There's no denying that Proposition B sounds good -- until you know the facts.
City departments reviewed Prop. B and released reports that raise the alarm on the impact it would have on the whole city should it pass in June -- and the conclusions are startling. One conclusion of the experts is that Prop. B "could enable developers to bypass otherwise mandatory environmental review, professional analysis, public response, commission hearings, and legislative review."
Those who have taken a closer look at Prop. B -- not just city departments -- all recognize the dangers of this measure. Although Prop. B sounds like it provides a more democratic process for development, "In fact it's the exact opposite," according to SPUR. The San Francisco League of Conservation Voters says Prop. B "would exacerbate the problem of ballot-box planning." And the San Francisco Democratic Party recognizes that Prop. B "means more loopholes as developers will be able to circumvent currently required environmental review and mitigations." Prop. B will empower a handful of east side power brokers to dictate behind closed doors what gets built on public property.
These organizations and many others -- such as the San Francisco Parks Alliance, San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, San Francisco Young Democrats and Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club -- all say vote no on Prop. B.
Reports also find that Prop. B would cost The City billions. If Prop. B passes, The City would lose $1.6 billion for needed repairs to the Port of San Francisco, repairs like fixing the seawall that holds back San Francisco Bay. If Prop. B passes, The City would lose $322 million we would otherwise collect from private developers to fund The City's infrastructure needs. If Prop. B passes, The City would lose $93.6 million in development fees for affordable housing.
While the focus of the conversation regarding Prop. B has been limited to development on the waterfront, we must understand that -- should it pass -- we are establishing a precedent that other neighborhoods could follow. Do you think Noe Valley, the Sunset, the Richmond, the Excelsior or any other neighborhood would welcome more than its fair share of new housing to protect the few neighborhoods along the waterfront?
This isn't just about arenas and ballparks. It's about trying to address a housing crisis while at the mercy of the election cycle. It's about establishing a city planning process based on a popularity contest. And it's about one neighborhood establishing a dangerous precedent that is sure to spread across The City.
Does less housing in an era of a critically short supply of middle-class housing sound good? Should developers be able to evade addressing the environmental impacts of their projects? Do you want to vote on dozens of measures each election cycle?
Prop. B sounds good until you take a closer look.
If Prop. B wins June 3, the whole city will lose.
Jim Lazarus is senior vice president of public policy at the Chamber of Commerce. Mike Theriault is executive secretary-treasurer at the San Francisco Building & Construction Trades Council.