Why the May 15 vote on 8 Washington matters


Brad Benson, the special projects director at the Port of San Francisco, took me on a tour of the 8 Washington project and gave me his pitch for why the city ought to allow a developer to put the most expensive condos in city history, housing for the top half of the top half of the top 1 percent, on a prime piece of waterfront land. He showed me the fence around the existing Golden Gateway Tennis and Swim Club (it's not terribly attractive) and I watched a powerpoint presentation on the glories of the project.

His argument: The Port has no money, and no easy way to get any money, to do the roughly $2 billion worth of maintenance needed on the its piers and property. Residential development on a few seawall lots is part of the Port's master plan and part of a waterfront plan that won approval of the Port Commission and the (mostly corrupt) Board of Supervisors in the 1990s.

The Port will eventually realize roughly $100 million from the deal. The city will get about $11 million for affordable housing. There will be new parks and open space, and a new, way fancier swimming pool and aquatic center. The tennis courts will be gone (Benson told me that tennis isn't the best use for that valuable land) but the club will shuttle tennis players to another facility South of Market.

Just an aside: This is often deried as a private club, and it is -- in the sense that you have to join and pay membership dues. It's open to anyone who wants to pay, much as the YMCA is. It's a bit more expensive than the Y, way more expensive than my gym (which has no tennis courts and a tiny two-lane lap pool) and a good bit less expensive than the high-end places lilke the Bay Club. It's not a recreation facility for poor people, by any means. It has relatively middle-class users, particularly the folks who live in rent-controlled apartments at Golden Gateway, who get a discount. It's not clear at this point if the club fees will go up when the fancy new version is unveiled, but I'd be shocked if the swim club attached to the priciest new housing in the city was affordable to the rest of us.

Now then: Back to the project. If you look at all the pretty architectural drawings and see all the amenities, like the new park and the wider sidewalks and the street-level retail and restaurants (ya think those will be a bit out of the normal person's price range? Ya think?), it all looks lovely. 

Money for the port. Money for the city's general fund. Affordable housing money. What's not to like?

Well, I told Benson, who used to work for Tom Ammiano is someone I've been friendly with for years, the same thing that I've told other city officials, including a few supervisors:

If this is the kind of housing we're building, if this is the population our housing policy caters to, if this is what San Francisco is going to become, then nothing else really matters.There will be no progressive movement in this city. There will be no crazy, wild culture. To quote Calvin Welch: "Who lives here, votes here." And the richer the city gets, the more conservative it gets.

And, frankly, the more boring it gets.

We're seeing that already. The 20,000 new (rich) residents of District 6 voted for Jane Kim, and they may continue to vote for her as long as she supports things like the Twitter tax break, but they wouldn't have voted for Chris Daly. And when Kim is termed out, the next D6 supervisor is likely to be  a lot more conservative. The wild SOMA culture is going to vanish. How many of these condo-dwellers will go to, or even tolerate, the How Weird Street Fair? How many will want to put an end to the Folsom Street Fair? 

Yeah, the rich who move into this city support same-sex marriage and like bicycle lanes on the streets. But they aren't going to push higher taxes. They aren't going to support politicians who have at their core a belief that narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor is the most important issue facing this city and this country today. They'd probably vote for Scott Wiener over David Campos for state Assembly. They'll blent the city's edge, make it just like so many other places in the world.

The city's own policy makes clear that 60 percent of all new housing should be below market-rate. Every new project for the rich that we approve skews the balance a little further away from housing for the majority of people who work in the city. Teachers, firefighters, hotel workers -- they can't afford this stuff. So they move further out of town, taking longer commutes, using more energy ... it's all wrong.

That's why the May 15 vote on this project matters. Not because most of us will ever swim or play tennis at the Golden Gateway club one way or the other. Not just because the new buildings are too tall. Not because 134 units of uber-rich condos at 8 Washington will gentrify the Mission. It matters because, day by day, wek by week, condo approval by condo approval, we're losing San Francisco.














You never owned San Francisco.

