Local development advocate and Realtor Donald Dewsnup has been arraigned on charges of registering to vote using a false address and providing a false address to the California Bureau of Real Estate.

According to court documents, the charges stem from Dewsnup’s attempt to infiltrate the Telegraph Hill Dwellers neighborhood association and fraudulently vote in its supervisorial district in order to advance his political agenda.

An active member of the San Francisco Bay Area Renters’ Federation (SFBARF), Dewsnup led the advocacy group’s failed attempt to take over the San Francisco chapter of the Sierra Club last year.

Released on his own recognizance following his arraignment yesterday, Dewsnup is scheduled to appear in court again on April 19th for a prehearing conference and faces three felony counts of filing a false document with a government agency, two felony counts of perjury and two felony counts of false voter registration. If convicted he will not be able to return to his previous occupation and is likely to have to look for Felon Jobs instead, as finding employment when you have a criminal record is very difficult.

“San Francisco’s supervisorial races can be decided by a small number of voters,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “A healthy democracy benefits from zealous debate, but can be undermined by fraud and deceit.”

Don’t mess with the Dwellers.

22 thoughts on “Local Development Advocate and Realtor Arraigned for Voter Fraud”
  1. no, don’t lie about your address on a government form, don’t be a douche blocked by the most people ever on NextDoor, don’t be an a-hole online attacking people online, don’t be a disgraced realtor from Seattle who has been homeless all this time, and most important don’t post your voter fraud on twitter.

    Sorry, but this guy is…a fraud. the fact anyone fell for his bs is laughable. Even his own “friends” didn’t vote for him to take over the Sierra Club

  2. Here’s a comment from Sonja Trauss at SFBARF from a public forum:

    Donald Dewsnup, active volunteer with the SF Bay Area Renters Federation, was arrested yesterday and arraigned today on charges of voter fraud for registering at an address that doesn’t exist.

    Donald is homeless. He doesn’t have a regular address. He registered at an address he thought approximated a location where he was sleeping at the time.

    This arrest is without question politically motivated. There’s no other explanation for why the District Attorney of a major city would investigate and charge one person for registering at an inaccurate address. I am looking forward to discovering who made the complaint to the DA, and how the DA was convinced to spend precious public resources on this issue.

    Donald, myself, and other members of the SF Bay Area Renters Federation endorsed and volunteered for Aaron Peskin’s opponent in his recent race for Supervisor of District 3. Donald ran, with Renters Federation support, for a spot on the Sierra Club SF group Executive Committee in an attempt to put the local group back in line with their own pro-infill mission statement. In doing this activism, Donald apparently antagonized anti-growth incumbents.

    I knew that a policy change as radical as the one we’re calling for would not be won easily, however I am shocked the DA would harass a housing advocate, who happens to be homeless, for trying to vote. It’s nakedly vengeful and political. People said it would be like this once Peskin got back into power. Several experienced politicos warned me against both opposing Peskin’s race for supervisor, and trying to bring the Sierra Club back on mission. Voter fraud is serious, but more serious still is living in a city where a vindictive Supervisor can order people arrested at will.

    Sonja Trauss
    Founder, SF Bay Area Renters’ Federation

    1. If in fact he attempted to register at or near the place where he was sleeping, he did what he’s supposed to do:

      Courts have ruled that a homeless person may register to vote at a location they state is the place where they spend most of their time. The person must provide a description of the location that is clear enough for the elections official to establish that person’s right to vote in a particular precinct. This ensures accurate elections materials can be provided to this voter. In these instances, a mailing address needs to be provided in order for the voter to receive election materials.

    2. And with that, SFBARF – who are promoting a public policy agenda that the Bay Area desperately needs – demonstrates that its leadership are either composed of exactly the kind of unserious oddballs that its critics have claimed, or they are naive amateurs completely in over their heads. They already used up their initial strike with their ridiculous name. They used up their second strike with their ham-fisted attempt to takeover the Sierra Club’s SF chapter. Lining up behind someone who is quite obviously an abusive crank is the third one.

      Its unfortunate – because their agenda is important. And their “Sue the Suburbs” – beyond being a catchy phrase – is a worthwhile exercise, if only to push the boundaries. But work like that needs resources – money, people, etc – and in order to avoid relying on funding from developers (and thus being perceived as a developers front group), means getting the financial and other support of regular folks. The kind of regular folks who aren’t going to want to be associated with a group whose name sounds like vomit, who attack grayhair environmental groups like Sierra Club or who line up being voting fraud, Internet stalkers.

      1. It’s very ironic. There’s so much froth going on right now, companies with turbo charged PR and little to no substance. To have a group with a solid agenda of infill growth in cities and pushing suburbs to increase growth have such ridiculously terrible optics is just so strange.

        And agreed on the name. Pointing out that renters benefit from increased rental construction is both true and a great idea to broaden political support. But the name… I just can’t imagine what was going through people’s mind.

