Groups with generic and interchangeable-sounding names like GrowSF, TogetherSF Action, and Abundant SF are trying to exert more moderate influence on SF politics, with few actual members, but large amounts of campaign donation cash.
For wealthy people working in tech to complain about “soaring housing costs” in San Francisco brings to mind a meme of a fellow in a hot dog suit saying “We’re all trying to find the guy who did this.” But to hear it from a handful of new or new-ish YIMBY-offshoot political advocacy groups, San Francisco’s progressive policies are more responsible for the high cost of housing than are employees of well-heeled tech companies who throw mountains of VC money at their employees. These groups also blame progressive policies for the city’s drug use issues and homelessness, as is covered in a new AP profile of SF centrist advocacy groups Grow SF, Abundant SF, and TogetherSF Action.
Tech entrepreneurs who flocked into San Francisco two decades ago bringing jobs and wealth, and also soaring housing prices and gentrification, are becoming a rising political force in a city they say is woefully off track. https://t.co/TVo4hdHffw— The Associated Press (@AP) April 28, 2023
The AP says “The groups are highlighting fissures among Democrats in this liberal stronghold” of San Francisco, but these fissures are nothing new. Lacking any real conservative movement, San Francisco politics has been a “moderates vs, progressives” game for at least 20 years, going back to the Willie Brown-Tom Ammiano mayoral contest of 1999, and probably longer. But these groups may have played a role in moving the needle in last year’s school board recalls, Chesa Boudin recall, and the election of Joel Engardio as District 4 supervisor.
“In San Francisco there’s a lot of political ideology that holds people back from working together for the things that they actually agree on,” TogetherSF co-founder Kanishka Cheng tells the AP (Cheng was previously a staffer for Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Mark Farrell.)
Fact: Unsafe streets, dirty sidewalks, and property crime aren't just part of city life, they're a direct result of poor leadership.— GrowSF (@GrowSF) February 2, 2023
San Francisco is fixable.
Last year @GrowSF helped elect five new leaders, and next year we'll do it again. Help us help SF by donating today.
The most prominent of these groups thus far is GrowSF. Their website shows just four board members, and they don’t have any kinds of meetings posted, so there may not be much more than a financial and social media influence campaign at work here. But GrowSF does have a substantial Twitter following at nearly 16,000 followers. And they did raise $50,000 in their efforts to elect Engardio and defeat Gordon Mar. In a race won by just 460 votes (out of nearly 27,000 cast), you could sure argue that may have made a difference,
"When it comes to the future of the 100-year-old Castro Theatre, I have definitely planted my flag on the side of moving forward with plans to renovate it."— GrowSF (@GrowSF) April 27, 2023
The story by @donnasachet in @thebolditalic:https://t.co/2Bu61tmTV6
GrowSF also bought the Bold Italic last December, and lately seem all in on advocating for Another Planet Entertainment’s plans for the Castro Theatre. “There is a very small minority of folks with an aversion to change that want to freeze the city and keep it in the past,” GrowSF co-founder Sachin Agarwal told the AP. “But the vast majority of folks here want to see growth, and they want to see progress.” (Though I’ve been to a few Castro Theatre meetings, and I would argue with the assessment that a “vast majority” favor Another Planet Entertainment’s plans.)
“I don’t think they’re interested in coming together to solve problems,” Preston told the AP in response. “They’d rather have public fights and try to exploit those wedge issues for electoral gains.”
There’s also Abundant SF, which the AP says “plans to spend millions to back ballot measures and candidates,” and that organization does at least list an occasional meeting. And the aforementioned TogetherSF Action (whose other co-founder is SF Standard financier Michael Moritz) does have some volunteer events. But one has to wonder how much “man behind the curtain” there is with these groups.
That is, do these groups have significant membership or meetup activities? Or are they a small cadre of people essentially just driving political action committee donations, while claiming to speak for a supposed majority?
As Supervisor Aaaron Peskin told that SF Standard when asked about the formation of Abundant SF, “I don't think there's anything new here. All I have to say is: same shit, different name.”
Image via Medium