You admit there are lots of positives to this project, and that what exists now is a unattractive fenced off lot which houses a private athletic club for the upper middle class.Yet you still cling to your ideology.

This is why you have become irrelevant. You are unable to compromise your rigid ideations, you're unable to see beyond rich=evil, poor=good.
You have been successful at driving up the costs of doing business in SF, but even this has its limits.

Goodbye, good luck, and good riddance.

Posted by greg on May. 14, 2012 @ 4:37 pm

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Posted by http://ssconstructionexperts.com on Jun. 28, 2012 @ 10:07 am

your real reason for objecting to this development is not primarily architectural, or even social, but purely political. You don't like projects like this because they bring in more people who aren't going to support the kind of politics that you like.

For your type of politics to prevail, we need innovative businesses like Twitter to move to San Mateo County and for successful people to live in encampments just outside the city boundary.

Meanwhile, you also need more students, activists, artists, homeless and impoverished minimum-wage workers to pack the voting register, to give your guys a fighting chance of keeping SF as some kind of bohemian theme park for ageing hippies.

And the credit you deserve for admitting that notwithstanding, that's exactly why we should support this project. Getting money for the port, the city, for housing and ramping up the tax base is what will really preserve services. Your idealized vision of a past world frozen in time isn't a sound basis for policy.

As you say, it's a prime piece of waterfront property. Our obligation is to extract the most revenue from the value of that land, and this project does that. Even you have to admit that tennis courts are a tad extravagant in prime downrown real estate.

Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2012 @ 4:44 pm

Perfectly put. The funniest part of the argument against this development is that the condos are for the "super rich" who will be taking private jets in and out of town for a couple of weeks a year. That is nonsense of course, but from a public good point of view, those are perfect new SF residents. Their new homes will result in construction jobs in the short term and maintenance jobs in the long term. They will be paying huge property taxes while drawing virtually nothing from expensive public services (schools, health care, social services, etc.). And 11 million for affordable housing to boot. Nice. More new residents like this and we might be able get close to balancing that ridiculous city budget.

Posted by Mike on May. 17, 2012 @ 9:01 pm

Let no one accuse him of attempting to hide his real agenda any longer because it's all here for everyone to see.

Now that we've acknowledge that let's also cast our memories back to 1972 when BART first opened. The SFBG was apoplectic and virulently anti-BART - warning us that BART would prove "devastating" to neighborhoods and would irreparably alter the character of San Francisco.

40 years later, almost to the exact month, Tim Redmond is still sounding the same note. Has BART turned out to be the "boondoggle" and destroyer of neighborhoods the SFBG predicted it would 4 decades ago?

Posted by Troll II on May. 14, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

They feel it favors "downtown" which, of course, we all know is exclusively populated by the 1%.

They feel it takes funds away from more working class transport like, er, buses, that are so filthy and crime-ridden that only a true progressive would ever take them.

Then of course, BART goes to the dreaded suburbs where the notorious "moderates" live.

And have you noticed how many whites live in the outer reaches of the east bay. i've actually heard SF politicians claim that transit should be "race neutral", which of course is why we built the real "streetcar to nowhere" - the T Sunnyvale.

Yes, I don't know where Sunnyvale is either.

Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2012 @ 5:27 pm

Sunnydale is in the southern part of the city. Sunnyvale is on the peninsula.

Posted by D. native on May. 14, 2012 @ 6:30 pm

when you are posting from somewhere the Central Time zone.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 14, 2012 @ 8:40 pm

Who the hell goes to Sunnydale?

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2012 @ 7:25 am

People that live there?

Posted by Dnative on May. 15, 2012 @ 11:44 am

the original point that was raised, he said that the T line was built for "race" reasons because it serves BayView, Hunters Point and "Sunnydale" (wherever that is).

He was using that as an argument to lambast building transit lines for political reasons rather than because of genuine economic need.

