Venture capitalist cat-fight as Ron Conway angrily defends Mayor Ed Lee

Ron Conway shouts down a venture capitalist as they argue the future: will Mayor Ed Lee make San Francisco affordable again?
Image courtesy of Bloomberg

Wealthy Silicon Valley venture capitalist Ron Conway shouted down a fellow VC at Bloomberg's Next Big Thing summit, after VC Chamath Palihapitiya dared criticize Ron's biggest political investment: Mayor Ed Lee.

For context, Conway has been dubbed the "Godfather of Silicon Valley," a capitalist Michael Jordan who invests lots of money in the tech industry (like Twitter) and politicians who support it. His catfight with Palihapitiya will no doubt be re-tweeted and Facebooked amongst the tech elite for days to come. Or you know, minutes to come. After all, there are great cat videos out there.

But for us common folk, it's useful to listen to hear what Palihapitiya had to say about innovating new ways to fundraise for the affordable housing stock in San Francisco, and Conway's error-filled arguments.


Conway sounded like an outraged muppet, but Palihapitiya took it all in stride.

"Ron, all I was talking about is you can make very simple economic measures to fund all of that and more," Palihapitiya argued on stage at the conference. Conway wasn't having it, and interrupted him. 

"Then you said you recommend companies give 1 percent of their equity," Conway shouted. 

Palihapitiya fired back, calmly. "Ron listen, there are people in this city now who are really frustrated, you see it with the riots," he said. Conway countered that Lee was making an effort to address it. "Effort is fine," Palihapitiya replied, "but you have to see the follow through."

Conway started shouting about Lee's promise to build 30,000 housing units by 2020: "30,000 units, Ed Lee has a mandate to build 30,000 units. Is that not enough?"

Importantly, new reports from the San Francisco Public Press show the mayor's 30,000 proposed units are partially a sham: 40 percent of those units are units are already being built, including existing public housing units simply being renovated. Only 6,000 affordable housing units would be new -- making Conway's shouting equal to only so much hot air.

housing graph

"You can provide economic frameworks for all these problems," Palihapitiya told Conway from the stage. He mentioned perhaps instituting an affordable housing tax on businesses. "Imagine how many units you can build," he said, "300,000, a million! Making [Ed Lee's plan] a magnitude or more impactful. That's all I'm saying."

When Conway mentioned Google's contributions to Muni, Palihapitiya countered. "Ron, you could've taxed those guys at Google $10 million and Google would've paid."

We called Conway for a response to his tirade, and he told us "I'm in a meeting. I can email you a statement." We sent him an email, but aren't holding our breath for a reply. 

Either way, it's something new to see someone in tech actually challenge the weak crumbs the tech industry has dropped from its table for San Francisco residents. It's almost, dare we say, disruptive.



Posted by Guest on Jun. 09, 2014 @ 5:17 pm

It appears that Ron Conway's peers are unhappy.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 09, 2014 @ 5:27 pm


Posted by Guest on Jun. 09, 2014 @ 6:04 pm

Tower blocks all along the Bay waterfront. Works for me.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 6:30 am

Why do you hate the voters so?

Posted by marcos on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 6:58 am

voters want new homes. In addition, the folks who will move to SF want them, and they do not have a vote yet.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 7:20 am
Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 12:22 pm

we don't hate ALL voters, marcos, only the ones we can't make money off of.

Posted by ChristianPatriotLandowner on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 5:55 pm

Your head first exit from SF works dandy for me as well.

Posted by Take Back San Francisco From the Greedster Vermin on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 7:25 pm

For some, it's the chase and worship of money. For others, its hogging all the free time that a collective society offers, while others have to do the hard work to support you. As a worker I've come to have a greater resentment for the latter over time.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 7:48 pm

Yeah, it is a choice to be mentally ill or otherwise fall off of the edge economically all done with intent to leech off of you, personally.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 8:08 pm

You're wound up tighter than a red state bag of tea, Marcos. Win over a lot of hearts and minds to your way of thinking with your argumentation style?

Never would have said it was with intent or personal. Well I take it back, now that you mention.... the nice, relatively early retirements that public workers get is definitely with intent. It's what we should all be getting though.

The mentally ill, drug addicts, dropouts, etc, should be supported somehow, I believe -- I'm pretty left of center myself, believe it or not -- but if I'm paying for it I should have a say on what terms that support comes.

