January 6, 2014

SF Arena Threat: The Waterfront Height Limit Right To Vote Act

A few of the forces behind the successful No Wall on The Waterfront ballot measure which stopped the development of 8 Washington Street in its tracks are working on another measure which would prohibit increasing the existing maximum building height limit for any parcel along San Francisco's waterfront unless explicitly approved by the voters.

Aiming to be included on the June ballot and currently being processed, petitioners for the proposed Waterfront Height Limit Right to Vote Act should soon start appearing on a corner near you.

The existing height limit for San Francisco's Pier 30-32 upon which the Golden State Warriors would like to build their 125-foot tall arena is 40 feet.

First Published: January 6, 2014 11:30 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

I have been feeling like they are trying to slowly fill in the Bay like they were planning in the 1950s.

Posted by: TESLA at January 6, 2014 11:51 AM

I'm in favor of either location, but I actually think that repurposing Bill Graham makes more sense. (Although that has complications due to the landmark status.)

Posted by: rabbits at January 6, 2014 12:03 PM

Nope, just the rich trying to protect their views.

Posted by: Jim at January 6, 2014 12:04 PM

Unlike 8 Washington, the arena is gaining in popularity. A recent poll actually showed an increase in positive sentiment. The Warriors brass needs to be sensible about the hotel aspect, and San Franciscans will support the arena at piers 30-32.

Posted by: Truth at January 6, 2014 12:21 PM

While this is certainly a threat, it seems that opinion polls absolutely showed that the majority of San Francisco residents want a new stadium in this location, and so would likely vote to increase the height limit for this area even if this ballot measure were to pass.

I am beyond fatigued, as I am sure everybody who is pro-reasonable growth, with the rabid anti-growth brigade in this city. I know that going against these people is a fight worth fighting, but with the increasingly vocal backlash against anything development and/or tech, it seems like building is only going to get more difficult. The city needs to take an incredibly firm stance now, lest this continue to get out of control.

The frustration comes from the fact that the main reason for this fight is class warfare style fear without facts/comprehension of economies, urban planning, and markets on one side, and selfish "I have mine and you can't have yours" attitudes on the other side, all acting together to destroy growth for a city that desperately (and I don't use that word loosely) needs it.

Cities inherently grow. And frankly, the growth tends to come from the new residents. San Francisco is historically a boom/bust town that new generations pushed forward culturally and physically. While I get the fears of being pushed out of an area you've lived in your whole life (I do NOT get the fear of losing a view), too much power is in the hands of the "old", at the moment, and it is coming so close to strangling an amazing renaissance for this city that touches everything...business, arts, parkland, sports, architecture, transit (although we fall short here), dining, everything.

Posted by: JWS at January 6, 2014 12:27 PM

How does this proposal effect Seawall 337 (SF Giants parking LOT A)?
SF Port EIR preparation documents show proposal for 100-380' building heights along the waterfront

Posted by: rubens at January 6, 2014 12:33 PM

@rabbits - Bill Graham isn't even one third as large as an NBA arena, nor able to be expanded, unless we're talking about closing down streets or something.

Posted by: anon at January 6, 2014 12:40 PM

JWS, It is "Class warfare" if you support height limits on the waterfront?

What are you, a paid Koch Brothers lobbyist for the Warriors?

San Franciscans have already voted for height limits in the Embarcadero, and you seem to gloss over the fact that others favor the arena, just in another location.

By lumping them all together as "class warfare", you aren't helping your argument. GEEZ.

Posted by: Jackson at January 6, 2014 12:59 PM

Closer reading of my comment might support the fact that I was describing the motivations for the anti-growth platform as a WHOLE based on fears of class warfare, not this arena specifically. But if that's what you want to take away, go for it

The paid lobbyist card continues to be hilarious. What is the point of paying people (in this case, a man in his 20s) to promote development on a blog filled largely with people who support development? Sorry I have a different opinion from you. Wish I could get paid for having it...

Posted by: JWS at January 6, 2014 1:26 PM

If I meet any signature gatherers, I will do what I usually do with petitions for things I don't like; write "this is a stupid f*cking petition don't sign it!" on the signature line.

Posted by: Patrick at January 6, 2014 1:34 PM

"gloss over ... different location"

Not really. Textbook "not in my backyard" stuff. You think you're different, but you're not. The location IS the deal. DeL with that fact. Then the Koch bros? Hah. Wow.