The result? Asians want a "Central" Subway to ChinaTown. Oh, why not? Hispanics in the Mish have BART, blacks in Bayview have the T, so Asians have to have theirs too. Race-baed transit - political correctness run amuck.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

I'm not sure what to make of this comment. It's a progressive tenet that people of color are underserved in every way. One would think that mass transit serving neighborhoods populated mainly by people of color and working class people (and there's such overlap between them) would be a good thing.

Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

Folks: I have always been honest about my opinions. Disagree or don't, but I try to call them as I see them.

I think there are too many rich people moving into SF. That's bad for a city. You need a vibrant working class to make a city work. And while there are wonderful wealthy people who do much good for society, in general I've found the the elite -- the top of the 1 percent, which is the group this housing is designed for -- are unpleasant, boring, self-centered and no fun. When I was in college, the rich kids were -- with a few exceptions -- insufferable kids of privilege who enjoyed putting other people down. The poor scholarship kids like me had a much better time.

Over the past 30 years, I've seen the same pattern. Not always -- there are some very cool rich people and I have been around way too long to believe in absolutes. But in general, I like poor people better.

There have always been rich people in San Francisco. They've lived in Pacific Heights and Seacliff and the Marina and St. Francis Wood. Nobody I hang out with would be happy in those neighborhoods. It's ... boring there.

Do I like the idea of the Mission and SOMA turning into a new enclave for the rich? No, I don't. That's an honest answer.

Posted by tim on May. 14, 2012 @ 5:48 pm

In the off chance that this comment is not satire, I would like to draw attention to the "laws" of unintended consequences, particularly this one (from wikipedia):

A perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended (when an intended solution makes a problem worse)...

Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2012 @ 9:12 pm

The wealthy people I have known have been the exact opposite to that. Think about it. First you need some seriously good qualities about you to achieve success, given out competitive it is.

Second, money makes life easy, which means you have the time and resources to devote to the "better things in life" whether that is culture, arts, philanthropy, and so on.

Successful people are not only smarter, but harder working, more generous, have better social skills and are even more athletic.

You're being honest, and that's good, but this hatred you have for the successful borders on paranoia, and it is polluting your political advocacy. Rich people aren't the enemy, nothwithstanding all this one percent nonsense. They contribute far more to the city's life, taxes and services than anyone else.

Which is why cities everywhere fall over themselves to attract them. You're virtually on your own here, Tim.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2012 @ 7:29 am

Oh, come on, Guest. While I find Tim's us-vs.-them rhetoric really painful sometimes (especially in this editorial), your rosy picture of rich people goes way too far in the other direction.

"First you need some seriously good qualities about you to achieve success, given out competitive it is." Leaving aside the serious percentage of wealth in this country that's inherited, to equate ability to acquire wealth with "serious good qualities" should have been blown away by the events of 2008 if not before. There are plenty of ways to get extremely rich in this world through extremely bad, harmful behavior. The Robber Barons of the 19th century were well named, and "filthy lucre" isn't a phrase born from nowhere.

The rest of your comment is more of the same, and so would be my reply. I'll just ask: who's more motivated to succeed in a way that's meaningful to everyone: someone who's just in it for the money or someone's who's passionate to produce something truly useful and/or beautiful, regardless of how rich they might get?

Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2012 @ 7:46 am

"...I have been around way too long to believe in absolutes."

Are you kidding?! The Bay Guardian's entire existence is about absolutes. Rich vs. poor. Downtown vs. Progressive. Cool vs. boring. Without clear, albeit arbitrary, battle lines drawn on every issue, where would you people be?

Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2012 @ 7:39 am

Those of us who like living in free countries have some kind of idea that anybody can just move to whatever town they like, and rent or buy a place, and nobody can tell them different. But here come the old-left totalitarians from the Bay Guardian, with the argument that "we'll lose San Francisco" if we let just anybody move here. Because the "kind of people" who'll want to live in this proposed building won't vote the same way the Bay Guardian wants them to vote!

By that argument, we already lost San Francisco by the time I got here in 1978. By that argument, we'd already lost it after the General Strike of 1912.

