As you read this, petition signature-gatherers are working to empower San Franciscans to decide the future of our shared waterfront by ensuring the 8 Washington Parks, Public Access and Housing Initiative makes the November ballot.
The initiative will give voters the final voice in a planning process that has spanned seven years and has enjoyed the support of The San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco Labor Council, the Chamber of Commerce, SPUR, the Housing Action Coalition and many, many others.
The 8 Washington St. project has received the needed approvals from every city and state agency it has appeared before. It will open up our waterfront to everyone — not just a privileged few adjoining property owners — while establishing new parks and open spaces, creating jobs, funding new affordable housing, and generating new revenues for the Port of San Francisco and The City. The project represents smart planning, and it’s good for our city.
This plan will revitalize an ugly, horribly underused stretch of the waterfront that is currently cut off from the rest of The City by a fenced-in members-only club and an asphalt parking lot. This plan will create parks and open space that all San Franciscans can enjoy, not just the nearby condo owners and commercial building owners who are opposing 8 Washington St.
The plan will also increase pedestrian and bicyclist safety by widening sidewalks, removing curb cuts along The Embarcadero and creating new bike paths. These improvements will continue to build a waterfront that is accessible to all of us.
We are a city that values open space and access, smart ideas and, above all, progress. The plan 8 Washington St. is working to place before voters was developed with these values at its core.
Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric of the opponents. Currently, there are no parks and no publicly accessible open space on the site. Currently, there is no housing, middle-class or otherwise, on the site.
There is only an asphalt parking lot and the members-only club — so cherished by the upscale condo owners living next door — that, in fact, will be rebuilt and incorporated into the new plan. Only now the club members will have to share the area with the general public, who will be able enjoy the new playground, parks, restaurants and open spaces.
The plan will build family housing and contribute $11 million for new affordable housing, $14.3 million to the Port and $54.1 million in new tax revenue for The City and the Port.
In turn, these revenue streams will build affordable housing, help our financially strapped Port pay for infrastructure improvements, and support economic vibrancy and job creation in our city. This is the progress our city needs and
But despite the neighborhood and citywide benefits 8 Washington St. brings to the table, the opponents are asking all of us to forgo it for the sake of protecting a private club and a parking lot. This is self-interest at its worst, and this is not a value we all share as San Franciscans.
For the record, there is no wall proposed for the waterfront … but today there is a 1,735-foot fence, and that’s what 8 Washington St.’s opponents are so desperately protecting.
The bottom line is that the 8 Washington St. plan is in line with The City’s general plan and the Northeast Embarcadero Study — official documents adopted by The City — which recommended the plan’s good use of space for housing, recreation and public open space. After seven years of community input, planning and approvals, this plan has emerged as a product all San Franciscans will be proud of.
Let’s embrace 8 Washington St. and a waterfront that everybody can enjoy.
Jim Chappell is an urban planner and was the president of SPUR from 1994 to 1999.