I was walking around Glen Park on Saturday with my son, who is a volunteer on the No Wall on the Waterfront campaign, and we wandered into a laundromat where a friendly woman helped Michael hang a poster. "Is this the thing where they're going to build a park on the waterfront?" she asked.
No, actually, it's not, I told her. It's the thing where they're going to build the most expensive condos in San Francisco history, housing for the one percent of the one percent, in part on public land, with a massive spot-zoning increase in the allowable height limit for the area. It's a terrible idea.
But it's also going to be a low-turnout election, and not a lot of voters are paying attention, so there's bound to be some confusion. And developer Simon Snellgrove and his partners are taking advantage of it, pouring a truly obscene amount of money into the November election -- and running an almost comically misleading campaign.
Check out this ad. Nowhere does the ad even mention condominiums, much less condos that would be priced in the multiples of millions of dollars. Nowhere does it discuss the actual issue on the ballot -- should the height limit on the waterfront be raised from 84 to 136 feet so that exceptionally rich people can buy $5 million condos and Snellgrove can clear about $400 million?
But that doesn't matter -- Gavin Newsom and Ed Lee like the project!
The ad talks about affordable housing. It's a joke. Snellgrove will put $11 million into the city's affordable housing fund. That might pay for 30 subsidized units for low-income people. There are more than 100 families evicted every month in San Francisco right now. And, again: The developer is going to make vast sums of money from this deal. I'm not making up the $400 million number; I get that from Sup. David Chiu, who is hardly a left-wing radical. There have been public hearings on this; the figures are no secret.
The ad talks about a "private club." Actually, that would be the Golden Gateway Swim and Tennis Club, which is "private" the same way the YMCA, which I belong to, is private. You can pay a monthly fee to join. It's not like the Olympic Club, where you have to be voted in. A lot of the members are seniors who live at Golden Gateway. When Snellgrove is done, there will be a new PRIVATE club on the site, which you can pay a fee (no doubt much higher) to join.
But let's get to the bottom line here. This does nothing to solve the city's housing crisis. It's a way to bring more very rich people to the city. And it will pave the way -- literally -- for more intensive, highrise, PRIVATE development on the waterfront, which ought to be a public treasure.
Check out the numbers. If this was such a public-spirited venture, would it take more than $800,000 in developer money to sell it to the public?