Clean Up The Plaza run by political consultant with ties to developers

Jack Davis, flanked by Gil Chavez and Clean Up The Plaza advocates, responds to Guardian inquiries.
Steven T. Jones

Neighborhood and progressive political activists have long been suspicious of the shadowy Clean Up The Plaza campaign and its possible connections to a massive housing development proposed for 16th and Mission streets — and the Guardian has now confirmed that developer-connected political consultant Jack Davis is playing a key role in that campaign.

Asked by the Guardian whether he is being paid by the developers — Maximus Real Estate Partners, which has submitted plans to build a 10-story, 351-unit housing complex overlooking the 16th Street BART plaza — Davis told the Guardian, “That’s between me and the IRS.”

Our exchange with Davis and Gil Chavez, a Davis roommate who runs the Clean Up The Plaza campaign, occurred yesterday outside the LGBT Center where they and three other campaign workers (who refused to speak to us) were promoting their cause and collecting signatures on petitions calling for crackdowns on the plaza before the debate inside between Assembly District 17 candidates David Chiu and David Campos.

Clean Up The Plaza has been refusing to return calls from the Guardian or other local journalists for months, and the group hasn’t filed any paperwork with the San Francisco Ethics Commission in association with its political fundraising or lobbying efforts.

Asked about the group’s relationship with the project developers, Chavez told us, “They’re in communication with us and we’re in communication with them, but they haven’t funded us.” Asked who paid for the group’s website, mailers, window signs, and other expenses, Chavez said it was him and other donors that he wouldn’t identify.

Davis has been the go-to political consultant on big campaigns backed by real estate interests in San Francisco, working on the successful mayoral campaigns of Frank Jordan, Willie Brown, and Gavin Newsom, as well as a number of high-profile development projects, including the 1996 ballot measure approving construction of AT&T Park.

He and Chavez say they live together in the neighborhood and their only motivation in running the group is improving public safety. “I’m happy to to talk about what Clean Up The Plaza is,” Davis told us. “I live at 17th and Mission and I’ve been mugged.”

But housing activist Sara Shortt of the Housing Rights Committee isn’t buying it, calling the group “a fake grassroots campaign that is misleading this community.”

“If you didn’t know Jack Davis’ history in politics in San Francisco, you might be able to take that at face value,” Shortt said of Davis’ claims to be simply a concerned citizen. “Given his ties to big developers, it’s not very believable.”

Willie Brown even heralded Davis’ return to political work two years ago in his San Francisco Chronicle column, entitled “Political consultant Jack Davis back on S.F. scene,” writing that he has returned to local political circles following a hiatus in Wales the previous few years.

“You political types, be warned. Jack Davis is back in town,” the column began, ending with, “I think that after watching from the sidelines for a while, he's ready to return. Can't wait to see whom he decides to work for. Stay tuned.”

Is Davis working on fake grassroots campaign designed to smooth the way for a massive gentrifying housing projects in one of the city’s last remaining neighborhoods that still welcomes poor people? Stay tuned.

San Francisco Ethics Commission Director John St. Croix told the Guardian that the group should be registered if it has raised more than $1,000 or if it is lobbying at City Hall -- indeed, the group has boasted on its website of efforts to influence Campos and other city officials to increase police patrols and cleansing of the plaza -- particularly if it is being paid by a third party to do so.

“If they’re lobbying, obviously we want to know,” St. Croix told us, saying that he planned to personally follow-up with the group on its activities.

Davis denies that the group is in violation of any disclosure laws, claiming it is simply a small neighborhood group, and he referred our inquiries to the group’s attorney, James Perrinello, a partner at the high-powered and politically connected law firm of Nielson Merksamer Parrinello Gross & Leoni, who hasn’t yet returned our calls.

For more on Clean Up The Plaza and other campaigns to “clean up” poor neighborhoods as a precursor to gentrification and market rate housing development -- including the ongoing efforts to do so in the Tenderloin and Mid-Market areas -- read next week’s Bay Guardian. 