Posted by: Truth at January 6, 2014 1:45 PM

If we could prevent any new development from being built or planned for the next 5 years, I'd really appreciate it. Keeps my property value high until I'm going to sell and move out of SF in search of decent schools. After that, I don't care about your petty "height limits" anymore.

Posted by: formidable doer of the nasty at January 6, 2014 1:52 PM

Are the Giants' sour grapes behind Agnos' movement to stop the Warriors?

Posted by: Marten at January 6, 2014 2:42 PM

I'm convinced the arena has no chance of being built. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, but I can see it both ways.

Rents are out of control in this city, voters are never going to approve an extravagant waterfront arena. It just wont happen, game over, might as well move on to something else. Whether the fear that a high priced arena will exacerbate rents is real or not, it doesn't matter, the voters will shut this down.

Posted by: Sam at January 6, 2014 2:46 PM

Why are you discounting poll data in lieu of your own gut feeling, Sam? Poll data displaying improving public sentiment, at that?

Posted by: Truth at January 6, 2014 2:55 PM

This will pass.

But the arena will also pass.

But what exactly is "along the waterfront?" Is that a loose term that can be applied to any downtown development? Or is it, say, within 200' from the bay line?

Posted by: sf at January 6, 2014 3:00 PM

anon - the Bill Graham idea was in the Chronicle a few weeks back, and I find it appealing. As to size, Madison Square Garden has a footprint of approx. 550x500 including sidewalks, and Bill Graham is at 475x360, so yes smaller. But I have to think an enterprising architect could get something figured out, possibly incorporating Grove St and connecting to City Hall's plaza? Anyway, an appealing alternative, as is any other location right on top of a BART station, including Piers 30/32.

Posted by: rabbits at January 6, 2014 3:02 PM

@Rabbits - I read that article as well, but I think it will ultimately come down to Piers 30/32 or nothing at all. Not to mention that I find the idea of constructing an arena in Civic Center extremely implausible, and the NIMBYs yelling "put it there!" would oppose it just as hard, if not harder, once that became the site.

@Sam - I think what you are saying will indeed spell doom for a significant number of proposed projects. Absolutely the Mexican Museum Tower (a travesty) and 75 Howard (less of a loss). Probably some down scaling with the Giant's Mission Rock proposals. Almost certainly anything in the Mission around the BART station. But the public polls seem to overwhelmingly support the Warriors Arena. While it may not get built for any number of reasons, this is one project I am confident the public will support at the ballot box.

Posted by: JWS at January 6, 2014 3:11 PM

Yeah, let's tear down and mess with the traffic and public plazas of the historic city hall area instead of building on a crumbling pier that is more than adequate for a large arena.

Geez.. you people drive me nuts!

:p

Posted by: sf at January 6, 2014 3:15 PM

I don't think I could make myself any clearer above in stating that I like the pier idea too. Really, anywhere near BART/underground MUNI.

This town doesn't need much, but an arena is sorely lacking. 50 basketball games are one thing, but all of the other entertainment and convention business would be amazing.

Also, anyone conflating this idea with their rent rising should have their head examined (or face and Ellis Act eviction!). The jobs provided will be near term (construction) and long term (service) for the blue/working/middle class, or whatever it is called nowadays.

Posted by: rabbits at January 6, 2014 3:24 PM

The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium was built in 1915 as part of the City's Civic Center, a grouping of some eight neo-classical buildings unique in this country. The Civic Center is a major historical landmark recognized as such at all levels. It will not be touched. I find it appalling that ignorant people would even consider it.

Posted by: MSTBLD at January 6, 2014 4:12 PM

Voter as a rule are selfish and stupid. San Francisco voters are no exception.

Do not try to appeal to higher intellect, ideology, logic, or compassion. It will not work.

If you want San Francisco voters to vote "YES", then you have only to give them something they want, like a basketball stadium.

If you want San Francisco voters to vote "NO", then you have only to make them think they've got something to lose, like a view of the bay.

Right now, most San Francisco voters feel they would never be able to afford a new luxury condo themselves, and they might even get kicked out if the city fills up with luxury condos. That's why, if given the chance, they will always vote "NO" on anything that might involve new luxury condos. The reason why the "No Wall on Waterfront" campaign was so successful had zero to do with the actual project itself, and everything to do with voter's general views on being exploited by rich people.

