It’s a pandemic nightmare: The Plant Cafe Organic is stuck in a storefront it can’t use. The landlord is suing for rent the owners say they can’t pay.

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The Plant Cafe once had five locations, including one in the Marina where the landlord is suing over unpaid rent. Earlier this week, co-owner Matthew Guelke sat outside the chain’s last open shop, on Third Street. (Photo: Alex Lash)

San Francisco restaurateur Matthew Guelke can’t get evicted in this town — and at this point he’d prefer it.

Getting the boot would be better, Guelke says, than the current predicament. He and his business partner are trapped in an expensive lease on Steiner Street in the Marina district, for a cafe shuttered by COVID that they can neither reopen, legally abandon, nor even be kicked out of. And now, because of hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent debts, their longtime landlord has slapped them with a lawsuit.

It’s a baffling set of circumstances that could only have happened in 2020. “The restaurant business in SF was hard anyway,” Guelke tells The Frisc, adding that he’s betting on a last-ditch crowdfunding campaign to keep business afloat. …

ELECTION 2020

With Bay transit in crisis, Measure RR would throw the commuter rail a lifeline. But politicians who say they represent a pro-transit, climate-first San Francisco are sending mixed messages.

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Engines that could at the 4th and King terminal. Caltrain ridership has plunged 95% during COVID. (Pawel Biernacki/Creative Commons)

Bay Area mass transit is staring into the abyss.

On the November 3 ballot, San Franciscans will consider a one-eighth percent sales tax to fund Caltrain, appropriately titled Measure RR, that backers frame as a desperation bid to save the commuter rail from extinction. The coronavirus pandemic has wiped out ridership, Caltrain’s main source of funding.

To pass, RR must gain a combined two-thirds approval from San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties. …

ELECTION 2020

After failing in 2016, backers of November’s Prop G say young people energized by the Trump years deserve a political voice.

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The June 3 protest in San Francisco in the wake of George Floyd’s murder was organized by high school students. (Mark Sebastian/Creative Commons)

In 2016, San Francisco lawmakers had a splashy plan to enfranchise young voters, increase election turnout, and perhaps create a new voting bloc for themselves, all by lowering the voting age to 16.

But voters rejected the bid to change the city’s voting age by 52% to 48%, apparently unmoved by the symmetry of a 16 in ’16 campaign.

The plan seems to be forever young, however, as it’s up for a vote yet again in a few weeks, this time dubbed Prop G. Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, soon to retire, and the SF Youth Commission resurrected the proposal earlier this year. …

ELECTION 2020

A new tax this November would fund up to 10,000 public homes. It could also fuel grander ambitions to move SF away from market-rate development.

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The recently completed building at 222 Taylor in the Tenderloin has 113 affordable apartments. It took 11 years to complete. (Photo: Bruce Damonte)

BBefore COVID-19, San Francisco already faced a once-in-a-century crisis: a deficit of tens of thousands of new homes needed to make it an affordable, livable city once again.

Now the pandemic has blown a billion-dollar hole in the city budget and scuttled development plans. If SF couldn’t build enough housing before, it now seems almost like a pipe dream.

But in the upcoming election, voters have a chance to approve thousands of units of public housing, financed by perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes. …

“If you hate what the last 10 years have done to the San Francisco economy, you’ll hate this more,” the city’s economist says.

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Have you seen the future? It probably does not look like this, a tech office in San Francisco. (Photo: Sylvain Kalache/Creative Commons)

Editor’s note: This is the second part of our coverage on what comes after the pandemic. Read Part I here.

The most prominent companies in and out of Silicon Valley are on something of a spree this year. …

If only technology can make it in our post-pandemic city, the aftermath for the rest of SF is uncertain, unequal, and probably ugly.

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A Tesla, an icon of the tech economy, sits on the sloped streets of SF. (Photo: Ken Lund/Creative Commons)

Editor’s note: This is the first part of our coverage on what comes after the pandemic. Read Part II here.

The multitrillion-dollar technology industry has taken some hits in 2020. We’re talking consolidation, layoffs, and ongoing reputational fiascos from Facebook. But its giants — your Apple, your Google, and yes, Facebook too, among others— are not only enduring, they’re showing signs of growing stronger at a time when almost every other industry is anemic or near dead.

At first glance, that should make the average San Franciscan optimistic. …

Adam Brinklow

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