Tale of two parties: Was the 8 Washington defeat a referendum on City Hall?

Sups. David Campos (at mic) and David Chiu address the No on Props. B&C party.
Steven T. Jones

From tonight’s victory party for opponents of the 8 Washington waterfront luxury condo project, the overwhelming defeat of developer-backed Propositions B&C seemed to go beyond just this project. It sounded and felt like a blow against Mayor Ed Lee’s economic policies, the gentrification of the city, and the dominion that developers and power brokers have at City Hall. 

“What started as a referendum on height limits on the waterfront has become a referendum on the mayor and City Hall,” former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin told the large and buoyant crowd, a message repeated again and again tonight.

Former Mayor Art Agnos also cast the victory over 8 Washington as the people standing up against narrow economic and political interests that want to dictate what gets built on public land on the waterfront, driven by larger concerns about who controls San Francisco and who gets to live here.

“This is not the end, this is the beginning and it feels like a movement,” Agnos told the crowd. “We’ll have to tell the mayor that his legacy,” a term Lee has used to describe the Warriors Arena he wants to build on Piers 30-32,” is not going to be on our waterfront.”

Campaign Manager Jon Golinger also described the victory in terms of a political awakening and turning point: “We are San Francisco and you just heard us roar!”

Campaign consultant Jim Stearns told the Guardian that he thought the measures would be defeated, but everyone was surprised by the wide margin – the initiative B lost by 25 points, the referendum C was 33 points down – which he attributed to the “perfect storm” of opposition.

Stearns cited three factors that triggered the overwhelming defeat: recent populist outrage over the city’s affordability crisis, concerns about waterfront height crossing ideological lines, and “a tone deaf City Hall that didn’t want to hear there were any problems with the project.”.

Among the key project opponents who have sometimes stood in opposition to the city's progressives was former City Attorney Louise Renne, who blasted City Hall and called the Planning Department “utterly disgraceful,” telling the crowd, “Get your rest, more to come, San Francisco.”

Both progressive and political moderates often share a distrust of the close connections between powerful developers and the Mayor’s Office, and that seemed to play out in this campaign and at the polls.

“San Francisco, this victory is for you. And to all those developers out there: Do not mess with our waterfront. We’re not going to stand for it,” Renne said.

Two supervisors who opposed 8 Washington – David Chiu and Davis Campos – also spoke at the event, with the latter starting to define their political differences as they each run for the Assembly seat being vacated after next year by Tom Ammiano.

“Tonight, San Francisco said we stand for affordable housing and not luxury condos,” said Chiu, who played a pivotal role in appointing Lee as mayor and ending the progressive dominance on the Board of Supervisors.

Campos followed by noting, “I’ve been criticized for saying we’re seeing a tale of two San Franciscos, but that’s what we have here,” referencing a theme that echoes (as Chiu’s campaign operatives have critically noted) that of progressive Bill de Blasio, who also won a resounding victory tonight in the New York City mayor’s race.

“We have a City Hall that, quite frankly, doesn’t get it,” Campos continued, referencing the redevelopment of Parkmerced’s rent control housing and today’s board vote to close city parks at night, both of which Chiu was the swing vote in approving. “When City Hall doesn’t get it right, the people of San Francisco step in.”

Peskin also stoked the class warfare fires by saying, “Your voices are being heard loud and clear in Simon Snellgrove's penthouse,” referencing the 8 Washington developer who spent nearly $2 million on this unsuccessful campaign. And Peskin said he had a message directly for Mayor Lee: “Wake up, San Francisco is talking!”

Judge Quentin Kopp, who fought downtown’s aggressive push for more high-rise development as a Westside supervisor back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, called tonight’s victory “history repeating itself,” mentioning the work that the Bay Guardian did in opposition to “the Manhattanization of San Francisco.”

Kopp also took a swipe at Mayor Lee, the protégé of Kopp’s old nemesis, former Mayor Willie Brown, when he said, “This is the beginning of the end of five more years of Willie Brown’s administration.”

Indeed, the current political moment is beginning to feel a little like 1999, when Brown won a narrow re-election victory against the upstart write-in campaign of progressive hero Tom Ammiano and a movement stirred by the evictions and gentrification of the last dot-com bubble. The next year, progressive candidates won a majority on the Board of Supervisors and held it for almost a decade.

One of those supervisors was Chris Daly, now political director of SEIU Local 1021, who was at the North Beach party and told the Guardian that while Mayor Lee has been trying to defend bad policies like his Twitter tax break and support for 8 Washington, the voters tonight really had their fingers on the pulse of the city: “I’d call this a referendum on Ed Lee’s policies in San Francisco.”

Meanwhile, it was a very different scene over at the Yes on B&C party:

The party was held at Coqueta, an upscale waterfront establishment just a stone's throw from the 8 Washington project site. Despite the trays of gourmet hors d'oeuvres and frothy mojitos floating past, the guests were subdued and the mood was not celebratory.

