Did SF developers lay down new marker for Dems with ouster of DA?

Real estate interests key backers on recall of Chesa Boudin, eye shift toward moderation to electoral lineup

Chesa Boudin (Getty, iStock)
Chesa Boudin (Getty, iStock)

It came as no surprise to locals when voters in famously liberal San Francisco recalled high-profile progressive prosecutor Chesa Boudin, showing him the door at little more than halfway through a four-year term.

Polls had projected Boudin would be recalled by a comfortable margin, a trend that owed in no small part to a better than two-to-one cash advantage held by groups seeking to recall the city’s lead prosecutor. About $7.2 million went toward the recall, with efforts to retain Boudin raising $3.3. Million.

San Francisco real estate interests played a key role in the financial advantage for the forces of recall.

One of the recall proponents’ most prominent donors was Brandon Shorenstein of Shorenstein Realty Services, who contributed more than $600,000 to recall the district attorney, according to a recent report. The campaign was carried out largely by a political action committee called Neighbors for a Better San Francisco, which was not constrained by limits on donations.

The lean into the recall by Shorenstein was notable because he is known as a major supporter of local Democrats. A spokesperson for Shorenstein told The Real Deal that the developer and his company “take seriously our role as a corporate citizen, and are proud of our long history of investing behind initiatives and programs that advance the safety and betterment of San Francisco for all its residents.”

“Our fellow San Franciscans have shown that leadership can and will be held accountable, and we look forward to continuing to work together to build a better, stronger and safer city,” the spokesperson said.

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Boudin fell in a landslide, with 60 percent of San Franciscans who cast ballots voting to recall him, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. He will be removed from office 10 days after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors formally accepts the election results. Mayor London Breed will then choose his immediate replacement, with voters to elect a new district attorney in November.

Boudin is a former public defender and was elected by a razor-thin margin in 2019, following a ranked-choice contest that pit him against Suzy Loftus, who had been appointed interim district attorney by Mayor Breed, and a pair of more conservative candidates.

The recall election was centered around whether Boudin’s progressive reforms were too lenient and had made the city less safe. Supporters of the recall argued that Boudin had not done enough to make the city safe for residents and businesses.

Nick Poddell, is another real estate developer who is a Democrat but worked against Boudin. Podell sits on the board of Neighbors for a Better San Francisco, which raised about 80 percent of the money for the recall election. He said that he sees the political fall for Boudin as a continuation of a trend of San Francisco residents making their voices heard, calling it a swing toward moderation.

“For the first time in the 40 years that I’ve lived in the city, there is a large coordinated centrist movement to take on progressive power,” he said, citing a recent move by voters to recall members of the city’s school board over policies some deemed to be overly woke.

“The School Board recall and DA recall are evidence of the broad understanding and anger by our fellow San Franciscans that the city is poorly run by ideologues backing out-of-touch policies, Poddell said, calling for more change. “We will never fix San Francisco without a centrist, moderate Board of Supervisors for the mayor to work with.”

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