June 3, 2013

Open Up The Waterfront!

Open%20Up%20The%20Waterfront.jpg

The approved 8 Washington Street project would raze the existing Golden Gateway Tennis and Swim Club and adjacent Port of San Francisco owned parking lot and construct a 165-unit condo building rising up to 136 feet in height upon the site which was originally zoned for up to 84 feet. The development would also yield new retail, a fitness facility with outdoor pools, and 30,000 square feet of public open space, playgrounds, and parks.

8%20Washinton%202013.jpg

From the "Open up the Waterfront" website which backs a proposed "8 Washington Parks, Public Access and Housing Initiative" to uphold the upzoning for the 8 Washington site, the signature gatherers for which were on the sidewalks of San Francisco this past weekend:

The 8 Washington Parks, Public Access and Housing Initiative is a proposed city measure that, if approved by voters, will open the way for new public parks, increased access to The Embarcadero Waterfront, hundreds of construction jobs, new sustainable residential housing and funding for new affordable housing. And it empowers voters with the decision on how to best utilize our waterfront.
Currently the site at 8 Washington has a 1,735 foot fence — over five football fields long — that blocks public views and public access to the waterfront. Today, the is site is also defined by a 27,000 square foot asphalt parking lot, which draws toxins into our Bay waters and an exclusive private tennis club behind the massive fence.
In the event that this Initiative and any other [related] initiative are approved by the voters at the same election, and this initiative receives a greater number of affirmative votes than any other such measure or measures, this measure shall control in its entirety and the other measure or measures shall be rendered void and without any legal effect.

The Open up the Waterfront initiative is being paid for by "San Franciscans for Parks, Jobs and Housing" with major support from Pacific Waterfront Partners, the developer of the proposed 8 Washington Street Project.

Consider "Liking" this post in order to show your support for the proposed Open up the Waterfront ballot measure which will also register your vote in our informal poll.

And while there’s no "Dislike" button for those who oppose this proposed pro-8 Washington Street measure, there is a countermeasure for you to "Like" instead: No Wall On The Waterfront!

First Published: June 3, 2013 12:00 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

Upzone away!

Posted by: Build Baby Build at June 3, 2013 12:16 AM

Can't blame them for showing the rendering from this POV, to emphasize all the open space. Editor, did you add the [related] in the initiative description above? If not, it seems like a glaring omission on their part, tho' IANAL. I have no dog in this fight, but hope this project gets built, one way or another.

Posted by: Dan Clark at June 3, 2013 7:53 AM

I personally have no skin in this game, but what's wrong with this rendering?

The reality is that the built section is literally fronting the massive apt building directly to it's west.
IMHO the sierra club rendering is far more misleading. It's a tiny wall in front of an existing much bigger one.

Posted by: someone at June 3, 2013 8:40 AM

They make a very convincing case, alas, I fear this development has already flown the political coop. If 8 Washington had done this at the beginning, or at the first hints of push-back from THD, their plans would have gotten much more traction with the community and BOS.

I still support this development and think it would be a vast improvement over the private-use, plastic-walled chain linked monstrosity that currently exists, and I hope it goes through.

I'm a very liberal constituent by any traditional standards, but the recent opposition to the project by the Sierra Club and DCCC have made me question their relevance and integrity.

Posted by: Drew at June 3, 2013 9:08 AM

Im confused here on what parts of the rendering are open to the public

Posted by: Sam at June 3, 2013 9:26 AM

Drew: I totally agree with you. The other thing the developer should do is remind people that this vote could affect the Warriors arena proposal, which is actually on the water.

The real issue here is that some residents on Telegraph Hill will lose their view of the Ferry Building. That's it! A couple folks won't be able to see one landmark within a viewshed of literally hundreds of them. The rest is hyperbole and misdirection. And for that we get a bunch of dueling ballot measures.

Posted by: Turin at June 3, 2013 9:41 AM

Makes me wonder who's pulling strings at the Sierra Club. The only arguments against this in my opinion are the rich condo owners at the Pacific Gateway who don't want their views impacted by other rich condo owners and those who resent other rich people being able to live on the waterfront. In reality/OTOH:

1) This is not a "wall" on the waterfront. It is in front of some much higher buildings that truly could be called walls, but this one, especially at the street line, is porous, with windows, retail, etc. and many public uses.

2) In fact most of the Embarcadero frontage of the proposed project is open space for the public - a huge improvement over the solid green fence and the parking lots that are there now. The building project itself only covers a small percentage of the property.