[UPDATE 3/18: Former Guardian Editor/Publisher Tim Redmond's 48 Hills site just posted a long report by reporter Julia Carrie Wong that includes an admission by Davis that he is indeed a paid consultant for Maximus, as well as interesting conflicting statements from Maximus and Chavez about a meeting they held. Check it out.] 



Why do you waste your time with these trash of the Ed Lee Cult and their inane comments? They're like children in a sandbox with about the same maturity level, if that. You're not about to get anywhere with them. They're not here for the same reasons you are. They are political tools/trolls. These trash are a waste of everyone's time.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 16, 2014 @ 4:22 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 16, 2014 @ 4:34 pm

people like Greg are played like a fiddle.

Chinaman, the only reason people even use that term anymore is to antagonize the hyper PC race theory types.

Posted by guest on Mar. 16, 2014 @ 1:16 am

he hates Asians and Chinamen. Opportunism.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 16, 2014 @ 5:31 am
Posted by Guest on Mar. 16, 2014 @ 7:38 am

Absolute Garbage. But I suspect that's the intent. Just more hateful troll droppings.

Losers: People who have nothing else better to do in their pathetically sad lives than to write hateful troll garbage on the SFBG site.

"Losers should go back to China or wherever."

Am I to read from that mess that you're dumping on China, Willfully-Ignorant One? (And ignorance is the #1 requirement for being a troll).

You might want to read this article, as China becomes the new super power:

Is China's rise unstoppable?

I don't think China would want "losers," (and that would include ignorant people such as yourself), so make sure you never go there, not that you would even know where it is or how to find it on a map. But maybe some of your fictitious "Asian friends" can help you find it on a map.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 16, 2014 @ 2:56 am

So if an Asian is a loser then he is conflicted.

Luckily, Asians are usually successful, which is why we call them the "model minority".

Posted by Guest on Mar. 16, 2014 @ 5:32 am

Racist slurs don't belong in the Mission and neither do people who utter them.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 17, 2014 @ 12:48 am

Progressives do not count being anti-white as being racist

Posted by Guest on Mar. 17, 2014 @ 7:15 am

"The Clean up the Plaza folks are mostly from the Castro."

That figures! The busy-bodies from the Castro. The fuckers can never mind their own goddamned business. Sick of them!

Posted by Guest on Mar. 16, 2014 @ 3:03 am
Posted by Guest on Mar. 16, 2014 @ 7:38 am

If we take the involvement of Jack out of the picture, the work done has been amazing beneficial. The plazas are a far more welcoming place to the over 12,000 people who commute through this station each day. Cleaning up the plazas in no way equates to removing people who live in the neighborhood. You are boxing at shadows when you try to connect clean safe BART stations to removing people who live in the neighborhood. I have lived within 1/2 a block of this station for nearly a decade; it's nice to have a sense of safety and pride as I take my first step back home each day.

Posted by Chris on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 4:44 pm

There has been no change.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 6:14 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 6:48 pm

The community grows tired of the disgusting new developments that are being built for people who aren't members of the community, nor will they be once they arrive here.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 1:15 am

The "community" is simply the sum total of whomever lives here at the time.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 6:56 am

You just said that the community wants more homes and then you said that the community is whomever lives here now. Those who live here now do not want or need more housing that they cannot afford.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 7:50 am

that it should not be built. If that were true, your home would be the most expensive home in the Mission.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 8:05 am

Yes more affordable housing!!! Not market rate!

Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 1:59 pm

Typically 10% of the units are affordable, or more.

But if you don't build market-rate homes, then where does the money come from to subsidize the affordable homes?

An affordable home costs the same to build as a market-rate home, so someone has to come up with the difference in price.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 2:14 pm

and the construction cost. The average SF home sells for 800K. So each so-called "affordable" home costs about 300K of somebody else's money.

