Ex-Cons in San Francisco May Soon Enjoy 'Protected Class' Status

And well, why not? San Francisco is already covered by a strict rent-control ordinance, an unintended but predictable consequence of which is the 31,000 vacant housing units in the city. Landlords are increasingly taking their properties off the market rather than deal with the twin hassles of pesky tenants and petty bureaucrats for little profit. The proposed measure will in all likelihood only increase that number as property owners elect to leave their apartments empty rather than see them occupied by criminals. And, as any landlord knows, sometimes all it takes is one problem tenant to drive the good ones away.

The proposed law is even endorsed by someone who presumably should know better, District Attorney George Gascón. “Trust me, I recognize the concern,” Gascón said. “But if we want to reduce the likelihood of people going back to prison, then we have to provide them with an opportunity to reintegrate themselves.” Yes, but if we want to reduce the likelihood of crime occurring in our rental properties -- such a quaint notion! -- we won’t rent them to criminals.

Gascón’s comments would ordinarily be dismissed as the blathering of pandering pol, but before becoming district attorney he was San Francisco’s police chief. He came up through the ranks of my own Los Angeles Police Department, retiring as an assistant chief in 2006 to accept the job of chief of the Mesa, Ariz., police department. In 2009, he was appointed chief of police in San Francisco, and earlier this year he was appointed as district attorney, replacing Kamala Harris, who was elected as California’s attorney general.

In January, I reported over at the Tatler on Gascón’s political metamorphosis from Republican to Democrat, timed, coincidentally I’m sure, to accompany his campaign to retain his office in this November’s election. With his endorsement of the proposed law, his transformation would seem complete, perhaps giving you an idea of why he isn’t missed much at the LAPD.

But Gascón is just one man, no better or worse than any other leftist politician in San Francisco, where it would surprise no one if the proposed law is enacted and enforced with a vengeance. The late Herb Caen, longtime civic cheerleader and columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, used to refer to his beloved city as “Baghdad by the Bay.” Both San Francisco and Baghdad have changed much since he coined the phrase some 70 years ago. He’d be disappointed to see how apt the comparison is today.