3) The only leg the opponents have to stand on is the fact that the mid-rise (I refuse to call a squat 10 or 12-storey building a "tower") exceeds current zoning for the lot by several floors. However, this is not on the waterfront - it is at the rear of the project and when looked at from the other side of the Embarcadero, it provides a pleasing transition from the conforming-height building on the Embarcadero to the Embarcadero and Golden Gateway towers just behind it. It actually looks fairly pleasant from a form perspective when looked at in context. I'm not sure, but I'll bet that pedestrians walking on the west side of the Embarcadero on the sidewalk in front of the new building won't even be able to tell that there is a taller new building behind it - although they will still be able to see Embarcadero and Golden Gateway towers.

4) The new housing provided by the project will be expensive and market-rate (duh! it's on the waterfront with spectacular views in a wonderful location...) but it will also provide dearly-needed funds for additonal affordable housing.

5) From a sustainability perspective, this is a win. We're increasing density (both market-rate and affordable)in a transit-rich area. We're putting green space (parks and green roofs) in an area that is predominately asphalt or other impermeable surfaces with substantial runoff into the Bay. Finally although I haven't scrutinized the details of the building, knowing the design team, I'm sure the overall sustainability of the developed site will be a big improvement over the current conditions. The Sierra Club is dead wrong on this point.

6) Finally - project opponents continue to claim that the project will destroy public open space (i.e., the Golden Gateway Tennis and Swim Club). This is a lie. I was a member of the club for many years. It is neither open space nor public. It is a very exclusive, expensive sports club - one of the most expensive in the City. It is not open to the public. It is surrounded, as previously mentioned, by a very long impermeable 10?-foot high fence and includes a private parking lot. Project opponents, in addition to the condo owners who don't want to lose their views, are tennis and swim club members who don't want to lose the swank club because first, it will be out of commission for a few years during construction, and second, the replacement will have fewer tennis courts and pools. Project opponents from the condo complex would routinely put flyers in the swim club locker rooms with distorted tales about the proposed project to get club members on their side. In fact, the new project will result in true public open space where there currently is none.

Really, I think project supporters have done a poor job in getting some of these facts across. Hope they do a better job this time around.

Posted by: Steve at June 3, 2013 9:54 AM

Supporting this pragmatic & thoughtful project with benefits to the city and the waterfront!

Posted by: Observer at June 3, 2013 10:00 AM

I don't care about the condos but anything to get rid of the chain link fence and surface parking lot at such a prominent location. This is the right approach to win public support, but I think it's probably too late for it at this point.

Posted by: James at June 3, 2013 10:36 AM

Everyone in that rendering looks so happy!

Posted by: Sausalito_res at June 3, 2013 10:36 AM

Too little too late.

Posted by: sf at June 3, 2013 10:39 AM

Excellent project. Build it.

Posted by: futurist at June 3, 2013 10:41 AM

I have no personal involvement in this project, and no possibility of affording these condos, but I still completely support it, it's attractive and a far better use than what is currently there.

I don't know where people get the idea this is too little, or too late. The election season hasn't even come close to starting, and the vast majority of San Franciscans have never even heard of this issue.

It will most likely come down to whichever side has the deepest pockets.

Posted by: lyqwyd at June 3, 2013 11:04 AM

This is how things play out in our progressive city.

In a less progressive city, the lawyers for the couple in the existing building fighting the project would have quietly approached the developers of 8 Washington to voice their concerns. Perhaps with Agnos and all coming along for the meeting.

Down the road, when 8 Washington was complete and units were being sold, you would find, equally quietly recorded, that the dissenting couple had made a no cash trade of their current home for a view penthouse in 8 Washington.

Posted by: redseca2 at June 3, 2013 11:35 AM

One more vote for the build it, although sorry I won't be counted by the "like" feature. I've exceed my limit of one posting on facebook a week. I'd go with none but family start to worry that I'm still alive if I never post anything.

Posted by: Rillion at June 3, 2013 11:54 AM

I'm confused. How is this different from the original design? This looks really neat by the way.

Posted by: Wai Yip Tung at June 3, 2013 1:07 PM

It's too little too late because the no wall crowd has already built up massive armies and has former mayors involved. Of course people are aware of it. Now the developers are getting into the game, finally, almost a year later? I wouldn't want to live in a project built by a developer that is this lazy.

Posted by: sf at June 3, 2013 1:43 PM

Mayors, or a mayor? I only know of one mayor so far Art Agnos.

I'm sure the developers can get a few former mayors on their side, Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom seem likely given they were very pro developer as mayors. Both of them are much more relevant than Art Agnos today. I'm sure they can build up their support base quickly as well. Ed Lee seems possible as well, although probably more of a stretch, given that this may impact the Warriors stadium.

