Housing for the super rich approved, 8-3

Construction workers line up to promote 8 Washington. Guardian photo by Steven T. Jones

The progressive movement and the battle for housing balance and economic justice in San Francisco got walloped May 15 when eight supervisors sided with a developer who wants to build condos for the massively rich on the waterfront.

I watched it all, minus a few minutes while I was putting the kids to bed, all seven and a half hours of testimony and discussion, winding up with a series of pro-developer voters a little after midnight. It was stunning: Opponents of the project came out in droves, many of them seniors, others tenant activists and neighbors. Former City Attorney Louise Renne, who is by no means an anti-development type or any sort of economic radical, led off the arguments in favor of scrapping the environmental impact report and denying the conditional use permit that are needed for 8 Washington to move forward. They brought up so many points that by the end there was nothing more to say: This meets no housing need in San Francisco, further screws up the city’s own mandates for a mix of affordable and market-rate housing, caters to the top half of the top half of the 1 percent, is too tall and bulky for the site, offers the city too little in community benefits and is one of the great development scams of our time.

Then the other side spoke -- the city planners who defended the EIR and, briefly, developer Simon Snellgrove. His supporters lined up -- and almost all of them talked about the same thing: Construction jobs. I get it, we need construction jobs -- but is that a justification for such a bad project? As Sup. David Chiu pointed out, “apartment construction is booming.  There are 22,000 units under construction and 50,000 more in the pipeline.”

Both sides were organized, but only one paid people to show up: At least five people seated in the front row, wearing pro-8 Washington stickers, confirmed that they’d been paid $100 each -- in cash -- to show up. They didn’t even speak, leaving once they realized that they were misled about the project. One source heard a construction worker say he knew nothing about the project and had been bused in from Sacramento.

And after hearing all of that, the supervisors did what they clearly had decided to do long before a word of testimony was uttered.

The vote to overturn the EIR went like this: favoring the developer were Supervisors Mark Farrell, Jane Kim, Eric Mar, Christina Olague, Malia Cohen, Carmen Chu, Sean Elsbernd and Scott Wiener. Opposing the project were Chiu, John Avalos and David Campos.

Approving the conditional use went along the same voting lines. Chiu couldn’t even get a continuance after arguing that there was no report from the budget analyst and no financial information about whether this is a good deal for the city.

That’s the lineup: Eight votes for the 1 percent. Three votes for the rest of us. I haven’t seen anything this bad in years.

Some fascinating information came out of the discussion. Chiu made clear that the developer doesn’t need the height-limit increase to make a profit off the deal. He estimated that the total sales revenue from the project would be around $470 million and construction costs about $177 million. That’s a huge profit margin, even if you add in another $25 million for upfront soft costs.

Snellgrove’s lawyer, Mary Murphy, tried to duck the financial issues, talking around in circles. Evenutally Chiu got Snellgrove to respond, and he said the costs would be higher and his profit would only be about $80 million. “The capital markets require a high return on these projects,” he said.
Still: $80 million is a lot of money. And while Snellgrove and his allies love to talk about the $11 million in affordable housing money for the city, that’s about 2.3 percent of his total revenue. Which doesn’t sound quite as juicy.

Chiu raised another good question: “Should a condo that sells for $5 million pay the same affordable housing fees as one that sells for $500,000?”
Mar, who is usually a strong progressive, was the big surprise of the night, not only voting the wrong way but teeing up softball questions for the city planners to make the project sound better. It was as if he was reading from the developer’s talking points.

In the end, he said he saw “a lot of benefits from this project,” but promised to work with the developer to advocate for “less bulk and less height.” Olague said the same thing.

But even if it’s a little smaller, this will still be a completely misalignment of housing priorities, a project entirely for the very rich. That’s not going to change.

If anything, they should push for more affordable housing money -- a whole lot more. Because what we’re getting is enough for maybe 25 or 30 units, which means 80 percent of the new housing related to this project will be for multimillionaires and 20 percent for everyone else. Keep that pattern going -- and there are few signs that it’s about to change -- and imagine what this city will be like in 20 years.

