November 6, 2013
Voters Reject Measures B/C And Designs For 8 Washington Street
With 100 percent of San Francisco's precincts reporting and the mail-in ballots counted, the "No Wall on the Waterfront" forces have defeated the "Open Up The Waterfront" initiative and San Francisco Ballot Measures B and C.
The NO votes totaled 62.22 percent for Measure B (which would have upheld the approvals for the development of 8 Washington Street as rendered above) and 66.56 percent for Measure C (which would have upheld increased building heights for the project of up to 136 feet).
With the up-zoning for the approved project overturned, it's now back to the drawing board for the development of 8 Washington Street which we believe will still get built at some point, but not to a height of over 84 feet.
First Published: November 6, 2013 12:00 AM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
Time to make some popcorn and enjoy all the teeth-gnashing comments that we're surely about to hear from Socketsite's audience of wannabe developers and peevish, whiny landlords.
Posted by: Sue Your Landlord at November 6, 2013 12:05 AM
I was just reading the comment on another thread about the 55 year old woman at 19th and Valencia who had her throat slashed when she asked a 72 year old man for directions to the bus stop. In a city now known by many as having the worst homeless problem, slowest transit and very dirty streets, people here have been posting that if these luxury condos are not built, it will be the end of the world and the ruin of San Francisco.
I would say the ruin of San Francisco is when you have to watch where you walk for fear of stepping in feces, when a bike can get you across town faster than the public "rapid" transit system can, when you have to look on a transit seat to make sure there is not a urine puddle, and when people get their throats slashed below new $1,000 sq. ft. condos for asking directions.
While many here argue about the need for more density, bike lanes, removal of parking and parklets, the average San Franciscan wants SAFE AND CLEAN STREETS, BETTER TRANSIT, and I would not be surprised if most voters would vote for more parking (they have before). I could care less about the bread and circus atmosphere of yacht races (America's Cup), sport stadiums (Warriors) or luxury condos (this project).
I'll be making popcorn as well and enjoying the show of teeth gnashing.
Posted by: MakingPopcorn at November 6, 2013 12:28 AM
Great.... Time to devote resources to Ellis Acting some buildings and make room for the rich
Posted by: theHitman at November 6, 2013 12:58 AM
I think if you're making popcorn expecting teeth gnashing, you should expect for your popcorn to go stale. I thought the objections to the project were overblown and the project as approved should have been ratified by the vote.
But, at the end of the day, what is the end result? The developer still has housing development rights for the site, and they will simply build super-expensive condos in building that is shorter in the back by 52 feet to conform to the existing height limits. From a pedestrian's point of view a long building of 84 feet blocks about the same view as a long building of 84 feet in the front with a portion rising to 136 feet in the back.
In short, the only views saved were of the people living in the upper floors of the nearby high-rises and perhaps some people living uphill from the development.
So, yeah, the back of the building got reduced by 52 feet. I am sure the developer is unhappy since they have to redesign their building and wasted money on the ballot fight, but the end result will not be much different than if the building had been built as approved.
Posted by: Chris at November 6, 2013 3:05 AM
A few politicians have egg on their face this morning. Start with the Mayor, Newsom, Rodney Fong, Mike Antonini, SPUR etc. The list is long. The margins achieved by the No on B&C campaign suggest that the city does not want up zoning on the waterfront. Look out Warriors and 75 Howard.
Posted by: d-b at November 6, 2013 5:58 AM
Well, this probably makes my existing luxury condo more valuable since we will perpetuate the artificial housing shortage. Somewhat good for me, and bad for folks who will be Ellis acted out, since that's where the profit will be.
Posted by: JJ at November 6, 2013 6:17 AM
At least we still have our parking lot.
Posted by: taco taco at November 6, 2013 6:19 AM
Well well well......not surprised. And stop with the threats of Ellis Act, commenters. Sour grapes
Posted by: sfjohn at November 6, 2013 6:52 AM
Keep this land undeveloped for now if that's what the NIMBY's want. In 10 or 15 years, they'll build high rises on it. The city is growing. It won't stop.
Posted by: BTinSF at November 6, 2013 7:04 AM
So, instead of the higher towers in the back of this development and a small public park at the north end of the lot, am I correct in assuming the entire development will be 84 feet in height with no park?
