Golden Gateway Commons Aerial

As a plugged-in reader wrote last month with respect to the threatened anti-development referendum that seems to have materialized in an attempt to thwart the approved development of 8 Washington Street:

What the opponents are about is a “referendum”, a provision in the City Charter which allows a law passed by the BOS and signed by the Mayor to be repealed by the voters. The process requires the necessary signature to be collected within 30 days from the day the BOS refused to repeal the law itself. It could trigger a special election. It will take a lot of effort and money to accomplish this task in this short time period.

Of the $150,000 raised to fund the signature gathering for the ballot measure, over half came from a single couple which seems to have left some scratching their heads.

From the listing for the three-bedroom Golden Gateway Commons on condo on Davis Street that the aforementioned couple purchased for $2,400,000 back in 2004:

Rarely available Bay and Bridge view 3 bedroom…This home faces to the east and enjoys views of the Bay, Bay Bridge, Treasure Island, Ferry Building and the pools and tennis courts of the Golden Gateway Club.

Looking for the political views and motivation behind the funding of the anti-development ballot measure? You’re looking in the wrong direction.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by sf

    A pawn is born every minute.
    Just like republicans use their working class to deliver them the riches and then piss on them, here is an example of how this works with the democrats.
    So if this were an affordable housing project it would Bo ok?? Yeah, right! These snobs would cry even louder.
    I hate, hate, hate these selfish snobs, and everyone like them in this city, of which there is no shortage.

  2. Posted by NJ

    @sf:
    I think I want to agree with what you’re saying, but I don’t understand what you’re saying. Can you please elaborate?

  3. Posted by Joe

    What am I missing here? That two ancient NIMBYS spent 75k to prevent their view from being taken away?

  4. Posted by kg

    I don’t blame people who signed the petition. The “NO WALL ON THE WATERFRONT” campaign contained less information than a Fox News segment. What’s scary is that we have supes naive enough to support this.

  5. Posted by James

    I don’t think we know anything about their voting records or party affiliations. This is clearly an abuse of the political system, by someone who can drop $75,000 (more than the average annual salary of a SF resident) in order to protect their bridge views.

  6. Posted by anon

    If the people of SF definitively vote against 136′ buildings next to the waterfront (we will see), than it is a perfect outcome for the supervisors be overturned for going against the will of the people.
    This is a referendum on height, not just of this project but for future developments. And like it or not your average SF resident is not a fan of tall buildings. I’m almost suprised we don’t have a Parisian style 6-story height limit throughout the city.

  7. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    I totally agree with anon that Manhattan-style building (or even Vancouver BC-style building, which is what this project seems to be more like) seems very unpopular here among long time or native residents.
    But if someone seriously proposed upzoning areas other than SOMA for Parisian style 6-story height limits, that’d be a very useful compromise to achieve density, IMO. Still don’t think it’d drive down the overall price level much, but it’d help out at the margins.

  8. Posted by Robb

    While I completely disagree in principle.. to be honest, the more NIMBY’s block development the more my existing property is worth..

  9. Posted by nick

    I bet the people who are pushing for six-story style limits on construction in this city are the same people bitching about everybody but the ultra-rich being priced out.
    You can’t have it both ways folks.

  10. Posted by marvinsnephew

    I hate these people. Its the same “all development is bad and everything that exists now is sacred” rant. And now, some hateful neighbors who happen to have lots of money can drop SO much money to completely distort the planning process. It is hard to believe, but this could make people feel bad for the developer who is being victimized by both the uber-wealthy and the down-trodden (those signature-gatherers standing in front of the Safeway). Just another day in SF planning.

  11. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    Uh, nick…if more areas of the city had a six story limit, that’d represent an increase in density and allowable construction, no?

  12. Posted by Munky

    The height limit should be proportional to the distance from the waterfront. Slapping a 30-storey building at the edge of the water is ridiculous. But put that eyesore 6 blocks in, I don’t care.
    The skyline & waterfront line is a precious asset, and must be guarded carefully.

  13. Posted by Guest666

    @Munky,
    What 30 story building are you referencing? 8 Washington is not intended to be 30 stories at all.

  14. Posted by sparky-b

    Munky,
    What development are you talking about? “30 storey building at the edge of the water”???

  15. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    I was scratching my head trying to figure out how this all volunteer group was able to gather 30k signatures so quickly. Because I was part of a a group that put an anti-corruption initiative on the ballot back in 2002 and it was hard to gather that many, even with 20 committed volunteers. We all spent every weekend out gathering for over a month.
    Now I understand.
    It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Like the vote to tear down the Central Freeway, it is likely to be close.

