pier 70 Project Area Aerial

The passage of Proposition B, the Waterfront Height Limit Right to Vote Act, will require voters in San Francisco to approve the development of any building on property that’s currently under the control of the Port of San Francisco and which would exceed the height limits for which the property is currently zoned.

The two big developments now most at risk: Forest City’s redevelopment of Pier 70 and the Giants Mission Rock project which had been proposed to rise up to 380 feet in height on the Giants Parking Lot A.  Togther, the two projects include over 2,500 planned units of housing and over 4 million square feet of commercial space.

As we first reported last month, anticipating the passage of Proposition B, Forest City has already sponsored a ballot measure to increase the existing building height limits on the Port-owned property at Pier 70 from 40 feet to 90 feet.

If the Pier 70 measure should fail in November, however, the approved development of up to 1,000 new units of housing, two million square feet of commercial space, and 400,000 square feet of retail, cultural and maker uses on the Pier 70 site would have to be revisited and redesigned. The Pier 70 development is currently slated to break ground in 2016.

And prior to the passage of Proposition B, the target timing for the Giants Mission Rock development had been moved up by a year with work on the first phase – which had included a residential tower rising up to 320 feet in height – slated to commence in 2015. We now expect the timing for any redevelopment of the Giants Parking Lot A to be pushed back by at least another year and the proposed building heights and density to be scaled back.

The original plans for the Giants Mission Rock development included up to 1,500 residential units,1.6 million square feet of commercial space, and between 150,000 and 250,000 square feet of retail and entertainment uses.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by unlivable city

    Its a start. We also need to fix the traffic jamming that cretins at SFMTA have implemented — so the streets flow smoothly again. Then dial back on all these ridiculous notions of 30,000 additional households every few years in a little beautiful gem of a city that does not need to be murdered by greedy developers and their henchmen on the hook in city hall… and let’s make our parks park-like again by stopping the stupid clear cutting of the enviro-fascist “back to sand dunes” set at rec and parks. A start…

    • Posted by Sam

      Also, lets make sure only the top 1% of the 1% can purchase properties in our city. Lets also make sure that all restaurants need to charge $40+ a plate to afford rent, lets also make sure that the only drinks sold in bars are $15+ cocktails, lets make sure to remove all dive bars, places of experimental theater, music venues, and artist working quarters by converting them into 30 foot tall 10 million dollar a condo buildings because the last thing we would ever want is to have anybody but the absolute cream of the crop move here.

      • Posted by Futurist

        Pure fear mongering by you Sam. Projections of doom and gloom. All fantasy.
        Guess what? If ya can’t afford to live here, try Oakland. Try Idaho.

        • Posted by Brian M

          Hilariously, your riposte merely confirms Sam’s very point.
          I assume you are joking. But no, you probably do believe that only the creme de la creme deserve to live in a petrified theme park/glorified gated community. After all, as a Futurist, I assume your dream is a world of robot slaves where the poors and teh hoi polloi are banished from sight!

          • Posted by Futurist

            Yours was pretty hilarious too Brian M. I’ll just say this:

            No one “deserves” to live here. No one is entitled. It takes hard work and yes MONEY to live here.

            Trouble is, you and many others really do believe the entitlement approach.

    • Posted by Ted

      funny (referring to @unlivable city)

    • Posted by iDrone

      You should focus more on the homeless stench of a city that SF has turned into rather than people with jobs wanting to live there.

    • Posted by anon

      Everyone always tells me that there is no congestion in SF.

  2. Posted by Alex

    This is sad. I really wished prop B wouldn’t have passed. These were great redevelopment opportunities and many of the buildings in the surrounding areas are going to be just as high or higher. This is all shameful, especially in a time where we need more housing.

    • Posted by anon

      A silly notion.

      In terms of square footage, Prop B probably covers less than 1% of the developable property in SF…and most of that is piers where no housing is allowed to be developed. Why not focus on developing the other 99%?

      Good projects will be approved by voters (e.g. pier 70). Projects that many people will hate (building 40-story luxury condos along the waterfront or in Mission Bay) will not be approved. There is plent of land elsewhere in The City for that kind of development.

