Voters cut down 8 Washington condo project 

click to enlarge 8 Washington
  • The 8 Washington St. developers can no longer build the 136-foot-high development that had already received city approval.
San Francisco voters turned down a developer’s plan to construct a luxury condominium complex along The Embarcadero waterfront Tuesday.

Opponents — mainly from the political left and wealthy neighbors, who donated hundreds of thousands of dollars — persuaded voters to reject the proposed development at 8 Washington St. by voting down Propositions B and C.

The dual propositions were the first real estate referendums in The City in decades.

Proposition C, which dealt solely with the height of the project, was put on the ballot by opponents of the development, who had tried to stop the 134-unit development by various means over seven years, including a failed lawsuit.

Proposition B was a counter-measure put on the ballot by the developers. That measure asked voters to approve the full 136-foot-high development that was approved by The City’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.

The ballot measures came at a time when talk of rising evictions and an “affordability crisis” dominate the news — a bad time to ask voters to approve what former Mayor Art Agnos, who opposed the project, called a “billionaire’s row.”

“People are unhappy with the direction The City is taking,” said Jon Golinger, campaign manager of both the No on B and C effort as well as last year’s signature drive that put Prop. C on the ballot.

David Beltran, campaign manager for the Yes on B campaign, said he was not providing comment about the propositions Tuesday night.

Developer Simon Snellgrove’s bid to build the condos received backing from Mayor Ed Lee and state Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who was in his first term as San Francisco mayor when plans for 8 Washington surfaced.

The 8 Washington project would have replaced a private gym and a Port of San Francisco-owned parking lot with a park and retail space as well as the condos. The project would have provided $11 million for The City’s affordable-housing fund instead of affordable-housing units on site.

Snellgrove and Pacific Waterfront Partners still have the rights to build housing in the location. They just can’t build to the height that The City’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors approved.

Tuesday’s off-year election was touted as a rare chance for voters to have a say on how San Francisco will take shape.

It may also set a new precedent for development squabbles, which can now be won at the ballot box — for a price.

Retired economist Richard Stewart and his wife, Barbara — as well as Boston Properties, which owns the Embarcadero Center — were the main donors behind the No on Props. B and C effort, contributing the lion’s share of the $747,000 spent as of mid-October. That figure includes the 2012 signature drive that qualified the referendum for the ballot.

Snellgrove’s firm, Pacific Waterfront Partners, also spent heavily in its bid to get the project approved. They spent $1.8 million as of mid-October, the most-recent date for which records are available. That figure may cross the $2 million threshold following a television, radio and Internet advertising blitz.

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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Tuesday, Oct 25, 2016


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