That’s the essential fact to consider when you cast your ballot on Proposition B in the June election.
Prop. B is called the Waterfront Height Limit Right to Vote initiative. It simply states that voters must be consulted in the event that a private developer seeks to increase the existing legal building height limits to build tall towers on the water’s edge along the Bay between Fisherman’s Wharf and Bayview-Hunters Point.
Right now, just a handful of political appointees and politicians alone have the power to decide whether to preserve or repeal the existing laws that established waterfront height limits. That’s a process that inevitably results in high-priced lobbyists and political contributions influencing the outcome. Instead, Prop. B would include in the very important decision about height limits on our waterfront the people who actually own the waterfront, but right now never really get consulted — the people of San Francisco.
Why are all of the environmental groups concerned about protecting public access to the Bay and the preservation of an open and accessible waterfront, such as the Sierra Club and San Francisco Beautiful, supporting Prop. B? Because The City’s waterfront is one of the last urban waterfronts in the country to retain a wonderful mix of sensible developments combined with open space and public access to the Bay.
Most cities with waterfronts have abolished height limits in search of quick cash from luxury towers, and the result is literally a wall on the waterfront. Just take a look at the Trump Towers that line Miami’s waterfront. Do we want that to happen in San Francisco?
The Chamber of Commerce and those who object to the voters being involved are attempting to make this campaign about the two issues that we all are very concerned about right now: housing and affordability. But that’s just a political ploy that doesn’t have a thing to do with reality. Prop. B doesn’t do a single thing that would limit the creation of affordable housing. It simply gives the voters a say in the rare developments that try to raise the height limits along the waterfront.
The Affordable Housing Alliance, Housing Rights Committee, Tenants Union and affordable housing advocates are all supporting Prop. B because they know it will encourage projects that include more affordable housing for families and seniors rather than just high-rise luxury housing.
When you’re deciding how to vote on Prop. B, consider the current waterfront planning process that allowed the height limit increase for the 8 Washington St. luxury condo project to be rushed through City Hall to wild applause. Only when the voters were given the chance to weigh in was 8 Washington finally rejected.
By passing Prop. B this June, we can ensure that voters always have a voice when it comes to deciding the future of the one and only place we are lucky to call San Francisco’s waterfront.
Louise Renne is a former city attorney of San Francisco.