When market-rate homes go up, their developers pay that. When market-rate homes do not get built, then either the rest of us pay that subsidy or the affordable homes aren't built at all.

There isn't enough money in the state to provide an affordable home for everyone in SF who wants one.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 2:30 pm

building high-rises with massive density. The NIMBYs stop that.

Homes offered for less than a market rate assume somebody else is going to make up the difference. So by definition, there can only ever be a few of those.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 2:46 pm

Thanks, good heads up. Now investigate unregistered lobbying by paid staff of the Bicycle Coalition, WalkSF, SPUR, etc. These groups have more influence on our city officials than this one-project guy and are doing more damage to the city than he ever will. This city is bought and paid for by the big developers and the little noisy special interest groups. We need a lobby group for the all too silent abused majority of residents.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 3:48 pm

But how would they get anything done?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 4:10 pm

A member of SEIU or a Non Profit Inc subsidiary like Larkin Street Youth Services? Only union or Non Profit Inc members are allowed to pull shit like this!

Thanks for exposing this fascist for who he is.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 6:54 pm

And who do you work for?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 1:17 am

All this article does is insinuate that this grassroots organization has a malicious purpose of gentrifying a neighborhood; this conclusion is entirely drawn from the participation of one person (for whom the writer clearly does not care).

The article does nothing to speak about how, through this grassroots organizations efforts, the plazas around 16th and Mission have become safer friendlier places. I have lived within 1/2 of a block of Mission and 16th for nearly a decade. The plazas were always a bit of a dodgy gateway to an otherwise beautiful neighborhood. But in 2013, before this organization got involved, the plazas sunk to an all time low: urination everywhere, defecation not uncommon, trash, drug dealing, violence, and extensive drug use (and we are not talking about a little casual toking up). I commute in and out of this BART station daily and it was downright scary for a while.

I applaud this organization - and any other organization - that stands up to make my neighborhood cleaner, safer, and more welcoming to the over 12,000 people that pass through the 16th and Mission BART station each day!

Posted by Chris on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 4:36 pm

I also live in this neighborhood, Chris, and I accept that means that I live in a diverse neighborhood that includes lots of poor people living in SROs with no place to hang out, and homeless people who aren't given any access to public restrooms. But the latest post by this group makes in clear that what it wants to "clean up" are these same poor people: "A recent BART survey counts about 250 homeless who make daily visits to the plaza. There are 43 SRO's in a 4 block radius that add to the plaza population."

So where do these human beings go then, Chris? What do you propose to do about poverty in San Francisco? BTW, Chris, if you're a supporter of this group and you'd like to talk to me about your perspective, you can get ahold of me at Transparency and open dialogue are what this community needs, not shadowy front groups with hidden agendas. 

Posted by steven on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 5:08 pm

crime, nuisance and public health issues around a business intersection and transit hub. Maybe somewhere where drugs, prostitution and petty theft will have less impact on the community and on businesses.

Chris, this group and I all have ideas on how to improve the area. You are the one who wants to do nothing, in your ill-advised love affair with anyone who isn't successful

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 5:37 pm

I was a tenant in the neighborhood before being Ellis Acted out of my apartment so it could be converted into condos. Then I was homeless and spent lots of time in the plaza because it's always been my neighborhood, but I no longer had any place inside to stay. I've never done drugs, nor alcohol, nor prostitution, nor theft. This is my home, not a place I chose to live because it's hip. What evil sense of entitlement possesses you to dictate who can or can't live in the neighborhood just because you live there?

Posted by Mission OG on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 6:10 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 6:47 pm

First of all, I don't believe your story. At all.

But let's just say it is true. You got Ellis Acted out of a building, which is course you won't name. That immediately would have entitled you to *at least* $5,100. That's bare minimum, with $10,000 much more likely. And of course you paid some rent prior, correct? Giving you the benefit of the doubt, I'll say you had a low rent, about $1,000/month.