Like I said, there's still plenty of time until the election, this is merely the early phases.

Posted by: lyqwyd at June 3, 2013 2:33 PM

Isn't there already a wall on the waterfront?? All of the pier buildings and the Ferry Building preclude my view of the water from the Embarcadero. I say, "No Wall on the Waterfront - Tear down all of the Piers!"

This is a very good design and it is so sad that the few who might be effected have been able to manipulate the public process to this extent. I agree with so many comments that the building massing is a good transition to the taller buildings, the building(s) sits on the developed end of the parcel AND provides access through and around the site (unlike the racquet club!) and that it isn't on the waterfront at all. Where were they when the Hotel Vitale was built?

Posted by: marvinsnephew at June 3, 2013 2:42 PM

You had to bring the Hotel Vitale into this. Gives me a sick feeling every time I go by it. Why someone would entrust Heller Manus with such an important and visible location - across from both Boulevard and the Ferry Building - is beyond me. This project by contrast is very well designed from all perspectives and does not deserve the opposition it has generated.

Posted by: Steve at June 3, 2013 3:00 PM

I don't think it's too little, too late.

This slogan is great, and says it all:

"Open Up The Waterfront."

I think the voters will go for it.

Posted by: lark at June 3, 2013 4:50 PM

The rendering of the people milling about must have been taken on opening day since the public element of the park will not be filled with picnickers as illustrated once the homeless set up camp and the grassy mounds are reduced to mud. Can't have nice things in an uber-progressive city like SF.

What currently sits on the site seems more gated and public-unfriendly than the proposed development. Also, taller buildings already exist on this street east of the Ferry Building, without public space, so what's the big deal Telegraph Hill Dwellers?

Posted by: Mark at June 3, 2013 5:36 PM

The revised Sue Bierman park across the street sure did not turn out very nice and seems to be mainly used by bums. So I welcome new green space but question the end result.

Anyway, this project is toast in its current form. Uber-expensive condos for elite 1%ers. Yeah, that is going to be really popular on the ballot! Might as well include some yacht parking across the street. That being said, if it gets built I would consider buying a unit in the building.

Posted by: anon at June 3, 2013 5:45 PM

looks great! build away

Posted by: spencer at June 3, 2013 6:01 PM

Art Agnos also oppose to Kaiser development in Potrero Hill.

http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Kaiser-should-build-in-the-Bayview-4261702.php

Posted by: Wai Yip Tung at June 3, 2013 6:31 PM

I met one of the signature gatherers for this new competing initiative, and he was equally as clueless as the ones gathering signatures against the project.
He said "This is for some public housing or something. I think it's in Oakland. No wait, actually San Francisco."

It was pretty genius of the developers to fight fire with fire, so to speak. They'll use the voters' ignorance to further a private agenda in the exact same way that the project opponents did.
If anything, the fact that we even have these two competing measures shows just how much is wrong with the system in general.

I wonder if I could gather enough signatures, and launch a PR campaign, for a ballot measure called something like "Feed the Hungry" that would enact a new city-wide parcel tax whose entire purpose is to pay for all my personal grocery bills.

Posted by: anon at June 3, 2013 6:42 PM

This should be revised to be 40+ stories or higher. It allows more people to live where they work, which reduces the number of vehicles that enter downtown every day. Make 40% below market rate and everyone is happy. Its ridiculous that such prime development real estate has to be wasted on squat residential buildings.

Posted by: San Francisco Skyscraper Forum at June 3, 2013 8:59 PM

Okay. But since so many San Franciscans are traveling southward in corporate shuttles to work everyday, most arguments built around the premise that changing zoning to allow more tall residential buildings, thus enabling reduced amounts of commuting aren't as compelling as they otherwise would be.

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at June 3, 2013 9:33 PM

^Brahma - SF is a net importer of hundreds of thousands of people per day. A few thousand heading south doesn't change that.

Posted by: anon at June 3, 2013 10:05 PM

8 Washington, 706 Mission, Warriors Arena .... The courts will be tied up for the rest of the decade, I'm guessing. Too bad a portion of the lawyer fees can't go to pay towards the hundreds of millions of annual investment needed to bring our transportation system up to snuff for the existing development uses.

Posted by: Jamie at June 3, 2013 10:53 PM

All else being equal, it's easier to win a "No" than a "Yes" when it comes to ballot proposition. If the development opponents play their cards right, they could pull this off.

I guess things will become clearer over the next few months, as we see who is setting the message and who is responding to it.

Posted by: noodle at June 4, 2013 7:25 AM

Let the NIMBYs spend their time and their money fighting off this development, it is such a non-issue since this lot is already basically ignored.