Developer Simon Snellgrove, whose 8 Washington project was essentially being flushed down the tubes tonight, was in no mood to comment. "I'm having a little private party tonight," he told us, "and I don't want to talk to the press."

Rose Pak, a consultant for the San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce who is well-known for her ties to powerful interests in the city, had a small circle of guests around her throughout the night and spent some time catching up with Snellgrove. Asked to comment, Pak said, "I don't know the Bay Guardian," and stopped making eye contact. At previous events, Pak has lectured Guardian reporters about what she sees as the paper's shortcomings.

Other notables included Jim Lazarus, who works on public policy for the Chamber of Commerce, P.J. Johnston, a former communications director for Willie Brown, and of course Tim Colen of the Housing Action Coalition and former planner Alec Bash, both of whom campaigned publicly for the project.

Mayor Ed Lee was expected to make an appearance but if he did, it was after the party's prime and after the Guardian had already left the scene.

After the first round of results came in, Colen addressed the crowd. "The returns are coming in and I have to tell you they don’t look good," he said. "It's pretty likely we're not going to prevail tonight." Then went onto recognize "some really magnificent warriors" in the room, including Snellgrove and Alicia Esterkamp Allbin, a Principal at development firm Pacific Waterfront Partners.

"We ran a wonderful campaign we can all be proud of,” he added. “It was going to be a wonderful activation for the waterfront. I think what we didn't see coming was how .. it somehow morphed into something much larger and was defined in different ways."

Lazarus told the Guardian, "I'm not optimistic," when asked early on in the night what he thought about the outcome. He added, "I think this project got caught up in a lot of other things."

"If it loses ... There was a lot of I think mistaken concern about the impact.”

Noting that the project went through months of approval but then was subject to a referendum and finally wound up on the ballot, he criticized the focus on building heights and the idea that it was about something more than just a waterfront development project. But this was the outcome, he said, because "An unholy alliance of people got together to oppose the project."

Perhaps “unholy alliance” is in the eyes of the beholder, but tonight, the voters of San Francisco seemed to prefer the alliance that opposed 8 Washington and all that it has come to represent in San Francisco.


Why not develop the property as a grove of money trees?

God its annoying that people dont even have the most basic understanding of things like ownership.
Who would pay for this park? Who would buy the land?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 7:53 am

with homeless shelters in the basements (behind locked gates so that they can't bother the rich people who live in the towers)

problem solved ;)

Posted by glkh on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 8:53 am

From 16th to 24th street, replacing the ugly, rundown buildings there. We could have bright, airy retail spaces with modern condos and office space on the upper floors, basking in he Mission's sunny weather and all within a few blocks of BART.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 9:10 am

of the No on B & C victories. Developers and their boosters will push to destroy existing communities, labeling them rundown, and replace them with higher profit centers for wealthier people. Modern day urban removal. The proposed 10 story condo towers next to the 16th Street BART Plaza will hasten the call for "slum clearance."

Many, many people live in buildings on Mission Street between 16th and 24th Streets.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 9:40 am

If we never built anywhere people lived, there would be no cities.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 9:49 am

I mean how can anyone answer that.

Kick out the poor and working class people from their apartments on Mission Street, effectively making them homeless, and replace them with wealthier people in taller buildings. That is your plan.

If you didn't write profound internet commentary, there would be no internet.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 10:01 am

Thats what we did when we demolished the projects

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 10:07 am

The vocabulary boosters use is losing its effectiveness and utility. People are sick of them and our neighborhoods being dismissed as problems for which the universal solution is more luxury higher rise condos.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 9:57 am

Because you are winning the battle for hearts and minds?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 10:08 am

virtue there is in maintaining those shabby SRO's and grubby stores.

Either it does the way of Valencia Street or it will probably be razed sooner or later.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 10:01 am

This is your core loony left contingent turning out for an issue no one else cares about, not a referendum on City Hall

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 7:46 am

claimed that meant that Ed Lee doesn't have a mandate.

But 10% approve this and it's the biggest socialist victory since the Fidel Castro?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 8:01 am

If nothing else, it proves the power people have over mega millions, and that's saying something.

Posted by Daniele E. on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 9:02 am

The GOP needs poor people more than the Dem's.

Most people care more about reality TV and sports than they care about politics. Your "power" is illusory.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 11:20 am

Incorrect. More Dems have useless PhDs in teaching and sociology. The median Republican makes more money than the median Democrat.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 12:20 pm

Yes, you are right. Most people probably do care more about sports and TV. Therefore, a general shift in the way things are perceived is what matters. Of course, that doesn't happen overnight, but it is happening, in my opinion. And it's for the best--at least I think so. People are busy, so you need certain ideas breaking through to the general newscasts, etc so it breaks into the consciousness of everyone. The occupy movement succeeded in that with the term "the 99%". And what we are seeing now is the beginnings of a healthier form of capitalism.

