The oversight of San Francisco's waterfront is being called into question as Port officials, under the influence of the Mayor's Office, are increasingly negotiating private development along the prime real estate at the exclusion of robust public input, according to a civil grand jury report released Thursday.
A battle over the 7.5-mile waterfront stretch has defined the political season with spirited debates over several waterfront projects such as the 8 Washington St. luxury condominium development and a former arena plan for the Warriors at Piers 30-32. The 8 Washington plan was rejected by voters in November, while the arena project has since been relocated to a parcel in Mission Bay.
In June, voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure requiring any development that would exceed existing height limits on Port property to obtain voter approval.
According to the grand jury report, the management of the waterfront is being hampered by politics.
"The Port is making substantive progress in some areas, but is hamstrung by operational burdens placed by other City entities, primarily the Planning Department and the Mayor's office," the report said. "The Port also has not maintained the past level of outreach to the general public, instead relying more heavily on the city's officials to guide decisions."
Mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey shot down the report's assessment.
"There is more transparency, public input and public process when it comes to San Francisco's world-class waterfront than at any other time in our city's history," Falvey said.
Among the report's 11 recommendations is to split up the power of who appoints Port commissioners. Instead of the mayor appointing all five commissioners, the report recommends the mayor appoint three and the Board of Supervisors two.
The report also suggests using Piers 30-32 for "light use" such as park space or soccer fields and selling the adjacent Seawall Lot 330 to provide "a large portion of $68 million" needed to shore up the piers.
Falvey said the mayor will review the report, but noted "some of the recommendations seem highly political in nature."
Jon Golinger, who led the ballot initiative against 8 Washington, praised the work for showing the "deep dysfunctions that have led the Port to waste valuable time and money pushing politically-juiced developments."
Other recommendations include boosting the maritime use, which accounts for 25 percent of the waterfront revenue, and creating better transit to address traffic congestion. In a lengthy statement, Monique Moyer, executive director of the Port, said the recommendations would be addressed specifically at a later date, but emphasized that public input has long been valued in decision-making.
The report "presents a unique opportunity for people to think creatively about how to best generate revenue to maintain the Port's aging infrastructure," she said.
The cost of rehabilitation of the aging infrastructure is $1.59 billion, the report said.