      • Posted by Warren Li

        There IS no “plenty” of land in the City. The Port of SF controls a lot of land (not just the piers, where housing is off limits) that is currently under-utilized (e.g., used as parking lots like the site pictured above).

        • Posted by Sierrajeff

          Amen – and where is this “plent[y] of land elsewhere in the City”? Not the Richmond, or Sunset, or Pac Heights, or Marina, or Western Addition, or Bernal Heights, or Noe Valley, or Mission, or Marina, or Presidio, etc. etc. – NIMBYs and/or current prohibitions will prevent “that kind of development” from occurring in each of those neighborhoods.

          So where then – eastern SoMa / Rincon? All but one of the Transbay parcels are taken and in development, and there are no current planning options to add more towers in other areas – that would require a detailed general plan amendment (and a lot of political capital).

          Western SoMa? The current planning there forbids this level of development, and it took years to get that plan approved – are you proposing that now that that’s finally done, it be re-started from scratch? (And see above re: cost and political capital.)

          Treasure Island? Already planned as a dense development (which is already the butt of jokes and legitimate criticisms re: access and re: global warming), can’t really accommodate more.

          Basically the voters have ripped the rug out from one of the few still-open and viable projects of this scale anywhere in the City – even though most of them probably couldn’t even find Pier 70 on a map.

      • Posted by Sierrajeff

        Please – the voters (the few people who voted) knocked down 8 Washington and passed Prop B. What’s the basis for asserting that they’ll approve Pier 70?

        And assuming Pier 70 doesn’t get a pass, describe – in accurate financial detail – how a private developer is going to profitably develop the Pier 70 area without the currently planned density. Development money doesn’t magically appear; even with current housing prices, there are some areas so contaminated, so needing of infrastructure work and ancillary project development, that they simply don’t pencil out as a 3-story 1950s village.

        • Posted by MossyBuddha

          (a) local neighborhood activists overwhelmingly supports pier 70 redevelopment as generally planned
          (b) forest city hasn’t been a bunch of asshats
          (c) there is no deep pocketed opposition.

          it’ll get done.

          • Posted by Sierrajeff

            Hmm, well according to preliminary results, residents of Supervisorial District 10 (including the entire southern waterfront) voted 59% in favor of Prop B… sliced differently, residents of Bayview / Hunters Point voted 56% in favor of Prop B.

            So I’m having a little trouble with the assertion that local neighborhood activists’ supposed support for Pier 70 will protect that project, in light of these results. I think Prop B has created a perception – real or imagined – that the voters don’t want highrises, period, and it’s going to be every bit as effective at styming S.F. development as Prop M in the 1990s. Politicians simply aren’t going to go out on a limb – again, even if it’s just an imagined limb – to support a project that they think will cost them public support down the road.

      • Posted by Jason

        this is ridiculous. Do you not realize that many of the best existing development opportunities (i.e., ones that don’t require us to destroy our precious neighborhoods blah blah blah) exist along the farthest eastern flank of the city, much of which was covered by Prop B? We’ve just made off limits some of the highest-potential land in the city. It’s absolutely absurd. At this point I honestly hope half of the city gets priced out so us techies can have our affluent little utopia without all these backwards NIMBYs.

      • Posted by zig

        I would have taken Vancouver style mid-rises lining Mission Bay and the central water front. I fail to see how this impacts the historic part of San Francisco or our delicate sensibilities.

        If they had planned this with some parks and a school that attracted other families we may have stayed at least to begin with.

      • Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

        I guarantee you that Pier 70 will not simply be approved by voters because it’s a good project. We just haven’t heard the NIMBY fear mongering on that one yet, but given Potrero Hill’s track record it is beyond any doubt that there will be kicking, screaming (literally) and all sorts of BS campaigning. Who knows, maybe they need to protect their view of the repair docks because they add “character”.

  3. Posted by Can't think of Cool Name

    I’ll try again. Specifically in regards to the Giant’s parking lot A (SWL337), its my understanding that the height restriction for that property is currently set at 0 (zero) feet. I would assume that anything built on SWL337 would now have to go up for vote under Prop B. So, if 1 foot is just as much a violation of the height restriction on SWL337 as 320 feet, aren’t we now talking about something undeniably subjective (height, and how much height “makes sense” for SWL337)? How do you vote yes or no for something so subjective where there are probably hundreds of differing opinions?

