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Monday, December 30, 2013

Waterfront War: San Francisco Height Limit Voter Initiative Filed

Posted By on Mon, Dec 30, 2013 at 10:15 AM

click to enlarge I coulda been a contendah! I coulda passed a voter initiative! 
  • I coulda been a contendah! I coulda passed a voter initiative! 


The looming War on the Waterfront may have just had its Lexington and Concord moment. 

The first shot against pending development along the Embarcadero appears to have been squeezed off Friday, when a voter initiative succinctly titled "The Waterfront Height Limit Right-to-Vote Act" was filed with the city's Department of Elections. 

Measure sponsor Becky Evans told SF Weekly she's off to City Hall to refile the measure -- "we're working with a group of people," and, evidently, someone wants to mind his Ps and Qs. But, in essence, a potential ballot measure which would require voter approval for any development exceeding existing height limits is now in its nascent stages. 

Department of Elections personnel confirmed they'd received the submission last week, and said a copy would be posted on their website by day's end. 

This sets in motion a number of predictable procedural moves -- and some rather unpredictable, emotional, and certain-to-be vituperative political ones. Because, yes, this is a shot directly at the proposed Golden State Warriors arena on Piers 30-32. 

Within the next two weeks, the City Attorney must sign off on the content of the would-be voter initiative. With that in hand, the measure's sponsors can file an intent to circulate in local paper products distributed throughout the city known as "newspapers." And, following that, 180 days are allotted to gather enough signatures to land this item on the ballot. 

SF Weekly is told by the elections department that 9,700 signatures are required, based upon 5 percent of the total votes cast for mayor in the last election. 

This move comes on the heels of a relatively well-heeled coterie of NIMBYs and anti-development types mounting a successful campaign against the proposed 8 Washington condo tower in November's election. Two-thirds of the electorate sided against erecting second- and third-residences for the megawealthy at nearly three times the waterfront height limit. 

Now the battle has turned toward the Warriors arena -- and, perhaps even more so, the host of proposed condos, hotels, and other potential honeypots eyed for waterfront slots. The Warriors have already hired every last "consultant" in town at great expense and seem prepared to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into revamping the crumbling Piers 30-32 -- which would then allow them to start spending money at a prodigious clip building the actual arena and its myriad amenities. 

But not everyone has so much money to burn. And, unlike the Warriors arena, not every development would likely poll so well in a city where voters have recently indicated a bit of trepidation regarding an orgiastic, tech-fueled development boom coupled with hard times for many and a spate of evictions. 

Back-room, handshake deals about variances and special-use districts wouldn't cut it anymore if every development exceeding preordained height limits required a vote of the people. 

In other words: It's gonna be an interesting next few days, weeks, and months as various forces are marshaled. 

See you on the waterfront.

Update, 12:30 p.m.: See the full text of the initiative -- a brisk, three-page read -- here.


The takeaway: The existing maximum building height limits on the San Francisco waterfront shall be preserved and shall not be increased unless a height limit increase is approved by San Francisco voters. 

Also interesting: For the purposes of this Section, the term "waterfront" means land transferred to the City and County of San Francisco pursuant to Chapter 1333 of the Statutes of 1968, as well as any other property which is owned by or under the control of the Port Commission of San Francisco as of January 1, 2014 or acquired thereafter.

NEWFINALFINALFINWaterfront Height Limit Right to Vote Act

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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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