SF progressives believe it should all be done at as great of a cost on society and on us workers as possible...for one thing, by trying to pack them all into our expensive, high-maintenance 7x7 miles. Not because that's whats good for anyone, recipients included, but because of their own blind, ideologically driven zeal for battle. Oh and making sure Campos keeps his voting base in tact.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 9:01 pm

1) Mayor Lee has been clear about the inclusion of rehabilitated housing stock as part of his plan. From his own Jan 17 press release:

"To address the City’s housing shortage, and the pent-up demand and price escalation that have resulted from it, Mayor Lee will set forth the following housing goals for 2020:
• Construction of 30,000 new and rehabilitated homes throughout the City."


So to me, Joe Fitzgerald calling the Mayor's plan a 'sham' just because he hadn't done his homework speaks to the low quality of his own work, and not the Mayor who was clear and transparent on the subject.

2) The Public Press article that Joe Fitzgerald refers to seems to indicate that the 3,750 rehabilitated units are not currently inhabited, so yes, they will be a net addition to the housing stock. Should the city NOT rehabilitate these units and build from scratch instead?

"The city plans to rehabilitate 3,750 public housing apartments over the next six years, and build 250 new ones. This housing serves the city’s poorest residents, who pay just 30 percent of their income for rent. Those earning no more than $38,850, for a two-person household may apply."

Maybe a journalist can find out if those units are currently inhabited and publish the results so that Joe Fitzgerald can then distort the journalist's work.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 09, 2014 @ 6:08 pm

Sure wish that people like Ron Conway were required to disclose payments to consultants to influence public opinion by trolling websites.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 09, 2014 @ 8:36 pm

Lets just say that I send 3 kids to private universities and I have a brand new Tesla Model S in my 3 car garage.

And it is worth every penny to men like Mr Conway because they know how incredibly influential the SFBG comment section is.

We have the skill and we earn the big bucks. Of course nobody would disagree with the SFBG position if they didn't get paid to do so, we command heavy fees to change the political future of the city via our comments here.

BTW, I just bought a Ford F350 truck, I'm going to rip the stupid electric motor out of the Tesla and put in the gas guzzling truck engine with the money I make from this comment.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 09, 2014 @ 10:02 pm

I've no idea why he would think that.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 6:31 am

... from the same San Francisco Public Press article you cite, they seem to imply the mayor was puffing up his numbers by subtly implying new units would be built, obfuscating the reality (hence the sham):


In a speech so subtly phrased that it threw off the New York Times, CNN and several local news outlets, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee seemed to promise early this year that the city would build at least 10,000 homes for poor and middle-class residents within six years.

But the mayor’s current housing forecast, which counts up planned construction projects, shows that barely 6,000 of these affordable homes would be new. The remainder, up to 40 percent of the total, would consist of rehabilitated public housing. While repairing those homes will benefit the low-income tenants who live in them, doing so would add little or no new housing.

The mayor’s housing staff readily supplied details about the projects that went into his housing plan. But they did not respond to subsequent requests for comment about how rehabilitated units would address the city’s crisis in affordable housing, as skyrocketing prices leave few options for those who cannot afford the market rate."






Posted by Joe Fitzgerald on Jun. 09, 2014 @ 6:13 pm

Doesn't Egan's analysis say that we would effectively need to produce those 100K units immediately to get the gains he suggests? Rolling forward with production these targets against increasing demand in an effort to impact price is a Sisyphean task.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 5:27 am

It is to provide people with new homes.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 6:32 am

That's not what Ed Lee says. He wants to build 30,000 homes to address the affordability crisis. Is Ed Lee lying again?

Posted by marcos on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 6:58 am

make homes cheaper than they otherwise would have been.

They will not make them cheap, however, and so that cannot be the reason we are building them. We are building them because people want them.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 7:19 am

So Ed Lie Lees again, bait and switch!

Posted by marcos on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 7:36 am
Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 7:51 am

Ed Lie promised to lower housing prices.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 9:36 am

Governments cannot control the price of housing, except temporarily and at the margin.

If anything, governments make housing more expensive.

Ed Lee promised to build homes because the voters said they wanted more homes.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 10:16 am

Ed Lie promised to build housing to lower housing prices. Why would existing San Franciscans who already have homes vote for someone to build more homes that they'll never live in? #stinktestfail.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 5:30 pm

Ed Lee or anyone else.

