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Employers Scramble to Claim New Tax Breaks After State Kills ‘Wasteful’ Enterprise Zones

Miguel Sola Torá, San Francisco Public Press — Dec 2 2013 - 5:08pm

Among the companies benefiting were two Sacramento strip clubs and some of the nation’s largest corporations, including Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Yum! Brands, FedEx, Starbucks and Wells Fargo

Large businesses in California “enterprise zones” reaped billions of dollars in tax breaks in recent years, but tax privacy laws made it impossible to tell whether the program actually encouraged companies to hire new workers in economically disadvantaged parts of the state. So the Legislature overhauled the $750 million program — but instead of killing it outrightstate put aside an equivalent amount for an even more elaborate array of tax credits. San Francisco officials said that a local, parallel tax break program will continue.

SAN FRANCISCO’S WORKFORCE REBOOT is the cover story in the fall 2013 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press. Check back for updates on other stories.

Board of Supervisors Cripples Transit Agency Plan for More Parking Meters

Josh Wolf, San Francisco Public Press — Nov 27 2013 - 12:57pm

Drivers will soon be able to use their credit cards to pay for parking at all 25,000 meters throughout San Francisco, but efforts to greatly expand metered parking are on hold. On Tuesday the Board of Supervisors approved a $51.2 million contract to replace the city’s aging coin-operated meters with machines that accept credit cards. But the supervisors rejected transit agency’s request for 10,000 new meters that it could install wherever it chose.

In other news: Mayor Ed Lee responds to concerns about Ellis Act evictions and affordable housing, and Supervisor David Chiu wants to legalize existing in-law units.

S.F. Board Watch: Supervisors Question High Cost of Jailhouse Calls

Josh Wolf, San Francisco Public Press — Nov 20 2013 - 4:55pm

The cost of a call from jail could come down, if the Board of Supervisors has its way. At San Francisco’s jails, inmates must pay an initial fee of between $1.25 and $3.95 for each phone call and are charged between 10 and 69 cents a minute, depending on whether it is local or out-of-state. Under a contract with an outside company, the Sheriff’s Department receives 65 percent of the money, for a fund to provide inmate services and supplies. The contract  is expected to generate more than $3 million in revenue over its four-year term, but the supervisors are talking about renegotiating.

In other news: Concerns over sex offenders at Bayview Homeless Shelter, city money to stop nonprofit displacement and the soda tax expected to appear on next year’s November ballot.

Twitter, Other Tech Companies Get S.F. Tax Breaks but Show Little Progress Hiring in Neighborhood

Yoona Ha, San Francisco Public Press — Nov 11 2013 - 12:51pm

The largest of the firms settling in mid-Market signed extensive community agreements, but critics call them toothless

Last year, 14 San Francisco technology companies received $1.9 million in tax breaks for setting up shop in the mid-Market Street area. Supporters said it was a good investment, bringing economic development and jobs to an economically depressed strip in the core of the city. The zone is certainly coming back to life, and the companies that benefited now employ more than 2,700 workers. But it is less clear that the deal resulted in entry-level jobs for residents of the hardscrabble neighborhood — one of the goals most sought by skeptics of the tax break. The largest six of the companies promised a list of community benefits that included an effort to identify qualified job seekers in the Tenderloin and mid-Market area. But the agreements are vaguely worded, the companies have been slow to report their progress to the city, and most were unresponsive to direct questions about employment practices.

This story is part of a special report on workforce development in the San Francisco Public Press fall print edition.

S.F. Board Watch: City to Consider Expanding ‘Green Zone’ for Marijuana Dispensaries

Josh Wolf, San Francisco Public Press — Nov 7 2013 - 5:54pm

The Board of Supervisors this week approved a limit to the number of marijuana dispensaries allowed to open on the southern end of Mission Street in the Excelsior commercial district. Medical cannabis dispensaries would need a special permit to open within 500 feet of an existing dispensary. Supervisor John Avalos said he may later propose expanding that distance to 1,000 feet. Plus: Marsh Theater’s Unwanted Neighbors | City Parks Closure | New Policy on Video Productions

Plans to Relax California Climate Regulations Upset Some Environmentalists

Barbara Grady and Lisa Weinzimer, San Francisco Public Press — Oct 31 2013 - 11:38am

California regulators are weighing plans to make it easier and less expensive for oil refineries and other big industries to comply with the state’s new cap-and-trade system for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and environmentalists are alarmed. At a hearing last week in Sacramento, the California Air Resources Board heard staff proposals to amend the year-old cap-and-trade program to extend “transition assistance” to industry through 2018. The change, coming on the heels of lobbying from industry, would give businesses possibly hundreds of millions of dollars worth of free allowances to pollute, and alter the economics of the emerging auction market for carbon.

S.F. BOARD WATCH: The Rent Is Too Damn High, and Other Viral Themes

Josh Wolf, San Francisco Public Press — Oct 30 2013 - 2:11pm

San Francisco supervisors are proposing legal changes in response to the escalating costs of residential and commercial properties. “There is truly a tale of two cities, and many of the people in this city are being displaced,” Supervisor David Campos said. “I don’t know that anyone has a panacea, if there is one, to deal with this crisis. That’s why I think it’s important for us to try different strategies.”

S.F. BOARD WATCH: Jack Spade Inspires Higher Threshold for Chain Store Ban

Josh Wolf, San Francisco Public Press — Oct 29 2013 - 9:48am

The restrictions on formula retail that apply to sections of San Francisco could soon be modified to expand the definition of what constitutes a chain store.  Plus: Dogs in the park  |  Sleeping in the park

S.F. BOARD WATCH: Supervisors Grapple With Half-Billion Dollar Price of New Jail

Josh Wolf, San Francisco Public Press — Oct 23 2013 - 3:24pm

San Francisco supervisors are still debating whether to commit the hundreds of millions of dollars it would take to build a replacement for the jail at 850 Bryant St., despite warnings that it could collapse during the next major earthquake. At least one supervisor, though, has come around to supporting it.

S.F. BOARD WATCH: City Workers to Contribute to Health Care Premiums

Josh Wolf, San Francisco Public Press — Oct 22 2013 - 12:12pm

Thousands of San Francisco employees will be required to pay a portion of their health care premiums under a new agreement the Board of Supervisors is expected to approve today. The changes will affect more than 6,000 workers who will begin paying 10 percent of their insurance premiums starting in January.

Also: Final Decision Expected for Potrero Ave. Apartments  |  Restricted Formula Retail on Third Street  |  City Partners With Kiva

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