  3. Also, this is a BS story as far as this site goes.

    You’ve spent little if any time covering the activity of SFBARF, and then a single individual gets called out in a political witch hunt and you’re there to make hay with a glib, ‘Don’t mess with the dwellers.’

    How about some more context for who Dewsnup is, whether this is a reasonable case by the Attorney General, or any other background. This is otherwise HuffPo regurgitation, (which you might argue is fair given how frequently the Examiner is lifting your stories) but I would have expected a little more insight from you. I guess it’s your site to sell advertising, so hey whatever…

    1. Our piece wasn’t “lifted” nor a regurgitation, we received the alert from the Attorney General’s office yesterday afternoon.

      We’ll stick with the facts provided and let you debate the motivations and claims.

      1. “Stick with the facts” isn’t so simple. Coverage selection bias constantly distorts news sites, especially if you’re alluding to neutrality.

  4. For what it’s worth, Donald Dewsnup is a piece of work. If SFBARF is truly a serious organization they should regret ever hooking up with him. He is widely known in the gay community for stalking, on-line defamation, and threats. Not a balanced person.

    1. Uhh, no offense, but accusing someone in an internet forum of on-line defamation would be difficult to describe as something other than, well, on-line defamation. Pretty rich stuff.

      1. OK, so I’m a real person (and I’ve been on this forum for a long time). And although I don’t know Mr. Dewsnup personally, I do know several friends who have had very serious and scary run ins with Mr. Dewsnup of the internet stalking variety. He’s a creep.

    2. And I agree otherwise, SFBARF isn’t a serious organization unfortunately, despite the fact that they have some good ideas to promote.

  5. This does sound like a politically motivated egregious over-reaction to what he did even if he did what he’s accused of doing in the strictest terms. If the guy is homeless, who’s to say where he “lives” but why shouldn’t he still be allowed to vote? Are we saying now that homeless people who register in the Tenderloin are fine but not in Telegraph Hill?

    To those of us who have never gotten involved in petty neighborhood politics or who live in less organized ‘hoods–I don’t even know if my neighborhood has an organization–much of what seems to go on in these groups is revolting as are the politicians who come forth from it all.

    1. Neighborhood organizations in SF tend to be the political fiefs of small time party hacks. Unfortunately, the ultimate (small) party hack is calling the shots at Telegraph Hill Dwellers Assn

  6. I am pro-development and have been following SFBARF. I just can’t get behind them because it’s led by some strange characters. Just the fact that they think SFBARF is a good name that won’t subject them to city-wide ridicule is a sign that they’re out of touch. Harassing politicians and neighborhood groups is the wrong way to get things done in the real world.

  7. “…advocacy group’s failed attempt to take over the San Francisco chapter of the Sierra Club”

    Hostile takeover attempt at a non-profit: another “only in the Bay Area” moment.

  8. funny, in this article, Sonja said he was “eccentric’ and claimed she didn’t know where he lived. Now she’s saying something the opposite. Interesting.

    Also, again, he lied about his address not just on voting forms he lied to the board of realtors also. that’s a big f-up. the fact you commenters can’t see beyond your own prejudices is stupid. you can be for building housing and not be for con artists…

    1. “When confronted with evidence that he provided false addresses, Dewsnup said it had been necessary to join the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, which he characterized as an obstructionist organization. “I had to give [Telegraph Hill Dwellers] an address on the hill, and that is how I was able to join that group,” he told VICE in a phone interview.

      “I have not broken any laws,” Dewsnup said. “I did give a false address, but I have not broken any laws—I made sure of that.”

      Terrible terrible move to admit to fraudulent intent but claim to be on the right side of the law. The DA and judge know the law and by admitting your intent you’ve taunted them and sealed your fate. Tweeting a picture of a ballot at a fake address is just stupid as well. The article also claims he has a home in the Castro which would moot the whole homeless thing.

      The article also provides a lot of meat for the online harassment claim:

      “When I asked him to clarify the terms of his ban, Dewsnup forwarded me an email thread from Nextdoor’s director of neighborhood operations, Gordon Strause, which revealed that Dewsnup had been suspended for initiating conflict “by posting a personally abusive message directed at [another poster] in the main feed simply because you disagreed with [them].”

      “In addition,” the email continued, “you followed that public message directed at him with a private message that could be reasonably interpreted as a threat.” ”


      “According to documents filed with the San Francisco County Superior Court, a Nextdoor user applied for a restraining order against Dewsnup, writing, “He [sent] me an email threatening to come to my home. He showed up at an organization I’ve worked for last week. I am in fear of my safety!”

      The alleged victim’s name is being withheld at their request, but an attorney for Litquake, the organization the person volunteered for, confirmed to VICE that Dewsnup showed up to the group’s office unannounced and threatened to go after their funding. Dewsnup denies this, and says he was invited to the office.”

      Hard to see why Litquake would make something like this up.

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