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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Why I voted No on B and C (and why I think we will win)

Not many people at my polling place today. At least half of the ballots cast were mailed in over the past few weeks. Somehow, I always wait for Election Day; it seems a lot more festive.

At any rate, I proudly voted against the Wall on the Waterfront, No and B and C. I was feeling crabby and unsure about Sup. Mark Farrell's health-care reform measure, Prop. A, so I went with the League of Pissed Off Voters and SEIU 1021 and voted no. Prop. D is harmless enough.

The Chronicle's coverage makes it seem as is Props B and C are just about one development on one site where the developer is promising housing and parks. Actually, the project won't add more than a few square feet of new public open space. And the housing is all for the very, very rich.

But there's a much larger issue here: The city never rezoned the waterfront for taller buildings. In fact, over the past 30 years or so, the trend has been exactly the opposite: Height limits have come DOWN along the Bay.

If Simon Snellgrove and his partners had come to the Port, the Planning Commission, and the Board of Supervisors and said: Hey, we think the city should allow intense, highrise development along the Embarcadero and the southern piers, we could have had that debate. And the developers would have lost.

Instead, they asked for spot zoning, for a special exception to the rules for this one site, so they can make a whole lot of money. And if the voters go along with it, every other greedy developer with a vision for a new Fontana Towers will try to grab waterfront land and start building what will become a real Wall.

I'm honest about my position: I don't think the city should build ANY more high-end housing until we catch up on the need for affordable places to live. And if you think that building more luxury condos will bring down prices, perhaps you should read this.

But whatever you think about housing, this is the wrong way to make planning decisions in an area as sensitive, and as important to the public, as the waterfront. If you are reading this and you haven't voted yet, go out right now -- your boss has to give you time off from work -- and say NO on B and C.

And despite the millions Snellgrove has spent on this campaign, we have a real chance. Low voter turnout might actually help us, since the people on the East Side of town who take five minutes to go to the polls will more than likely be on our side.

The polls are close on Prop. B. But I think Snellgrove's camp is nervous, which is why you've seen the flurry of last-minute TV ads featuring the mayor and lite guv. TV is expensive -- and this wasn't just late-night cable stuff. This was World Series, Monday Night Football ... shows why you're buying not just SF but the whole region, paying for millions of viewers just to reach a few thousand. You don't do that unless you're really nervous.

If B and C go down, the path to building a Warrior's arena and a highrise at 45 Howard and a giant complex near the Giants stadium gets tougher. Because it will send a message that the voters want the waterfront open. Here's hoping.

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