Opponents of the proposed 8 Washington luxury condo development are calling on a state commission to postpone a vote on a crucial land exchange agreement that the project hinges upon.
The State Lands Commission is scheduled to vote Tuesday on an exchange that would allow developer Simon Snellgrove to develop his 134-unit project on Seawall Lot 351 and the adjacent privately held land. The agreement would swap the state’s public trust oversight of the public property for oversight of other Port lands.
The opposition is not surprising. Project opponents recently collected enough voter signatures to request a referendum seeking to overturn the project. As a result, the Board of Supervisors must re-vote in September on the project’s height increase. If approved, the project would go before the voters in November 2013, halting the project until then.
Backers of the referendum effort, such as former City Attorney Louise Renne, suggest that the commission may not have a legal right to take the vote. Even if it does, she said, the commission should wait until the project has official local approval.
Equity Office Properties, the Ferry Building’s management company that has filed a lawsuit over the project’s environmental impact report, also is calling for a postponement. The company is concerned about the loss of the lot that it currently runs as a 90-space surface parking area.
The Port of San Francisco, however, is defending the scheduled vote.
“Both resolution of the land use approvals (which is the subject of the referendum) and approval of the trust transfer State Lands are necessary and independent steps for the project’s approval,” Port spokeswoman Renée Dunn Martin said in an email. “The project (and the trust swap) of course, will not proceed until all challenges are resolved but the partnership (both the City/Port and developer) are proceeding with this technical step.”
The commission consists of state Controller John Chiang, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Director of Finance Ana Matosantos. A report from its staff speaks favorably of the exchange.
“The Project furthers the Port’s Trust goals and objectives,” the report said. It says that the lot’s “small size and irregular configuration” makes its best use a surface parking lot, but the development “improves visual aesthetics by moving the public parking underground, while roughly doubling the number of public parking spaces. The Project is also designed to create visual and pedestrian public access by linking Jackson Street to the Embarcadero.”