Would someone who voted against this project please explain to me what in the hell their reasons were for voting "no"?
Posted by: Fishchum at November 6, 2013 7:11 AM
@MakingPopcorn: Your perspectives hit home with me, which explains why SF is no longer my home. After 18 years of enduring what I call an "unsupervised, poop-smeared" city, I left. Your common-sense observations are on the mark. Such s shame that basic safety, sanitation, and city services cannot be part of such an otherwise beautiful place.
Posted by: ExSFer at November 6, 2013 7:31 AM
Well, I can't say it's not expected...
I guess we can say goodbye to the proposed project on Howard. The Warriors arena may face a major hurdle now, which utterly breaks my heart.
I could say more about how the older generation of SFers, who really do not have too much time left in the city in the grand scheme of things, are viciously and selfishly protecting the city from being what the younger residents who moved to the city want it to be. Rent control and a severe and crisis-point housing shortage have sent the ENTIRE creative class of young artists, musicians, social workers, etc over to Oakland. You have yours, and you have HAD yours for decades. If you do not like the direction the city is going, I get it, but it's not your turn anymore. History should always be respected. I am not in favor of the "Micro-Suites at Alcatraz" or upzoning Glen Park or any other crazy idea. But when we desperately need housing, and the trend is decidedly in the direction of being a metropolitan/global city, preserving parking lots if just stupid.
What will it take for people to realize that we are beyond a simple housing crisis. This is not 1950 anymore. We need more units. The only reason most of these protestors can even afford to live here is either rent control, or they bought long ago and are paying nothing in property taxes. If they saw how insanely hard it is for people in their 20s and 30s to move here, especially if they have children, maybe they'd care if they weren't the "python generation".
Posted by: JWS at November 6, 2013 7:34 AM
Lol. Guess it is not nimby-ism when the entire city opposes the project by a landslide.
Fischum, building multi-million dollar condos that would be used by the uber wealthy a couple weeks out of the year and remain vacant the rest of the time does not solve any housing issues. Building the most expensive private sports club in the city does not create recreation for the average person.
Don'f fall into the trap of thinking it is the existing project or nothing. Far better to wait an extra few years and find a project that people are overwhelmingly in favor of than create something that is overwhelmingly despised.
Posted by: anon at November 6, 2013 7:47 AM
I will go back to my main point which is uniform 84 foot buildings around the mid-rises that already exist looks terrible aesthetically.
The step down was mediated by the planning department for this very reason. Ballet box planning is bad. Every single person I spoke to against the project had misinformation with many believing high rises were being proposed on the other side of the Embarcedero somehow.
It really in the end was about views of a few people
Posted by: Zig at November 6, 2013 7:56 AM
^Why would it be a few extra years? The developer can immediately build an 84' building on the entire property like they originally proposed. I think that's what the folks voting no didn't get - this doesn't stop development on the site or even shorten the "wall" on the waterfront. It merely shortens the tower portion at the back and increases the height at the front.
Posted by: anon at November 6, 2013 7:59 AM
Will likely get built at 84 feet is right - and without the park, and probably without the connections to the waterfront of the east-west streets. It will be a squat, build to the lot-line building. What a waste of an opportunity.
Posted by: Mike at November 6, 2013 8:26 AM
I think the developers at 75 Howard are very worried now.
[Editor's Note: Impact Of Proposed 31-Story Waterfront Tower Up In The Air.]
Posted by: Ivan at November 6, 2013 8:31 AM
Anon @ 7:47 - No one is asking or expecting this development to "solve" the housing issues San Francisco faces. It does, however, add housing stock to the city which in turn ultimately slows the rise in prices. How? Well the people who would buy here are now forced down into the next tier - Pac Heights, Russian Hill, Etc. The buyers at the bottom price point of those neighborhoods are now pushed into the next lowest tier - Noe Valley, Cole Valley, etc. The buyers at the bottom price point of those neighborhoods now get bumped down and so on and so forth, until you get people "discovering" places like Mission Terrace and Crocker Amazon and Portola, and the lower and middle classes there are forced to look outside San Francisco.
Why is it some people seem to feel the most basic laws of economics cease to exist inside the borders of San Francisco?
