San Francisco city planning commissioners are generally a mellow crowd. Oh, they can bring the thunder down on a development they don't like. But that's akin to, say, a pride of lions protecting their domain. It's nothing personal; it's just what they do.
Until Commission Vice President Dennis Richards took a trip to the Dark Side via Twitter over the weekend, a spectacle chronicled by the Chronicle's CW Nevius. Last time anyone heard from Richards before last Saturday, he was tweeting about the city's new sea level rise plan. Normal planning department stuff.
Then came an editorial from Gawker writer Hamilton Nolan under the, ahem, gentle headline, "San Francisco: Build More Housing, Assholes." No points for guessing the gist of it. Richards took umbrage with Gawker's salty perspective on city planning, with an analogy that raised a few eyebrows:
This takes the disc.to new lows.Even Donald Trump hasn't sunk this low in terms of civility. Poisons the discussion https://t.co/EFckTKfKGN— Dennis Richards (@PlnCom_Richards) March 10, 2016
Okay, so the man has some strong opinions. But since he's concerned about poisoning the discussion, we can be sure he'll at least remain civil, and engage in dignified intellectual debate with his critics. Right?
Well. That escalated in a hurry.
Note that this is the very next tweet in Richards' feed, in response to an incredulous reaction to his Trump analogy. What he was doing for the four hours between tweets no one knows, but it must have left him fired up and ready to rumble.
Now it was the Internet's turn to take umbrage with Richards, but he was not shy about telling his critics exactly what he thought.
Better yet. You are a douche bag. Go back to whatever rock you crawled out from under https://t.co/gijk8ghGQy— Dennis Richards (@PlnCom_Richards) March 13, 2016
The gloves are off folks!— Dennis Richards (@PlnCom_Richards) March 13, 2016
I am pissed. It's been building up for many months. https://t.co/rOPfEGg9Vk— Dennis Richards (@PlnCom_Richards) March 13, 2016
I am tired of bing so agreeable. It's time to be honest https://t.co/7st3lM7gEj— Dennis Richards (@PlnCom_Richards) March 13, 2016
By all means, Mr. Vice President, please do stop being so agreeable and tell us what you really mean.
Richards went on to say that the Gawker column is actually worse than Trump rhetoric. Trump, one Richards follower pointed out, once suggested that one of his primary election opponents was a pedophile. Richards' reply:
And what was the public to make of all this? Reactions varied:
@SFyimby It's brutal to watch... but I can't tear my eyes away— Geoff Boeing (@gboeing) March 13, 2016
There were also a few tweets in support of Richards. For his part, the commissioner stood by his words, later tweeting that he had been adopting a "parallel tone" to the Gawker story.
No deleting anything tomorrow. Please use these screen shots agains me do that I. Get more D8 votes. Thanks all https://t.co/jV5D004u4e— Dennis Richards (@PlnCom_Richards) March 13, 2016
No. Uncivil as I mentioned. Why the conflagration? I threw it back at the mob and look what happened. Point proven? https://t.co/QFd1VotC4V— Dennis Richards (@PlnCom_Richards) March 13, 2016
Richards, a Castro resident and agitator for the preservation of historic San Francisco buildings, was appointed to the planning commission by the Board of Supervisors in July of 2014. (All commissioners are appointees.) Rumor has it he's planning a board run himself in the future. Clearly, he's passionate about city issues.
Proud of it and want to work with you but if it's down to name calling and incivility . No thanks. https://t.co/SdRBlAQhgj— Dennis Richards (@PlnCom_Richards) March 13, 2016
Even if he is a complicated fellow at times.