It's not over, not yet: The actual development agreement and the height-limit changes still have to come to the board early in June. And if the mayor signs off on it, opponents are talking serious about a ballot referendum that would be before the voters in November -- just when Olague, Mar, Avalos, Campos, and Chiu will be up for re-election.


gone mad. The simple fact is that this building won't affect the housing problem either way. It will add some new units but many will be bought by newcomers. But it doesn't take housing away from anyone either - no homes will be demolished.

And some new affordable untis will be built, so it's a net gain, along with the sales tax monies. Even the hopelessly lliberal Mar could get that.

Tim, you really need to obsess less on every new building in SF as if it's the end of the world. It's just a few homes for a few rich guys. It's really not a big deal at all. Get over it and move on. Envy doesn't become you.

Oh, and BTW, people who show up to city meetings to have their 2 minutes are almost never listened to. It's just a preamble that we have to go thru - I'm sure the Supes were bored stupid the whole time.

Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2012 @ 2:29 pm

Every last word of your bootlicking commentary has equal validity.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 17, 2012 @ 7:30 am

Just an insult?

No wonder the left cannot win the eharts of minds of the voters.

Posted by Guest on May. 17, 2012 @ 8:18 am

...the closing of Guantanomo (sp?) Bay and being against gay marriage - for starters.

Fun thing I learned last week, when you change your mind for political expediency as a Dem, it's called "evolving."

Such "courage"...

Posted by Guest on May. 17, 2012 @ 8:29 am

gay marriage. He never struck me as a real opponent of gay marriage - just that he was worried about "coming out2 on the matter might damage his poll numbers. Now he thinks it will help him.

Likewise I was comfortable with Lee changing his mind about running for mayor when I saw how low quality the other candidiates were.

"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, Sir?" - Keynes.

Posted by Guest on May. 17, 2012 @ 8:44 am

A difference: No one paying attention really believed Obama was against marriage equality, and even if he was, he did a lot of other work for gay rights.

Lee? We believe him, and he did a completely cynical about-face when he realized the caliber of candidates meant he could win.

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Posted by Ehescheidung on Aug. 02, 2012 @ 5:47 pm

There are projects all over the city getting approved, housing getting built (mostly market-rate, sigh), thousands of units underway right now -- and nobody's calling for a referendum on any of it. Just this one project that is so out of control and out of synch with the city's needs.

Posted by tim on May. 16, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

reveneus, jobs and affordable housing, then why is it such a tragedy for the city? It won't affect the housing shortage much either way and, since it isn't on our dime, that doesn't matter. It's neutral.

You were more honest, Tim, in your other piece where you admitted that you don't like the rich and don't want the city's voting demographic changed.

But hasn't SF always.been changing? This is a footnote.

Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2012 @ 3:15 pm

Mar must be in a dogfight for reelection. Hope he loses. He adds very little.

Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2012 @ 3:08 pm

Classic that Eric Mar voted for it. I thought he was a darling of the SFBG. I wonder if it's an election year....

Posted by The Commish on May. 16, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

of our times." Ditto for the Transamerica Pyramid too. Yerba Buena Center as well.

That shows you how accurate THEIR judgement has been over the decades.

Posted by Troll II on May. 16, 2012 @ 3:19 pm

Reminds me to watch Citizen Kane again.

Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

You left out the Moscone Center.

Posted by Troll on May. 16, 2012 @ 4:16 pm
Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2012 @ 4:26 pm

Years ago, I wrote an editorial called "how to build a ballpark" in which I argued that the Giants should replace Candlestick with a downtown stadium -- but they needed to accept two conditions: No public money and no onsite parking.

Peter Magowan came in and met with us and said he agreed with me. They did exactly that. I voted for it. Good project, I love the stadium, many benefits to the city.

I win.