    • Posted by Sierrajeff

      Gosh it’s simple – you see what the Telegraph Hill overlords and Art Agnos tell you is the answer, and you vote that way regardless of objective merits and facts.

      (Disparaging pessimistic joking aside – Prop B really is basically “the Art Agnos & Co. payola act” – get the NIMBY shepherds on board with your project (at whatever cost) and they won’t object and they’ll tell the sheeple it’s a good thing for the City. Forget to make Art & Co. happy, though, and you risk incurring the wrath of Telegraph Hill – no matter the merits of your project.)

  4. Posted by Question Time

    Ahhh yes, so when i chatted about prop b with my fairly rational friend he was voting for it to limit development because he just invested in a condo at Mission Bay. Not so funny that people that are otherwise thinking become as “greedy” as those bad developers, and the guys at Zeitgeist that insist on raising their pint prices.

  5. Posted by ralber

    You lump these developments together, but they’re quite different. From the start, Forest City has marketed the civic improvement aspects of Pier 70, which are considerable, quite aggressively. They’ve held public tours of the site, published detailed descriptions and renderings of what the redevelopment will entail, etc. etc.

    In contrast, the Giants have made nearly no marketing efforts, aside from a paltry website, and failed to release any renderings of how the waterfront complex will affect the city skyline. Perhaps that’s because, unlike the Pier 70 project, the Giants’ Lot A development will have quite a dramatic effect on the skyline, as demonstrated in the renderings at http://www.drscience.com/propb.html. I put those rendering together, no one has challenged their accuracy, and I think they’re pretty astounding.

    If I had to bet, I would think only one of these projects has any chance of gaining voter approval, even after extensive reworking.

  6. Posted by ralber

    Prop B is evil because we can only alleviate housing prices for middle class residents by building expensive condo and office towers on a 1% strip of land along the waterfront … Huh?

    No, we should fight Prop B because self-interested voters will never vote to allow any waterfront development that might affect their views of the bay … but they broadly approved the building of PacBell Park in 1996.

    Obviously, we should let complicated land use decisions be made by our elected officials who have the vision, understanding, and time to master the intricacies of proposed development …but then 95% of our leaders refused to take a public stand on this important proposition.

    Posters on this site can ridicule the results of this vote but it’s time to recognize the fact that if the existing system were working, this would have never come up for a vote. I’m part of the elite, but I think maybe it’s better for all of us if less of the development decision making were in the hands of politicians and career regulators who owe their jobs to wealthy campaign contributors.

    • Posted by anon

      Yes, definitely better that we put it into the hands of a small set of wealthy and connected folks that get nonsense on the ballot.

  7. Posted by ralber

    It’s already in the hands of wealthy and connected folks. Prop B upsets that status quo. The fantasy that Art Agnos is now a power broker is laughable. If he had an army of brainless voters, as Prop B opponents want to scare you into believing, he would be mayor. He can’t steer the electorate any more than the Giants or Forest City can.

    Good developments like PacBell Park and properly Pier 70 will be recognized by voters and serve as models for developers who previously only had to convince a small group of Supervisors. As for environmental, congestion, and height concerns, I think most residents would prefer an election with competing voices (including those of the developers) rather than a few downtown hearings attended by lobbyists.

  8. Posted by astroguy

    With a 59% positive vote, it is hardly a reflection of the opinions of Agnos, a few wealthy and connected folks, etc. Can we now stop the constant carping on this web site by those who disagree with the vast majority of their neighbors? If we currently had an open, even-handed planning process run by rules, many of us would not feel the need for injecting ourselves into that process. We do not have that in San Francisco. We have instead Phil Ting, at Lee’s request, pushing AB1273 so that the Warriors stadium can do an end run around the Bay Conservation and Development Commission. We have Lee contributor Tom Murphy cheating on permit costs and building approvals. Folks are tired of the corruption and, as Ralber states, have decided to take back the power from those who have misused it. Of course this is not good for San Francisco — but direct your anger at those who broke the system, the politicians, not those who are reacting to the corruption.

  9. Posted by Jackson

    Well said Ralber in both your earlier comments.