  16. Posted by Patrick

    The signature gatherer at the Diamond Heights Safeway got very aggro and weird when I told him that I supported 8 Washington…

  17. Posted by jlasf

    I wonder how much this is going to cost the city? Tax revenue lost.
    No construction workers hired. Construction suppliers losing revenue. And probably some City administrative costs. It might be cheaper to buy out the complaining residents. Or maybe the developer should offer them a swap to the new building with views.

  18. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    I myself forgot how tall the project was planned to be. From the draft environmental impact report (Introduction page 2, page 12 of the .pdf):

    The proposed project calls for demolition of the existing health club facility and the existing surface parking lot on Seawall Lot 351, and construction of two residential buildings south of the Jackson Street alignment: one along The Embarcadero (four to six stories) and the other along Drumm Street (8 to 12 stories). The buildings would be connected at their ground floor. Together, the buildings would contain about 165 residential units, 420 underground parking spaces for residents and the public, and ground-floor retail and restaurant space.

    Emphasis added.
    As far as the assertion from nick, above, that “you can’t have it both ways” and that San Franciscans either must cease “bitching about everybody but the ultra-rich being priced out” or refrain from placing “limits on construction in this city”, this project is a great example of that being a false dichotomy.
    This project isn’t going to do anything about residents other than the ultra-rich being priced out, because the ultra-rich are the target market for the completed units. If you read the piece that the socketsite editor quoted from former Mayor Art Agnos in April, the completed luxury condos are projected to sell at $2.5 million to $7.5 million each.
    I still think this is a worthwhile project and that surface level parking lots and tennis courts are not the best use of scarce and valuable land, but it also happens that the proposed project is a worthy recipient of its opponents ire. Should be a very interesting election.

  19. Posted by Mole Man

    Maybe this could be solved by rebuilding a section of the Embarcadero elevated highway structure right there.

  20. Posted by Dan

    “…the completed luxury condos are projected to sell at $2.5 million to $7.5 million each.”
    The opponents of market-rate housing always exaggerate the selling prices. For example, the opponents of 3400 Cesar Chavez (who came 1 vote from keeping it a parking lot and shuttered paint store) called them “million dollar condos” in the campaign to block construction. In fact, the condos dold for about $400-600k.

  21. Posted by anonanon

    @Dan
    If you think you’d be able to buy as much as a closet for $400K in this development, you’re delusional. This is a very premium location and no sane developer would develop anything but the most high-end stuff there. So you’re really talking about a project for very wealthy people, and for many of whom, it would be a second home.
    The irony is that the Gateway Commons, where some owners have a vested interest in fighting this development, has its share of absentee owners, so if it was just a fight between greedy developers and Gateway Commons NIMBYs, it would truly be a fight between the 1 percent and the 1 percent.
    Now, in addition to the small number of Gateway Commons owners, there are thousands of people using the Golden Gateway Tennis & Swim Club for recreation and these people live all over the City and are typically middle-class as opposed to the 1 percent.
    So in one camp, you have a developer seeking to make megabucks, the teachers union, which has invested, and their lawyer Willie Brown, who, presumably, is supposed to take care of the political machine in San Francisco.
    In the other camp, you have some NIMBYs, a whole lot of people concerned about the future of their recreational facilities. Plus the usual gang who would oppose anything greedy developers or Willie Brown would be involved with.
    Will be interesting to see how it plays out.

  22. Posted by neighbor

    It doesn’t sound interesting to me, it sounds like a cl*sterf*ck.
    This location is *perfect* for rich-people-second-homes. There is no infrastructure for residential living: no grocery stores, no pharmacy, no nearby schools. Any small stores in the area, outside of the mall, are closed or deserted on weekends. Well, the mall is open on weekends but is always deserted. The Tennis Club is almost certainly used by office workers during the week, not residents, and is also probably closed on weekends. The height seems fine to me as well — 4 to 6 at the west side of Embarcadero and 8 to 12 at the base (or nearby) of the Embarcadero Towers. It’s a gradual climb up to the downtown towers.
    The only people who can reasonably complain are the people who will have their views blocked, just like it ever was. Remember Larry Ellison and the tree? But we didn’t all have to vote in a special election to get Larry his view (wow, I am comparing them unfavorably to Larry Ellison!). I do agree, then, that this is all just rich people problems, but I do not agree that this project is bad for the location *at all*, and I think it is stupid to bring it to a general election.

  23. Posted by jlasf

    @ neighbor:
    “The Tennis Club is almost certainly used by office workers during the week, not residents, and is also probably closed on weekends.” Where did you get that idea from? As a past member of that club, it is mobbed on weekends with people at the pool and tennis players.
    By the way, there is a Safeway nearby, as well.