Posted by tim on May. 16, 2012 @ 7:37 pm

I was on vacation when it happened, but the Guardian supported the deal Chris Daly cut for the construction of Rincon Tower, saying the community benefits were adequate. In retrospect, that was a mistake, the thing is an ugly monstrosity. But there you go.

You are simply wrong.

Posted by tim on May. 16, 2012 @ 7:41 pm

So you supported a deal where Chris Daly funneled millions of dollars to his personal non profits. Millions of dollars for community benefits which are not tangible and lack any accountability. I see.
You're a developers best friend in SF progressive terms.

Posted by Greg2 on May. 16, 2012 @ 8:47 pm

a basketball team further down the Embarcadero? I'm sure you're aware the mayor is discussing this.

Posted by Troll II on May. 16, 2012 @ 7:49 pm

Don't tell him that the ballplayers make $20 million a year or that a working class family of four can't afford to go to a game or that there is onsite parking right across the O'Doul Bridge.

Posted by Troll on May. 16, 2012 @ 7:49 pm

"That’s the lineup: Eight votes for the 1 percent. Three votes for the rest of us. I haven’t seen anything this bad in years."

And things will continue along these lines.

That's what I expected from this disgraceful, corporatist "conservative" (charading as "moderates") Board. A vote for the 1%.

Yes, let's finish the job of making this city another Marin. One Marin is too much.

Thanks for the update on this.

Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2012 @ 3:51 pm

It's right across the Bay!

Posted by Troll II on May. 16, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

just 10 minutes away by BART. And Oakland has many vacant rentals, houses and plenty of land for new build.

It's perfect. SF for the successful and Oakland for their service and support people. And more bad art than you can shake a stick at.

Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

instead on the benefits for all of us - more housing includng 11 million for affordable units, construction and service jobs, payroll and slaes tax revenues, associated retail jobs and revenues, and all the other spend that these affluent residents will furnish.

Everyone wins with this alpha development, and not just any particular percentile.

Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

Eric Mar for the 1%!!!

Posted by The Commish on May. 16, 2012 @ 4:21 pm

skimming off some cream from the 1% and redistributing it.

Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

Last week, the author of this article wrote "John Avalos, David Campos and Eric Mar. They are now the solid left flank, the ones who can be counted on to do the right thing on almost every issue." See May 10, 2012 article on Preservation Vote.

Posted by The Commish on May. 16, 2012 @ 5:20 pm
Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2012 @ 5:29 pm

It is also understandable if Tim is having trouble keeping up with the pace of the dismantlement of the Progressive movement. It is getting faster and faster.

Posted by Troll on May. 16, 2012 @ 5:51 pm

Tim devotes a lot of space to the hearsay about supporters being paid to attend. Of course, he leaves out the detail that it was about 11PM before any of the pro-8 Wash people got to speak (I don't remember exactly but it was probably no later than 7PM when the project's opponents got the podium). One of the opponents brought a picture of a run down public tennis court (in a whole different part of the city) that he would now be forced to use.

Many of the non-construction types gave up and left the Civic Center area on a Tuesday night as midnight approached and the meeting reached the 7-8 hour mark.

Interestingly enough, there were several people who stayed and made a point of identifying themselves as Telegraph Hill residents before they voiced approval of the project. There was one gentleman who brought his monthly bill for the health and tennis club - $320 a month. Other proponents made the argument that Tim is absolutely blind to - that no middle or low income housing is being bulldozed for this project. Not a single family is being displaced. Yet, somehow it punishes those who cannot afford its prices.

This part that Tim referred to was indeed interesting:

"Chiu raised another good question: “Should a condo that sells for $5 million pay the same affordable housing fees as one that sells for $500,000?”"

The developer's lawyers should have just answered "I don't know, Supervisor. We don't make the laws, you do. We just follow them."

Anyway, the hearing was a lot more balanced than what Tim was able to perceive, given his issues and admitted biases.

I do hope that the opponents get the measure on the ballot. I think that the voters in this town are just aching for a chance to smack the NIMBYs around. Also, the SFBG will make a big effort to support it and we'll have another example of how weak and irrelevant this paper has become.

