Mayor's Office Strikes Back at David Chiu In Memo On Nightclub Violence

It's gettin' hot in here
The Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice has sent a memo to Board of Supervisors President David Chiu asking him to back off efforts to set up a stricter nightclub permitting process, the latest volley in an intensifying intra-city feud over how to handle rising club violence.

The memo, dated June 19, was recently obtained by SF Weekly. It concerns legislation that would affect how the San Francisco Entertainment Commission -- a seven-member board of political appointees who wield the crucial power to grant or revoke nightclub permits -- does business. In it, Kevin Ryan, the fired U.S. attorney who now heads the mayor's criminal justice office, upbraids Chiu for seeking to crack down too harshly on the commission's laissez-faire approach to permitting.

"It is my opinion, as both a career law enforcement officer, and a life-long San Franciscan, that the late night activities outlined above do not substantively contribute to nightlife-related violence," Ryan wrote. He continued, "Restricting night life in San Francisco could have downward effects on associated businesses -- restaurants, bars, theaters and other activities which draw people into the city."

Critics, including Chiu, have complained that the Entertainment Commission has been ineffective in curbing repeated outbreaks of violent crime at city clubs. (In fact, as we reported last week, two commissioners are co-owners of clubs that have been the subject of police complaints.) The legislation at hand would give the commission added powers to crack down on misbehaving clubs, but has stalled because the commission opposes Chiu's amendments.

Ryan's criticisms centered on Chiu's suggestion that an undue increase in permits for late-night clubs or one-time late-night events -- defined as an uptick of more than 15 percent in a given year -- should trigger caps on further permits. Three of the memo's eight pages were devoted to difficult-to-parse mathematical equations demonstrating that even a slight increase in the permits would trigger such a moratorium.

In a telephone interview, Chiu said the letter was the latest sign of lack of cooperation on addressing nightclub violence from the mayor's office. He said the mayor's criminal justice officials had agreed to meet with him, then "blew off" the meeting and began going after him in the press.

"To set up meetings, attack me in the press, blow off the meetings, and then send me a letter with several pages of bizarre mathematical formulas is not the best way to move forward," Chiu said. "I think this letter continues to show that the MOCJ has just not been focused on the public safety, and has spent more time thinking about the interests of the late-night entertainment industry."

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