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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Waterfront Height Initiative: Jon Golinger Calls off his "Political Theater" ... UPDATE: Judge Keeps Measure on Ballot

Posted By on Tue, Mar 18, 2014 at 12:15 PM


Update, 4:40 p.m. SF Weekly has learned that Judge Marla Miller made her ruling, opting to keep Prop. B on the June ballot. 

Original story: Yesterday, a judge heard arguments regarding whether or not we'll ever get to vote on Proposition B -- which would, subsequently, require us to vote, again and again, on each and every major waterfront development project. 

That's kind of a big deal. But that's not the subject of much feverish coverage du jour in the ongoing Waterfront War. Instead, all attention was focused on the clever -- too clever as it turned out -- maneuver pulled off by the chief backer of the waterfront height-limit measure. 

Jon Golinger, up-and-coming North Beach political kvetch, employed a stunt usually reserved for the city's Libertarians and Republican Looney-Tunes: He submitted dozens of missives "against" the measure he was actually in favor of, essentially ensuring his message would be selected by the Department of Elections to be the "official argument" against Prop. B. (his "rebuttal" to his own measure: "Who really doesn't like B? Greedy real estate interests. Don't B fooled by them."). 

That, as Shakespeare would put it "is an old device." The aforementioned Libertarians and Looney Tunes have been pulling this off for decades. But, this time, it sparked rancor and front-page fulminations about unethical behavior. Supervisor Scott Wiener will today introduce legislation attempting to outlaw this practice. 

For Golinger and his side, it's not a good look. So, he tells us, he's giving up the game. This morning he submitted a letter to the Department of Elections rescinding his dozens of submissions. 

Everyone can breathe easy now. 

Golinger tells SF Weekly this was "political theater" meant to illustrate that big-money interests are behind quashing the measure, which would mandate voters weigh in on every development exceeding the zero- to 105-foot height limit blanketing much of the waterfront. In fact, the lawsuit aimed at striking Prop. B from the ballot is underwritten by baseball franchise and would-be waterfront developers the San Francisco Giants.   

The head of the local Democratic Party, Golinger continues, is a registered lobbyist for the San Francisco Association of Realtors. The party recently voted to oppose Prop. B and could, quite possibly, blanket city voters with news of this, funded with yet more Giants money. 

That, however, wasn't the message Golinger's ploy produced. Instead, he was portrayed as a dodgy dude who pulled a fast one. That's not the best way to win elections or elicit sympathy for one's cause. And, as such, Golinger sacked up today and withdrew his arguments. That's not entirely how he put it, however. 

"While my arguments may have fully complied with the rules," he penned in his letter, " it is most important that the voters have the opportunity to be fairly informed by the Voter Information Pamphlet and hear both sides of an issue before making their election decisions."

In other words, he's resigning to spend more time with his family. That is an old device

Judge Marla Miller's ruling is expected in the very near future. If, as is anticipated, she opts to let voters decide on Prop. B, we can look forward to more contentious politicking -- you can B sure of it. 

Update, 5:20 p.m.: In a seven-page decision, Miller dismissed the pre-election challenge of plaintiffs Tim Colen, Michael Theriault, and Corinne Woods. That trio, underwritten by the Giants, had claimed that voters -- or, in fact, anyone other than the Port Commission -- weighing in on waterfront planning would violate the 1968 state law transferring the Port from California to the city. 

They may well make that claim again after June's election, but not before. 

Golinger referred to today's ruling as "a fantastic victory to protect the waterfront." Colen, Theriault, and Woods can console themselves, however -- minus Golinger's ballot guide-stuffing ploy, they will be the authors of the forthcoming official argument against Prop. B. 

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

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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