BCNA 2012 Spring Newsletter Article
Barbary Coast Neighborhood Association RECORD Spring, 2012 Vol. 6 No. 2
Use of this article is with the express permission of the author and publisher.
8 Washington–Round One: Snellgrove
Although there are many more actions and votes that must be taken before pile drivers go into the ground at 8 Washington, the developer received a significant boost when the Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 on May 15 to support the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and Conditional Use (CU) agreement for the project.
Yet those fighting to stop the development remain positive. “If the 8 Washington fight were a baseball game, last week’s vote by the Board of Supervisors was the end of the first inning,” said Coalition Consultant Brad Paul. “The Board of Supervisors has two more committee hearings and two more votes at the full Board,” he added. “Our Coalition has two or three more lawsuits that will likely be filed as well as a ballot initiative that could stop the project. There is a long way to go before this is over.”
In the spring of last year, a coalition of neighborhood groups sued the Port and the City claiming that environmental law was ignored when the “Northeast Embarcadero Study” was used as a basis for development deals at Seawall Lot 351. “Our appeal remains pending and very much relevant,” said Coalition Attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley. “If we are successful in the appeal, it will unravel the current approval and all that came before it. Supreme Court precedent makes clear that the Board of Supervisors’ approval does not moot our earlier claims,” she said. “The appeal will be ready for hearing in the Court of Appeal in the coming months,” Brandt-Hawley added.
Regarding the idea of going to the ballot box, Sue Hestor, Friends of Golden Gateway (FOGG) attorney , said that in order to get a referendum petition to overturn the Supervisor’s vote, 19,405 valid signatures need to be collected. “The timing is critical,” said Hestor. “The Coalition against 8 Washington has 30 days after the decision is final to collect the needed signatures.” If all approvals go as developer Simon Snellgrove hopes, the earliest the project could be formally approved is June 18, which would mean the referendum signatures would have to be filed as early as July 18.
After the vote on May 15, several of the Supervisors, including Eric Mar and Christina Olague, stated that they were going to be working behind the scenes to “improve” the project before the next votes. Olague specifically mentioned reducing the parking, while Mar talked about working to address height, bulk, parking and affordable housing issues (getting the developer to commit more money to affordable housing.) The Port of San Francisco must vote on the entire deal on May 29th. After that it goes to the Board’s Land Use Committee on June 4th for a public hearing to discuss the separate legislation necessary to increase heights from 84 feet to 134 feet.
In addition, the financial deal the Port approves on the 29th must go to the Board’s Budget and Finance Committee on June 6th for a public hearing. After that, both of these items (height increase and financial deal) must be approved by the Board of Supervisors in subsequent weeks. “If we lose every vote at the Board from now on and the project is approved, we have a number of options available,” said Paul. “In addition to the one lawsuit that has already been filed regarding the lack of any environmental review for the City’s Northeast Embarcadero Study (NES), there are another 2-3 lawsuits that could be filed by our coalition and Equity Office Partners, the operators of the Ferry Building.”
If that fails, there are several ballot initiatives that could be filed that would put the project on hold for quite some time and, if they were successful, stop it entirely. And one final approval is needed: The Public Trust restrictions must be removed from Seawall Lot 351 and transferred onto another part of the site by the State Lands Commission, whose chairman is Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. This will be voted upon on July 26. “In the past few months, the citywide coalition opposing 8 Washington has grown to include the Senior Action Network (SAN), the Housing Rights Committee of SF, the San Francisco Chapter of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) and the Senior Housing Action Collaborative (SHAC),” said Paul.
“These groups sent over a dozen speakers to the May 15 Board of Supervisors hearing,” he said. The marathon Supervisors meeting contained some very compelling testimony. Pam David, the former Director of the Mayor’s Office of Community Development and currently the head of one of the largest family foundations said: “If I’ve learned anything in my personal and professional life it’s about the importance of community.”
“It is easy for the developers and their well-financed supporters to belittle the users of the Golden Gateway Swim and Tennis Club as a small bunch of rich folks fighting to preserve their club from a smaller bunch of really rich folks. But, the reality is quite different,” she said. “I’ve been a member for nearly 8 years now. What I’ve found there is a vibrant and unique community, diverse in age, race, ethnicity, and, yes, income. Everyone at City Hall talks about the flight of working families from San Francisco. Yet, here the City is on the brink of destroying one of the most precious resources available to non-wealthy San Franciscans in order to build ultra-luxury housing. Something is very, very wrong,” she concluded.
Another moving comment came from Glendon Hyde, the current President of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club. He announced that he will be stepping down as President of the Milk Club because he can no longer afford to live in San Francisco and is moving. “8 Washington is part of the problem, not the solution.” Hyde said. “This is housing for the 1/2 of 1%, when we need housing for the rest of us.”