But hey, you gotta love the Mar, Olague, Kim and Cohen swing votes. Boy, that Malia Cohen. SUCH a lackey of the uber rich.

Posted by Troll on May. 16, 2012 @ 3:56 pm

Agree with all of the comments above about the need to end the SFBG unending racist rants against white people.

And where in the SFBG debate is the discussion of what's there now? A private tennis and swim club (for - guess what - rich people) that meets the street with a huge "fuck you" thud, and a ground level parking lot. The 8 Washington project is MUCH better than what's there now. The 1% have to live somewhere, and this is a project that benefits the city in lots of ways, and especially the Port, which desperately needs the money.

Kudos to the 8 supervisors who voted yes.

Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

There's a glaring mistake in this article. The article reads:

"And if the mayor signs off on it,..."

Change the word "if" to "when"

Is there any doubt that this corporatist puppet will not sign off on it? Haven't Rose Pak and Willie Brown already instructed their corporatist puppet to do so?

Thank you.

Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2012 @ 4:13 pm

then Lee would have little choice but to approve this project.

Why would you expact any mayor with a pro-jobs mandate to do otherwsie?

Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

"Since over 60% of voters elected Lee"

Continuing to repeat the lie to make it stick.

Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2012 @ 5:27 pm

>Continuing to repeat the lie to make it stick.


I'll try to explain. We have this concept called 'reality' where some things are true and some aren't. In this case the San Francisco Department of Elections certified that Ed Lee did indeed win the election with 60% of the vote. If you know how to use the internet it is shown on the link above.

I realize that it may be difficult and hard for you to accept that but you have to try and be grown up about it. You can't just make up stories and accept the rest of us to accept them as the truth.

Can't you ask your parents or maybe one of your teachers to help you with this? You're just wasting your time by trying to convince us that you are right and the Department of Elections is wrong. Really, ask one of the grown ups in your life to explain why. I'm sure that they will be happy to help you out.

Posted by Troll on May. 16, 2012 @ 5:48 pm

"In this case the San Francisco Department of Elections certified that Ed Lee did indeed win the election with 60% of the vote"

Fine, but the turnout was only 42.47% which you consistently refuse to say anytime this topic comes up because you try to give the impression that the city is in love with this guy whose upper colon contains your head.

What does a 42.47% turnout mean? It means that 57.53% (that's nearly 60%) of the registered voters did not vote for him or anyone because:

1. they are sick of it all (I've talked with many people who said that).
2. feel disenfranchised (yeah that too)
3. some said "why bother? it won't matter, my vote doesn't matter." (I've talked with many people who said that).
4. others couldn't be bothered
5. others felt it was rigged in Lee's favor and felt it was hoax and refused to take part in a hoax (I talked with people who said that).
6. others felt he lied about not running in the first place (yeah that too)
7. and others probably didn't even know there was an election.
8. and many other reasons (such as "I forgot to fill out the ballot at home and mail it in and didn't feel like walking to the polling place because they moved the polling place again" or "I couldn't find my polling place, it was moved").

So if you want to be accurate---which of course you don't otherwise you wouldn't keep putting out this half-truth or lie and you would be accurate about your language---you would say that Lee won with 59.64% (that's the correct number) of the vote OF THOSE WHO VOTED, but the majority of registered voters did not vote. And the same goes for elections in the past where the majority of registered voters did not vote. No mandate and "most people" are NOT satisfied with any of these politicians. The end.

Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2012 @ 6:26 pm

Thanks for explaining to us why people don't vote. We needed your superior intelligence to figure it out for us.

Now, please don't get excited but I am going to continue to use elections as a gauge of how the people are feeling about particular candidates because I don't have your advanced cerebral capabilities that can ascertain what people are thinking just through sheer concentration. For example with this past election I thought that some people didn't bother to vote because they were confident and pleased that Lee would win. I didn't even know that I was wrong until you explained things.