Change happens. I think this one's for the best.

Posted by Daniele E. on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 10:31 am

capitalism doesn't work that way

whenever it gets rolled back to a temporarily compromise (such as during the New Deal) it just rapidly resorts back to become unhinged again in a couple of decades; this is because capitalism is inherently based on unsustainable endless growth and simply can't be based on anything else

see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guSdjsctrUQ

Posted by lkdjfv on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 1:30 pm
Posted by marcos on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 2:15 pm
Posted by lkdj on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

I love Richard Wolff. Don't have time to watch the whole lecture now, but don't you think that regulations can provide some necessary correcting mechanisms?

Posted by Daniele E. on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 12:00 pm
Posted by Greg on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 8:09 am

You can't bring me down today, Greg!

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 9:01 am

Who needs Whore Foods when we have Rainbow Coop?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 9:10 am

Rainbow Grocery will only sell you meat if you promise to feed it to your dog

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 9:21 am


Posted by marcos on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 9:30 am

Whole Foods has more variety and has quality meat at a good price. 4505 is more focused on a narrow niche

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 10:16 am

a vegan or some such.

But if you like meat and fish, and are a gourmet, it has to be WholeFoods.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 10:32 am

Rainbow is a grocery store. There are plenty of neighborhoody places to buy meat, 4505, that place at Fillmore and Haight. Neither will run you a Whole Paycheck.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 10:41 am

The place on Haight and Fillmore can't compete with Whole Foods on quality, selection, price, or location for Mission residents.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 10:48 am

Even with the weekly trek over the bridge, and associated gas and toll costs, it still saves money.

I'd love to support Rainbow, but it's only for vegetarians. And the dirty little secret is that their produce is ridiculously expensive, and often of inferior quality. Sorry Rainbow.

The problem with Whole Paycheck is, well, whole paycheck.

Answer: Berkeley Bowl. Whole Paycheck quality at normal prices. Great selection of seafood and organic meat, and their organic produce section alone is bigger than Rainbow's *entire* produce section. Their overall produce selection is immense -the section is larger than Rainbow's entire store.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

And you're right that Rainbow is expensive, although it's their attitude that really grates.

But WholeFoods are right there, and the one opening today is my closest. Loving it.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 4:24 pm

The few times I've gone in there, they've been really nice and helpful. I like their attitude. I like their politics. Every now and then I'll go in to give them another chance. But the prices are just too high. I always walk out wondering how anyone can afford to shop there. And for the price, the selection/quality of the produce is just awful.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 4:37 pm

Who cares if it's "neighborhoody?" That place at Fillmore and Haight is a convenience store. Do the even sell meat?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 10:59 am

It's a grocery store for vegans and people who do not wash, insofar as they are not the same group anyway.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 11:06 am

I love WholeFoods and will be going to the new one today.

Anyone care to join me?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 10:26 am

and 'local mission market' opened yesterday on harrison!

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 9:28 am

paying attention to an area that is already full of millionaires.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 10:27 am
Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 9:07 am

If not, then not far off either.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 10:25 am

Ed Lie got 59663 votes on the first round in 2011.

58656 people voted against Prop B.

62024 people voted against Prop C.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 8:09 am

The mayoral race had ten or more candidates.

Take that into account and the Lee decision was far more representative and popular.

Lee versus Avalos was 60-40 with much higher turnover. No comparison.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 8:16 am

Shaddup and eat yer shit sandwich.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 8:21 am
Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 10:25 am

You can stop development in San Francisco, Comrades, if the development inconveniences a few very rich people!

A huge victory for the Progressive Machine!

Saving the views of rich people is a cause we can all unite behind, Comrades!

Posted by Zargon The Magnificent! on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 8:10 am

Progressives win and it signals a massive change of political direction for the city.

Progressives lose and the election was bought, or there was voter fraud, or there was misinformation etc.

See the problem there?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 8:12 am

deal with your envy problem

before it eats you from the inside and gives you an ulcer

Posted by glk on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 8:59 am

"See the problem, there?" Classic Arthur Evans.

If progressives had only tried to listen to what he was trying to say 10 years ago (I know, he was tough to listen to with his constant carping and repetition), they wouldn't be fighting so many defensive battles and would be offering the electorate a positive, inclusive agenda that doesn't demonize everyone who doesn't meet the 90% progressive purity test.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 9:37 am

more alive in



than anywhere else

your clear envy of an opponent's victory is so ugly

so sad....

Posted by lksdjf on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 9:51 am
Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 10:09 am


it's a joke

and i knew that some complete ass like yourself would eventually argue with it as if it were serious ;)

(what a moronic, unimaginative, twit)

Posted by lksdjflj on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 11:08 am

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