And between the $5K-$10K lump sum you received, and the fact that you were already capable of paying $1K/month, you wound up homeless outside a BART Station? I'm sorry but you absolutely suck at life planning then. Considering you "don't do drugs nor alcohol" I have no idea what you blew your money on, but that's all on you. Dumbass.

But you're story is total bullshit anyway.

Posted by Scram on Mar. 14, 2014 @ 1:39 pm

Between first, last, and security deposit, that won't even get you in the door. Half of Americans have no savings at all, let alone 15K lying around. What an insensitive jerk you are. Scram indeed.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 6:48 pm

There was a fellow named Scram
who posted a shitload of spam
so heartless and mean
such a bitter old bean
we wished he'd go on the lam

Posted by Pere Moss on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 7:45 pm

Why stay in SF when you cannot afford it?

Move somewhere cheaper.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 16, 2014 @ 5:33 am

Why on Earth do we need to keep the busiest plaza in the Mission a hang out spot for SRO residents? So, we're to block development, keep it a public safety hazard so these people with nothing better to do have a place to hang out?? You must be off your meds.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 14, 2014 @ 7:25 pm

These people have a right to hang out wherever they choose, whether you approve or not.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 1:20 am

crimes like using drugs, causing a nuisance, harassing others and so on. Which is about five minutes for most of them.

They want hostels and services. Move them and they will follow.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 6:57 am

And we have the right to clean it up.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 16, 2014 @ 7:26 pm

" I commute in and out of this BART station daily and it was downright scary for a while."

Oh get a grip. You're in a major city. If you can't handle it, leave, little one! Go to some place that's already sanitized, sterilized, homogenized and privatized for your bourgeois elite self.

Are you scared of your own shadow too?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 11:14 pm

Love this! if you don't want to deal with stepping over nodded out junkies, skipping across puke, having 5 to 10 completely insane people who haven't bathed much less brushed their teeth in weeks (months? years?) yell in your face---GO somewhere else and get a life because WE (the entitled calling YOU entitled) like it this way and it should just stay this way damnit.

Posted by Lovely Attitude on Mar. 14, 2014 @ 11:13 am

superior to the suburbs, where you clearly came from.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 14, 2014 @ 11:33 am

Kudos to the SFBG and Steven Jones for exposing the dark arts of San Francisco politics. Say what you will about Jack Davis - and the man has few, if any, scruples - the guy is somewhat of a Machiavellian legend in this town.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 4:53 pm

I posed to you in an email many months ago. Who is funding this campaign? Real estate interests, just as I suspected. The coming battle over the proposed oversized gentrifying monstrosity at the NE 16th St. BART Plaza will be the defining development battle of this generation.

Prior to that, the story surrounding next month's eviction of an elderly tenant from her home of more than 50 years on the week of her 98th birthday will be international news that will highlight the depths of greed of speculator/flippers like Urban Green.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 6:00 pm

except for the tiny minority who never want to see any progress in this town.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 6:46 pm

a town radically different and a much more conservative, developer-friendly town where govt has no power to stop big money. And the people who will fight you in your effort to change the town in that direction aren't a tiny minority, they're a large majority as the 8 Washington vote showed.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 11:06 pm

to even get it on the ballot?

Oooh, I'm so scared.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 14, 2014 @ 6:26 am

You're touting 8 Washington as proof that your ideas in regards to building new high rises that are shared by the majority of San Franciscans? You mean the ballot measure in an off year where maybe 20 percent of citizens voted? You mean the ballot measure that was a battle between billionaires who wanted to make more money versus millionaires who wanted to preserve their views so most San Franciscans really didn't give a shit about it?

And if you think you're right, there are a whole bunch of towers going up that belie that idea.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 14, 2014 @ 8:18 pm

Jack Davis lives at 17th & Mission???!!! With a Roommate???!!!

Wait, Jim Harbaugh just called. He wants me to be the starting QB for the 9ers next year!

Posted by Idora Woodside on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 6:09 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 6:47 pm

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