(Hey, I love the Bay Guardian's election coverage -- they do great in-depth reporting and collect and publish it for convenient and timely reading. But after I read their coverage, and all the paid political cards that arrive at my door, I often don't vote the way the Bay Guardian recommends. Is that still legal?)

The biggest problem with the Port is not that it has too many rich people there. It's that it has a huge chunk of prime real estate facing the Bay, yet nobody can do anything with it because it's all tied up in politics. So instead of new ideas, we have dilapidated warehouses, still idiotically awaiting the return of stevedores after container-shipping disappears or something. If the Port sold off large chunks of its land/water and let the buyers do whatever they wanted with it, SF would be much better off. But that would be a free market in land -- which doesn't fit the Bay Guardian's economic totalitarianism mindset.

Posted by Politically Incorrect on May. 14, 2012 @ 6:06 pm

For reading our political coverage. We work really hard at election time to present all the information we can. And I don't expect all our readers to agree with us, by any means. Vote your conscience. We just try to help you understand what's going on and give you our best advice.

Posted by tim on May. 14, 2012 @ 7:14 pm

Tim, maybe if you stated your alternative use for that space we would be able to take you seriously. You admit that there are financial and quality of life benefits to it and the only loss is that an upper middle class health club is going to be downsized.

But you don't like the people who will be moving in because of their social class. You don't want them here and you certainly don't want them voting.

So we have to do without the obvious benefits because you don't approve of their demographics.

Sorry, the rest of us have moved past that decades ago.

To paraphrase Kanye West: "Tim Redmond doesn't like rich people".

Posted by Troll on May. 14, 2012 @ 6:13 pm
Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2012 @ 7:33 am

False equivalents are false: oh, poor, oppressed rich people! Come on, guys; you're making this too easy for the Redmondites.

Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2012 @ 7:48 am

When there are only rich people living here. And the richer the city gets, the less likely there will be money for affordable housing (the rich, by and large, don't like taxes) so the process will just continue. The last dot-com boom did terrible damage to the city. I still fight for what's left.

Honestly? I don't like many rich people. Wealth tends to make people into assholes. Not always, but very often. I think society was far better off when the very rich paid 91 percent of their income in taxes and we had better public schools and we could invest in major projects and at least seek a "great society."

But let's go beyond that and talk about alternatives. The opponents of 8 Washington are offering alternatives that involve a smaller project. That's one idea. I would say: Given the price the developer will be getting for those high-end condos, and the profit he's going to make, force him to sell half the units -- 50 percent, on site -- to moderate-income people.

If he walks away, I bet someone else will come forward and try it.

Posted by tim on May. 14, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

in the City. That is some of the most desirable land available on the Peninsula - we need to get the most out of it for the good of the public NOT for a few lower or middle income people who'd make out like bandits with one of these units. Let them live in the Excelsior or the Sunset.

The attitude which I find so distasteful is where you see developers as cows to be milked until they drop.

And the city estimate that 60% of all new housing needs to be below-market is ridiculous and would ensure no development at all happens in SF. No developer can be forced to sell more than 1/2 their units at a loss and still make anything resembling a decent profit. Nor should they - simply because you don't like the business they're in.

Posted by Troll II on May. 14, 2012 @ 7:19 pm

How do you know that? You haven't seen the numbers. Lert Mr. Snellgrove open his books and then we can talk.

Posted by tim on May. 14, 2012 @ 7:27 pm

generally if you can get 20% "affordable" then that is the best you can get. And remember this will probably just be funds - nobody is going to have a luxury development where 50% of the folks there are section 8 recipients.

You display a naivity about the political and economic realities. And a stunning prejudice against an entire class of people.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2012 @ 7:36 am

>"the rich, by and large, don't like taxes"

And, perhaps you can enlighten us with the name of a group that DOES like taxes? Or that pays more taxes than the rich? And please spare us the percentage argument. When we pay a firefighter we do it in dollars, not percentages.

Your logic is so warped because your rabid hatred. If everybody in the city lived in a $2.5 million dollar condo we would have plenty more money to go around.

But of course your nightmarish fantasy has no basis in reality.

