School board president ditches reopening talk / Groups ask city to buy hotels for homeless

It's Thursday, February 18th.

Good evening, San Francisco. 

Over 1,000 people signed up for last night’s discussion on school reopenings, which was moderated by HereSay Media reporter Sophie Bearman. But some six hours before the event, school board president Gabriela López bowed out, telling HereSay that she was too busy focusing on the reopenings. 

It was an interesting move, as Bearman pointed out on Twitter, given that the event was dedicated to that very topic. 

School board commissioner Jenny Lam still showed up for the talk and answered questions for about an hour. Bearman said her takeaway from the event was that families want concrete answers, but the district “doesn't have any specifics to provide.” 

“Despite my best efforts, we didn't learn a lot,”  Bearman said

Meanwhile, across the Bay, in the city of Oakley (not Oakland), school board members gathered on Wednesday for their monthly meeting and didn’t realize their video chat had gone live, letting parents listen in on some pretty juicy, pre-meeting gossip. 

“It's really unfortunate they want to pick on us because they want their babysitters back,” one board member said. Another hinted that parents wanted schools to reopen so they could smoke pot at home. 

You can watch the 2-minute video here. An online petition asking the Oakley board members to resign has received almost 3,000 signatures. 

Okay, now onto some more news… 

Over 50 advocacy groups sent a letter to Mayor Breed last week advocating that the city purchase hotels to provide more permanent housing solutions for the homeless. Currently, San Francisco is mostly leasing hotels for its shelter-in-place program (known as Project Roomkey, which is helping provide shelter for 1,800 people). Last year, the city did purchase two hotels with funding from the state for Permanent Supportive Housing. 

The advocacy groups estimated that buying and renovating the hotels would cost just over 300,000 per unit and could be ready within months. New affordable housing, meanwhile, costs around $600,000 per unit on average and can take years to build. The Chronicle said the city put out feelers and received information from at least 70 hotels interested in selling. 

The urgency to take action comes after the Biden Administration said it would refund cities entirely for the costs of the shelter-in-place hotel program. That could free up funds the city had set aside to support the program, which costs around $20 million per month to run. Supervisor Ahsha Safaí told the Chronicle as much as $150 million is available to purchase the hotels. 

“This is just an incredible window of opportunity and we don’t want the city to blow it,” said one advocate at a press conference on Wednesday. “The owners want to sell, we have the money, what are we waiting for?”

The San Francisco Police Commission voted 4-0 to reject the department’s budget proposal on Wednesday that called for laying off over 160 officers. The vote, however, “was a largely symbolic action,” Mission Local said. The budget will still be sent to Mayor Breed for fine-tuning, and then it will be presented to the Board of Supervisors. 

As Commission President Malia Cohen told Mission Local, “This is only the beginning of a long and painful process.”  

Quick Bits: 

⛹ The Warriors came back from a 19 point deficit to beat the Heat last night, moving to a 16-13 record for the season and 7th place in the Western Conference. (SFist

😔 A man found dead in his Mission District apartment earlier this week was discovered by police in a 3-foot-tall crawl space above his bathroom. (SF Gate

🚮 This Oakland resident, who was once homeless, is organizing trash cleanups around the city’s homeless encampments. So far he’s hauled away more than 250 bags of trash. (CBS

🚨 Drug-related deaths in San Francisco are rising. In January, 61 people died from a drug overdose in the city compared to 38 people who died during the same month last year. (Examiner

🏘 For around $100,000 a pop, Skeeter Jones is restoring home facades across the city to bring back their Victorian charm. (SF Gate

And finally… have you seen the massive street mural that local artist Amos Goldbaum is painting right now on the Sanchez Slow Street? It’s really neat. The painting (in “Giants orange”) depicts an “archetypal Noe Valley scene,” Goldbaum told the SF Weekly, with Victorian homes and Twin Peaks and Sutro Tower in the backdrop. 

Goldbaum’s “outline” style will allow kids (and adults!) to fill in the scene with chalk over time, said the Friends of Slow Sanchez, who helped get permitting and raise money for the painting. When completed, it will span the entire block between 24th and Elizabeth Streets. 

“It reimagines what a street can be,” Goldbaum told the Weekly. “A street can be for pedestrians as well as cars. It can be for art.” 

Check out more of Goldbaum’s really cool work (and merch!) on his website here

That’s all for today! And one correction from yesterday’s newsletter. In all my Ferris wheel excitement I said that the city was deciding whether to keep the SkyStar Observation Wheel for another five years. The extension would actually be for four years, through 2025. 😊

Alright, have a great night everyone and talk soon. - Nick B. 

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