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Monday, February 24, 2014

Foes of Waterfront Height-Limit Initiative Suggested, Drafted "Impartial" Resolution Analyzing It

Posted By on Mon, Feb 24, 2014 at 12:52 PM

click to enlarge The Warriors' proposed waterfront arena inspired the nascent height-limit initiative -- but the Giants' planned development down the road would be affected, too. - SNØHETTA
  • Snøhetta
  • The Warriors' proposed waterfront arena inspired the nascent height-limit initiative -- but the Giants' planned development down the road would be affected, too.

A series of e-mails and text messages indicate Supervisor Scott Wiener's pending resolution calling for "impartial analysis" of the "Waterfront Height Limit Right-to-Vote Act" was conceived and drafted by foes of the initiative, whom the supervisor entreated to lobby for his resolution. 

Earlier this month, the Department of Elections certified a measure for the June ballot penned by waterfront development critics, which would require a vote of the people for any waterfront development exceeding the 40-to-105-foot height limits blanketing most of the area. 

Last week, Wiener introduced a resolution calling for "an impartial, multi-departmental study" of the waterfront initiative's potential impact. E-mails obtained via a public records request reveal, however, this resolution was pitched to Wiener by Gabriel Metcalf, the executive director of the moderate think-tank SPUR, who was then recruited by Wiener's office to draft the measure. 

This he did. 


Wiener tells SF Weekly that Metcalf "gave us some thoughts. We ended up writing it pretty much from scratch. We drafted it ourselves." 

In a Feb. 10 text message to Metcalf, he wrote "Resolution look ok? We've made some edits but it's the same in substance."

You can read Metcalf's submission here and Wiener's resolution here; there are definitely strong similarities, though the final product does go deeper and further. 

The San Francisco Giants, who hope to build a high-rise development behind AT&T Park, have proven to be unabashed foes of the height-limit initiative, which would subject their project to a vote. They are underwriting a lawsuit challenging the legality of Waterfront Height Limit Right-to-Vote Act

click to enlarge The Warriors' proposed waterfront arena inspired the nascent height-limit initiative -- but the Giants' planned development down the road would be affected, too. - SNØHETTA
  • Snøhetta
  • The Warriors' proposed waterfront arena inspired the nascent height-limit initiative -- but the Giants' planned development down the road would be affected, too.
E-mails from Giants vice president and general counsel Jack Bair to Wiener elucidate the state provision allowing the supervisor to request additional analysis of a pending ballot measure -- and provide Wiener "an explanation of the measure drafted for your convenience." Also sent from Bair to Wiener are talking points to justify and defend his resolution: "The attack by the measure's proponents on Supervisor Wiener's request for information -- a request specifically authorized by state law -- is a thinly veiled attempt to limit the public's access to information and to prevent an informed discussion of the measure." 

On Feb. 11, Wiener texted Bair that it was high time to start pushing his resolution: 

"Now is the time to start lobbying. I've heard that eric mar is voting against. I 
suggest calling Jane, Norman, Malia, and London." 

Bair replied: "Okay, I will work with Gabe and others."

Asked about all this, Wiener emphasized that "nothing untoward happened here." He stressed that he has nothing to hide, as proven by his disgorgement of a trove of e-mails and even texts from his personal cellphone following a public records request made by backers of the height-limit initiative. 

Wiener's resolution would augment the normal analysis of a ballot measure undertaken on behalf of the Department of Elections with more questions asked of additional city departments. 

When queried how "impartial" this measure could be when it was suggested and partially formed by avowed opponents of the height-limit initiative -- whom he then recruited to lobby on its behalf -- Wiener replied "That's irrelevant. I haven't taken a position on the measure and it's irrelevant what Gabe or Jack thinks. What matters is what the departments say in terms of actual analysis." 

To the surprise of no one, Jon Golinger -- one of the chief proponents of the height-limit initiative -- sees it differently. 

"This is a resolution with a public message about impartiality but the whole thing was suggested by an opponent, drafted by an opponent, and the lobbying strategy has been directed by an opponent," says Golinger. "I think it unmasks the true agenda here." 

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on Wiener's resolution Tuesday. Should it receive the requisite six votes*, its designation as impartial will be put to the test by the actual analysis undertaken -- as Wiener noted. 

What constitutes "impartiality," however promises to be yet another bone of contention. 

Maybe we can vote on that. 

*Advancing this resolution actually would have required all 11 supervisors to consent. Instead, it was on Feb. 25 shunted to committee

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Bio:
Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

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