SF Voters Prepare To Decide Fate Of Waterfront Development, $400 Million Earthquake Safety Bond

San Francisco voters will be deciding whether to put future waterfront development decisions to a public vote and also determining the fate of a $400 million earthquake safety bond in Tuesday’s election.

Measure B made it onto the ballot after a coalition known as “No Wall on the Waterfront,” led by former Mayor Art Agnos and former city supervisor Aaron Peskin and other community members, collected more than 21,000 signatures to mandate that waterfront development decisions go through a vote.

Through a referendum process last fall, the group successfully defeated plans for a luxury condominium project at 8 Washington St. in the city’s Financial DistrictPropositions B and C, whose passage would have allowed for the development of the 8 Washington project, were defeated by more than 60 percent of voters.

That defeat, along with other waterfront projects being proposed, fueled the campaign to create the Measure B initiative, which would require a vote before any height limit increases for development projects on Port of San Francisco property could be approved.

The existing height limit on the waterfront ranges from 40 feet to 84 feet.

Yes on B spokesman Jon Golinger said the measure is about “the broader question about what San Francisco’s waterfront should look like and who gets to decide.”

He credited the 8 Washington project for bringing waterfront development concerns to a head.

“People themselves will have to approve and like things that are proposed for the waterfront,” he said.

He said if the measure passes, it is expected to prompt proposals for affordable and middle-income housing and replace plans for more luxury developments, such as a plan from San Francisco-based real estate company Forest City to build a mixed-use housing complex at Pier 70.

Opponents of the measure, which includes the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, San Francisco Labor Council and other planning groups and labor unions, claim Measure B creates a “dangerous loophole,” campaign spokesman Eric Jaye said.

He said existing laws make it easy enough for voters to put something on the ballot if they oppose a project or proposal.
“It’s illogical to say slowing down every project will mean more affordable housing,” Jaye said.

He said the Yes on B campaign is mainly supported by a wealthy couple who live near the waterfront and want to quell future development projects, while opponents are represented by a broad coalition.

“We don’t need to establish the precedent of voting on every single project,” Jaye said. “The system is actually working.”

He said passage of the measure would allow developers and planners to skirt environmental mitigations, development fees and other existing building laws.

He called Measure B a “very dramatic, dangerous solution in search of a problem.”

If voters approve the measure, Jaye said it sets a “dangerous precedent” for other parts of the city.

The Golden State Warriors had proposed in 2012 to build a 18,000-seat arena at Piers 30-32, but announced last month a new proposed site off of the waterfront after facing opposition from the Yes on B campaign and other environmental groups.

The team made a deal with Salesforce.com to purchase a 12-acre site in the city’s Mission Bay neighborhood to build the arena in time for the 2018-19 season.

The Yes on B campaign is holding a rally at campaign headquarters at 15 Columbus Ave. at 10 a.m. Saturday. Former mayor and supporter Agnos is expected to attend.

The other item on the short ballot Tuesday is Measure A, an earthquake safety and emergency response bond measure. The initiative proposes selling up to $400 million in bonds that would go toward public safety and emergency response use.

The bond would only be used to improve and fix the emergency firefighting water system and other facilities, upgrade police and fire stations, and build a seismically sound building for the medical examiner, the police motorcycle unit and crime lab.

Those facilities are not up to current building codes and are considered dangerous in the event of a major disaster, such as an earthquake.

There is widespread support from City Hall for the measure as well as from the fire and police chiefs.

The main opponent of the proposition is the Libertarian Party of San Francisco, which claims the bond is too costly, citing an increase in property tax rates and increased costs to tenants passed on from landlords.

Measure A requires two-thirds approval to pass, while Measure B needs a majority vote.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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