  24. Posted by zine

    @neighbor is obviously not that knowledgeable about the area … there’s the Safeway already mentioned, there are a couple of Walgreens within a few short blocks. The existing neighborhood is predominantly residential already, with various neighborhood supporting businesses. It is a good thing to also have convenient recreation, an important component of a well balanced neighborhood, i.e. the tennis and swim club, which is always full on weekends. Other than enriching the developer, and pleasing the millionaires who buy the places, I don’t see any benefit to the neighborhood, regardless of blocked views or other more trivial things. This is a money play, pure and simple.

  25. Posted by R

    “I don’t see any benefit to the neighborhood”
    Are landowners required to provide a benefit to others in the neighborhood? Who is the judge of that?
    “This is a money play, pure and simple.”
    Um, yeah. That’s what developers do this for. Is that wrong?

  26. Posted by anon

    My office has unobstructed views of the bay and piers. This would get in the way. I’m all for killing it or stalling it for as many years as possible!

  27. Posted by futurist

    I don’t see any laws against owning a second home.

  28. Posted by Frederick

    8 Washington Street is a very controversial project. September 27, 2007
    The present proposal is the 4th attempt to change the Golden Gateway Swim & Tennis Club from a recreational facility into part condominiums and part recreational.
    The reason that the use of the site is still recreational is that the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency took control of the area in the 1960’s, used Federal Funds to relocate business and residents and with 5 developers bidding, chose the Perini Corp of Boston to develop the Golden Gateway area.
    Perini won the rights to build the Alcoa Office Building (25 stories), the Golden Gateway Center (1,200+ rental apartments) and the Golden Gateway Commons (mixed use with 3 blocks of office & retail and 155 condominiums).
    One of the reasons that Perini was accepted by the Redevelopment Agency is that Perini proposed to build a private 2 acre park (Sydney Walton Park) and build the Golden Gateway Swim & Tennis Club (Club) that was made available to the tenants at the GG Center and GG Commons.
    This helped create the neighborhood with both office and residential uses and today is the most successful project the SF Redevelopment Agency has completed.
    Perini paid the Redevelopment Agency market rate land cost for the rights to build the Alcoa Bldg, the GG Center and GG Commons, but paid below market for the land for the Park & Recreational Club.
    The neighborhood and anyone visiting has enjoyed both the Park and Club since the 1970’s.
    There have been 3 previous attempts to build condominiums on the Club and reduce the size of the Club. All 3 previous attempts were turned down, first by Mayor Dianne Feinstein, then Mayor Art Agnos and most recently by the Board of Supervisors.
    Members of the Club have formed an organization to “Save the Club” called Friends of Golden Gateway “FOGG” with over 1,300 members. http://fogg.us/.
    In December 2006,FOGG joined with the San Francisco Tennis Club, the Barbary Coast Neighborhood Association (www.thebarbarycoastnews.com) and numerous other City organizations to have the Supervisors (who voted 11-0) to require any changes in public or private recreational facilities in San Francisco to replace the recreational component with 100% of the existing recreational facilities. This action has saved the SF Tennis Club from being replaced with over 500 condominiums.
    The neighborhood that enjoys using the Golden Gateway Swim and Tennis Club feels that the project that was approved by the Redevelopment Agency 30 years ago, did not call for it to change at a later date.
    If the recreational facility can be taken away, how soon will Sydney Walton Park have a 25 story building replacing that open space?
    You are welcome to attend the public meeting on Monday, October 1, 2007 at Pier 1, 6:00 PM to hear a presentation by the developer of this project.
    Get educated and make up your own mind.
    Frederick Allardyce
    President, Barbary Coast Neighborhood Association
    —-
    Dear Readers,
    Your opinions as to the future skyline of our city are insightful.
    As to the specific site, Sea Wall Lot 351, presently under the control of the Port of San Francisco, the use of that site is highly contentious.
    This site was zoned with an 84 foot height limit in the late 1940’s, so that Caltrans could build the double deck, Embarcadero Freeway to connect the Bay Bridge to Clay, Washington and Broadway streets.
    Even though the freeway was very popular in the 1950’s all the way to until the 1989 earthquake, it was very controversial. In fact the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, fought successfully to end the freeway at Broadway and not have it continue to the Golden Gate Bridge, as Caltrans had planned for.
    Until 1962, when the State Legislature, in the Burton Act, gave the Port and the adjacent parking lots, to the City of San Francisco, the various “Sea Wall Lots” were supportive to the maritime activity of the Port.
    As the decades have gone by, the Port has used the majority of the Sea Wall lots as public parking.
    In fact today, Sea Wall Lot 351 is the main parking facility for the Ferry Building, its offices and retail shops and restaurants.