Posted by: Fishchum at November 6, 2013 8:34 AM
Disappointing but not surprising. I'm curious how many voters actually voted, and how many of those bothered to even read the details of the proposal? Not many, I'd wager. My guess is many folks saw/heard the "greedy developer" smear and reflexively voted no, ironically benefitting a handful of rich NIMBYs. In other words, just another day in SF politics.
Does anyone know what the overall voter turnout was?
Posted by: Legacy Dude at November 6, 2013 8:35 AM
Ha ha, you all lost. Now go build middle class housing in the Bayview. They want you there.
Posted by: hal at November 6, 2013 8:38 AM
Does anyone know what the overall voter turnout was?
Turnout at the polls was 8.92 percent with 12.76 of registered voters having submitted a ballot by mail for a total of 21.67 percent of registered voters in San Francisco having cast a vote.
Posted by: SocketSite at November 6, 2013 8:42 AM
I want to see the look on every one of these No voters' faces when 8 Washington actually IS developed as originally proposed, but even wider, and minus the slightly higher setback. Congrats SF, you have voted no wall on the waterfront by creating an even bigger wall on the waterfront!
Posted by: sf at November 6, 2013 8:44 AM
Re the "creative class of young artists, musicians, social workers" moving to Oakland. (Social workers? Necessary, perhaps, but not "creative.") I really don't see the problem with artists/musicians/writers living in Oakland because it is cheaper there. Those of us in SF can still enjoy the works and performances of artists/musicians who live in Oakland just like Manhattanites can enjoy the work of artists who live in Brooklyn or New Jersey. I understand that artists/writers would prefer to live in SF, but so what? No real loss there except for those who simply prefer to have these types of people as neighbors.
The real problem is that in SF we need teachers, police, janitors, restaurant workers, hotel workers, secretaries, street cleaners, etc. These people must work in SF every day (unlike the "creative class") and it is simply poor social and civic planning to force these necessary and relatively low-paid workers to live in small and/or squalid local quarters or face long commutes. That's why we need more and less expensive housing (and other measures to lower costs, like eliminating rent control).
Posted by: anon at November 6, 2013 8:50 AM
Thanks editor, very telling. Not even a third of registered voters voted. So the results express the views of like 15-20% of the city as a whole when you consider all the San Franciscans of voting age who don't even bother to register here (millenial generation, I'm looking in your general direction...).
What that basically tells me is that North Beach and a few other NIMBY sympathizers voted while the rest of the city couldn't be bothered to care. Once again, an overly-vocal minority bends city policy for its own benefit. Status quo in SF politics.
Posted by: Legacy Dude at November 6, 2013 8:53 AM
The step-back plan was great with the park in front.
Now it will be a WALL 84 feet high on the Embarcadero.
Unbelievable. Agnos, et al should be ashamed. A handful of NIMBYS with deep pockets can reek havoc with a choice piece of property.
Posted by: james jr at November 6, 2013 8:59 AM
The SF Gate comments are making me chuckle this morning when I really needed a laugh. "The little guy has won the battle against the wealthy and greedy!" (their proposition was bankrolled by Boston Properties and millionaire condo dwellers). "Now what happens to this site?" Hahaha. Be careful what you vote for...
The current 85' height limit proposal has already gone through the necessary EIR and appeals and can commence construction within existing height limits, or would there be more legal battles ahead?
Posted by: sf at November 6, 2013 9:02 AM
Hold it right there anon... people have been commuting for all kinds of reasons (economic, weather, schools) for decades in this country. Why should any one class of worker be given preferential treatment to enable them to live in a given 7x7 square of land when good-enough transit and plentiful, inexpensive housing exist only a few minutes away?
Posted by: Jimmy (not a Real San Franciscan (TM)) at November 6, 2013 9:02 AM
Its no done deal that the developer can just build an 84'project. The project was entitled as designed. It would have to go thru years of redesign, a new EIR, hearings at every commission that previously approved the prior plan. The project was initially designed as an 84' project. After 17 months of "community planning" workshops, the community and the Planning Department convinced the developer to step the height up in the back and down in the front. The same people who put C on the ballot opposed the 84'project and would probably put that on the ballot, this time saying it should be 40'. Whether the developer or their financial partners (Calsters) are up for this remains to be seen. And what other developer would walk into this now? We may have another 10 or 15 years of parking lot and fenced club.
