The Coming of Nemesis: Kopp vs. Wiener

Hubris is interesting, because you get people who are often very clever, very powerful, have achieved great things, and then something goes wrong – they just don’t know when to stop. Margaret MacMillan

On July 31, Quentin Kopp, a fearless fixture in California politics, announced that he intends to challenge incumbent Scott Wiener for the state Senate seat in District 11 representing San Francisco, Daly City, Colma, Broadmoor, and parts of South San Francisco. The 90-year old Kopp seems mad as heck and is not going to take it any more.

The last straw for Kopp of Wiener’s schemes was Senate Bill 281, hearing of which scheduled for May 6 was canceled at Wiener’s request. SB 281 was the most recent in a long line of attempts to transfer management and/or ownership of the iconic Cow Palace from the current board to a local county joint-powers authority.

The 78-year old exhibit hall sits on 68 acres of coveted land owned by the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Division of Fairs and Expositions. Although its days of glory are over, when the Cow Palace hosted headliners like the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Elvis Presley, the hall still has audiences that enjoy shows and fairs like the San Francisco Sport & Boat Show, Golden Gate Kennel Club Dog Show, Dickens Christmas Fair, and the Horse Show & Rodeo. The Crossroads of the West Gun Show will end after 2019 by decision of the Cow Palace Board.

Thanks to revenue from these exhibits, the Cow Palace receives very little funding from the California state budget.

In an interview with San Francisco Chronicle’s Phil Matier, Quentin Kopp indicated that he felt SB 281 was a land grab to build more highrises in residential neighborhoods. Apparently, he is correct according the the text of SB 281:

This bill would authorize the authority to, among other things, enter into contracts or agreements for the development of the property for affordable and market-rate mixed-use housing and establish minimum local zoning standards, including, but not limited to, standards for height, density, parking, and floor area ratio, that apply to a project on the property that are different from those adopted by any other affected local jurisdiction.

Quentin Kopp is no lightweight in California politics. His resume is impressive:
San Francisco Supervisor 1971-1986, representing the West Portal neighborhood. State Senator 1987-1994, representing the southern part of San Francisco and the northern part of San Mateo County. San Mateo Superior Court Judge 1994 -2004. He retired after leaving his Court post.

After retirement from the Court, Kopp was appointed in 2006 to the California High Speed Rail Authority, a post he held until 2010. As Chair he was instrumental in the passage of Proposition 1A, which authorized a $9.95 billion bond to develop a high-speed rail system that would zip passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than three hours. The project received $2.5 billion from the Federal Railroad Administration. So far, construction can only be seen in California’s Central Valley, for an estimated cost to completion of $20 billion. Today Quentin Kopp rants against how the Rail Authority mishandled the bond money every chance he gets. The Federal Railroad Administration is angry too, and wants its money back.

In September 2016, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors appointed Quentin Kopp to the City’s Ethics Commission. He resigned from the post in March 2019, noting the uselessness of the Commission in denting its backlog or tackling important reforms in its job of enforcing governmental ethics laws.

Term limits might keep Quentin Kopp from serving once again in the California Senate. His argument is that since his previous service occurred before passage of legislation implementing term limits, the rule would not apply to him. And, as is Kopp’s stand-up-and-fight nature, he declared that he will sue if the Secretary of State decides he is not eligible.

Today’s Gen X and Millennial voters, accustomed to undistinguishable politicians forever uttering prescribed sound bites, might want to get acquainted with Quentin Kopp, who might soon turn out to be nemesis to Scott Wiener’s hubris.

His column in the neighborhood newspaper, the Westside Observer, appears monthly.