The 10 Top Local News Stories of 2005

by Randy Shaw on December 22, 2005

We are living in an era where front- page stories come and go so quickly that events like the Libby indictment and Hurricane Katrina appear to have occurred years, rather than months, ago. In response, we have burrowed deep into our collective memories to recall the San Francisco stories that were the most important of 2005. From the campaign to stop the Muni fare hikes to Barry Bonds’ mysterious season-long absence, here are the stories (not in order of importance) that topped our list this year.

1. Barry Bonds misses 2005 season

What makes this a story worth remembering is that for the first time in the history of pro sports, a superstar missed a season without anyone witnessing an injury.

When the 2004 baseball season ended, there was no reason to believe Bonds would be unable to start the 2005 season. But surgery followed surgery, vague reports about Bonds’ health would be heard, and at end of day, he did not appear until season was essentially lost.

The Giants have become the sports talk of the town, and Bonds’ absence made for a drab and unsuccessful season.

2. The Muni Fare Hike Battle

Largely forgotten now, but there was a grassroots campaign waged by the Coalition for Transit Justice that successfully stopped any increase in the cost of a monthly fastpass. Keep this victory in mind when you buy your January pass.

3. Rising Ellis Act Evictions/The Housing Boom

2005 was a grim year for many elderly and longterm tenants in San Francisco targeted by real estate speculators for Ellis Act evictions. This eviction frenzy was fueled by a housing boom that did not fizzle until the end of the year. Tenant groups spent much of the year fighting off proposals to increase evictions by facilitating condo conversions; the decline in the boom, and the thousands of newly-built condos coming on line, should ease pressures in 2005.

4. The Assessor’s Race

An election for a long overlooked office created an opportunity for such constituencies as organized labor and gay, lesbian and transgender activists to curry favor with Mayor Newsom by endorsing his candidate, Phil Ting. The race left bruised feelings among supporters of Gerardo Sandoval, and could have broader political implications in the months ahead.

5. UNITEHERE! LOCAL 2 Keeps Negotiating

When 2005 began, San Francisco’s largest hotels remained locked in a bitter labor dispute with their unionized workers. A year later, several hotels have avoided a union boycott by agreeing to a key demand, but the Hotel Council remains absolutely opposed to signing a contract with a 2006 start date.

Guess what, folks: it is now 2006. The Hotel Council either accepts another full year of labor strife, or it signs a contract that begins precisely when the union wanted it to begin. That’s called being outsmarted.

6. Ackerman leaves the SFUSD

What could have become an even uglier situation was resolved when Superintendent Ackerman announced this fall that she would leave the District by the end of the year. Deputy Superintendent Chan takes over the reins until a permanent Superintendent can be found; let’s hope the Board hires a uniter, not a divider.

7. Rising Homicides

Until yesterday’s Chronicle story, it seemed that few outside Supervisor Mirkarimi’s office remembered the Mayor’s pledge about community policing. While these plans were stalled since August, many believe, fairly or not, that far swifter action would have occurred if white people were being killed in predominately white neighborhoods.

8. Care not Cash

The statistics tell the story: 1101 housing placements through the end of 2005. A critical piece of this story that often gets ignored is the dramatic improvement—with no public funds—of some of the city’s most notorious hotels (such as the Aranda, Alder and Boyd), as owners ready them for leasing.

9. Stem Cell Research

Remember when the San Francisco media were all over the story of whether the city would become the headquarters for stem cell research? Recall the stories of how biotech would become a major employer and secure the city’s economic future? At the end of the trail of hype, SF got 50 new employees. The city would have benefited far more if the millions in private funds leveraged by the Mayor been used to hire unemployed Bayview residents to clean up parks and neighborhoods (yes, I realize the offers of free rent and other goodies for stem cell would not have been made to hire unemployed residents of color).

10. The Getty Party

According to P.J Corkery, the recent birthday party for Gordon Getty included 500 pounds of beef at $290 per pound. That’s $145,000 for only one item in the lavish feast, an amount equal to the combined average incomes of over six Tenderloin families with kids.

Growing wealth inequality—-that’s the top story for 2005.

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