    The voters in San Francisco clearly wanted Proposition B and its height limits on Port lands.

    Forest City has done a great job of promoting their project, unlike the Warriors who announced their stadium like it was a done deal, hence the voter backlash with Proposition B.

    • Posted by anon

      “The (tiny percentage of voters that vote in a June election) in San Francisco clearly wanted Proposition B and its height limits on Port lands.”

      Fixed that one for you.

    • Posted by Jill

      What voters? Only 53000 people voted for it. That’s [less than 7% of the city]. It’s not exactly a mandate.

      • Posted by Jake

        Enough voters to make Prop B the law.

        By the current count, about 57k Yes and 39k No.

        “The margin is narrow, but the responsibility is clear…. a margin of only one vote would still be a mandate.”
        – JFK

      • Posted by anon

        Definitely a huge problem with direct democracy. At least when we do things as the founders intended we can get 90%+ of the representatives to vote on every decision. Ballot box planning leads to massive tyranny of the minority problems with June elections.

  10. Posted by jsimms3

    I think it’s a fallacy in the first place that developers have to cow tow to citizens to gain their respect and approval. Do I think in some cases it’s warranted and a good thing? YES

    Do I think it should be law that developers have to hold meeting after meeting over several years with concerned citizens, many of whom have no interaction with that part of town or more specifically that development site, and hold tours and create a huge campaign for the people? NO

    Do I think some developers are particularly greedy? Perhaps. Do I think almost all people are generally self-interested? YES Do I think some people voted Yes on Prop B in the interest of their own views or market value of their home? Yes Is that greedy by nature? YES

    Was 8 Washington’s investor a teachers’ pension (i.e. CALSTRS)? Yes. Did “the people” toy with the teachers’ pension in some way by irrationally voting no on an 11 story building nowhere near them and surrounded by taller buildings? YES

    This is all sooooo absurd it’s almost painful. We elect people to supposedly get informed and represent us in making these decisions for us. If we don’t like how they make decisions, we can vote them out. This is how it works everywhere else but a handful of small, mostly CA towns, and San Francisco. Here we elect people and hold them accountable AND make the decisions ourselves by ballot.

    How are we, the people, who have jobs and lives that are otherwise unrelated to 99% of the decisions that need to be made by our elected representatives, supposed to become informed overnight on all of these ballot measures we constantly vote for? And voter fatigue? It’s no wonder SF has about the lowest voter turnout of any major city, and it’s all the crazies who have time to vote! Us normal, rational people are royally screwed here.

    Private property rights? Representative form of government? Zoning by planners? Rationality when it comes to decisions that have financial effects on the people? All of this is thrown out the window here in SF. Some may call it a barrier to entry, which undoubtedly is good for some developers, but honestly, this “barrier to entry” is so high and the reason why it cost $500K-$800K/unit just to BUILD rental multifamily, and we complain that it’s so expensive. We are doing this to ourself!

    • Posted by David W

      I totally agree with you.
      It would be interesting to learn how many of the voters who voted Yes on Prop B are also complaining about rent increases. These people expand the problem they want to diminish. And in the end simple economics will prevail: Rents will continue to rise because the housing stock isn’t growing fast enough, the wealthy will stay, the middle class will move to Oakland. It happened in Manhattan and it will happen here. The poor will move to Brooklyn and Oakland.

  11. Posted by Louis

    This is nothing. The next ballot measure will be a city wide extension of sup Kim 70/30 proposed for d 6. Remember you read that here. And it will probably pass. That will give the upset- at – prop- b crowd something to really complain about. Prop b is a small game.

  12. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    I agree with SierraJeff, most people have no clue about Pier 70. But ignorance of the place won’t prevent people coming out of the woodwork to shake down any development project that wants to raise the height limits.

    I’m well acquainted with Pier 70 having spent a significant amount of time there. A 40′ height limit seems to be a silly low restriction. Double or quadruple that height would work just fine there. 500′ would probably be too high though none of the development proposals come anywhere near that.

    If there’s anything that we need to be sensitive about redevelopment of Pier 70 it is preservation of the historic buildings. My nightmare scenario would be that the “no wall” nimby extortionists will force development to stay low and the developer will then want to tear down and replace historic structures to make the project pencil out.

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