Posted by: Jim at November 6, 2013 9:08 AM
Oakland housing is hardly "inexpensive". We need more housing in all parts of the Bay Area.
Posted by: anon at November 6, 2013 9:10 AM
As pointed out above, the only tangible upshot of the vote is that the project will get built entirely at 84' than having a small bit at 136'.
I also wouldn't read a lot into the so-called tea leaves about what this portends for future development fights.
The election had embarrassingly historic low turnout for a ballot that had nothing on it. The politics and voting populace are way different than a general election with major citywide, state and national items of consequence.
While I'm not expressing an opinion about the Warriors Arena proposal, you can be sure that the general public sentiment about the warriors project is totally unrelated to how they feel about a luxury condo complex. While some of the issues are the same, it has totally different dynamics and some hot-button issues are fundamentally different. And I don't see a natural constituency to throw big bucks at fighting 75 Howard (except possibly the immediately adjacent office building, admittedly nothing to sneeze at), because any blocked residential views would be those that are quite distant, not the same as 8 Washington going up directly in front of the Golden Gateway building, or even the Mexican Museum tower going up right in front of the 4 Seasons. But of those two, I would give the warriors better odds than 75 Howard at making it through the process.
Posted by: hmmm at November 6, 2013 9:14 AM
Voters came en masse against "the wall" so that they could keep this beautiful black wall. Hey we can see the tip of the BB. Yeah!
Posted by: lol at November 6, 2013 9:16 AM
Sell the land to George Lucas. He knows how to stick it to the NIMBYs.
Posted by: formidable doer of the nasty at November 6, 2013 9:19 AM
"Agnos, et al should be ashamed."
If you want to see humility take a look at the Art Agnos memorial BART station in Milbrae. Apparently he known better than us
Posted by: Zig at November 6, 2013 9:35 AM
...or the developers could put this back on the ballot once again á la the Fell Street ramp tear-down.
Posted by: Mikey at November 6, 2013 10:28 AM
I don't know why people are arguing back and forth? The developer maintains the legal entitlements to build housing on the property, the develoment just has to conform to the existing 84 foot height limit. The developer will simply redesign the project without the tall portion in the back and build it as originally planned.
Also, while a voter referendumn can deny an increase in height because it is a change to existing law, it cannot override a development by right without paying full compensation to the party, as that amounts to taking. This would mean the city would have to pay the developer for the full fair market value of the project if it were an approved project that conformed to existing 84 foot zoning laws and then the voters "overode" it through a referendumn to reduce the existing height--this is in response to the suggestion that voters could reduce the existing height. So, if you want to pay the developer a couple of hundred million dollars of city tax revenue to keep the lot empty, I suppose that could happen--but it seems like the money could go to better use, like roads, homeless shelters, etc.
Posted by: Chris at November 6, 2013 10:40 AM
Out of curiosity, I just checked the SFGate article. As of this post, there's 664 responses (!!!) to that article. Going to spend some time combing through the comments. Have to bet there's more than a few great ones in there somewhere...
Posted by: Can't think of Cool Name at November 6, 2013 10:53 AM
Basically, SF voters are the "left" version of the tea party "right".
Tea Partiers hate government and SF voters hate rich people. And both extremes vote in ways that are not in their best iterests, in the long run. Want affordable housing? Then let the rich people build their condos, so they can contribute $10 million to the affordable housing fund.
I consider myself fairly liberal, but the loonies in SF are destroying the city, while the TPer's are trying to destroy the country. Neither one is good.
Posted by: MoneyMan at November 6, 2013 10:57 AM
The sad thing is that idiocy won the day at the polls. Nothing incredibly surprising if you look at SF, but always a disappointment.
Money was wasted, a park wont be built, idiot's were useful to protect a few millionaires views, and a relatively unimportant development was delayed and will have to revert to the original plan the developer proposed (which was only changed because planning rejected it and asked for more height).
The good thing is that existing property owners like me will get a little boost in the value of their property. The rich folks who would have bought the extra units are not going away, they will just have a slightly lower supply to choose some, which will slightly increase property values.
The turn out being so low (about 1/5 of registered voters), and the highly focused purpose of the measures (since they were only designed to benefit a few wealthy people's views), and the overall pointlessness of the election (3 uncontested minor political positions, and a few ballot measures that most people didn't care about either way) means not much of interest can be learned from this election.
