SIEU can't let this happen. They spent money. They had their man in place -- at a time when it's hard for unions to find sympathizers. And the Richmond isn't filled with union workers.

So the union is throwing everything they can at Lee. Everything. True or not. Doesn't matter. Just have to get their man, Mar, re-elected.

SFBG knows enough about city politics to know exactly what is going on here. Instead of exposing it, being responsible journalists, they're filling the role of high school newspaper when it's time to elect cheerleaders. The stuff that's written in this paper is infantile and embarrassing.

We have a city to run. We need people on the Board of Supervisors to look after our neighborhoods, not be off like Mar holding meetings in hot tubs, and trying to tell the Grammy Awards what to do in hope that, if he's annoying enough, he'll get 2 free tickets and be able to take his daughter (who he sometimes pays child support to...)

If you're going to vote, you need to be able to spot a scam and a fool when you see them. Just sayin.

Posted by Homee on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

I was at the debate and they yelled at each other a lot. While I disagree somewhat with Lee sending his kids to private school, in fairness he wanted them to go public but lost the lottery. He hopes they'll go to public middle school and Lowell and will apply for public for his younger child. I support Lee for being for neighborhood schools.

However, Mar is a good father. I didn't know he was divorced but I see him pick up his daughter all the time and go to PTSA meetings. He is a dedicated father and is not neglecting to pay child support. I see him with his daughter all the time. You'll see proof he is a good father when his daughter gets into Lowell, next year, as she's in 7th grade now.

That being said, I'll probably vote for Lee because everyone in this neighborhood should be able to send their kids to school in this neighborhood.

I disagreed with Lee yelling at Mar that he is owned by Rose Pak. However, some of Mar's people originally accused Lee of that.

Rose Pak is just one person. Dennis Kelly was also there, and he is supporting Mar. Kelly supports Seniority at all costs. That worries me. I support unions for the most part but believe, as Obama does, they should be limited to negotiating benefits and salary, not working conditions and whether they can be laid off and merit pay and seniority. I've seen bad teachers survive and good teachers be laid off only because they're young. The best teacher should be hired, promoted, and saved, and the lemons should be forced to move on. Kelly is against this and I fear Mar is too.

Posted by Fred Dobbs on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 9:38 pm