I have to go by the figures published by the Elections Department because I am really stupid.

Posted by Troll on May. 16, 2012 @ 7:05 pm

Oh you're most welcome, let me assure you of that. And I too go by the Department of Election results each election. That's how I know what the voter turnout is which you like to ignore but it's there on their site each election for anyone to see....anyone who wants to see it, that is.

I look at the overall election results objectively, rather than try to put my own subjective pro-Lee or pro-Avalos or pro-whomever spin on it. I heard no one say,"I didn't bother to vote because I was confident and pleased that Lee would win." That's a subjective/partisan spin. No, if anything, many people felt disgusted and did not vote because they felt Lee would win regardless, that the election was cooked. "So why bother voting!?, people told me.

As for your statement that you're really stupid, well, you'd know better than I.

Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2012 @ 8:05 pm

For years, I believe going back to the days of FDR, a landslide/mandate has commonly been defined as at least 60% of the votes counted going to one candidate. Most journalists, political strategists, historians and politicians follow that convention so you'll have to bear with us as we adopt to your new definition.

For example the 1972 Presidential election that gave Nixon a 61%-38% victory over McGovern has been called a landslide. But turnout was only 55% so now we know, thanks to you, that it wasn't. Same thing with Reagan's 1984 victory over Mondale, when the turnout was 53%.

So bear with us...we will change all of this based on what people told you but it will take a little while seeing on how well established the previous definition of a landslide was. But we'll get there!!

Thanks for correcting us!

Posted by Troll on May. 16, 2012 @ 8:47 pm

and a truly fine symbol of healthy democracy. When a non-progressive wins, meaning a liberal, moderate or conservative, it's a sign of the power of money to influence elections in the wrong way and of the disenchantment of the people from government.

You need to understand and accept this.

Posted by Troll II on May. 16, 2012 @ 9:10 pm

exactly the same as for Lee who, apparently, does not have a "mandate". Too funny.

"The winner doesn't have a mandate" has been the lame excuse and rationalization offered by every losing candidiate for as long as I can remember. As meaningless as it is sad and predictable.

Posted by Guest on May. 17, 2012 @ 9:51 am

You basically are assuming that the vote turnout in 2012 which was similar to previous mayoral elections, was "low" due to disgust with Lee. You apparently based this on conversations with random people. Of course, it doesn't account for the similar turnout in previous elections.

Further- your statement- "I look at the overall election results objectively, rather than try to put my own subjective pro-Lee or pro-Avalos or pro-whomever spin on it." is complete BS. You talked to a few people who didn't like Lee and therefore the entire election results are bunk because they didn't vote. Please.

Posted by Dnative on May. 17, 2012 @ 10:29 am

Even time "Glen" meets someone who doesn't like Lee and didn't vote, he adds it to his merntal count. When he meets someone who likes Lee but didn't vote, he dismisses that person as a troll.

There is, quite simply, no hard empirical evidence that those who didn't vote are any more or less representative of the city than those who did vote. Anyone, like Glen, who assumes or alleges otherwise has the burden of proof. And he has offered none - only conjecture and speculation.

I could argue that Obama has no mandate because only about one quarter of Americans voted for him.

Posted by Guest on May. 17, 2012 @ 11:04 am

Of course elections are defined by who votes and the recent Ed Lee election turnout was more or less in line with recent Mayoral elections.

But maybe we should just let 'Glen' go along with his fantasy that the election didn't really tell us anything because it had the normal amount of turnout.

It's not hurting anyone, we can just ignore him. Obviously what he is saying makes no sense but perhaps it is time to have some compassion for Progressives who obviously have such little to cling to (and apparently very little intellectual horsepower to spare, either).

Okay Glen! Last November's election didn't tell us a darn thing about the people's support of Mayor Lee!

Posted by Troll on May. 17, 2012 @ 11:39 am

We have elections for a purpose, so people can have their say in their government. If they choose not to participate, whether out of boredom, laziness, disgust, apathy, etc, then they have chosen to voluntarily disenfranchise themselves and their opinion on elected politicians and what they do is made irrelevant by their own choice to opt out of voting.