I'd have preferred to have rational thought win the day, but oh well...
Posted by: lyqwyd at November 6, 2013 11:09 AM
Isn't this Port land? In other words isn't this public land?
Also, if the developers had included some affordable housing in their project on the site they might have had a better time.
They were willing to give $11 million to the affordable housing fund on a multi million dollar project. If they had created housing and foregone say $20 -25 million in revenue from the sale of mega priced condos maybe they could have had their cake and eaten it to. I mean not all of those units would have had premium views or prime locations (Someone is going to have to live on the third floor overlooking Jackson Street).
They could have created a lot of good will by some sort of inclusive housing on the site. Instead they wanted something "elite" and between that and the rich people in Golden Gateway, the anti-growth conclave of SF that still survives (not all are "old") and a growing antipathy to Ed Lee they got nothing for now. Wouldn't the economics of the thing still have been great if they included 10 to 20 units out of the 134 proposed units, for seniors, families, etc...plus they would have had some good karma.
Posted by: noe mom at November 6, 2013 11:39 AM
Including affordable housing in the building would not have changed the outcome as it had nothing to do with affordable housing. As you mentioned, the project would have funded $11 million worth of affordable housing, which would have gone much further towards actually providing affordable housing than to put a few units in this building.
How is it be better to have affordable 10-20 units in this building than to have dozens of them built elsewhere?
This was solely about protecting a few million dollar views.
Posted by: lyqwyd at November 6, 2013 11:57 AM
fishchum asked: am I correct in assuming the entire development will be 84 feet in height with no park?
The presence of Sea Wall Lot 351 in the proposal means that they would have to include the park (so no). However, Alternative D in the EIR was a proposal to build only on 8 Washington and keep SWL 351 a parking lot. The open space in Alternative D would be 7,700 sq.ft. (plus the 'asphalt park' at SWL 351 remains) versus 23,800 sq.ft. for developing the whole area (including SWL 351). So Alternative D would be the the closest to a 'spite fence' build out.
Posted by: EBGuy at November 6, 2013 11:58 AM
the rich homeowners get to keep their views and the progressives helped keep the private club and the rich peoples view in place. way to go. the developer will now make this more luxury and chage more per unit to make up the money from having fewer units. then the previoud rich people with views and the new rich people with super luxury units can leave in happiness together. this is a big loss for the majority of upper middle class san franciscans
Posted by: moto mayhem at November 6, 2013 12:15 PM
New single just dropped by former city attorney Louise Renne:
If you havin' housin' problems I feel bad for you son,
I got 99 percenters Snellgrove ain't one
Just a 311 beef with neighbors done got cubed
Make a lotta crazy arguments all up and YouTubed
I luhv to see the bay cruise ships Cunard
Sewer pipe enviro risk sounds right, canard.
You see I grabbed that tail and the dog I wagged
Posted up Embarcadero threats, my boy Art Agged
Wrong with my line of vision, I can't see can you?
In my inside coat pocket I keep my boy Dave Chiu
If you havin' housin' problems I feel bad for you son
I got 99 percenters Snellgrove ain't one
The year was '13 and my view was sacred
I got many different skills to foment the hatred
I could support 11 large for affordable housing
Or the anger of the people be instead arousing
Now I ain't tryin' see no mockery made of Louise
I knows people in the city since the nineteen seventies
So I pull over with my "No Wall" score
I heard, "Ma'am do you know what a referendum's for"
For stopping these grubbing filchers taking my views?
"No ma'am for exceptional cases where power's being abused"
"There are reasons in the city for a planning process"
Well then let me convince the people to vote in a little test.
If you havin' housin' problems I feel bad for you son
I got 99 percenters Snellgrove ain't one
Posted by: soccermom at November 6, 2013 12:26 PM
No, it's not port land, at least not the portion where the building would sit, the tennis court was purchased and the parking lot was, too. The actual portion of the property they hope to build on is owned by the developer.
Posted by: Chris at November 6, 2013 1:10 PM
Posted by: lyqwyd at November 6, 2013 1:41 PM
@Chris, I don't believe you're correct. From the voter guide digest: Approximately 80% of the Site is owned by Golden Gateway Center and used as walkways and a privately operated tennis and swim facility. The remaining 20% is a public parking lot under the jurisdiction of the City and County of San Francisco’s Port Commission.
