Democratic party rejects bid to make waterfront development more democratic (UPDATED)

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu opposed developer Simon Snellgrove's 8 Washington project, has no position on Prop B.

Note: This story has been updated (see below).

The governing body of the San Francisco Democratic Party voted Wed/12 to oppose a controversial June ballot measure concerning waterfront height limits, despite voting last year to support a strikingly similar measure on the November ballot.

By a slim 13-to-12 vote, the Democratic County Central Committee voted to oppose Proposition B, which would require city officials to get voter approval before approving new building projects that are taller than what’s legally sanctioned under a comprehensive waterfront plan.

The vote breakdown was surprising to some because until recently, the DCCC was known as a progressive stronghold in San Francisco politics. Its slate cards are distributed to Democrats throughout San Francisco, and Democrats make up the vast majority of city voters.

Now, under the leadership of a chair who is employed as a lobbyist for the San Francisco Association of Realtors, the DCCC has aligned itself with powerful real-estate developers hoping to build along the city’s waterfront. 

District 8 Sup. Scott Wiener came under scrutiny recently because he called for a formal evaluation on the impact of Prop. B after developers who oppose the measure sent emails urging him to do so. Wiener, who emphasized at the time that he merely sought an “impartial analysis” of the measure, voted against Prop. B.

Also opposing Prop. B were Assmeblymember Phil Ting, Attorney General Kamala Harris, and Bevan Dufty, a former District 8 supervisor who now leads the mayor’s initiatives on homelessness. 

Twelve members voted to endorse the measure, including Sups. John Avalos, David Campos, Eric Mar, and Malia Cohen, as well as California Sen. Mark Leno and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano. 

But the threshold for this vote to pass or fail was much lower than usual, because so many DCCC members simply refused to take a stand one way or the other.

Prop. B comes on the heels of voters’ rejection last November of Props. B and C, dueling initiatives which concerned the fate of a controversial luxury high-rise tower, the 8 Washington project. 

Although that project won Board of Supervisors approval, opponents brought a referendum to the ballot to ask voters to decide whether to uphold or reject a building height increase that went above the established limit.

The rejection of 8 Washington at the ballot was interpreted as a politically significant turning point, because voters flushed a luxury condo tower down the tubes at a time when the housing affordability crisis was getting into full swing. Soon after that victory, 8 Washington opponents returned to file paperwork for a new referendum on the ballot, to require voter approval for all waterfront height-limit increases.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu – who not only opposed 8 Washington but helped gather signatures for the referendum to challenge it – did not take a position on the waterfront height limit measure. Chiu’s decision to abstain sets him apart from Campos, his opponent in the upcoming Assembly race. Had Chiu voted to endorse Prop. B, its opponents would not have had the votes to get the upper hand.

UPDATE: Chiu said he still hasn't formed an opinion on the measure, and that he's waiting on a pending city analysis and the outcome of a lawsuit challenging it. 

"There's been very little analysis and it could take money away from affordable housing and cost the city money fighting a lawsuit," he said, citing the money that developers would be spending on political campaigns as the potential source of affordable housing money. 

"I am open to supporting the measure, as someone who passionate about waterfront development," he added, citing the lead role he took in opposing the 8 Washington project. (End of update.)

Others who abstained (or did so by proxy) included Alix Rosenthal (who is working as a consultant on the waterfront Warriors arena project), Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Jackie Speier, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi. California Sen. Leland Yee – whose representative at the meeting, John Rizzo, reportedly did not show up to cast Yee’s vote – was reportedly also planning to abstain.

Jon Golinger, who is leading the Prop. B campaign to require voter approval for waterfront height-limit increases, said he wasn’t terribly concerned about the DCCC vote, since early polling was favorable to his campaign. But he found it telling that the same cast of characters who had opposed 8 Washington were now voting to oppose a measure that would have extended voters’ will on 8 Washington to all waterfront development proposals.

“The key difference,” between Prop. B and last November's 8 Washington vote, he told the Bay Guardian, “is that there are more big money interests that have something to lose here.”


the Mission by outbidding local colored people of color for his condo, which is now worth over 3/4 million of which half is appreciation and profit.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 10:09 am

Alix Rosenthal wrote a response to my question as to why she abstained that is demonstrably dishonest. She conveniently never mentioned her position working for the Warriors. This is her response:Alix wrote: "Tim, Jerry, and Barry - As a former municipal attorney who specializes in real estate and land use law, I generally oppose ballot box planning. Under the City’s planning process, the public has plenty of opportunity to provide its input in meaningful ways. Development projects on the waterfront go through years of community process– they each have a citizens advisory committee, community meetings, port commission meetings, planning commission meetings, board of supervisors meetings. The project that is ultimately approved will be the result of many years of negotiation with the city and with the neighbors. This ballot measure eviscerates that process by giving power to people (the voters from all over the city – not just the neighborhood) who barely understand the project’s details, or the tradeoffs and concessions that have been made. That said, I opposed 8 Washington and was glad that the project went down. In cases like 8 Washington, the voters always have the option to take a project to the voters on a case-by-case basis. Making every developer take every project tot he voters doesn't make sense to me. agree with the measure's basic principle: that the waterfront is a special place and we have to be very careful with how we plan for it."