There's been plenty of snide remarks about the SFBG's sale of their building. But the truth is that when it came time to sell they got the best that the market could bare. They didn't take a lesser amount to accommodate some social engineering.

The rules should apply equally. Yes, even if Tim Redmond doesn't like your class of people you still have some rights.

A sad state of affairs perhaps but true, nonetheless.

Posted by Troll on May. 14, 2012 @ 10:35 pm

If the developer wants to claim he can't make a profit on those terms, I have four words for him: Show us the books. The folks at City Hall who have looked at this and are guessing (because nobody has all the data) think he's probably making 20-30 percent profit, maybe more. That's his right in a capitalist society, but if someone is willing to do something better for the city and make only 10 percent, that's where I'm going to go.

Is it fair to limit profits on a project involving public land? Of course it is. Simon Snellgrove doesn't own the entire site; the city owns part of it. That's you and me.

Again: Show me the books. Maybe the Port is charging too much; good for the Port, bad for affordable housing. Maybe if everyone is open and honest about the costs and profits, we can find a better alternative.


Posted by tim on May. 14, 2012 @ 6:44 pm

Maybe we should see the books on the real estate deal that Bruce just completed. It's only fair since you demand access and seek to regulate the profits of someone else.

Posted by Greg on May. 14, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

Not the same, one involved public property, the other didn't. So why are you equating the two??? The BG didn't buy property from any City agency so there's no comparison. Did you think they were comparable? I guess you did - so why are the two real estate deals comparable when one involves prop owned by the govt and the other doesn't?

Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2012 @ 10:24 pm

Tim seeks to review and limit the profit margin on a real estate deal which he is not involved in. If Bruce was allowed to maximize his profits by selling the building he owns to an out of town real estate developer, then why shouldnt the port of San Francisco be allowed the same leeway?

I've been here a very long time, but its always bothered me that some politics in SF are profoundly provincial and short sighted. Never before though have I seen someone just come out and say what I assumed was the case all along - "I hate rich people"
Maybe having your building sold for max profit, and your paper sold to a chain news agency allows one to just let go and say what one feels. If you felt the SFBG arguments were shi* before, you're going to love them now.

Posted by greg on May. 15, 2012 @ 6:50 am

was public. He opposes alld evelopments like this, private or public.

So yes, Tim should shows us the books on BruceGate first.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2012 @ 7:39 am

Um, Greg, the Guardian isn't asking for upzoning or the use of public property for a development project. And you clearly don't understand public records or real-estate deals. The sale of the Guardian building will be duly recorded at City Hall, and the price (I wasn't involved so I don't even know what it was) and the mortgage, if any, will be a matter of public record.


Posted by tim on May. 15, 2012 @ 10:12 am

"progressive" purposes rather than for the highest profit?

If it were anyone else doing that, you'd be off on your usual class warfare spiel.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2012 @ 10:18 am

Actually I clearly do understand how all this works.
Bruce sold the building to the real estate developer UPC for 6.5 million.
Bruce bought the building using small business loans ten years ago for 4.7 million.
The deal represents a profit of 28%

How I know this and you dont when you work for the Guardian is pretty unreal.

"What Bruce (Brugmann) has always wanted for the Guardian is a building that we own, that is ours in perpetuity, so we never have to worry about an eviction, we never have to worry about a bad landlord, we never have to worry about any of that stuff,” Redmond told the Association of Alternative Newsmedia in 2002. “We now have a place that’s ours, that will anchor the Guardian as part of San Francisco forever"

I guess forever meant until Bruce decided to sell out. Keep on raising hell!

Posted by Greg on May. 15, 2012 @ 10:50 am

plus of course whatever other profits he syphoned out of SFBG back in the day when it still made profits.

According to every defintion I've seen of "rich", that makes Bruce "boring", at least by Tim's own standards.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2012 @ 11:34 am

What, by not letting the employees unionize?

Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2012 @ 10:27 am

Doesn't anyone belive anymore that the city's housing stock should reflect its workforce -- that people who work here should be able to live here, so they don't have to waste (fossil-fule) energy on long commutes? Think of the tourist industry and government, our two largest employers. How manmy hotel workers and public employees can afford any of the new housing that's getting built? That's just a recipe for disaster.