As long as 181 Fremont and the Transbay Tower rise, nothing will stop the west coast mini-Manhattanization of San Francisco, finally after all of these decades.

Posted by: San Francisco Skyscraper Forum at June 4, 2013 10:18 AM

Build it within the zoning that exists is my vote. Developers want to make the most money they can on a project, that's just business, I understand. But once built, there is no going back, and look at all the horrid mistakes that were allowed to be built 30-40 years ago. Do we want a city of shadows and blocked horizons? Or one with light and air, and high-rises contained in sensible, discreet areas? And don't buy the arguments for: "Jobs" is a fleeting and small benefit, and the park, that too. There is a new large park and an older small park nearby (both underutilized it appears to me on my daily rides by there), and the Embarcadero has a lot of public space too. Granted the club that exists there now is not the best use of the site, but that doesn't mean the proposed project rising 136 feet is the best use. Personally I would rather see 15-20% more lot coverage and less open space than the increased height. Developers will always want more, lets build this city smarter and keep it's unique SF character in tact.

Posted by: brianSF at August 5, 2013 9:44 PM

@brianSF,

You really don't understand the context, whatsoever. The Planning Department itself, through its Northeast Waterfront deaign study, had the developer get a variance to go higher in parts through a stepped design. The initial subumasions were within the 84' code. The developer is doing precisely what planning told them to do.

"No Wall on the Waterfront" is a disgrace in many ways. Not the least of which is its propaganda, getting people like you to talk about it in incorrect terms that it cynically authored.

The only saving grace i can see to "no wall" passing would be that it would finally be ibcious to everyone in San Francisco how utterly broken Planning has be ome.

Posted by: Anowned at August 6, 2013 11:24 AM

What's the over/under on Prop B passing?

I have to think that if you tell enough people they can vote against condos for rich people you'll win the day in San Francisco.

Posted by: soccermom at November 3, 2013 8:32 PM

Agree with soccermom. I'd put it at Yes +250 No -170.

Seeing lots of "No Wall on the Waterfront" signs hanging from SFRs in Miraloma of all places.

Seems that this has become some sort of referendum on the state of housing in this city. Not like voting No will fix any of the problems, but it WILL give people an outlet to express their anger at Google buses.

Posted by: 4h_clubber at November 4, 2013 9:03 AM

it might pass, but just because the "no" voters are more energized and the turnout will be

Posted by: moto mayhem at November 4, 2013 10:21 AM

You can't overlook the mechanics of the propositions themselves. From the L.A. Times yesterday, Fight over waterfront condo height goes to San Francisco voters:

…At risk of being forced back to the drawing board, [Developer Simon] Snellgrove countered the referendum with the "Open Up the Waterfront" ballot initiative, which puts the entire development as approved by local officials to the voters.

The No Wall on the Waterfront campaign needs "no" votes on both to kill the project. The developer needs only a "yes" vote on either to prevail and begin construction.

Emphasis mine.

I have no idea on what the over/under on Prop B passing is or would be, but I don't think it's as simple as voting "against condos for rich people." I kinda doubt that the "no" votes will carry the day, but I wouldn't bet money on that, either.

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at November 4, 2013 10:27 AM

The progressive types who have been fooled into thinking that "No Wall" is an issue they should get behind? Yeah. They don't tend to vote that much. We'll see soon enough. But what an odd coalition: Peskin, Stewarts, Boston Properties, and the SFTU? Bizarro. Peskin was on the radio talking about how Planning is corrupt. What a joke. That guy loves Planning. He gets emails every time anybody proposes to add a flower box in Telegraph Hill.

Posted by: Truth at November 4, 2013 11:25 AM

Who are the Richard and Barbara Stewart? They seem to have funded 1/2 of the paid arguments against B&C in my voter info packet? I found some reference to them living in the gateway condos behind the proposed project. Is this correct?

Related: Who are Janice and Maurice Holloway? They seem to have funded the other 1/2 of the paid arguments against the project.

[Editor's Note: The Money And Motivation Behind The Anti-8 Washington Measure.]

Posted by: soccermom at November 4, 2013 11:53 AM

They're Jackson Square residents who will lose views.

Posted by: Truth at November 4, 2013 12:11 PM

^How do we know that for sure? Have they admitted as much?

The oblique (nudge nudge wink wink) web links are not helpful if they do not make the point clearly.


Posted by: soccermom at November 4, 2013 1:04 PM

It's common knowledge, at least in the Walkers' case. Look it up if you like.

Posted by: Truth at November 4, 2013 1:48 PM

Posted by: SocketSite at November 5, 2013 8:15 AM

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