From what I can tell, SAN FRANCISCO WATERFRONT PARTNERS has a purchase option that has yet to be exercised. Corrections welcome as I don't want to be passing along bad information.
Posted by: EBGuy at November 6, 2013 2:39 PM
And isn't Golden Gateway Center SF Redevelopment Property? As for including units other than the high end, it would have been good PR that would have been hard for the opposition (like myself) to refute. I mean if it gave some low income or working poor families the chance to have their kids live in a good neighborhood, who could argue with that? Think of what that might mean for the future of a couple of dozen of kids? That is an argument that is more compelling than a park that you couldn't see in the voter handbook and an amorphous $11 million for housing when the City doesn't even have a couple of million to fix some elevators in a high rise for some elders.(see Clementina Towers) Again, particularly when this is public land.
Posted by: noe mom at November 6, 2013 2:59 PM
I am glad to stand corrected, but as far as I know the developer at least owns the land where the buildings would be situated. Also, I recall there was a vote by the State Lands Commision approving the transfer of land to the developer in April--Gavin Newsom cast a vote despite objections.
In any event, as I posted under the other article on this issue. Insure affordable housing in a luxury condo development is not feasible. Condos have HOA fees, and all units pay the same fee based on size, even affordable units. The HOA fees in a luxury development would be astronomical and much too high for anyone needing affordable housing. In my own condo building, we have fees considered reasonable by SF standard, about $8,000 a year for a two-bedroom, and the affordable unit owners pay these fees on top of their mortgages and it's burdensome for them. There is no way an affordable unit owner could pay the likely 5-10 times amount they would pay for HOA fees in a super-luxury building.
[Editor's Note: That's still not correct. The buildings for the 8 Washington Street development would cover much of the Port's SWL 351 parcel as well, the parking lot in the image above. We do, however, agree with respect to the impracticality of including affordable housing within the development versus funding the development of even more affordable housing off-site.]
Posted by: Chris at November 6, 2013 3:13 PM
I believe you are correct. The club belongs to the Golden Gateway Center and the developer has been paying the owners for an annually renewable call option on the land.
In between paying for that call option, paying for the TV ads, paying for Willie Brown's services, staffing an office on the Embarcadero for many years, paying architects, etc, the developer must have spent a pretty penny by now with little to show for it.
Posted by: anonanon at November 6, 2013 3:33 PM
Great…Time to devote resources to Ellis Acting some buildings and make room for the rich
Don't kid yourself or us.
That's already started happening, is happening and will continue to happen regardless of how many developers are allowed or not allowed to build luxury condos for the rich.
Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at November 6, 2013 3:44 PM
d I would not be surprised if most voters would vote for more parking (they have before)
When did this happen? In The City of San Francisco?
I remember when billionaire Don Fischer and his "Parking for Neighborhoods" initiative that attempted to overturn The City's Transit First Policy and shove more parking down everyone's throats got hammered at the polls. In spite of Don spending big bucks to try and get it passed. It lost more than 2:1.
Are you talking about some other time parking went to the voters?
Posted by: NoeValleyJim at November 6, 2013 6:58 PM
Reading these posts reminds me of watching Karl Rove's meltdown on Fox on election night 2012. Hilarious.
Posted by: Karl at November 6, 2013 7:51 PM
^ why not. Except this election was just a blip on the radar. SF is currently experiencing a tremendous change and the protected crowd that wants nothing to ever change is very afraid for their future.
Yes, there will be more Ellis. No, saving one or two vocal tenants will not turn the tide.
When a unit with a tenant goes wholesale for 400K or less and the empty unit can be TICed and sold for double, what can non-owning tenants do? Put their heel in the sand but this is only sand...
All of this is deeply ironical. This is the generation that wanted to change the world. They questioned their elders all the time. "Never trust anyone over 30" they said. Now they are the obsolete elders being pushed out to the wrong side of history.
Posted by: lol at November 6, 2013 9:49 PM
This is really a shame. The design proposed is probably the best design that will ever be proposed for this site.
The increased height at the rear was offset by reduced height along the front, making a graceful transition to the banal golden gateway apts.
It will only get worse. Not least because the cost of the process will come out of the final quality of the built project.
Posted by: rubber_chicken at November 7, 2013 7:19 AM