Posted by tim on May. 14, 2012 @ 7:30 pm

Which the SFBG opposed back when it was built.

You are aware Tim, that many, MANY people who work in Manhattan have to commute to the city on the subway or NJ Transit or otherwise? They're able to do it - why can't those who want to work in SF? The East Bay is just a short BART ride away.

Posted by Troll II on May. 14, 2012 @ 8:10 pm


Thanks for your article and I agree with your assessment. I've not read the comments because I don't like to read troll droppings and that's likely all that's here based on past experience. I scrolled down looking to see the word "Guest" for that rabid right-wing troll who lives on here and usually has to be first to leave droppings. Instead, I saw the word "greg" (not knowing which "Greg" it was) and quickly scanned, smelled a strong reek of troll shit and immediately stopped reading. What I did get unfortunately was: Smug, in your face, arrogant and angry. Just ignore the trolls. They crave attention; that's why they live here. If I were right-wing/"conservative" and pleased at the "conservative" direction in which the city is now going, I would at least act mature about it. I wouldn't try to arrogantly rub it in someone's face in anger. But they don't have the ability to behave as adults. Smug, in your face, arrogant and dysfunctional troll behavior is all they know. That's often the way the right-wing act.

Thanks again.

Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2012 @ 7:48 pm

or should I say "the many faces of Sam" since you've gone through numerous iterations of the same personality over the past 5 years?

Aren't you going to reference "SFHate" too?

Posted by Troll II on May. 14, 2012 @ 9:29 pm

And everyone who disagrees with you is a "troll"?

Such broad-mindedness and openness.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2012 @ 7:42 am

Tim, you need to understand that your irrational hatred of rich people is a problem and that YOU need to deal with it. I don't find the rich boring at all. They are usually educated, they've been to a lot of exciting places, have tried many things. I like them. Generally when you hear someone say that "I don't like group X" you know that the person has issues to deal with.

You can get help, there are therapies and programs that can help you overcome your phobia.

Here, try this:

Tim Redmond: "Honestly? I don't like many rich people. Wealth tends to make people into assholes."

Someone else: "Honestly? I don't like many poor people. Poverty tends to make people into assholes."

Now do you see why you should do the right thing and get help?

Good luck, we'e pulling for you!

Posted by Troll on May. 14, 2012 @ 7:48 pm

There are wealthy asshole and there are poor assholes. I've met them both. The wealthy ones were the worst due to their arrogance and pretentiousness.

But why don't you admit that you have a problem. You need therapy otherwise you would not be a troll. Trolls act like assholes. They inflame, they are irrational as part of their troll routine, they need/seek attention and are needy otherwise they would not be a troll. They also exist for dysfunctional behavior, specifically the behavior a therapist is trained to address. Admit your problem and get help before you go lecturing someone else. Tim does not have a problem by the way. He just doesn't want San Francisco to become another Marin, which is what the city is becoming, and I don't either. Very Boring and stuffy.

Good luck with your troll therapy, we're pulling for you!

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2012 @ 2:47 am

You're the one who starts calling someone names.because they don't agree with you. Weak and childish but not my problem, sorry.

Posted by Troll on May. 15, 2012 @ 7:14 am

Because they are more desparate. You are not likely to be mugged on the street by an investment banker.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2012 @ 7:52 am

I would rather me mugged than have my job sent to China.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on May. 15, 2012 @ 8:28 am

for the value you add. The only crime there is that you aren't competitive.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2012 @ 10:20 am

Over 110 are making over $200k...Good place to kick back and collect and pension.

...A refreshingly honest piece. At least now we know why you're constantly ranting against rich people - they don't share your values.

Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2012 @ 7:58 pm

I agree with much of what you write, Tim. San Francisco is becoming a city of boring TrustFundBabies, and Trustafarians.

Posted by Troll the XIV on May. 14, 2012 @ 10:15 pm