    The fact that the 84 foot high zoning is in place on SWL 351 and most of the other SWL lots controlled by the Port, has nothing to do with any City of San Francisco Planning or Zoning, either by the City or the Re-Development Agency.
    It’s strictly a holdover from the construction to the Embarcadero Freeway.
    SWL 351 is located next to the Golden Gateway Swim & Tennis Club, which was approved by the Redevelopment Agency in the 1960’s.
    It was built for the neighborhood as part of the open space component to the neighborhood, which includes One Maritime Plaza (The Alcoa Building), the Golden Gateway Center (1,284 rental apartments), Golden Gateway Commons (155 condominiums and 300,000 sq ft of office and retail) and Sydney Walton Park (a private park for the enjoyment of all San Franciscans).
    Since Dianne Feinstein was Mayor in the 1970’s, then in the 1980’s when Art Agnos was Mayor and continuing until today, there have been 4 attempts to change the Swim & Tennis Club and turn it into condominiums.
    All the proposed developers have assumed that the 84 foot height limit, again placed on the site by Caltrans, would allow them to change what the Re-Development Commission had agreed to when the Swim & Tennis Club was initially approved and built.
    The neighborhood, now over 3,000 interested San Franciscans, supported by FOGG (Friends of Golden Gateway, the BCNA (Barbary Coast Neighborhood Association), the THD (Telegraph Hill Dwellers) and two former mayors, and two Boards of Supervisors have protested and stopped the proposed change from the only recreation and open space in this high density neighborhood.
    There are many locations in San Francisco where buildings can and will be built, maybe up to and over 1,000 feet, but this is not the site for rebuilding the freeway, with an 84 foot tall building, when the freeway was was only 55 feet tall.
    I invite all of the readers that have made comments on this issue on Socketsite, to at least attend one meeting held by the Port or the Northeast Waterfront committee of the Port, to educate yourself on this issue. Come and speak you viewpoint. Meet the neighbors and listen to their opinions.
    The next meeting on the issue is this coming Tuesday, January 13th, 2009 at 3:00 PM at the Port’s Meeting room at the Ferry Building.
    You will get an update as to why one of the most recent applicants has withdrawn his proposal.
    For some additional background visit:
    http://www.socketsite.com/archives/2007/07/did_the_port_get_played_san_francisco_seawall_lot_redev.html
    http://www.socketsite.com/archives/2007/04/perhaps_you_should_care_about_all_those_new_development.html
    http://www.socketsite.com/archives/2007/04/the_port_the_piers_the_parking_and_the_terminal.html
    Posted by: Frederick at January 10, 2009 11:13 AM
    —-
    If you have followed [my comments], you would not be surprised by the 31,000 signatures gathered in 30 days, a feat not matched in San Francisco for 2 decades.
    The ballot measure is backed by two former Presidents of the Board of Supervisors (Matt Gonzales and Aaron Peskin) and the present President of the Board of Supervisors, David Chiu, Ted Gullickson of the San Francisco Tenants Union, the Barbary Coast Neighborhood Organization, Telegraph Hill Dwellers & numerous other neighborhood organizations.
    The ballot measure calls for the City to maintain the existing 84 foot zoning on the Waterfront and not promote the “Spot Zoning” that the present Board of Supervisors (8 to 3 vote) and the Mayor have approved.
    Equally compelling is the loss of the Neighborhood “Church”.
    The Golden Gateway Swim & Tennis Club and Sydney Walton Park have been the glue that put the neighborhood together in the 1960’s. The Club, with 2,000 plus users is where the neighborhood meets, exercise, discusses life, politics and all things San Francisco and the world on a daily basis.
    At one time it hosted many popular National Tennis matches (now held at Stanford). Today it is one of the few outdoor facilities that anyone can come and use with the same basic fees that public courts cost.
    Yes, it is very important to all of the members and overall neighborhood.
    Where are the supporters of the removal of the Club? Are they the political forces (Supervisors and Mayor) that have been supported by $$$$ from the developer?
    At the numerous public meetings, spanning 40 years, never has a supporter suggested that if the same development proposal came to their neighborhood park, would they prefer to have their local park replaced by a condominium project!!
    Imagine if the neighbors around Delores Park or The Panhandle or any San Francisco Park had a developer suggest that their park was to be replaced by a condo project.!!!
    There are numerous locations to build 135+ condo’s, perhaps not in an existing neighborhood and removing it’s “Church”.

  29. Posted by anon

    At the numerous public meetings, spanning 40 years, never has a supporter suggested that if the same development proposal came to their neighborhood park, would they prefer to have their local park replaced by a condominium project!!
    Parks are public places, not private tennis clubs. You can’t get more apples/oranges.

  30. Posted by anon

    ^Another note – if we absolutely have to keep the area without development, why not make it an actual public park? You could actually even have tennis courts there with see-through fencing, rather than the current decrepit parking lot and walled off compound of courts.
    It’s an absolute embarrassment for all San Franciscans that a piece of our waterfront looks like this.

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