And many of us who already have homes want others to enjoy that same privilege.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 5:43 pm

Ed Lie just makes it up as he goes along.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 6:06 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 6:25 pm

So we've gone from the "this is why we've won the debate" trope to the "show me evidence" at an arbitrary point in the "debate" trope. I wonder what's next?

Posted by marcos on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 6:37 pm

Ed Lee promised that he would lower RE prices.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 11, 2014 @ 5:38 am

You're right, Ed Lie is only in this to grant highly profitable entitlements to super rich developers with no intent to lower housing prices. It is all a scam.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 11, 2014 @ 6:03 am

and he won easily. So why you do think he should instead adopt the polices of the anti-growth loser candidate Avalos?

Don't you care about the voters? Or the people who want those enw homes?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 11, 2014 @ 7:03 am

You said it yourself, Ed Lee ran on a program of corporate welfare for megrich tech firms and developers.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 11, 2014 @ 7:47 am

that is what we should get.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 11, 2014 @ 8:00 am

is no evidence, just opinions?

Posted by Guest III on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 7:10 pm

Joe, it only looks like a sham to you because you don't do your homework and are content with simply printing what other news sources "seem to imply".

Meanwhile, I provided a link to a press release from January where the Mayor spelled out that 3,750 rehabilitated units were included in his total.

So it isn't a sham to the rest of us. Meanwhile, if those rehabilitated units are not currently uninhibited -- and that seems to be the case -- then the Mayor is spending our money wisely.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 09, 2014 @ 6:51 pm

Well, "guest," (kudos for the courage to use your name), the public press article addresses those units, and even addresses that press release. And the point is that the mayor is emphasizing construction of 30,000 units in his central message and many of his speeches. That's a sham message. Additionally, Conway specifically stated 30,000 units would be built. That's flat out wrong. But, you know, good try! 

Posted by Joe Fitzgerald on Jun. 09, 2014 @ 7:02 pm

You know that the other guy is totally lost when he has to criticize someone for posting as "Guest".

What difference does it make what my name is?

Look...Lee has been saying from the start that rehabilitated units were included, you just didn't know that.

But in all fairness, it isn't your job to know such things. That is something that a journalist would know. Your job is just to look for things that you can use to distort the facts, even if you don't understand them yourself.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 09, 2014 @ 7:34 pm

... you are trollin' so hard! Like wow, personal attacks and all. What's got you so fired up? Like seriously, that's some strong, angry stuff. Have an antacid or a tylenol or something. Feel better, peace to you.

Posted by Joe Fitzgerald on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 9:54 am

It's one thing if you are just writing a helpful article and the finished product is below any reasonable journalistic standard.

It's a different thing when you go out with an attack piece that is based on what another news source 'seems to imply' and you publish it as fact.

You are just being a weak lazy bully and you deserve to get slapped around like an other punk trying to be a bully.

You're filling space that could be taken by a real journalist who could advance the dialog in this city instead of sending it to comic book levels.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 11:12 am

Hahahahaha! This troll is pissed.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 2:11 pm

... like seriously pissed! I'm tempted to delete it since it has so many personal attacks in it, but since he also makes journalistic critiques i'll let it stand. The fact is, my trolling friend, that Ron Conway has spent a ton of money influencing San Francisco politics ($50,000 in the first Ed Lee mayor race that we could count ((and was reported)), another $49,000 to attack David Campos with smearing attack ads ((

So pointing out Conway's tirade is not about attacking him. It's about showing readers his emotional attachment to one of his most recent angel investments: Mayor Ed Lee. Conway's outsize influence on our democratically elected mayor is important to highlight. 

Posted by Joe Fitzgerald on Jun. 11, 2014 @ 4:04 pm

The last thing SF needs are 30,000 more units. We are already too crowded. Go back to New York, don't continue to turn SF into NYC.

Posted by Richmondman on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 11:11 am

are here at the moment? And regardless of whether the city's economy needs the skills that we currently do not have?

As long as you have yours, you don't care if others are crowded out?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 11:34 am

And this is why every voter having a vote of development is a bad thing. Its already bad enough here with everyone who has a vested interest in making sure things never change showing up at the planning commission and BOS.
Reality is that people are selfish and will vote their own interests.
People in government are supposed to have vision, and a higher level view of things that precludes making selfish short term decisions.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 11:55 am

vested interest in less new supply.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 12:24 pm

Most housing at all costs boosters own more property per capita than most regular San Franciscans.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 1:13 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 1:22 pm

Developers have a direct personal interest in building and selling new homes.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 1:30 pm

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