Posted by Guestdhcardigan on Mar. 14, 2014 @ 12:27 pm

Translation: "I've long since sold you suckers out and become a Member in Good Standing of the City Family. My new friends are the ones who buy elections and they tell me that you little people have been successfully marginalized from the process, therefore it is fair and democratic. There really can be such a thing as too much democracy, and we passed that point when I got elected to the DCCC. I am hoping one day to be invited to Ron Conway's tent within a tent at Burning Man so that I don't have to get alkali dust up inside of my cootchie while throwing a sympathy fuck at Steven Jones."

Posted by marcos on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 8:01 am
Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 8:20 am

She ran on the "progressive slate."

Posted by marcos on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 9:29 am

typically understand the need to moderate

Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 10:07 am

No they don't. They become even MORE rigid in their ideology. There was an article a little while back discussing the differences between David Chiu and David Campos. It described Chiu as more of a pragmatist and consensus builder while making those sound like pejoratives. It then touted Campos for his ideology and his unwillingness to compromise. And progressives wonder why they've been steadily losing what little influence they have.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 11:25 am

nothing. And if they moderate and compromise, they get accused of selling out.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 11:41 am

I appreciate the conniving on the part of Golinger, but find it funny that the progressives always paint themselves as these honest do gooders who are all about fair play and honesty. Whenever something goes sour for them they are whining victims. They are victims of Big Soda, Big JROTC, Big developers etc... As they fawn over SEIU money.

Posted by guest on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 2:06 pm

He did everything within the rules. He even agreed to withdraw the argument if it is found to be against the rules.

Posted by SF Resident on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 6:42 pm

Nothing to see here -move along

Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 6:49 pm

The Democrat party made it's choice.

Stop whining.

Posted by guest on Mar. 16, 2014 @ 10:03 pm

The commenters pretending to be "moderates" on this forum pain me deeply. We conservatives are turning this city to the right and making it conservative, and let's be very frank and open about that. We Lee supporters *MUST* stop this nonsense of trying to disguise our conservative agenda by using lame and washed-out words such as "moderate." That gimpy word "moderate" leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Why are conservatives on this forum (cowering behind the hobbling word "moderate") ashamed of our real conservative agenda? As a strong conservative, I think we should be very outspoken and open about our conservative agenda and stop pretending for it to be something that it's not.

We conservatives have nothing to be ashamed of or to hide. Those here cowering behind the word "moderate," remind me of a closet case conservative. Grow a spine! You are ashamed of who you are and what you really want to happen to this city. You are an embarrassment to people such as myself and other good conservatives who are not ashamed of what we want for this city and this mayor. Think about it.

We wealthy conservatives are for young heterosexual whites only, young heterosexual white techies only and their corporations, no homeless people, million-dollar plus luxury designer condos, million-dollar plus luxury designer condos, million-dollar plus luxury designer condos, million-dollar plus luxury designer condos, million-dollar plus luxury designer condos, million-dollar plus luxury designer condos, million-dollar plus luxury designer condos, million-dollar plus luxury designer condos, million-dollar plus luxury designer condos, million-dollar plus luxury designer condos, million-dollar plus luxury designer condos, million-dollar plus luxury designer condos, million-dollar plus luxury designer condos, million-dollar plus luxury designer condos, million-dollar plus luxury designer condos, million-dollar plus luxury designer condos, million-dollar plus luxury designer condos, million-dollar plus luxury designer condos (I can't say it enough!) on every inch of this city, and more for us wealthy conservative elite.

Our shit does not stink, we are above reproach and we might even be a bit omnipotent. We are proud conservatives, unlike the cowardly conservatives on this forum.

Posted by Proud Conservative Michael on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 5:18 pm

merely considered moderate or centrist by foreigners, even though it is a outpost of socialism by the standards of most of our nation

Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 5:57 pm

I can't stand the rest of your comment, but I agree with you on one thing Michael: Conservatives on here should abandon the word "moderate" and call themselves what they are: Lee Conservatives. I've thought that for some time. They're not fooling anyone by their newspeak and propaganda. They are very transparent in their efforts here. They are clearly tools for the conservative agenda for this city.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2014 @ 6:36 pm

and fiscally responsible are not conservatives. They are generally considers moderate.

When you are a progressive ranting about newspeak and propaganda, you shouldn't be a Bay Guardian true believer.

So oddly ironic.

Posted by guest on Mar. 16, 2014 @ 10:06 pm

The conservative movement is OWNED all because of a random commenter on a leftist site!!! HILARIOUS AND SCARY THAT CONSERVATIVES ARE LIKE THIS!!!

Posted by Guest on Mar. 16, 2014 @ 7:40 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 19, 2014 @ 7:48 am

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