If we want San Francisco to continue building, instead of legislating itself into a state of indefinite preservation, then the first step will be to keep things like this off the ballot in the first place. If that fails, then the only thing to do is to convince people in stupidly simple terms that more building will benefit them personally.
Basically, if your argument for more building wouldn't convince a 5-year-old, then it will not work in a political campaign either.

My first couple ideas for political campaigns:
- "Big buildings look cool and impressive."
- "Women prefer men with big buildings."
- "We're trying to make more big buildings than Oakland does, so we can win the building competition."

I hope the other guests at Socketsite can come up with something better...

Posted by: anon at January 6, 2014 6:15 PM

Personally, I think South San Francisco [does not suck] rocks. And note, too that they would probably gladly trade 'the industrial city' for 'the warrior's city,' or for that matter 'the new cow palace city.'

Posted by: Stucco_Sux at January 6, 2014 8:49 PM

anon - the Bill Graham idea was in the Chronicle a few weeks back, and I find it appealing."

Just total nonsense. The newspaper was just quoting the fantasy of the opponents. Total nonstarter with no real analysis. Another ridiculous alternative was Candlestick point

Posted by: Zig at January 7, 2014 9:37 AM

Stucco_Sux

SSF is the real biotech city in the region. Don't let Mission Bay fool you

Posted by: zig at January 7, 2014 9:41 AM

Right, let's just forget about an adaptive reuse of an enormous asset that has 2 concerts on its calendar for this year. I mean, the place is 10 years younger than my house, so we should definitely just use this landmark when Phish tours every three years, and as a lavatory for the bums in the Civic Center.

This arena debate brings out the worst of everything in land use planning in SF. It's too tall! It's on the water! But not over here! Will someone be displaced?! Just build it in SSF!

As someone perfectly fine with all of the new construction and excitement in the City now these arguments don't normally bother me, as progress seems to be winning. But for God's sake an arena would actually be a huge win for SF, and something everyone would use. This is disheartening. Build it on the piers, at Civic Center, SOMA, wherever that is central. Just build it.

Posted by: rabbits at January 7, 2014 10:55 AM

@ Rabbits:

1) Far too small for an arena.
2) I can name many concerts that took place last year, just off the top of my head. My Bloody Valentine, Macklemore, Pretty Lights, Swedish House Mafia, Passion Pit, Sigur Ros, The Killers, Nick Cave, Flaming Lips. SHM was at least five nights, Killers was 2. While it's no Fox Theater, those names are all big in the EDM, indie, and popular music scenes, so it has some draw.
3) Good luck touching that facade. This is a city that declares auto shops historic, let alone a piece of Civic Center.
4) Lastly, the suggestion for a Civic Center location is bait and switch. "Move it there", etc. The second it would be moved there (which it couldn't, due to the size and facade issues mentioned above) they would turn on that just as fast. "A BASKEBTALL ARENA in our HISTORIC BEAUX-ARTS CIVIC CENTER PLAZA DISTRICT!?!?" And in that case, they might actually have a point for once.

Posted by: JWS at January 7, 2014 11:22 AM

Who cares where the heck it's built as long as it's next to mass transit.

Posted by: Mark at January 7, 2014 3:06 PM

I think the excitement around the warriors season will have some impact on this. They are doing really well and if they go far in the playoffs, I see an impact on sentiment of a new stadium.

I cant understand why people would want to stop a true architectural masterpiece as we dont have many in SF.

Posted by: moto mayhem at January 7, 2014 3:36 PM

south san francisco would suck as a location. i worked there for 15 years. definitely biotech hub, but not a nice place for a stadium. might as well go to oakland

Posted by: moto mayhem at January 7, 2014 3:42 PM

San Francisco developers forced to actually follow zoning code? Amazing.

Posted by: tj at January 8, 2014 12:12 AM

^Do you have examples of places where developers have not followed "zoning code"? That would be illegal, so I'm very curious.

Posted by: anon at January 8, 2014 7:09 AM

Posted by: SocketSite at January 13, 2014 2:04 PM

What about the parking lot at Folsom and Spear street? I heard that Tishman Speyer is trying to build a building 400ft when the site is zoned for 300 ft. It's 1 block from the waterfront and would definitely cast shadows over the Embarcadero.

Posted by: anon at January 13, 2014 8:37 PM

Posted by: SocketSite at February 10, 2014 7:49 AM

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