Also, as others have pointed out, the voter turn-out for the last election was about the same as it has been for recent past elections. I suppose you may argue that all recent elections are somehow invalid because many some pepole chose not to vote, but we have to return to one of the hard truths of participatory democracy, which is if you don't vote, then you don't count.

Moreover, even assuming your logic had validity, it would still need to have consistency. Meaning that under your own logic, most people did not vote for Ross Mirkarimi, he has no mandate, and most people are not satisfied with having him as Sheriff of San Francisco. Yet, all I hear from the so-called "progressives" is how he is the democratically elected Sheriff, the "People's Sheriff" with a mandate that Ed Lee is trying to stop. (I use quotes because most people who call themselves "progressive" are generally anything but progressive). Personally, I am neither a fan of Ed Lee or Ross Mirkarimi, but I am also not mentally insane unlike most so-called "progressives" who have deluded themselves into thinking that elections have no consequences unless their favored candidate wins.

Ed Lee is the Mayor, and if you are unhappy with that fact--that cold, hard fact-- then vote for someone else in the next election and convince your lazy, apathetic, confused, geographically challenged, disgusted, lied to, etc. friends to do the same, or else stop complaining and accept the government you and they helped put in power by not voting.

Posted by Chris on May. 17, 2012 @ 4:30 pm

a lot of african american youth are being encoraged to go to schools to learn a trade in construction only to be not hired or treated like they dont deserve to work with hispanics and asians this is discrimination that is being allowed by developers contractors and polititions then you wonder why they end up dealing drug and have negative attitudes african americans have a lot to do with the greatness of this country but in this state and many others racism is being commited by the very people who want their civil rights and when they get them become like the people they were against hippocrites

Posted by Guestrobert on May. 16, 2012 @ 8:22 pm

Most African-Americans do not deal drugs. Most African-Americans do not have negative attitudes. Many African-Americans are successful, educated, and competent individuals. It is funny you speak of discrimination, and then you proceed to stereotype African-Americans as a bunch of drug-dealing thugs.

Also, discrimination against protected classes of individuals in the work force is illegal. If someone is qualified for a job and has some credible evidence they were not hired based on the color of their skin, their gender, their religious beliefs (or lack of them), their sexual orientation, their marital status, their veteran status, country of origin, or any other legally protected class status, then they should immediately contact one of the many lawyers who would be glad to represent them on a contingent fee basis (meaning they pay the attorney only of they win from the proceeds of their judgment) and file a lawsuit against the employer who discriminated against them.

Now this problem is solved, let's move back to the issue at hand.

Posted by Chris on May. 17, 2012 @ 4:38 pm

The right thing to build here is a high rise for middle income folks, but neither THD nor Tim would ever support such a thing.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on May. 16, 2012 @ 6:21 pm

There is plenty of affordable housing in places like Rodeo, Richmond, Vallejo, Sacramento. What, you make 20K per year and you want to live in Pacific Heights?
Grow up people. Lose the entitled and juvinile attitude. San Francisco is just another neighborhood in the Bay area. Plenty of places a BART ride away to live within your means.

Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2012 @ 7:10 pm

I know plenty of people who say "I can't afford San Francisco so I got a place in __________" (Daly City, Oakland, whatever). They aren't angry, they don't feel cheated out of their birthright. They understand how the world works. Some find happiness living outside the city and others try to adjust their finances. But the concept that they are OWED a place to live in San Francisco is a Progressive fantasy. Same thing for New York, where a place in Brooklyn, Queens or Hoboken is a reality for many.

The demographic term for what we have her is 'megalopolis'. From Marin County down to Santa Clara (at least). Home sweet home. Not everyone who lives in the New York megalopolis is entitled to a place in Manhattan either.

Posted by Troll on May. 16, 2012 @ 7:44 pm